Feb 212020
 


Jack Delano Cafe at truck drivers’ service station on U.S. 1, Washington DC 1940

 

Coronavirus Kills Young Wuhan Doctor, 100s Infected In China’s Prisons (G.)
Whopping Rise In Infections At Beijing Hospital Puts Capital On Alert (GT)
South Korea Coronavirus Cases Jump To 156 (SCMP)
South Korea Designates Daegu, Cheongdo As ‘Special Care Zones’ (Yonhap)
Woman Returning From Iran 6th Case Of COVID19 in British Columbia (NP)
Australia Cruise Evacuees Test Positive Only After Arriving Home (G.)
China Says January-February Trade To Take Sharp Hit From Virus Outbreak (R.)
China Supply Chains Pummelled From All Sides (SCMP)
NYT Secret Sources Claim Russia Backing Trump Re-Election (ZH)
‘Disgusted’ Judge Jails Roger Stone (BBC)
Defense Lawyers Say They Will Seek French Asylum For Assange (AP)
Parts Of UK Have One Airbnb Listing For Every Four Properties (G.)

 

 

The virus has started spreading in places other than Wuhan and Hubei. Clusters are forming. It looks like a perfectly normal pattern.

Cases 76,790 (+ 1,033 from yesterday’s 75,757).

Yesterday’s increase was “only” 560

Deaths 2,247 (+ 117 from yesterday)

• Large increase in South Korea cases. Cities of Chengdo, Daegu under quarantine (“special care”)

• Large increase in cases in Chinese prisons (or did they start testing just now?)

• Positive case in British Columbia, visited only Iran

• Positive cases in Australia from cruise ship, confirmed only after arrival

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

A second graph from Worldometer:

 

 

 

 

Groups of people in close proximity. What’s the alternative in the case of prisons and hospitals?

Coronavirus Kills Young Wuhan Doctor, 100s Infected In China’s Prisons (G.)

A 29-year-old doctor in Wuhan has become the latest victim of the coronavirus as China reported infections in prisons in three provinces, as well as clusters in Beijing. Wuhan health authorities said Peng Yinhua, who worked in respiratory and critical care at Jiangxia district’s First People’s Hospital, had contracted the infection while working on the “front line”. Peng, who had been featured in state media previously for delaying his wedding to continue working, was admitted to hospital on 25 January. His condition dramatically worsened by 30 January, when he was sent to the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan for emergency treatment. He died on Thursday at 9.50pm, according to a statement from his hospital.

[..] more than 500 cases have been confirmed in prisons across China. On Friday, Hubei province revised its number of newly confirmed cases to add 220 infections from the province’s prison system. Officials did not say when those infections took place but said that a total of 271 cases, of which 51 had already been counted, had been diagnosed. Of those, 230 were in Wuhan’s women’s prison. The head of the women’s prison has been dismissed. In Rencheng prison in the eastern province of Shandong, 200 prisoners and seven guards tested positive as of Thursday, after infections among correctional officers were first detected last week.

At Shilifeng prison in the southern province of Zhejiang, a total of 34 prisoners have been confirmed to have contracted the virus, including 27 new cases as of Thursday. According to state media, two prison officials have been fired over the incident in Shilifeng. In Shandong, seven prison officials as well as the party secretary for the province’s department of justice have been removed. Officials said 2,077 people in Rencheng prison had now been tested. Authorities said they were setting up a specialist hospital and sending inspection teams to other prisons and detention centres.

Meanwhile in Beijing, 36 people at Fuxing hospital have tested positive for the virus, prompting renewed anxiety about the virus as residents in the capital were slowly returning to work. The hospital had already been partly under lockdown after cases there were confirmed earlier this month. At another hospital, Peking University People’s Hospital, three people were confirmed to have contracted the virus, according to state media. The three patients are family members. One had been hospitalised for kidney problems and may have contracted the illness when her daughter and son-in-law, who had recently travelled to Xinjiang, visited her in hospital.

Read more …

Global Times is an “official” paper. So this is the news that’s allowed to spread.

Whopping Rise In Infections At Beijing Hospital Puts Capital On Alert (GT)

A central Beijing hospital reported 36 novel coronavirus cases as of Thursday, a sharp increase from nine cases from two weeks earlier, leading many to fear a potential explosion of infection numbers in the capital. Among the infected at Fuxing Hospital in Xicheng district were eight medical workers, nine cleaning staff and 19 patients along with their families, the Beijing government’s leading group for COVID-19 prevention and control work said at a press conference on Thursday. “Considering 36 confirmed cases were found in Fuxing Hospital, it is more about one case of multiple infections rather than an epidemic of the whole area,” Wang Guangfa, director of the department of respiratory and critical care medicine at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Another major hospital, Peking University People’s Hospital, on Thursday for the first time reported confirmed cases of infection. Three patients at the hospital were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus on February 17 and were sent to designated medical institutions for treatment, authorities at the press conference said. A total of 164 people including medical staff at Peo-ple’s Hospital who have had close contact with the patients have been put under close medical observation. The hospital also conducted coronavirus tests on 251 personnel and nine environments, and the results were all negative. The hospital has sterilized places that the patients may have touched, and hemodialysis rooms were sterilized when each shift was completed.


The three patients are from one family. Tian, a patient in the geriatrics department, had been hospitalized for six months for a kidney illness and had to undergo hemodialysis regularly. After her daughter and son-in-law came back from Xinjiang, they visited Tian separately. The couple became infected on February 17.

Read more …

Clusters ‘R’ Us. Cruise ships, prisons, hospitals, and cults.

South Korea Coronavirus Cases Jump To 156 (SCMP)

South Korea confirmed 52 more cases of novel coronavirus infection on Friday as the number of infections linked to a religious sect in Daegu spiked, making it the worst-infected country outside China. Thirty-nine of the new cases were linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southern city of Daegu, the Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said, taking the country’s overall figure to 156. More than 80 members of Shincheonji have now been infected, starting with a 61-year-old woman who developed a fever on February 10 but attended at least four church services before being diagnosed.


The mayor of Daegu – South Korea’s fourth-biggest city, with a population of over 2.5 million – has advised residents to stay indoors, while access to a major US base in the area has been restricted. Residents wore masks to go about their daily activities on Friday, but the streets remained active. Outside the Shincheonji church in the city, Seo Dong-min, 24, said: “With so many confirmed cases here I’m worried that Daegu will become the second Wuhan,” referring to the Chinese city where the virus first emerged. Shincheonji is often accused of being a cult and claims its founder, Lee Man-hee, has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgment.

Read more …

There’s a new term in town. Quarantine sounds so negative, we’ll go for “Special Care” instead.

South Korea Designates Daegu, Cheongdo As ‘Special Care Zones’ (Yonhap)

South Korea designated the southeastern cities of Daegu and Cheongdo as “special care zones” over infectious disease Friday, as a cluster of new coronavirus cases has been reported there in recent days. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun vowed government efforts to take “strong and swift” measures to prevent further spread of the virus, calling the latest development an “emergency” situation. “The government will take special measures by declaring the Daegu and Cheongdo areas as special care zones as a sudden rise in confirmed cases was reported there,” Chung said at the start of a pan-government meeting over the virus.


The country confirmed its first death of a COVID-19 patient in Cheongdo on Thursday, with the total number of confirmed cases in the country surpassing 100 since its first outbreak on Jan. 20. Concerns about community spread have mounted as 70 new cases were reported this week in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city and home to 2.4 million people, and its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province. “It is urgent to find people who have contacted infected people and cure patients,” Chung said. He said the government is ready to “fully” support necessary resources, including sickbeds, health workers and equipment. The government has so far focused on curbing infections coming from outside the country. From now on, the government will further prioritize preventing the virus from spreading locally,” Chung said.

Read more …

She travelled only to Iran. Which announced its first cases yesterday. But how many are there really?

Woman Returning From Iran 6th Case Of COVID19 in British Columbia (NP)

A sixth case of the novel coronavirus has been diagnosed in British Columbia after a woman in her 30s returned to the province this week from travel in Iran. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the woman’s presumptive case is relatively mild and a number of her close contacts have already been put in isolation. She said health officials are working on a detailed investigation of the woman’s travel and when her symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft. Henry said the woman lives in the Fraser Health region, which is located east of Vancouver.

“This one, clearly, is a bit unusual in that the travel to Iran is something new,” she told a news conference at the B.C. legislature. “Iran has recently started reporting cases and we’ll be working with our national and international colleagues to better understand where she may have been exposed to this virus prior to her return to Canada.” It is a presumptive case of the virus until positive test results come back from samples sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Henry said the woman went to a local hospital concerned about influenza-like symptoms. She was examined and released, Henry added. “My understanding, from initial discussions with the clinician who saw her as well as the patient herself, was they did think it was influenza,” Henry said.


She said the woman’s novel coronavirus diagnosis was surprising, primarily because of her travel only to Iran. “That could be an indicator there’s more widespread transmission,” said Henry. “This is what we call an indicator or sentinel event. A sentinel event means it’s a marker that something many be going on broader than what we expect. She said B.C. has reported the case to the Public Health Agency of Canada and it will also be reported to the WHO. Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus. “We still believe the risk in Canada and here in B.C. is low,” she said.

Read more …

As I said: false negatives is the big story going forward. We need to know more about the tests. Are they all the same? Is there an international standard? The topic is far too vague so far.

Australia Cruise Evacuees Test Positive Only After Arriving Home (G.)

Two Australians evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan have tested positive to the disease in Darwin. The two, one young person and one elderly, remain well and are being housed in a separate isolation unit inside the Manigurr-ma village outside Darwin, Australia’s chief medical officer said Friday morning. Public health authorities from their home states were organising medical transfers for the patients and their partners. Australia’s chief medical officer, Prof Brendan Murphy, said all of the 164 Australian citizens and permanent residents evacuated from the Diamond Princess on Thursday, and flown to Darwin, were health screened before boarding the Qantas flight out of Japan. None of those allowed to board returned positive tests or displayed any symptoms of the disease.


The passengers were screened again when they landed in Darwin and six showed minor respiratory symptoms and fevers. They were isolated from others in the group. Four of those patients have returned negative tests. “Given there was continued evidence of spread of infection on board the Diamond Princess in recent days, the development of some positive cases after return to Australia is not unexpected, despite all of the health screening before departure.” Murphy said. “Fellow passengers and crew on the Qantas flight which returned people trapped on the Diamond Princess can be assured all measures were taken to ensure their protection.” Murphy said there was no public health risk from the new infections. “This development poses no risk to the broader community.”

Read more …

How about we call it zero percent?

China Says January-February Trade To Take Sharp Hit From Virus Outbreak (R.)

China’s exports and imports will fall sharply in January and February as the coronavirus outbreak severely disrupts activity in the world’s second-largest economy, the commerce ministry said on Friday, adding more measures are being studied to support companies. “The outbreak has posed severe challenges to China’s current foreign trade development,” Li Xingqian, director of the ministry’s foreign trade department, told a news conference that was held online. “We expect January-February import and export growth to decline sharply,” he said, citing delays in business reopenings and logistics issues in addition to seasonal holiday factors.

With transport restrictions still in place in many parts of the country to contain the spread of the virus, many companies are struggling to resume production due to a shortage of workers and raw materials, while others can’t get their finished products out. Parts shortages are starting to cascade through supply chains worldwide. China is the world’s largest exporter of goods, with shipments accounting for nearly 20% of China’s gross domestic product (GDP). Analysts forecast the supply and demand shocks from the crisis could cut first-quarter GDP growth by up to half from 6% in the previous quarter. The outbreak has also brought considerable pressure on the country’s services trade, especially in the tourism and transport sectors, said Xian Guoyi, director of the ministry’s department of trade in services and commercial services.


To cushion the impact on companies, the ministry is speeding up a study of new fiscal, tax, financial, insurance measures to further support companies with other government entities, said Chu Shijia, director of the ministry’s comprehensive department. He did not give details. The ministry expects foreign companies in most parts of the country to resume production by the end of February. It has advised 32 South Korean auto parts companies in eastern Shandong province to fully resume work before Feb. 15, said Zong Changqing, director of the ministry’s department for foreign investment.

Read more …

It’s the entire economy, not just supply chains.

China Supply Chains Pummelled From All Sides (SCMP)

Choked off from suppliers, workers, and logistics networks, China’s manufacturing base is facing a multitude of unprecedented challenges, as coronavirus containment efforts hamper factories’ efforts to reopen. Many of those that have been granted permission to resume operations face critical shortages of staff, with huge swathes of China still under lockdown and some local workers afraid to leave their homes. Others cannot access the materials needed to make their products, and even if they could, the shutdown of shops and marketplaces around China means demand has been sapped. Those who manage to assail the challenges, meanwhile, have found that trucking, shipping and freight services are thin on the ground, as China’s famed logistical machine also struggles to find workers and navigate provincial border checkpoints that have popped up across the country.

“It really is death by a thousand cuts,” said John Evans, managing director of Tractus Asia, a company that has 20 years’ experience helping firms move to China, but which over the past two has had more enquiries from businesses looking to leave. “This is a black swan event and I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it in recent history, in terms of the economic and supply chain impact in China and across the globe.” Australian company B&R Enclosures, which makes units for protecting industrial equipment, said the outbreak has cut it off from suppliers and delayed the return of its migrant workers from their hometowns, following the extended Lunar New Year break. Only 15 per cent have come back, B&R China general manager Marko Dimitrijevic said.


“All supply chains are having trouble, it’s very serious,” he said. “Even if we declare force majeure [to avoid paying hefty damages for late deliveries], we will not be delivering and that means many of us will risk losing our customers. For many companies, this could mean bankruptcy.” Dimitrijevic said he had to charter special buses to transport his workers from other parts of China back to Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai. When they returned, he had to book hotel rooms to house them for another 14 days in quarantine as their neighbours “will not let them go home”. He was paying about 350 yuan (US$50) in accommodation for each employee. [..] Based on the Baidu Migration Index, analysts at Nomura estimated that only 25.6 per cent of migrant workers had returned to work across 15 sample cities by February 19, compared to 101.3 per cent a year earlier.

Read more …

Is this America’s own virus, or is it just Groundhog Day? The damage done to the country by this entirely false narrative will take a very long time to heal.

And it’s cross-platform, everyone’s in on the delusion.

NYT Secret Sources Claim Russia Backing Trump Re-Election (ZH)

The New York Times would like everyone to know that if Trump is re-elected in November, it wasn’t because of his accomplishments, the economy, or packed stadiums full of dedicated supporters. Nope – Putin’s at it again! In an unbelievable Thursday report, the Times claims that five anonymous sources leaked the details of a Feb. 13 briefing to House Lawmakers by intelligence officials warning that Russia has already been interfering in the 2020 election. So – the Kremlin wants the president who, according to political analyst Ian Bremmer, has been tough on Russia – instead of, say, Bernie Sanders – the Democratic socialist who honeymooned in Moscow and would likely crash the US economy, thus weakening it, with his draconian socialist policies.

The Times report gets better; the House briefing reportedly angered President Trump so much that he berated outgoing director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and that he was particularly irritated that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was included in the session. The report implies that Maguire was replaced with pro-Trump ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, as a result of the incident.

“During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that Mr. Trump has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans. That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter”. -New York Times

Moments after the Times report was published, CNN immediately picked it up for their dozens of viewers.

Read more …

“US intelligence officials have concluded the messages were stolen by Russian hackers.”

It’s all based on a big fat lie. The lies Stone told about it vanish in comparison. He’s being used to keep a false narrative alive.

Is it normal for a judge to be “disgusted”, or is this just a way to avoid talking about what actually happened?

Also, she sentences him pending a new trial request. that she has to decide on?!

‘Disgusted’ Judge Jails Roger Stone (BBC)

A judge has expressed “disgust” at US President Donald Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone, as she sentenced him to 40 months in prison. Stone, 67, was found guilty in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The judge said Stone threatened her, but Mr Trump said he should be cleared. He is the sixth Trump aide convicted on charges linked to a justice department inquiry that found Russian attempts to boost Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign. Stone was found guilty of lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact Wikileaks, the website that released damaging emails about Mr Trump’s 2016 Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton. US intelligence officials have concluded the messages were stolen by Russian hackers.


Stone will serve two years’ probation after his custodial sentence. He has also been fined $20,000 and must serve 250 hours of community service. He will not have to report to prison until the judge rules on a pending defence appeal. Stone’s sentence fell short of an initial seven- to nine-year recommendation from prosecutors. Speaking in her Washington DC court on Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone had engaged in “threatening and intimidating conduct” towards her. She said Stone “knew exactly what he was doing” when he posted an image on social media last year of a gun’s crosshairs next to her head.

Stone had claimed he thought the crosshairs were a Celtic cross. “This is intolerable to the rule of justice,” she said. “The court cannot just sit idly by and say ‘that’s just Roger being Roger.'” Judge Jackson also said Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president”. She continued: “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.” “At his core, Mr Stone is an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention.” She said the politics surrounding the case did not inform her ultimate decision. “The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” she said.

Read more …

Interesting twist. They must have had at least some communication with Paris before going public with this.

Defense Lawyers Say They Will Seek French Asylum For Assange (AP)

Julian Assange’s European defense team said Thursday it will try to seek asylum in France for the Wikileaks founder, whose full hearings for extradition to the United States on spying charges start next week in London. French team member Eric Dupont-Moretti said Assange’s case placed at stake “the fate and the status of all journalists. “We consider the situation is sufficiently serious that our duty is to talk about it” with French President Emmanuel Macron, the lawyer said. He was one of a team of lawyers lined up at a Paris news conference to explain why they view the case against Assange as unfair, citing his poor health and alleged violations of his rights while in jail in London.

French members of the team said they have been working on a “concrete demand” for Macron to grant Assange asylum in France, where he has children and where Wikileaks was present at its founding. “It is not an ordinary demand,” lawyer Antoine Vey said, noting that Assange is not on French soil. Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish coordinator of Assange’s team, reiterated his client’s plan to claim that the Trump administration offered him a pardon. The alleged condition was that Assange must agree to say that Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. Garzon insisted that Assange was “pressured by the Trump administration” but resisted and “the order was given to demand the extradition of Julian Assange,” he said.


The White House has firmly denied the claim. However, Garzon said that both testimony and “documentary proof” of the claim will be offered to the court at the full hearing that opens Monday. [..] Assange, who is Australian, has received backing from numerous quarters. The council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, added a voice of opposition Thursday, citing both concerns over Assange’s eventual treatment in a U.S. prison and the impact on press freedoms were he to be extradited. “I think this is one of the most important and significant political trials of this generation, in fact longer,’ senior Labour Party official John McDonnell said in London. The father of Assange, an Australian, insisted at the Paris news conference that his son was not a criminal. “I can’t for the life of me understand why he’s still in prison,” said John Shipton.

Read more …

Airbnb kills cities and communities. And we just let them. Homes are for people to live in. Any other us comes far far behind that.

Parts Of UK Have One Airbnb Listing For Every Four Properties (G.)

Airbnb has become so prevalent in Great Britain that some parts of the country now have one listing for every four properties, prompting concern that the rapid expansion in short-term lets is “out of control” and depriving communities of much-needed homes. Exclusive analysis by the Guardian identified Airbnb hotspots in both rural areas and inner-city neighbourhoods, where the ratio of active Airbnb listings to homes was more than 20 times higher than the average across England, Scotland and Wales. The highest incidence of Airbnbs was in Edinburgh Old Town, where there were 29 active listings for every 100 properties.


The north-west of Skye had the second-highest concentration, at 25 listings per 100 properties, including a seafront bothy (£50 a night), a modern cottage clad in corrugated tin (£190) and an isolated cottage with ocean and mountain views (£160). In England, the area with the highest rate of Airbnb lets was Woolacombe, Georgeham and Croyde, in Devon, with 23 listings for every 100 properties. In one area of the Lake District: Windermere North, Ambleside and Langdales, there were 19 listings per 100 properties. Local MP Tim Farron described the growth of Airbnb in an area already dominated by second home owners as “a really disturbing issue”.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 202020
 


NPC Newsstand with Out-of-Town Papers, Washington DC 1925

 

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)
Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)
New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)
First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)
Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)
South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)
Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)
Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)
Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)
German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)
Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)
Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)
Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)
Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

 

 

Cases 75,757 (+ 560 from yesterday’s 75,197).

Number seems low because China used their accounting again (h/t ZH):

 

China’s National Health Commission may report – as soon as this evening – the first official drop in new cases since the pandemic started. Why does this matter? Because that is now the catalyst everyone is waiting for to pounce and declare that the epidemic is effectively over, even if of course isn’t.


But since for China it is no longer an option to not have people go to work, the Chinese Communist Party will take its chances with another major breakout in coronavirus, or rather pneumonia, which is how all the thousands of new “mystery” deaths will be tagged by the friendly Chinese coroner, who will be instructed to never use the word coronavirus again and instead attributed covid-19 fatalities to far more mundane causes such as pneumonia, and ordinary flu.

 

Deaths 2,130 (+ 120 from yesterday)

• First death among Diamond Princess passengers, first cases in Iran

 

 

I’ll go use these numbers from Worldometer as well:

 

 

 

 

“..as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday ..”

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)

An elderly couple aboard Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, where over 620 cases of coronavirus were confirmed, has succumbed to the illness. The fatalities come as Tokyo allows hundreds of passengers to return home. Both passengers were in their 80s, according to public broadcaster NHK, and are the first on board the ship to die of the virus, which has spread to more than 75,000 people and killed over 2,100 worldwide since last December. So far, the majority of fatalities have involved elderly patients with preexisting conditions. The ship was initially quarantined on February 3 with around 3,700 people aboard, and has since turned into the largest disease hotspot outside China.

After more than two weeks in isolation, as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday and board flights back home, with several hundred more expected to disembark the following day. So far, the US has evacuated some 328 American citizens from the vessel on two chartered flights, 14 of whom were confirmed to carry the virus just as they were heading to the airport. They were isolated from the others on board the plane and remain in quarantine in the US.

Over 150 Australian passengers were allowed to return home – where they face another two-week observation period – while several Hong Kongers also disembarked. Canada, Britain and Indonesia are slated to carry out similar evacuations for citizens aboard the ill-fated cruise liner in the coming days. More than 130 Indian crew members will be the last to depart the ship, forced to endure another two weeks on board before facing yet another 14-day quarantine at home.

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“Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions..”

Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)

Two passengers from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, as a second group of passengers began disembarking after two-weeks quarantined on-board. More than 620 of the passengers on the Diamond Princess liner have been infected on the ship, which has been quarantined since February 3, initially with about 3,700 people on board. NHK, citing a government source, said the passengers were a man and woman in their 80s. Both had underlying conditions and had been taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 before being treated in hospital, NHK said. The rapid spread of the disease – Japan has well over half of the known cases outside China – has sparked criticism of authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday defended Japan’s response in parliament, telling lawmakers that officials have taken expert advice and responded to issues on a daily basis. In a move to reassure the public, the health ministry also issued a statement in both English and Japanese that said all passengers had been required to stay in their cabins since February 5 to contain the virus. [..] About 500 passengers were set to disembark on Thursday while another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home, a health ministry official said. An initial batch of passengers who had tested negative and shown no symptoms left the vessel on Wednesday.

Those who have shared a room with people testing positive were required to remain in quarantine, as were crew. The ministry could not confirm how many people remained on board, or when disembarkation would be complete. More than 150 Australian passengers arrived home after a predawn departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport. They face another 14-day quarantine. Some Hong Kong passengers also went home, while Canadians were due to leave on a charter flight in the early hours of Friday, Tokyo time, a Canadian government spokeswoman said. An evacuation flight was also being arranged for British nationals to leave Tokyo on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights. A State Department official said there were still about 45 US citizens on board the cruise ship as of Thursday. Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions, a decision that has sparked concern.

Read more …

Transmissibility.

New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)

Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed. In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease. Although preliminary, the findings published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, offer new evidence that this novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people mostly in China, is not like its closely-related coronavirus cousins.

“If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold. Researchers in Guangdong province monitored the amount of coronavirus in the 18 patients. One of them, who had moderate levels of the virus in their nose and throat, never had any disease symptoms.

Among the 17 symptomatic patients, the team found levels of the virus increased soon after symptoms first appeared, with higher amounts of virus present in the nose than in the throats, a pattern more similar to influenza than SARS. The level of virus in the asymptomatic patient was similar to what was present in patients with symptoms, such as fever. “What this says is clearly this virus can be shed out of the upper respiratory tract and that people are shedding it asymptomatically,” Poland said. [..] “This virus is clearly much more capable of spreading between humans than any other novel coronavirus we’ve ever seen. This is more akin to the spread of flu,” said Andersen, who was not involved with the study.

Read more …

Yet another new name for the virus is spreading: SARS-CoV-2.

First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)

More than 100 Hong Kong residents who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan for over two weeks landed on Thursday morning in the Asian financial hub, where they will face a further 14 days of quarantine. Arriving on a chartered Cathay Pacific aircraft, the 106 passengers were part of a first batch of at least two government arranged flights to bring back hundreds of remaining citizens. Authorities said 55 of the 364 Hong Kong residents on the ship were infected with the coronavirus. They will remain in Japan along with 33 other citizens who have been in close contact with them.


The British-flagged Diamond Princess arrived in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Feb 3. with about 3,700 people onboard after the virus was diagnosed in a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong. Over 600 passengers have tested positive for the virus, SARS-CoV-2, so far. Passengers began disembarking on Wednesday from the ship, which is operated by Carnival Corp. The process will be finished by Friday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Passengers arriving in Hong Kong are being taken straight into quarantine at a new public housing estate in the city’s New Territories region.

Read more …

The Westerdam had 2,257 people, 1,455 passengers and 802 crew aboard. There are now 255 passengers and 747 crew. 1,200 potentially infected people have spread all over the globe. Countries are now “scrambling” to find them.

Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)

The MS Westerdam arrived in Cambodia on 13 February, after repeatedly being denied entry to other ports. But the thrill of the moment, has now evaporated for those still facing a logistical nightmare. Travel options – already limited by the number of airlines serving Cambodia – have been narrowed by a growing list of countries denying entry to passengers from the ship. “We showed up in a city unexpected and there’s only so many flights a night and we have a lot of people we’re trying to funnel through that system and we’re putting a lot of stress on that system,” said Orlando Ashford, president of the Holland America Line, which operates the Westerdam. “It’s a math problem: how many people do you have? How many seats do you have?”

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are among those refusing to allow passengers in, making flying to Europe and the Americas difficult. Some airlines, such as Emirates, make a stop in Bangkok before proceeding to hubs such as Dubai, further limiting available flights. Still, Ashford expressed hope that remaining passengers would be on their way home “in a couple of days”. The Westerdam, with 2,257 passengers and crew aboard, began letting passengers off on Friday as they found flights home. But that was stopped once news broke that an 83-year-old American woman who had been on the ship and subsequently traveled to Malaysia was found to be carrying the virus. Some 255 passengers and 747 crew members were held on the ship while further testing was conducted.

Cambodia’s ministry of health said on Wednesday that all the tests came back negative and that all passengers were reported to be healthy and fever-free. After that, remaining passengers were allowed off the ship. Tony Martin-Vegue, whose wife, Christina Kerby, remains in Phnom Penh, began immediately preparing for her return home to California’s Bay Area once she got off the ship. Now he’s not sure when that might happen. “It’s kind of limbo right now,” he said. “I’m worried about how she’s going to get home.”

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Yesterday 20, now 31. 90 people at a temple service show symptoms.

South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)

The mayor of a South Korean city at the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak told residents to stay indoors on Thursday as a surge in confirmed cases linked to a local church raised the prospect of wider transmission. Malls, restaurants and streets in Daegu, the country’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million, were largely empty in scenes that local social media users likened to a disaster movie. “We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said at a briefing in the city, about 240km (miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, as he warned of likely further cases. Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 31 new cases of the virus on Thursday, following 20 a day earlier, taking the total across the country to 82.


Of that national tally, 49 patients are from Daegu or nearby and have been traced to an infected person who attended a local church, a scenario that KCDC described as a “super-spreading event”. Kwon cautioned that at least 90 more of the around 1,000 other people who attended services at the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony were also showing symptoms. [..] The cases previously reported in South Korea had mostly involved people who had travelled individually to China or come in contact with somebody who had. Daegu authorities ordered the shutdown of all kindergartens, while schools considered postponing the beginning of the spring semester scheduled for early March The Defence Ministry banned troops stationed in Daegu from leaving their barracks and receiving guests.

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Breaking the -supply- chains.

Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)

The Chinese manufacturing engine that powers much of the world economy is struggling to restart after an extended Lunar New Year break, hindered by travel and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus epidemic and still in place in many parts of the country. Case in point: in the southern China manufacturing hub of Dongguan, a factory that makes vaporizers and other products had just half of its workforce of 40 last week and was struggling to function without key personnel. “The quality inspectors, they’re all out,” said Renaud Anjoran, who runs the factory. “One is stuck in Hubei, the other is in an area with no transportation open.” Anjoran said other Dongguan manufacturers were also scrambling with half their normal staff levels, with some having even less than that.

The problems are exacerbating pain inflicted by loss of business from the U.S.-China trade war and present huge logistical challenges as companies, many dependent on migrant workers, grapple with a myriad of restrictions that differ by province, city and local district. Apple on Monday rescinded a quarterly sales target made just weeks ago, saying the ramp up of factories in China was slower than anticipated. Hyundai and Nissan have had to suspend some production – not just in China but also at home – for lack of parts. Some smaller firms, particularly in Southeast Asia and reliant on supplies from China, are having to make tough decisions. Taiwan’s Sica New Materials abruptly shut its factory in Thailand at the end of January, laying off about 350 workers.

“They couldn’t produce because raw materials weren’t being sent from China,” said Pairote Panthakarn from the government’s welfare and labor protection office in Kanchanaburi province, where the factory is located. Sica New Materials did not respond to a request for comment. Sinoproud Cambodia Garments, whose customers include fashion retailer Zara’s parent Inditex, told Reuters it may scale back production as stocks of fabric were getting low. “We hope we get the product in March and if we don’t get the product in March, we might just have to cut back and put the workers on half pay,” said general manager Tu Ailan. Nearly half of 109 U.S. companies responding to a poll by Shanghai’s American Chamber of Commerce said plant shutdowns have already had an impact on their supply chains, while almost all of the remainder expect an impact within the next month.

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WikiLeaks says on Twitter that there’s much more where this came from.

Julian Assange has always said Russia was not behind the leaked mails, and said they were not hacked, but leaked.. But that was not convenient. And now he’s locked up.

In early 2017, Assange negotiated with Congressmembers (?!) about providing proof Russia was not involved. James Comey shut that down.

Mollie Hemingway on Twitter: “Not only have the media not had a proper reckoning for their deceitful years-long push of the dangerous and false Russia collusion conspiracy theory, THEY ARE STILL DOING IT AS LATE AS TODAY. This propaganda is dangerous to domestic and national security and must stop.”

Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)

Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness. Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”


A few hours later, however, Rohrabacher denied the claim, saying he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it. “At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange,” the former congressman wrote on his personal blog. “Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country. “At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all. However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,” Rohrabacher added. “At no time did I offer a deal made by the president, nor did I say I was representing the president.”

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Zero Hedge appears to be confused here when they say According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher, it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

It wasn’t Assange’s lawyer, it was Rohrabacher (they are not the same person) who “said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon..” It should read: “According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

So their headline “Assange’s Lawyer Flip-Flops – Admits He Offered Russia Exoneration Quid Pro Quo, White House Ignored” doesn’t seem to make sense.

Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)

Update: The story appears to have changed dramatically. According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon,” but never heard back from the White House. It was Assange’s lawyer (not Assange) that offered a quid prod quo to expose the truth that Russia did not hack the DNC emails (none of which has been proven) in exchange for a pardon… but The White House never responded. [..] Attorneys for Julian Assange told a London court on Wednesday that they will provide evidence that the Trump administration offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he was willing to say that Russia had nothing to do with leaks of Democratic Party emails, according to Bloomberg.

During the preliminary extradition hearing, Assange’s lawyers said that former GOP congressman Dana Rohrahbacher offered the deal in 2017, one year after WikiLeaks published emails which were damaging to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time, the FBI’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation was in full swing as the agency tried in vein to prove that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 US election.

“At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald asked the court to allow more witness statements during the extradition hearing that will start next week. The new information includes a witness statement by Jen Robinson, another of Assange’s lawyers, that deals with the alleged offer made by then U.S. Representative. Dana Rohrabacher, he told the court. The witness statement will address “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange, and saying on instructions of the president, offering pardon or some other way out if Mr. Assange played ball and said the Russians had nothing to do with” the leaks, Fitzgerald said.” -Bloomberg

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Where were they the past few years?

German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)

German-speaking politicians, cultural workers and journalists have published a joint appeal, “Release Julian Assange from prison,” which supports the demand “for the immediate release of Julian Assange, on medical grounds as well on the basis of the rule of law.” The 130 initial signatories have now been joined by 22,000 other supporters. The appeal expresses “great concern for the life of the journalist and founder of Wikileaks” and quotes the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, saying, Assange showed “all the symptoms typical of victims of prolonged psychological torture.” The appeal also refers to the open letter from more than 60 medical doctors, who demand “Assange be transferred to a university hospital, as his state of health is now considered life-threatening.”


“It is obvious that Julian Assange cannot recuperate under the current conditions of detention, nor can he prepare for his extradition proceedings, which are scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020,” the appeal says. “Both constitute serious violations of fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law, making a fair trial impossible and exposing Julian Assange to considerable suffering and health risks.” The appeal goes on to say, “We remind the German media that Assange is one of their own and that the defence of press freedom is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Notwithstanding the allegations levelled against Assange, we urge the United Kingdom, on the human rights and medical grounds outlined above, to release Julian Assange from custody immediately so that he can recover under expert medical supervision and exercise his fundamental rights without hindrance. We also call on the German Government to make representations to the British Government to this effect.”

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He’ll either get a new court case or be pardoned.

Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)

Since his January 2019 arrest, President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone has repeatedly tested the patience of the federal judge who presided over his trial. On Thursday, that judge will tell the self-described “dirty trickster” how long he will serve in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson is scheduled to sentence Stone, a veteran Republican operative whose friendship with Trump dates back decades, after a 12-member jury in November found him guilty on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The judge on Tuesday rejected Stone’s bid to delay the sentencing.

The high-profile case has taken on additional importance since Trump last week blasted the federal prosecutors who won Stone’s conviction as “corrupt” after they recommended to the judge a prison sentence of seven to nine years. Attorney General William Barr, appointed last year by Trump as the top U.S. law enforcement official, swiftly intervened and the Justice Department withdrew the recommendation as “excessive,” with all four prosecutors then quitting the case. The Republican president thanked Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone matter, though Barr rebuked Trump for tweeting about the case. Congressional Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of politicizing the U.S. criminal justice system and threatening the rule of law.

Stone has repeatedly pushed the boundaries set by Jackson since his arrest in a dramatic pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home. Stone violated the judge’s orders not to talk about the case or post on social media, and she accused him of “middle school” behavior. At one point, Stone posted an image of Jackson on Instagram with what looked like the crosshairs of a gun over her head. “His antics are definitely an aggravating factor, and he can expect a longer sentence than he otherwise would have received,” said Mark Allenbaugh, a co-founder of Sentencing Stats, LLC who previously worked for the U.S. Sentencing Commission that sets federal sentencing guidelines.

[..] Stone, 67, was convicted of lying under oath to U.S. lawmakers about his outreach to WikiLeaks – the website that disclosed many hacked Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election that proved embarrassing to Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton – to protect Trump from looking bad. Mueller’s investigation concluded the emails were hacked by Russia. Stone sought to cast doubt on Moscow’s role.

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Erdogan has a wild plan to destroy the Treaty of Lausanne, and now out of nowhere tells his party that Greece has agreed with that plan. It didn’t and never will.

Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)

Greece vehemently dismissed the claim by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that it has accepted the status quo Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that not only it has not done so, but it has, along with the international community, condemned Turkey’s illegal moves in the region. “As we have repeatedly stressed, illegal actions produce no legal effect,” said Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas, who denounced “moves that continue to undermine regional peace and security, creating, among other things, pretexts for the violation of the arms embargo in Libya and for the attempt to usurp the sovereign rights of countries in the region.” ”Unfortunately, in this, too, Turkey continues to be a minority of one,” he said.


Erdogan said earlier Wednesday that Ankara’s resolute stance has led “the rest of the countries in the region, but mainly Greece,” to accept the status quo that Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean. He also stressed that Europeans have no jurisdiction in the region. Moreover, he announced that Turkey has purchased its third offshore drilling ship which will arrive in Turkey next month and begin drilling in 2020, without specifying the location. Speaking to the ruling AKP’s parliamentary group, he stressed that the new drilling rig could reach a depth of 11,400 meters. Meanwhile, the third day on Wednesday of contacts in Athens between Greek and Turkish delegations on confidence building measures coincided with 39 airspace violations over the Aegean Sea by Turkish fighter jets.

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“Per the audio obtained, Bolton says the House committed “malpractice” and “made a mess” of the impeachment inquiry, calling it “grossly partisan.”

Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday he was surprised that Senate Republicans rejected his offer to testify in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. But he said that even if he had testified, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the trial because of how House Democrats handled their investigation. “I think the House committed impeachment malpractice,” Bolton said at an event at Vanderbilt University with Susan Rice, who was national security adviser during the administration of former President Barack Obama. “The process drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away” because “it was so partisan,” he said. But, he added, “my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome.”

All but one Senate Republican voted to acquit Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly over his decision not to testify in the House or publicly discuss what he knows about the president’s Ukraine pressure campaign, particularly as officials who worked for him on the National Security Council have done so and have since endured Trump’s wrath. [..] Bolton noted that he offered to testify in the Senate trial and that the House didn’t subpoena him after Democrats learned that he would seek a court ruling because the White House had told him not to testify. He wouldn’t speculate about testifying before the House now if he is subpoenaed, because, he said, his lawyer has advised him not to take a position during a national security review by the White House of his book on his time as national security adviser.

Bolton also tried to deflect growing criticism that he isn’t speaking out because he’s simply out to sell his book about his 17 months in the Trump White House. He said he couldn’t speak out now because his book — “The Room Where it Happened”— is still undergoing a prepublication national security review and he believes Trump would have his administration sue him if he discussed its contents before that’s complete. “I’m not out here flacking for it,” he said. “I believe I wrote a book that does not contain any classified information. The staff reviewing it says it does.

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The benefits of sanctions.

Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

A year ago the main concern of international investors looking at Russia was uncertainty due to its geopolitical showdown with the West. A year on and global economic uncertainty is the main worry, not geopolitics. Russia is now seen by an increasing number of investors as a safe haven in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world. “Russia has seen a sharp change from the dominating attitudes from just a year ago: global uncertainty, not geopolitics, now seems the key risk factor. Russia is now seen as a “safe haven,” helped by reserves and sound macroeconomic policies. Low valuations are overtaking high dividend payments in importance and the new Russian government with Putin’s spending initiatives have been taken positively,” BSC Global Markets chief economist Vladimir Tikhomirov said in a note.

The majority of investors are already overweight Russian equities: 59% of dedicated funds are overweight, 33% are even weight and the remainder underweight. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent the last few years constructing a “fiscal fortress” of record high gross international reserves (GIR) that have now surpassed the pre-crisis peak and are approaching $600bn. At the same time, the budget has been overhauled and the break-even price of oil for the budget to balance has tumbled from $115 in the boom years to around $40 now – well below the average oil prices of the last few years. Under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, when he ran the tax office, the tax take grew by 20% despite the tax burden only rising by 2pp. And both external and public debt are now covered dollar for dollar with cash.

In short, Russia has probably the best macro fundamentals of any major country in the world. All this has not been lost on bond investors, who have piled into the market and now own about a third of all the Russian Ministry of Finance ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills – the ministry’s main source of financing the budget. But last year the increasingly good story spilled over into the equity markets. Russia’s dollar-denominated Russia Trading System (RTS) index returned just under 50%, making it on of the top three performing equity markets in the world. This year got off to a very strong start with the market up 10% in the first two weeks, but the coronavirus epidemic in China took the wind out of its sails and the market is currently flat YTD, with the notable exception of the utilities sector, which is up a whopping 16% YTD.

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I have nothing against Warren. But politics sold in the same way as American Idol, and therefore ultimately in the same way as detergent, is very creepy.

 

 

 

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Feb 192020
 


Arthur Siegel Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Liberty ship construction. Welding on a hatch assembly at night. 1943

 

Elderly Guests Leave First As Diamond Princess Quarantine Ends In Japan (SCMP)
Japan Releases First 500 ‘Diamond Princess’ Passengers (ZH)
Coronavirus Up To 20 Times More Likely Than Sars To Bind To Human Cells (SCMP)
Russia To Ban Entry Of Chinese Nationals To Halt Virus (AP)
Foreign Pilots At Chinese Airlines Return Home On Unpaid Leave (R.)
Xi Jinping, Under Fire From Virus Outbreak, Also Faces Economic Crisis (CNBC)
Trump Commutes Prison Sentence Of Rod Blagojevich (AP)
Fox Has Been “More Fair”: Why Bernie’s Team Has Had It With MSNBC (VF)
The Magic Of Retirement Is Gone (Alhambra)
Boeing Finds Debris In Fuel Tanks Of Undelivered 737 MAX Planes (CNBC)
After Learning Of Whitey Bulger LSD Tests, Juror Has Regrets (AP)
EU To Unveil Plans To Boost European Firms, Rein In US Tech Giants (R.)
Britain’s Row With Greece Over Treasures Spills Into Brexit Tensions (R.)
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics (CP)

 

 

• Cases 73,433 75,197 (+ 1,764 from yesterday)

• Deaths 2,010 (+ 137 from yesterday)

• Second death in Hong Kong

 

 

 

How old do you have to be to count among the “elderly” on a cruise ship?

Elderly Guests Leave First As Diamond Princess Quarantine Ends In Japan (SCMP)

Passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday began disembarking after a controversial two-week quarantine period in Yokohama that raised questions about the Japanese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The disembarkation of nearly 3,000 people was expected to take three days at least, according to the government. In the first group, some 500 mainly elderly passengers who have tested negative for the virus will leave the ship after final check-ups with doctors. The cruise ship was initially carrying about 3,700 passengers and crew from more than 50 countries and regions. The number of cases confirmed on board increased day by day, reaching 542 on Tuesday.


Those found to be infected with the pneumonia-causing virus have been transported to medical facilities. Test samples have now been collected from all passengers, the health ministry said. Disembarking passengers will be transported to Yokohama and other train stations in the area. Those who have had close contact with infected people on the ship will be kept on board for the time being for further monitoring even though they have tested negative. The ship’s operator will decide when crew who have not been infected will leave the ship, according to the ministry. With some passengers planning to stay on the ship it was unclear when their quarantines would end.

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“..it was a mess on board, and the mess is now moving off board..”

Japan Releases First 500 ‘Diamond Princess’ Passengers (ZH)

Japanese health authorities are beginning the process of offloading the remaining 2,000+ passengers and crew aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’, a ship that has been under quarantine for 14 days. The offloading will take place in phases over three days, finally wrapping up on Friday. The first 500 people are set to leave at around 10:30 am Tokyo time on Wednesday. There will be no preference given to different nationalities, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health. Many who depart will be subject to another 14 days of quarantine, including any Americans who elected to stay on the ship instead of traveling back to the US on the evac flight. Roughly 40 Americans were also excluded from that flight because they were being treated for the virus in a Japanese hospital.

So far, 542 people – including at least 14 of the 300 or so Americans who traveled back to the US on Monday in Japan – have tested positive for the virus. And while Japan says it has tested everybody aboard, doctors and experts say there’s no way to certain that people being released won’t be carrying the virus – hence the quarantines when they return home. But where will they go between now and then? And with no immediate after-care plans – at least none that have been publicly disclosed, it looks like Japan is about to set thousands of people aboard the most infected environment outside China loose in Tokyo. Of course, Japanese authorities are so paranoid about the Olympics, one would think they would be doing everything in their power to stop an outbreak in Tokyo, especially at such a sensitive time.

About 500 people are set to leave the ship from around 10:30 a.m. Tokyo time on Wednesday, with no preference given to any particular nationality, Japan’s Health Ministry said. Hopefully, health officials will manage to convince the world that they successfully screened for the virus. The ship was first quarantined on Feb. 5 more than a week after a man who tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong disembarked. Journalists have shared stories of desperation and paranoia from those trapped on the ship, making it sound like such a nightmare that many who read those stories may never want to travel on a cruise.

In other news, Yonhap reported minutes ago that South Korea has another 15 cases, increasing the countries total by roughly one-third to 46 one day after the country’s president warned of an “economic emergency” as companies like Hyundai suffer from supply shortages from China. The South Korean government has already announced a fiscal stimulus package to help companies hurt by the virus.

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ACE2, the receptor much more common among Asian people.

Coronavirus Up To 20 Times More Likely Than Sars To Bind To Human Cells (SCMP)

The deadly new coronavirus is up to 20 times more likely to bind to human cell receptors and cause infection than severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has found. The novel coronavirus and Sars share the same functional host-cell receptor, called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The report, published on the website bioRxiv on Saturday, said the new coronavirus had around 10 to 20-fold higher affinity – the degree to which a substance tends to combine with another – for human ACE2 compared with Sars. But the researchers added that further studies were needed to explore the human host-cell receptor’s role in helping the new virus to spread from person to person.

“Compared with SARS-CoV, 2019-nCoV appears to be more readily transmitted from human to human,” the report of the study said. “The high affinity of 2019-nCoV S for human ACE2 may contribute to the apparent ease with which 2019-nCoV can spread from human to human.” The disease caused by the new coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has named Covid-19, has killed more than 1,800 people and infected over 70,000 worldwide. The number of Covid-19 deaths is more than double the global figure of 813 attributed by the WHO to the Sars epidemic of 2002-03.

The new study found that although the novel coronavirus’ receptor-binding domain (RBD) had a relatively similar structure to that of Sars, it did not have appreciable binding to three published Sars RBD-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), which are copies of one type of antibody used to neutralise pathogens. The researchers said this suggested antibody cross-reactivity – the extent to which different antigens appear similar to the immune system – may be limited between the two virus RBDs, meaning Sars-directed mAbs will not necessarily work against the new virus.Instead, they identified the spike protein of coronaviruses, which is essential to gain entry into host cells during the infection process, as the most important target for vaccines, therapeutic antibodies and diagnostics.

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How long before the rest of the world follows?

Russia To Ban Entry Of Chinese Nationals To Halt Virus (AP)

Russia will temporarily ban Chinese nationals from entering the country due to the virus outbreak centered in China that has infected more than 73,000 people worldwide, Russian authorities said Tuesday. The entry ban goes into effect Thursday at midnight Moscow time (2100 GMT) for an indefinite period, according to a decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The government said it took the move due to the “worsening epidemiological situation” in China. Russia already had cut off most Chinese visitors by closing the long land border with China and Mongolia and imposing other travel restrictions. The new entry ban won’t affect travelers who need to transfer flights at Russian airports, authorities said.


So far, Russia has had only three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus — two Chinese citizens who were treated and released, and a Russian national infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship now quarantined in Japan. However, Russian authorities have taken significant steps to try to keep the virus from spreading, including hospitalizing hundreds of people as a precaution after they returned from China. Russia halted most air traffic to China, suspended all trains to China and North Korea, and temporarily stopped issuing work visas to Chinese citizens. Chinese students studying in Russia were told not to return until March 1.

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Perspective: 1,500 foreign pilots in 2019, double from 2010. In next 20 years, 6,000 pilots needed every year. Guess they won’t be foreigners.

Foreign Pilots At Chinese Airlines Return Home On Unpaid Leave (R.)

Foreign pilots at some Chinese airlines have returned to their home countries and are considering other jobs after being placed on unpaid leave as demand falls because of the coronavirus, affected flight crew told Reuters. Meanwhile, Chinese pilots with greater job security said their income has been sharply reduced because most of their pay is based on flying hours. Data firm OAG estimates about 80% of scheduled airline capacity to, from and within China has been cut this week because of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has killed more than 2,000 people. Chinese airlines have been the hardest hit. Major employers of foreign pilots, including China Southern Airlines and HNA Group’s Hainan Airlines, have acted swiftly to cut their losses, according to pilots and industry experts.

“All the foreign pilots are on leave until the virus situation gets better,” said an expatriate captain at China Southern who, like all of those who spoke to Reuters, requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with media. “For the moment we are all in our home countries.” Expats are typically paid more than local staff and work on contracts, which means they are more expendable in a downturn, industry experts said. “We have seen pilots heading back to Australia in January and February due to the stand down and seeking new roles,” said Kirsty Ferguson, the head of Sydney-based airline interview coaching firm Pinstripe Solutions.

[..] the number of foreign pilots flying with Chinese airlines more than doubled to over 1,500 between 2010 and 2019, according the Civil Aviation Administration of China. China will need another 124,000 pilots in the next 20 years, according to Boeing, as an expanding middle class drives demand for air travel. But foreign pilots said being put on leave without pay makes it less likely they’ll return when demand recovers.

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Simple really: companies have a few weeks supplies and parts in stock. Then chains start to break.

Xi Jinping, Under Fire From Virus Outbreak, Also Faces Economic Crisis (CNBC)

Already under heavy fire as the coronavirus outbreak shutters factories, disrupts supply chains and is set to shock China’s already-slowing economy, Chinese President Xi Jinping, it seems, is also under pressure to still deliver the country’s promised growth. In a speech delivered Feb. 3 and released over the weekend, Xi said: “Currently, we still have to deliver this year’s economic and social targets.” Last year, China’s growth dropped to its slowest pace in nearly three decades. Xi, according to a translation of his remarks, said those tasks must still be “done well,” with a message for provinces — other than those most severely affected by the outbreak — to keep a balancing act: Control the epidemic, but make sure they are fulfilling reform and development goals.

The Chinese government could face an “economic crisis” if the outbreak doesn’t abate, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) wrote in a note last Friday, before the Xi speech was published. Public frustration could “escalate dangerously” if the outbreak proves to be uncontrollable by the end of March, EIU wrote. It said the economic costs of China’s shutdown as it seeks to contain the epidemic will be apparent at that point. “At that point, the central authorities will not have room to pin the blame on local officials, given that they will have been directing the crisis response for longer than two months,” the EIU note said, adding it could be why Xi is now taking “more personal control” over the crisis.

Earlier this month, over half of China extended shutdowns to contain the outbreak. Last year, those parts of China accounted for more than 80% of national GDP and 90% of exports. That disruption of the world’s manufacturing hub has severely hit supply chains globally, with companies still dealing with the fallout. As China struggles to get back on its feet, with factories starting to reopen and workers trickling back, progress is slow. Returning workers need to follow quarantine orders, meaning factories are still operating at limited capacity. “Many smaller companies have stated that they will not be able to survive beyond the first quarter of the year in the current business climate,” the EIU wrote. “Besides a health crisis, the authorities could face an economic crisis, with implications for incomes and jobs.”

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Throwing in Blagojevich with Stone, Flynn, Manafort. Hmmm.

Trump Commutes Prison Sentence Of Rod Blagojevich (AP)

U.S. President Donald Trump has gone on a clemency blitz, commuting what he called a “ridiculous” 14-year prison sentence for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and pardoning former New York Police Department commissioner Bernie Kerik, among a long list of others. Others who got a break from Mr. Trump include financier Michael Milken, who served two years in prison in the early 1990s after pleading guilty to violating U.S. securities laws, and Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal after building one of the most successful NFL teams in history.

In all, Mr. Trump took clemency actions related to 11 people, his latest interventions in the justice system as he is under growing fire for weighing in on the cases of former aides. Mr. Trump made clear that he saw similarities between efforts to investigate his own conduct and those who took down Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat who appeared on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show, Celebrity Apprentice. “It was a prosecution by the same people – Comey, Fitzpatrick, the same group,” Mr. Trump said. He was referring to Patrick Fitzgerald, the former U.S. lawyer who prosecuted Mr. Blagojevich and now represents former FBI Director James Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired from the agency in May, 2017.

[..] Mr. Trump said he had yet to think about pardoning his long-time confidant Roger Stone, who is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, or granting clemency to several former aides who have ended up in legal jeopardy, including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn. “Somebody has to stick up for the people,” Mr. Trump said. As for Mr. Stone, in particular, he added: You’re going to see what happens. I think he’s treated unfairly.”

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Their approach to Bernie is similar to that of Trump. But Bernie picks their side when it comes to the latter. That’s his main blind spot: Trump and Russia.

Fox Has Been “More Fair”: Why Bernie’s Team Has Had It With MSNBC (VF)

Faiz Shakir had seen enough. As summer turned to fall, and the 2020 Democratic presidential race entered the stretch run before the first caucuses and primaries, Shakir, who manages Bernie Sanders’s campaign, approached MSNBC president Phil Griffin to discuss his concerns with the network’s treatment of the Vermont senator’s second White House bid. “We watched a ton of terrible coverage occurring and we thought we’d at least try to address it,” he recalled For months, the campaign bristled at slights from MSNBC’s stable of hosts and commentators. Jason Johnson, an MSNBC contributor, predicted in January 2019 that Sanders would drop out by August, and network analyst Mimi Rocah said in July that Sanders made her “skin crawl.”

On-screen graphics have omitted Sanders and misrepresented his poll numbers, a trend that inspired a sendup from the Onion. “It’s been a struggle to change the tone and the tenor of the coverage that we receive,” Shakir said in an interview. “They’ve been among the last to acknowledge that Bernie Sanders’s path to the nomination is real, and even when it’s become real, they frequently discount it.” (A study from progressive magazine In These Times buttresses Shakir’s critique). Sanders also attended the off-the-record discussion with Griffin; an MSNBC spokesperson said the network has hosted similar meetings with other Democratic candidates. Shakir said the 30 Rock chat was “open” and “cordial,” but now, months later, he’s “not sure it really changed anything.”

Sanders has long contended that the agenda of “corporate media” doesn’t necessarily reflect the people’s needs, and his 2020 campaign has doubled as a rolling media criticism shop. On Twitter, Sanders’s speechwriter David Sirota, a veteran reporter, has become a one-man rapid-response machine; last week, he chided a New York Times reporter for downplaying Sanders’s victory in the New Hampshire primary. Several key campaign figures hail from the media’s left flank: deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt (Media Matters), national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray (The Intercept), and Shakir (ThinkProgress). Sanders himself has suggested that the Washington Post “doesn’t write particularly good articles about” him because of his efforts to raise the minimum wage at Amazon, the company founded by the newspaper’s owner, Jeff Bezos. He’s also railed against networks taking Big Pharma ads while on the debate stage.

Entering Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas, which will be cohosted by MSNBC and NBC News, the ongoing tension between the titular liberal cable news network and the current Democratic front-runner has only intensified, and appears symptomatic of generational and ideological rifts within the party. It is at once a test of both MSNBC’s influence over the process and Sanders’s ability to withstand establishment resistance. Shakir said unflattering coverage on MSNBC has been “actively damaging” to the campaign. “The constant diminishment of Bernie Sanders on MSNBC,” he added, “hurts his case for electability.”

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1) “..medical costs for a couple are estimated to be $200,000 during their retirement years..”

2) 70-80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

3) Nuff said.

The pension Ponzi will grind to a halt. And as these things go, that will happen sooner than you expect.

The Magic Of Retirement Is Gone (Alhambra)

Social Security hasn’t considered 65 as full retirement age for a long time. The last workers who received full Social Security benefits at that age were born in 1937. For people born in 1938 and beyond, full retirement age has been increasing by 2 months per year up to those born in 1960 and after, when full retirement age caps at 67. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, almost 27% of Americans between 65 and 74 were still working. That’s projected to exceed 30% by 2026. And the number of people 75 and older who continue to work has gone from 6.4% in 2006 to 8.4% in 2016, projected to hit almost 11% by 2026. Why is it happening? Some people continue working to have something to do. I’ve talked to people still in the workforce, and some who retired and went back to work.

They say, “There’s only so much golf you can plan and so many fish you can catch.” They were bored. They needed something to do. Some continue to work so they’ll have health insurance. But the majority of people still working are doing it because they have to. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that almost 29% of households age 55 and older don’t have anything saved for retirement and they don’t have a pension. The National Institute on Retirement Security calculated the number. That means 40 million U.S. households have no retirement savings at all. The Employee Research Institute estimates that all households with a head of household between 25 and 64 years old, cumulative, are $4.3 trillion short of what they need for retirement.

Among households that do have retirement accounts, The Federal Reserve found the median account balance was $60,000. When you consider medical costs for a couple are estimated to be $200,000 during their retirement years—Not Good. Numbers from the Social Security Administration (SSA) show 50% of retired couples and 70% of unmarried elderly receive 50% of their income from Social Security. Among all Social Security beneficiaries, 21% of married couples and 45% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% of their income.

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“Boeing produced some 400 MAX planes since the grounding..” Well, no more. Maybe the workers were thinking: those planes will never be delivered anyway.

Boeing Finds Debris In Fuel Tanks Of Undelivered 737 MAX Planes (CNBC)

Boeing has told employees that it discovered foreign-object debris in fuel tanks of “several” 737 Max planes the manufacturer has in storage, CNBC learned Tuesday. Foreign object debris “is absolutely unacceptable,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes executive Mark Jenks, a vice president and general manager of the 737 program and Renton production facility, according to the company’s website, said in a note to employees. “One escape is one too many. “With your help and focus, we will eliminate FOD from our production system,” he wrote. The company plans to investigate the foreign objects in the tanks and said that the discovery won’t impact the plane’s return to service.


“The success of this initiative is dependent on you. We need our entire team to make this a priority. Thank you for your commitment to put safety, quality and integrity into everything we do,” Jenks wrote. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was aware that Boeing “is conducting a voluntary” inspection for debris in the undelivered aircraft “as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to ensure manufacturing quality.” “The agency increased its surveillance based on initial inspection reports and will take further action based on the findings,” the agency said in a statement. Boeing also plans to inspect all undelivered 737 Max planes. Boeing produced some 400 Max planes since the grounding last year until it halted production last month. The company suspended delivery of the new planes after regulators grounded them worldwide ..

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He signed up for the trial.
The CIA “dosed” him over 50 times.
“He didn’t murder prior to the LSD. His brain may have been altered..”.
But his lawyers never brought up LSD in his trial.

After Learning Of Whitey Bulger LSD Tests, Juror Has Regrets (AP)

One of the jurors who convicted notorious crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger says she regrets her decision after learning that he was an unwitting participant in a covert CIA experiment with LSD. Bulger terrorized Boston from the 1970s into the 1990s with a campaign of murder, extortion, and drug trafficking, then spent 16 years on the lam after he was tipped to his pending arrest. In 2013, Janet Uhlar was one of 12 jurors who found Bulger guilty in a massive racketeering case, including involvement in 11 murders, even after hearing evidence that the mobster was helped by corrupt agents in the Boston office of the FBI. But now Uhlar says she regrets voting to convict Bulger on any of the murder charges.

Her regret stems from a cache of more than 70 letters Bulger wrote to her from prison. In some, he describes his unwitting participation in a secret CIA experiment with LSD. In a desperate search for a mind control drug in the late 1950s, the agency dosed Bulger with the powerful hallucinogen more than 50 times when he was serving his first stretch in prison — something his lawyers never brought up in his federal trial. “Had I known, I would have absolutely held off on the murder charges,” Uhlar told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “He didn’t murder prior to the LSD. His brain may have been altered, so how could you say he was really guilty?” At the same time, Uhlar says she would have voted to convict Bulger on the long list of other criminal counts, meaning he still would likely have died in prison.

Uhlar has spoken publicly about her regret before but says her belief that the gangster was wrongly convicted on the murder charges was reinforced after reading a new book by Brown University professor Stephen Kinzer: “Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control.” The book digs into the dark tale of the CIA’s former chief chemist and his attempts to develop mind control techniques by giving LSD and other drugs to unsuspecting individuals, including colleagues, and observing the effects. [..] Gottlieb’s secret program, known as MK-ULTRA, enlisted doctors and other subcontractors to administer LSD in large doses to prisoners, addicts and others unlikely to complain. In Bulger’s case, the mobster and fellow inmates were offered reduced time for their participation and told they would be taking part in medical research into a cure for schizophrenia.

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I get the idea. But I don’t get which EU companies this is supposed to help.

EU To Unveil Plans To Boost European Firms, Rein In US Tech Giants (R.)

The European Commission will on Wednesday launch the first of a raft of proposals to help European companies exploit their rich trove of industrial data and at the same time rein in online giants Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc . The data strategy and artificial intelligence discussion papers are part of a bigger scheme to help European companies better compete with U.S. tech giants and state-aided Chinese companies in the digital world. European digital and antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager and European industry chief Thierry Breton will present the proposals around noon. They will come up with a final draft by the end of the year following feedback from interested parties.


The core of the EU’s data strategy is the creation of a single European data market and smaller data markets centered on key industries, according to a draft seen by Reuters last month. Other elements include new rules covering cross-border data use, data interoperability and standards related to manufacturing, climate change, the auto industry, healthcare, financial services, agriculture and energy. One of the possibly controversial proposals calls for doing away with EU competition rules against anti-competitive data sharing. In response to complaints about the power wielded by large online platforms, the Commission is also considering introducing rules to stop these companies from unilaterally imposing conditions for access and use of data or benefiting from this in a disproportionate manner.

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Twitter comment: “The Parthenon marbles don’t speak English so under the latest post-Brexit immigration guidelines they wouldn’t have been allowed into the UK from the EU anyway.”

But seriously, how do you defend buying stuff from the Nazis, or any occupying force, and then claim that’s legal?

Britain’s Row With Greece Over Treasures Spills Into Brexit Tensions (R.)

The British Museum in London has refused to return the Parthenon Marbles, 2,500-year-old sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from Athens in the early 19th century when Greece was under Ottoman Turkish rule. A draft of the 27 EU nations’ position on negotiations with Britain on their future relationship, which was seen by Reuters on Tuesday, seeks the “return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin”. The document did not specify any cultural objects. However, an EU diplomat said the line was added at the request of Greece, with support from Italy.


Greece’s culture minister said last month that Athens would step up its campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from London and expected to win more support from European peers as Brexit diminishes Britain’s influence. The British Museum says the marbles, which are roughly half of a 160-metre frieze that adorned the fifth century BC Parthenon temple, were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire. Greece says they were stolen. A British government spokeswoman, commenting on the draft EU document, said the UK’s position on the sculptures remained that they are “the legal responsibility of the British Museum”.


The Parthenon Marbles displayed at the British Museum in London October 16, 2014. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/

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John Gray begins his book, Black Mass (2007), with the sentence: “Politics Is A Chapter In The History Of Religion.”

Hazel Henderson Said In 2006: “Economics, Never A Science, Has Always Been Politics In Disguise.”

Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics (CP)

In 1949 the German philosopher Karl Jaspers coined the term ‘the axial age’ in his book, ‘The Origin and Goal of History.’ He defined the Axial Age as the pivotal period in human moral and spiritual development that has conferred upon the world the political, cultural and philosophical shape it has today. It occurred, according to Jaspers, between 2 and 3 thousand years ago in various places around the world. This pivot point in history comes after the emergence of the State and civilization in these areas, which current anthropological and archaeological thinking sets at about 5 to 6 thousand years ago.

What Jaspers and other historians had noticed in studies of ancient history was that over a relatively short span of time all the great founding philosophies or systems of morality that we still refer to today – such as Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Platonism, the Abrahamic religions – appeared in parallel, with no obvious connection, in different civilizations.

Jaspers looked for reasons for this ancient ‘enlightenment’ in the political situations of the various civilizations he analysed and suggested the opportunity for new thinking was provided in each area by the destabilization of the previous, originary, monolithic, State and the formation of smaller, competing States that were in a process of navigating a new course for themselves and in relation to adjacent territories. Several of the founding philosophers, for example, are known to have wandered around their region, disseminating their ideas in the cities and districts of different States.

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If Martin Scorsese made horror movies…

 

 

 

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Feb 072020
 
 February 7, 2020  Posted by at 10:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


Marjory Collins “Crowds at Pennsylvania Station, New York” Aug 1942

 

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases (SCMP)
Trump Expresses Confidence In China’s Confronting Its Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)
Texas Congresswoman Says Russia Responsible For Iowa Caucus Mess (WE)
The GIGO Impeachment (Turley)
Russian, Turkish Military Among 100s Killed & Injured In Idlib Terrorism (RT)
UK Town Halls Told To Fly Union Jack For Prince Andrew’s Birthday (Ind.)
Boeing’s Fraying 737 MAX Suppliers See Capacity Crunch (R.)
Ohio Pension System Slashes Health-Care Benefits To Stave Off Insolvency (ZH)
Interest Rate Controls Could Reduce Real Per Capita Growth (IMF)
Encourage Banks To Tap Discount Window To Prevent Repo Freeze – Quarles (MW)
End of QE-4: Fed’s Repos Drop Below Oct 2 Level, T-Bills Balloon (WS)
Seven In 10 Greeks Threatened By Poverty (K.)
Bumblebee Survival Chances In EU, US Drop 30% In Single Generation (Hill)
Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? (New Yorker)
Canada To Aid Alberta As Deadline For Massive Oil Sands Project Nears (R.)

 

I collected so many “corona”-related articles over the past 24 hours, I’ll do a separate thread with them, because this one would get too long. It’ll be up in a few hours.

China is making an effort to make it seem like they have things under control to the extent that numbers are rising less. Don’t trust them. For one thing, it’s not reflected at all in this graph. For another, Xi is real anxious to get the economy restarted. But that’s not possible while the lockdowns remain. Nice quote I heard: if even just 1% of your car parts are from China, and you can’t get them anymore, you can’t build a car.

 

 

Asking myself: why are there practically no children infected? Does anyone know?

Numbers today:

• China reports 73 new deaths from coronavirus and 3,143 new cases (from 3,797 yesterday)
• Hubei province reports 69 new deaths and confirms 2,447 new cases
• 185,555 people under medical observation, down from 186,354 yesterday
• Japan says 41 new infections on board Yokohama cruiseliner, total now 61 out of 273 tested

 

 

 

Most interesting here is XI: “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases (SCMP)

Health authorities in China pegged deaths caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic on Thursday at 73, with 69 in Hubei province, according to official figures released early Friday. The updated numbers raise the death toll in mainland China to 636. Newly confirmed cases rose by 3,143, a second consecutive daily drop, bringing the total to 31,161 cases in the country, according to data released on Friday morning by China’s National Health Commission (NHC). Most the deaths came from Hubei province, epicentre of the outbreak, where 69 new fatalities from the epidemic were reported on Thursday, one less fatality compared with the day before. The total death toll in Hubei rose to 618, the province’s health commission said.


[..] Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump on Friday that China’s economic development would not be affected by the outbreak, according to CCTV, China’s state broadcaster. CCTV reported that, in a phone conversation with Trump, Xi said the Chinese government and people had put their fullest efforts into containing the outbreak since it had started. “We have adopted the most comprehensive and strictest prevention and control measures through mobilising and rapid responses. We have declared a people’s war against the epidemic through prevention and control,” Xi was quoted as saying. “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

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After closing the borders.

Trump Expresses Confidence In China’s Confronting Its Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed confidence in China’s strength and resilience in confronting its coronavirus outbreak during a conversation with President Xi Jinping on Thursday, a White House spokesman said. The two leaders agreed to continue extensive communication and cooperation between both sides, the spokesman, Judd Deere, added. Trump and Xi also reaffirmed their commitment to implementing Phase 1 of the trade deal between the United States and China, he added.

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Honest question: what do you think is more dangerous, RussiaRussiaRussia or the coronavirus?

Texas Congresswoman Says Russia Responsible For Iowa Caucus Mess (WE)

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, suggested during an FBI oversight hearing on Wednesday that Russia is responsible for the vote-reporting issues from Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. “I hope that the Iowa Democrats will ask for an FBI investigation on the app,” the Texas Democrat told FBI Director Christopher Wray. “I believe that Russia has been engaged in and interfering with a number of our elections dealing with the 2016 election.” Wray responded by reassuring Jackson Lee that the FBI shares her concern about Russian interference. “Certainly, we are also concerned about potential Russian interference with our elections,” Wray said. “That’s why I created the foreign influence task force, which is acutely focused on that topic among other nation-states that are attempting to influence our elections.”


Democrats have faced criticism for not properly testing the voting system in Iowa, which includes an app the Iowa Democratic Party spent $60,000 to implement. “How can anyone trust you now?” a reporter yelled at the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party after reporting issues had still not been cleared up the day after voters caucused. An official winner has still not been announced as of Thursday evening. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez expressed his frustration on Thursday by calling for a recanvassing. “Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”

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Starting to feel Turley is writing more than he should.

The GIGO Impeachment (Turley)

Every line of work — from law to carpentry to software — has its own house rule about how bad results come from bad beginnings. There is even an initialism for this: GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out. Unless senators use their closing arguments this week to clarify that they are not endorsing either the prosecution or defense premises in reaching their verdicts, this will go down as the GIGO impeachment: precedent created by false assumptions in both houses. The House blundered in rushing an impeachment by Christmas rather than waiting a couple of months to submit a more complete case with added witnesses, court orders and evidence.

Instead of seeking to compel such direct evidence, the House pushed the vote to impeach on the basis of what my co-witnesses called by the Democrats admitted was an inferential case. There is no question that you can make an inferential case for impeachment, but it is the difference between a strong and a weak case. Rather than wait a couple months to strengthen that record (as I suggested at the Judiciary hearing), the House muscled through an impeachment after the shortest investigation of a president in history. The greatest concern in the House’s case was always the obstruction-of-Congress charge. The House declared that the administration’s failure to yield to demands for witnesses and evidence was by itself a high crime and misdemeanor.

The problem is that other administrations have raised the presidential immunity claims made by the Trump administration, and those claims were supported by legal opinions from the Justice Department. Both Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton were able to litigate their privilege claims all the way to the Supreme Court before facing impeachment. [..] This is a great case marred by passion and distortion. What is surprising is that both blunders were not “accidental” but premeditated by the two parties. It undermined the legitimacy and authenticity of the actions in both chambers. Even if the senators cannot agree on what is appropriate for impeachment, they should at least agree on what is not appropriate.

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Who supports those terrorists? Is it Turkey or the US?

Russian, Turkish Military Among 100s Killed & Injured In Idlib Terrorism (RT)

Terrorists took over the Idlib de-escalation zone and carried out thousands of attacks in the last two months, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the West is portraying them as “moderate opposition.” Idlib governorate, the last stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria, saw a surge of violence by radical jihadists who have no desire for a peaceful resolution to the almost nine-year-long conflict, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. Most of the attacks are carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the latest iteration of al-Qaeda in Syria. The area was proclaimed a de-escalation zone under the Russia-Turkey agreements. In mid-January, Russian and Turkish forces tried to impose a ‘regime of silence’ there, but the attacks only escalated.


In December 2019 there were over 1,400 terrorist attacks staged from Idlib, with some operations seeing the use of armor and even tanks. The scale of violence remains high, with over 1,000 attacks recorded in the last two weeks of January. Hundreds of Syrian civilians and government troops have been killed, as well as “Russian and Turkish military specialists.” “The relocation of some armed groups out of the de-escalation zone to northeastern Syria and later to Libya has boosted the concentration of radical extremists over the boiling point,” the ministry said. This situation was recently discussed during an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He explained that Turkey needed to separate the armed opposition it is working with from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, saying that it has failed to do so.

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Retracted now, but still illustrative of post-Brexit Britain. Ruled by white guys from the 18th century.

UK Town Halls Told To Fly Union Jack For Prince Andrew’s Birthday (Ind.)

Town halls across the UK have been officially reminded they must fly the Union Jack flag on 19 February, to celebrate Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday. Politicians and public alike have slammed the Whitehall order, which they say puts protocol before principles. The prince is not currently performing royal duties amid an ongoing scandal over his friendship with millionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and claims that then-teenager Virginia Roberts was coerced into having sex with Prince Andrew in 2001 and 2002. He denies the allegation, saying he was at a birthday party at the Woking branch of Pizza Express on one of the nights the pair are said to have slept together.


However, the order is now likely to be withdrawn, after the prime minister’s spokesman described it as “an administrative email about a longstanding policy”. “I understand that DCMS [the digital, culture and media department] and the royal household are considering how the policy applies for changed circumstances, such as when members of the Royal Family have stepped back from public duties,” the spokesman said – in a clear hint it will be pulled. The instruction had drawn heavy criticism, Labour MP and deputy leadership candidate Ian Murray saying: “This protocol has to be binned given the allegations against the prince.” [..] ..a council source said: “It seems ridiculous. The government doesn’t appear to be noticing what has happened recently, or factoring in the mood of the nation.”

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And that’s before the virus halted 10s of 1000s of flights.

Boeing’s Fraying 737 MAX Suppliers See Capacity Crunch (R.)

Boeing Co suppliers are shedding jobs and capacity to cope with a halt in 737 MAX output, but while that staves off chaos, aerospace executives worry the industry might be unable to ramp factories quickly enough when the plane wins approval to fly again. Boeing, struggling to restore public confidence and recover from the biggest crisis since its founding in 1916, has halted production of the once fast-selling 737 MAX, which was grounded in March following two deadly crashes. As a result, industrial heavyweights like fuselage maker Spirit Aerosystems have already laid off workers. Now a cluster of other crucial companies small and big that forge metal, assemble and paint 737 MAX winglets, and build data systems have followed suit with no indication that Boeing will offer a lifeline, people familiar with the matter said.


Losing payments and workers in a tight labor market heaps pressure on Boeing’s U.S.-dominated 737 MAX supply chain, which involves hundreds of suppliers of more than half of the roughly 400,000 parts for each 737 built in the Seattle-area. “One of the main questions is how much capacity will be lost in the supply chain by the time production resumes at significant rates,” said an industry executive with knowledge of Boeing’s industrial network. Such concerns dominated the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference north of Seattle this week, where some executives vented frustration over what they called Boeing’s lack of financial support. One executive from a supplier that derives a quarter of its business from the MAX said Boeing has treated his company like “a commodity” in a “transactional” relationship. He predicted Boeing would let some suppliers fail.

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The Fed’s (and ECB’s) ultra-low interest rates killed all pension systems. We just don’t -want to- realize it yet.

Ohio Pension System Slashes Health-Care Benefits To Stave Off Insolvency (ZH)

For the first time in years, a major public pension system has slashed benefits for retirees: The Ohio Public Employees’ Retirement System voted last week to cut health care benefits provided to the pension’s current and future retirees beginning in 2022 to try and prevent the fund from plunging into insolvency in the not-too-distant future. It’s just the latest reminder that America’s ‘pension timebomb’ isn’t as far off into the future as many retirees, investors and public officials would like to believe. According to Chief Investment Officer and the Bond Buyer, if these changes had not been enacted, the fund would run out of money in about 11 years, executive director Karen Carraher said during a board meeting. The measure passed by a 9-2 vote.

“There is no available funding for health care,” a report from the board said. “All of the employer contribution[s] must be allocated to pension funding until that funding improves. Based on current projections, no funding will be available for health care for 15 or more years.” The vote, which was undertaken after polls showed members would be open to the changes to preserve their retirement benefits, eliminated the system’s group health-care plan and replaced it with stipends that will defray costs for members who purchase plans on the state ObamaCare exchange. Beneficiaries will receive a wide variety of quantitative cuts, depending on their age of retirement, the year in which they retired, and the number of years working in the state.

“Surveys indicate members willing to accept changes/reductions in health care in the interest of preserving it,” the board’s report said. Nearly everyone in OPERS likely will be affected by these changes. The board’s vote constituted the elimination of the pension’s healthcare group plan, and replaced it with a stipend that will help supplement for some members the cost of a new healthcare plan on the marketplace. “Pre-Medicare group plan is unsustainable for OPERS and members as risk core and costs continue to increase,” the report said. The board “needs to reduce the cost of health care to preserve current health care trust fund until such time funding can resume.”

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Protesting what your own employer supports, and after the damage is done. Lovely.

Interest Rate Controls Could Reduce Real Per Capita Growth (IMF)

With the surge in public debt in the wake of the global financial crisis, financial repression—administrative restrictions on interest rates, credit allocation, capital movements, and other financial operations—has come back on the agenda. In our recent working paper, we argue that countries would be better-off without financial repression. By distorting market incentives and signals, financial repression induces losses from inefficiency and rent-seeking that are not easily quantified. Losses from rent-seeking might occur when administrative restrictions reduce access to certain financial services (such as credit) and improve the benefits (e.g., through low interest rates) for the selected users (at the cost of those excluded), and when these lead to wasteful competition among potential users for such gains.


Using an updated index of interest rate controls covering 90 countries over 45 years, this IMF staff study estimates that financial repression in the form of interest rate restrictions could reduce real per capita growth by about 0.4–0.7 percentage points, on average, with the effect being larger in countries with larger financial systems. The study also finds that a full liberalization of interest rates is necessary to significantly increase growth, and changes in interest rate restrictions short of full liberalization have a limited impact. The case studies suggest that interest rate controls may also disrupt financial stability and may reduce access to financing for small enterprises.

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The Fed should take care of people, not banks, by now. No body has ever been more destructive to a society.

Encourage Banks To Tap Discount Window To Prevent Repo Freeze – Quarles (MW)

The Federal Reserve could encourage banks to tap a key funding source that has been scarcely used since the financial crisis as a solution to the September dislocations in short-term lending markets, said Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles on Thursday. Quarles said financial institutions should not be afraid of accessing the discount window, where banks have historically borrowed funds from the Fed in return for collateral during short-term liquidity shortages, in a speech held at an event by the Money Marketeers of New York University. The use of the window, however, has been stigmatized following the financial crisis amid worries that tapping the window could end up creating the perception that a bank was in precarious shape and could even be insolvent, precipitating further outflows.

He noticed that despite the equivalence between Treasurys and reserves as sources of capital that could meet the Fed’s liquidity coverage regulations, which are designed to ensure banks can meet sudden cash outflows, the reality was banks would prefer to hold cash reserves as banks could struggle to sell government bonds swiftly if it wanted to raise funds. Quarles’ remarks come as investors and bank executives have pointed to the preference of reserves over Treasurys as one factor that contributed to the surge in overnight repo rates in September, which briefly pushed the benchmark fed funds rates above its target range and raised questions whether the Fed was losing its grip on a key monetary policy tool.

Pushing banks to use the discount window during stress scenarios could help resolve the issues in money markets, as it gave banks sufficient time to sell high-quality capital like Treasurys and raise cash, diminishing the need to accrue reserves as a way of handling liquidity issues. “I think it is worth considering whether financial-system efficiency may be improved if reserves and Treasury securities’ liquidity characteristics were regarded as more similar than they are today,” said Quarles.

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Stupid games. Close it down or it will destroy you.

End of QE-4: Fed’s Repos Drop Below Oct 2 Level, T-Bills Balloon (WS)

Under these “repurchase agreements,” the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS), guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, whereby the counterparties commit to buy back these securities at a fixed price on a specific date, such as the next day (overnight repo) or a longer period, such as 14 days (term repo). Repos are by definition in-and-out transactions. When a repo matures and unwinds, the Fed gets its money back, and the repo on the Fed’s balance sheet goes to zero. By buying these securities, the Fed adds liquidity to the market for the duration of the repo. When the repo matures and unwinds, the liquidity gets drained from the market. When a new repo transaction occurs, the process starts over again, but with a different amount and with a different maturity date.

The Fed raised the interest rate at which it offered the repos – for borrowers, the money is getting a little less cheap. Through January 29, the Fed’s average offering rate for overnight repos was 1.55%. On January 30, this increased to 1.60%. And the rate for 14-day repos increased from 1.58% effective through January 29, to about 1.61%. The Fed had been the lender-of-first-resort in the repo market, by offering to lend at these low rates. By increasing the rate, the Fed is gradually making the cash it is handing out less cheap and less attractive compared to what banks might offer, and more of the demand is switching over to banks. Overnight repos have been undersubscribed all year, so there is less and less demand for them at this rate. But the 14-day term repos are often oversubscribed, meaning there is more demand for this two-week cash at 1.61% than the amount the Fed is offering.


[.] The Fed continued to increase its ballooning stash of T-bills (Treasuries with maturities of one year or less) at a rate of about $60 billion per month. To increase its stash, the Fed has to buy the amount of the maturing T-bills, and it has to buy the amounts needed to obtain the targeted increase of about $60 billion a month. Over the five weekly balance sheets since January 1, the Fed has added $78 billion in T-bills, and the total amount of T-bills on the Fed’s balance sheet has now ballooned to $248 billion: These T-bills are a major part of the Fed’s strategy to bail out the repo-market. The purpose is to increase Excess Reserves that banks have on deposit at the Fed. The Fed blames low Excess Reserves last September for the banks’ refusal to lend to the repo market, which then caused the repo market to blow out. So bringing up Excess Reserves to an “ample” level is the goal of these T-bill purchases.

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Greece is being hit hard by the virus’s effect on tourism. But that’s just the icing on the cake.

Seven In 10 Greeks Threatened By Poverty (K.)

Almost seven in every 10 Greeks are in a dire financial situation, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The figures published in the bulletin of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) indicate that 68.3 percent of the population in Greece are living close to or below the poverty line, with 12.9 percent already having to make do with an income below that line and 55.4 percent categorized as vulnerable, as they too could drop below the poverty line if they miss out on three months’ salary.


The proportion of Greeks who are unable to make a decent living is far above the OECD average, which stands at 50.4 percent. In the United States, which also shows high levels of inequalities, the rate comes to 55.5 percent, while in Denmark it stands at 36.3 percent. Greece’s rate is second only to Latvia’s in the European Union. SEV commented that Greece is among the European countries with the greatest inequalities in incomes, a situation that has been aggravated by the financial crisis of the 2010s, which hurt lower incomes in particular.

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This sounds too bland for me. Been there done that. And I don’t think suggesting that it’s all climate change is all that smart. If only because it isn’t. Chemicals still play a major role.

Bumblebee Survival Chances In EU, US Drop 30% In Single Generation (Hill)

Bumblebee populations are in decline across North America and Europe due to hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures, and climate change is playing a big role, according to a recently released study. The study by researchers from the University of Ottawa published in the journal Science examined changes in the populations of 66 bumble species across the two continents, and compared them with climate changes. The research found that in the course of one human generation, the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in a given place in North America and Europe declined by an average of over 30 percent.


“We’ve known for a while that climate change is related to the growing extinction risk that animals are facing around the world,” lead author of the study Peter Soroye said in a statement. “Bumblebees are the best pollinators we have in wild landscapes and the most effective pollinators for crops like tomato, squash, and berries,” Soroye said. “Our results show that we face a future with many less bumblebees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates.” Researchers used data collected over a 115-year period showing where bumblebees have been found over the decades. They mapped the places the bees lived and how their distribution changed over time. They found the bees were disappearing in areas that had gotten hotter, and some are colonizing in new areas that were previously too cold.

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Ideal world: “There are very substantial reductions in unemployment, the human poverty index and the debt to GDP ratio. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by nearly 80%. This reduction results from the decline in GDP and a very substantial carbon tax.”

Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? (New Yorker)

“If growth were to be abandoned as an objective of policy, democracy too would have to be abandoned,” Wilfred Beckerman, an Oxford economist, wrote in “In Defense of Economic Growth,” which appeared in 1974. “The costs of deliberate non-growth, in terms of the political and social transformation that would be required in society, are astronomical.” Beckerman was responding to the publication of “The Limits to Growth,” a widely read report by an international team of environmental scientists and other experts who warned that unrestrained G.D.P. growth would lead to disaster, as natural resources such as fossil fuels and industrial metals ran out. Beckerman said that the authors of “The Limits to Growth” had greatly underestimated the capacity of technology and the market system to produce a cleaner and less resource-intensive type of economic growth—the same argument that proponents of green growth make today.

Whether or not you share this optimism about technology, it’s clear that any comprehensive degrowth strategy would have to deal with distributional conflicts in the developed world and poverty in the developing world. As long as G.D.P. is steadily rising, all groups in society can, in theory, see their living standards rise at the same time. Beckerman argued that this was the key to avoiding such conflict. But, if growth were abandoned, helping the worst off would pit winners against losers. The fact that, in many Western countries over the past couple of decades, slower growth has been accompanied by rising political polarization suggests that Beckerman may have been on to something.

Some degrowth proponents say that distributional conflicts could be resolved through work-sharing and income transfers. A decade ago, Peter A. Victor, an emeritus professor of environmental economics at York University, in Toronto, built a computer model, since updated, to see what would happen to the Canadian economy under various scenarios. In a degrowth scenario, GDP per person was gradually reduced by roughly fifty per cent over thirty years, but offsetting policies—such as work-sharing, redistributive-income transfers, and adult-education programs—were also introduced. Reporting his results in a 2011 paper, Victor wrote, “There are very substantial reductions in unemployment, the human poverty index and the debt to GDP ratio. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by nearly 80%. This reduction results from the decline in GDP and a very substantial carbon tax.”

More recently, Kallis and other degrowthers have called for the introduction of a universal basic income, which would guarantee people some level of subsistence. Last year, when progressive Democrats unveiled their plan for a Green New Deal, aiming to create a zero-emission economy by 2050, it included a federal job guarantee; some backers also advocate a universal basic income. Yet Green New Deal proponents appear to be in favor of green growth rather than degrowth. Some sponsors of the plan have even argued that it would eventually pay for itself through economic growth.

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Upside down world. You now have to pay for what nature provides for free. Pay people not to pollute. You want less pollution? Sure, but it’s going to cost you… Nice place you got there. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to it, would you?

Canada To Aid Alberta As Deadline For Massive Oil Sands Project Nears (R.)

Canada is preparing an aid package for Alberta, heart of the country’s struggling oil industry, that would help dull the pain if it blocks an oil sands project that could create thousands of jobs, sources familiar with the matter said this week. Ottawa must decide by end-February if Teck Resources Ltd can build the C$20.6 billion ($15.7 billion) Frontier mine in northern Alberta despite climate and wildlife concerns. The decision is a major test of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2019 election pledge to put Canada on the path to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Complicating the decision, unhappiness with the government’s energy and pipeline policy cost Trudeau’s Liberals all their Alberta seats in October 2019 elections.


“There will be a big fight inside cabinet over this,” said one source directly familiar the matter who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. “Rejecting Teck without providing Alberta something in return would be political suicide,” the source added. In Alberta, the project is considered essential for employment and growth. Teck says it would eventually create 7,000 jobs, although the company’s chief executive recently questioned whether it will ever be built. About 20 oil sands projects currently sit dormant despite receiving approval.

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Jan 202020
 


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Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)
Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)
Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)
John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)
India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)
Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)
World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)
UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)
Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)
EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)
Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

 

 

Warming up for the fight. Get your gloves on, check ’em twice, practice some jabs in front of the mirror, have a last drink of water and let the trainer put in your mouthguard. This may get ugly.

Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the House impeachment managers, dismissed on Sunday any notion that Democrats would be willing to negotiate on witnesses called during the Senate trial – adding that Republicans who want to block or negotiate what witnesses testify are “part of the cover-up.” Nadler, who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee led the writing of the articles of impeachment brought against President Trump, said that all “relevant witnesses must be heard” and balked at the idea of Democrats agreeing to having former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter testify in exchange for the witnesses Democrats want to hear from.


“This whole controversy about whether there should be witnesses is really a question about does the Senate want to have a fair trial or are they part of the cover-up of the president,” Nadler said during an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” Nadler added that “Hunter Biden has no knowledge of the accusations against the president.” “Any Republican senator who says there should be no witnesses, or even that witnesses should be negotiated, is part of the cover-up,” Nadler added.

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The Warren campaign has noticed Bernie’s gains after attacking Biden. They want a piece of the action.

Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)

Elizabeth Warren hit Joe Biden for his past stances on changing Social Security and expressed solidarity with Bernie Sanders on the issue as the two liberal senators seek to move past their recent feud. “Bernie Sanders and I established the ‘Expand Social Security Caucus’ in the Senate,” Warren said in a quick interview as she hopped into her car outside a candidate forum in Iowa. “As a senator, Joe Biden had a very different position on Social Security, and I think everyone’s records on Social Security are important in this election.” Warren’s comments come as Sanders has been relentlessly bashing Biden for his past openness to freezing cost-of-living spikes or raising the retirement age as part of larger bipartisan deals — proposals that Sanders opposed during his time in Congress.


Warren linking arms with Sanders on the issue also comes after long-simmering tensions between the two exploded into the open this week. The campaigns have been trying to move on from the conflict — which climaxed Tuesday night when each accused the other of calling them a “liar” on the stage immediately following the debate —and are largely not responding to media questions about the rift. The Social Security issue provides a potential opportunity for a liberal tag-team against Biden as both senators have long fought to expand the program and have rolled out plans on the campaign trail.

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The NYT endorsed Warren and Klobuchar yesterday. Everyone yawned. At least seeing Klobuchar praise McCain and Poroshenko means there’s no doubt where she stands. War it is.

Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)

Transcript from Sen. Amy Klobuchar interview with the editorial board of The New York Times:

Who has broken my heart? O.K., so here we go. Lindsey Graham’s broken my heart lately in the political system. Senator Lindsey Graham has transformed from a Trump critic, who called the president “xenophobic” and “race-baiting,” to one of his most staunch supporters. He told The Times Magazine, “If you don’t want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business.” Just because I like him and know him really well and traveled with him and Senator McCain all over the, all over the world. I’m just more thinking of Senator McCain and how much I miss him right now because I think he would have been really strong on Ukraine and on standing up against some of the things the president did and he’s no longer with us.

And Lindsey and McCain and I were actually on the front line with former President Poroshenko in a blizzard on New Year’s Eve, and I think about this now every New Year’s Eve — because John McCain wanted to show — after Trump got elected — wanted to show those countries that we were on their side. And so of course I was disappointed with how the Kavanaugh hearing was handled. I think everyone could see me on TV to see that, but I just hope that he has the ability to rise up here, and has a very important job right now as chair of the Judiciary Committee and certainly smart enough and has shown some tendency in the past to stand up for things and I just wish he would do it again when it comes to this conduct and a whole range of issues about our judicial system.

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Meanwhile, in the background:

John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)

A trail of documents has reportedly led Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked federal prosecutor to focus his inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation on the first several months of President Trump’s tenure. John Durham, a U.S. attorney from Connecticut, is zeroing in on the period spanning from January 2017, when Trump took office, to May of that year. A “strong” paper trail, as CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge put it on Friday, has led the investigation into possible misconduct by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials to that time frame.

While Trump and his allies have championed Durham’s effort, Democrats have dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing during the Trump-Russia investigation and are concerned the inquiry may be an effort to discredit the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump gave Barr full declassification authority for the endeavor. Barr and Durham have traveled around the world for the investigation, and Durham’s team has already asked witnesses about possible anti-Trump bias among former FBI officials.

The secretive DOJ inquiry includes scrutiny of former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI special agent Peter Strzok, and British ex-spy Christopher Steele. In October, it was reported that Durham was expanding the scope of his investigation, adding agents and resources, to examine the post-election timeline up to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. The “investigation into the investigators” was reported to be upgraded to a criminal inquiry later that month, which would give Durham the power to impanel a grand jury and hand down indictments. Durham has also reviewed the Intelligence Community’s conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Little else is known about the investigation other than that Durham is exploring whether a crime was committed by Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer who was found by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to have altered a document during the FBI’s efforts to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant renewal to continue wiretapping onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Among those known to be cooperating with Barr is retired Adm. Michael Rogers, the former director of the National Security Agency who has a history of uncovering FISA violations.

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US, EU, China, India, everyone gets their turn.

India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)

If you thought the American housing market was a mess during the immediate aftermath of the collapse, wait until you read about what’s going in India. Rapid economic growth and the government’s gradual economic liberalization have caused the ranks to India’s middle class to boom. The emerging Hindu middle class is already reshaping Indian society: Prime Minister Narendra Modi owes his electoral victories to this group, and his reform agenda was designed with the goal of sheparding even more of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens into the higher income bracket.

Modi’s first term included several important reforms, including simplifying India’s byzantine tax system and instituting a simplified system for taxing goods and services (though some argue that it must still be simplified further. He’s also helped modernize the country’s bankruptcy laws. But as the country’s growing wealth has sparked a flight from India’s crowded urban slums to its more spacious suburbs, they’re struggling with a shortage of homes, a shortage that has been made even more intense thanks to roughly half a million apartments that have been sitting unfinished for years.

Across the country, outside major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, hundreds of developments have been stranded by developers, many of which have declared bankruptcy, or simply run out of money to finish the projects, according to the Wall Street Journal. India’s banks, already saddled with bad loans, are refusing to lend any more money to the developers. As a result, millions of Indians who put up their life savings as a down payment on a new, yet-to-be-built apartment have essentially been left bereft, with no money and nowhere to live. Most are now making ends meet by cutting out any and all luxuries, and relying on friends and family, as they wait to see if the apartments they paid for will ever be finished.

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If the Royal Family can’t unite the nation, there’s always the Big Bad Wolf.

Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)

The SNP’s leader at Westminster has written to Boris Johnson demanding that he take immediate steps to allow the suppressed report into Russia’s interference in the British political system to be published. Ian Blackford, the leader of the third-largest party in the Commons, called on the prime minister to begin appointing members of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, necessary to allow the controversial document to be released. “It is unacceptable that your government has repeatedly and intentionally failed to take steps to establish the committee and has sought to escape scrutiny on vital issues,” Blackford writes in a letter that has been shared with the Guardian.

“The public interest and the imperative is and has always been clear: lift your sanction on publishing this report and re-establish the intelligence and security committee so that it can be immediately published,” the SNP MP added. A report on Russia’s spying activities against the UK and its attempts to penetrate the British establishment had been prepared by the committee in the last parliament, and had been made ready to publish when the election was called. Members of the committee saw evidence of Russian infiltration in Conservative political circles, but it is unclear how much of that concern reached the final document, which some sources say was watered down even before it went to Johnson.

Ministers have repeatedly said there are no examples of “successful Russian interference” in the 2016 EU referendum or an election, although there is scepticism as to whether that has been properly investigated. The report was nevertheless awaiting final clearance from Downing Street, to check it did not contain any classified information, when the election was called. No 10 said it was not possible to clear it in time, a point disputed by the previous chairman of the committee, former MP Dominic Grieve. Downing Street eventually said after the election that the report was cleared. But its release depends on the appointment of nine cross-party backbench MPs and peers to the committee’s membership, a task that falls to Johnson after consulting with other parties.

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And what are you going to do about it?

World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)

The world’s richest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined in 2019, while unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the global economy each year than the technology industry, Oxfam said on Monday. The Nairobi-headquartered charity said in a report released ahead of the annual World Economic Forum of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that women around the world work 12.5 billion hours combined each day without pay or recognition. In its “Time to Care” report, Oxfam said it estimated that unpaid care work by women added at least $10.8 trillion a year in value to the world economy – three times more than the tech industry.


“It is important for us to underscore that the hidden engine of the economy that we see is really the unpaid care work of women. And that needs to change,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, told Reuters in an interview. To highlight the level of inequality in the global economy, Behar cited the case of a woman called Buchu Devi in India who spends 16 to 17 hours a day doing work like fetching water after trekking 3km, cooking, preparing her children for school and working in a poorly paid job. “And on the one hand you see the billionaires who are all assembling at Davos with their personal planes, personal jets, super rich lifestyles,” he said.

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Davos counts in trillions. This is just shipping. And that is just 2.2% of CO2 emissions.

UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)

At least $1 trillion of investment in new fuel technology is needed to enable the shipping industry to meet U.N. targets for cuts in carbon emissions by 2050, a study published on Monday showed. The global shipping fleet, which accounts for 2.2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is under pressure to reduce those emissions and other pollution. About 90% of world trade is transported by sea. U.N. shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), aims to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050, a target that will require the swift development of zero or low emission fuels and new ship designs using cleaner technology.

In the first study into costs, researchers estimated that the cumulative investment needed between 2030 and 2050 would be between $1 trillion to $1.4 trillion, or an average of $50 billion to $70 billion annually for 20 years. If the shipping industry was to fully decarbonise by 2050, this would require further investment of some $400 billion over 20 years, bringing the total to $1.4 trillion to $1.9 trillion. “Our analysis suggests we will see a disruptive and rapid change to align to a new zero carbon system, with fossil fuel aligned assets becoming obsolete or needing significant modification,” said Tristan Smith, reader at University College London’s (UCL) Energy Institute, which was involved in the study.

Apart from more than a decade of tough market conditions, the shipping industry is also contending with the exit of many European banks from providing finance, leaving a capital shortfall of tens of billions of dollars annually. Around 87% of investments needed would be in land-based infrastructure and production facilities for low-carbon fuels, the study said. This includes investments in the production of low-carbon fuels as well as the land-based storage and bunkering infrastructure needed for their supply. The remaining 13% of investments are related to the ships themselves including the machinery and onboard storage required for a ship to run on low-carbon fuel. “Sustainable investing is here to stay,” said Michael Parker, chairman of Global Shipping Logistics & Offshore at Citigroup.

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Let’s see what shareholders have to say.

Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)

The world’s energy watchdog has warned the oil and gas industry that it risks a public backlash by failing to act on the climate crisis in favour of making short-term profits. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said oil companies must balance their desire for near-term returns and a long-term future by playing a much more significant role in combating the climate crisis. The IEA is preparing to make its most direct call for oil companies to help tackle the climate crisis at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos on Tuesday. The oil and gas industry faces “twin threats” to its financial profitability and social acceptability, according to the IEA.


“There are already signs of both, whether in financial markets or in the reflexive antipathy towards fossil fuels that is increasingly visible in the public debate, at least in parts of Europe and North America,” it said. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “No energy company will be unaffected by clean-energy transitions. Every part of the industry needs to consider how to respond. Doing nothing is simply not an option.” The report said that although some oil and gas companies have taken steps to support efforts to combat the climate crisis, the industry as a whole could play a much more significant role. Oil companies could do more now to help shrink the industry’s giant carbon footprint but most companies were yet to play a meaningful role, according to the report.

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Basically: be careful what you waste our money on.It’s fine to waste those €29bn on that climate action plan.

EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)

The European Investment Bank risks wasting €29bn (£25bn) of EU taxpayers’ money by overinvesting in gas projects which will be unnecessary under Europe’s climate action plans, according to a report. The EIB vowed late last year to end its support for fossil fuels within the next two years to become the world’s first “climate bank”, but 32 gas projects are still eligible for funding before the crackdown. The majority of these projects would waste billions of euros of taxpayers’ money, according to Artelys, an independent data science company, because they would be left as “stranded assets” in the move towards cleaner energy.

The report warns that gas investments will be unnecessary in the decades ahead because Europe already has enough infrastructure – such as pipelines and processing plants – to meet the continent’s future demand. The European commission set out a sweeping Green Deal plan late last year which aims to create a carbon-neutral EU by 2050, in part by increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency. Under Europe’s climate action roadmap, gas demand is expected to fall by almost 30% by 2030 compared with 2015 levels. But even in scenarios in which gas demand climbs higher, the report found that new investments in gas infrastructure would be “superfluous” from an economic perspective.

[..] Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s energy minister, said it “makes absolutely no sense” that EU decision-makers are supporting investments in new gas infrastructure with public funds. “This report debunks the argument that these investments would be needed for the EU’s security of gas supply. We risk wasting €29bn on future stranded assets while locking our energy system into fossil gas addiction for the next 40 years,” he said.

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Some 90 years after the US dust bowl.

Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

Damaging winds produced by thunderstorms across central New South Wales have whipped up dust storms that turned daytime into night in some towns. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a series of severe thunderstorm warnings on Sunday evening for inland NSW with the associated winds generating massive dust clouds. Videos posted to social media showed dust storms descending on Dubbo and nearby towns that were so thick they blocked out the sun. A gust of 94 km/h was recorded at Parkes about 6.30pm while a gust of 107 km/h was recorded at Dubbo about 7.45pm, the bureau said.


A bureau meteorologist, Rose Barr, said Sunday’s significant rain was concentrated across central and northern parts of the state on, and east, of the ranges. Rain and hail also lashed Victoria, sparking almost 1500 calls for assistance with more severe weather on the way as bushfires continue. The State Emergency Service received 1453 calls for assistance since Sunday morning, more than 1000 of them for building damage. Many towns on the NSW mid-north coast and the northern rivers regions received between 100mm and 180mm from 9am to 10.30pm on Sunday. In the southern part of the state, high winds saw storms race overhead quickly, resulting in lower measured falls.

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Social behaviour of striped catfish.

 

 

 

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Dec 282019
 
 December 28, 2019  Posted by at 10:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Alfred Palmer Conversion. Beverage containers to aviation oxygen cylinders 1942

 

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)
Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)
Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)
Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)
Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)
Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)
Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)
FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)
Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)
Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)
Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

 

 

WikiLeaks’ new leak. We now have OPCW, White Helmets, Bellingcat exposed as lying through their teeth about this. Much of their funding follows s similar trail: US government, Atlantic Council etc. The basis of US foreign policy.

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)

The leadership of the chemical weapons watchdog took efforts to remove the paper trail of a dissenting report from Douma, Syria which pointed to a possible false flag operation there, leaked documents indicate. In an internal email published by the transparency website WikiLeaks on Friday, a senior official from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) ordered that the document be removed from the organization’s Documents Registry Archive and to “remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever.” The document in question is a technical assessment written by inspector Ian Henderson after a fact-finding mission to Douma, a suburb of Damascus, in the wake of an alleged chlorine gas attack.

Western politicians and media said at the time that the government forces had dropped two gas cylinders as part of an offensive against jihadist forces, killing scores of civilians. The OPCW inspector said evidence on the ground contradicted the airdropping scenario and that the cylinders could have been placed by hand. Considering that the area was under the control of anti-government forces, the memo lands credence to the theory that the jihadists had staged the scene to prompt Western nations to attack their opponents. The final report of the watchdog all but confirmed that Damascus was behind the incident, but in the past months an increasing amount of leaked documents and whistleblower testimonies have emerged, pointing to a possible fabrication.


The OPCW leadership stands accused of withholding opinions contravening the West-favored narrative and using misleading language to report what the inspectors found on the ground. The alleged email was written by Sebastien Braha, Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW. Its authenticity is yet to be confirmed, but the organization never said any of the previously leaked documents were not real. Another document published on Friday outlines a meeting with several toxicology experts and their opinions on whether symptoms shown and reported in alleged victims of the attack were consistent with a chlorine gas poisoning. “The experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure,” the document said, adding that the chief expert suggested that the event could have been “a propaganda exercise.”

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J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.

Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)

President Trump’s acquittal in the U.S. Senate is a foregone conclusion. But it will not be impeachment’s conclusion for Democrats. Democrats’ decision not to send House impeachment articles to the Senate clearly signals their strategy: Delegitimize any action short of removal. They will not let impeachment go, now or ever, because they must counter their sagging – and President Trump’s strengthening – political position. Democrats have been calling for President Trump’s removal forever, pursuing de facto impeachment since taking the House this year, and pursuing it in fact since September. This marathon became a sprint: One week in the House Judiciary Committee and one day on the House floor.

Now, it has abruptly halted at what should be its climax. House leaders say they are not sending the impeachment articles to the Senate in order to leverage a fair trial there. How this gives them leverage, or how a trial there could be less fair than the House’s proceedings, is unclear. What is clear is that Democrats intend to maintain impeachment as an issue beyond its constitutional course. To rephrase Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over, even after the fat lady sings.” To understand why, it is necessary to understand the myriad reasons behind Democrats’ singular obsession with impeachment. First, they have a weak case. This was evidenced by the bipartisan opposition to impeachment and the Democrats’ inability to convince even one Republican to support it.


Democrats therefore must blame someone else, and they are laying the foundation for claiming that someone else – additional witnesses – could have provided it. Second, the left is pushing Democrats hard on impeachment, and Democrats are dependent on their left. The left forced impeachment on Democrats. The further left, the harder the push. Simply recall who Democrats’ impeachment leaders were and who stayed most assiduously away — even if ultimately voting for it. Democrats are as dependent on the left as the left is insistent on impeachment. The left is credited with the party’s 2018 success. In the Democrats’ 2020 presidential field, liberals dominate collectively, even if they have not yet coalesced around one candidate. The so-called moderates are running left, and the liberals are staying put.

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Sis weeks to Iowa. Time for the candidates to turn on each other. Time for Trump to laugh.

Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)

Democrats are bracing for a long, drawn-out primary season. With just six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, some Democrats say they don’t expect a likely nominee to emerge anytime soon after early-voting states hold their contests. Instead, they’re preparing for a bruising four-way match-up that could drag on for months as candidates compete for the chance to challenge President Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently topped nationwide polls, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg remain key contenders who show no signs of slowing down. “It’s going to be uglier than ugly,” one Democratic strategist said, pointing to surveys showing there is no clear winner across the first four states in the nominating process.

“It’s going to be a bloody slugfest. And the thing a lot of us fear is that Trump will benefit from all of it.” Democrats have focused their efforts on electability, making the case for rallying behind the kind of candidate who can topple Trump. Some Democrats say that while a progressive candidate can energize the party’s base and win in the primary, it would be much more difficult for that same White House hopeful to win the general election against Trump. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, argued that because the top candidates each have strong pockets of support, the primary may even lead to a brokered convention in July. “Although people always say that, this time it could be true,” Zelizer said.

“Democrats are so desperate to defeat Trump they have very different visions of how to do this and won’t concede easily.” The party’s top four candidates — two progressive candidates and two moderate candidates — are indicative of where the Democratic Party is right now, said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo. “It shouldn’t be a surprise you are seeing two progressives and two moderates vying for the top spot,” he said, adding that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also a wild card in the primary race. “What is the most interesting factor here is that voters are somewhat interchangeable between Biden and Sanders as they are between mayor Pete and Sen. Warren.”

[..] The Democratic strategist who predicted the primary would be a “bloody slugfest” said this election cycle is reminiscent of 2016, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sanders were locked in a bitter battle for the Democratic nomination. Clinton emerged the winner, but “she was damaged from the primary,” the strategist said. “And anyone who says Sanders didn’t hurt her has their head in the clouds,” the strategist said. This time around, a brokered convention “could only add further division at a time when we need it most. It’s a bit of a nightmare situation.”

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There you go. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, but..”

Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)

Warning that President Donald Trump cannot be defeated by an establishment Democrat running a “same old, same old type of campaign,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board published Thursday that Trump would have a field day with former Vice President Joe Biden’s record of support for the Iraq War, job-killing trade deals, and other destructive policies. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, so I’m not here to, you know, to attack him,” Sanders said. “But my God, if you are, if you’re a Donald Trump and you got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch.”

The Los Angeles Times interview was not the first time Sanders has distinguished his own record from Biden’s by highlighting the former vice president’s support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During a Democratic primary debate in September, Sanders noted that, unlike Biden, he “never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq.” “I voted against the war in Iraq, and helped lead the opposition,” the Vermont senator said. Sanders told the Times that defeating Trump in 2020 will require a candidate who embraces “ideas that are going to excite and energize millions of people who right now are not particularly active in politics, and who may not vote at all”—and the Vermont senator argued he is the Democratic contender best positioned to deliver such a campaign.


“The reason I believe that I am the strongest candidate, and the reason I believe our approach is right is if you want a large voter turnout, if we understand that there are tens of millions of people in this country who don’t vote, who’ve kind of given up on the political process… I think I am by far the strongest candidate to reach out to those people,” Sanders said. “I think I’m the strongest candidate to bring together a multiracial coalition of African Americans, of Latinos, of Asians.”

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Joe Biden’s biggest problem appears to be that he can’t identify his biggest problem. Either that or he knows there’s no escaping it.

Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)

Former Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Friday he would not comply with a subpoena to testify in a Senate trial of President Donald Trump. The Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump earlier this month alleging Trump abused his presidential power by tying foreign aid approved by Congress to a politically motivated investigation into a company on which Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board. Leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate are trying to come to terms for an impeachment trial. Biden said in early December he wouldn’t comply with a subpoena by the Senate, and confirmed that statement Friday in an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board.

He has not been subpoenaed, but Trump’s allies have floated the idea. Testifying before the Senate on the matter would take attention away from Trump and the allegations against him, Biden said. Not even “that thug” Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and former New York City mayor, has accused Biden of doing anything but his job, the former vice president said. Biden also said any attempt to subpoena him would be on “specious” grounds, and he predicted it wouldn’t come to that. Biden said even if he volunteered to testify in an attempt to clear the air, it would create a media narrative that would let Trump off the hook.

“What are you going to cover?” Biden said to Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter in response to a question. “You guys are going to cover for three weeks anything that I said. And (Trump’s) going to get away. You guys buy into it all the time. Not a joke … Think what it’s about. It’s all about what he does all the time, his entire career. Take the focus off. This guy violated the Constitution. He said it in the driveway of the White House. He acknowledged he asked for help.” Shortly after the House voted to impeach Trump, Biden was campaigning in Iowa, where he called impeachment “a sad moment for our country.” It underscored the need for a president who can unify the country, he said.

“No one’s taken as much heat and as many lies thrown at them as I have, but again, this is not about me. It’s not about my family. It’s about the nation. And we have to reach out and unify this country,” Biden said in Ottumwa on Saturday. A centerpiece to Biden’s campaign is his ability to beat Trump in a general election. It was a sentiment most likely Democratic caucusgoers shared in a mid-November Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll. He was the only candidate whom a majority of respondents said they were either almost certain or fairly confident would defeat Trump, according to the poll.

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Warren and Bernie rely on the same donors. She may be gone in six weeks’ time.

Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign told supporters on Friday its fundraising haul stands at just over $17 million and made a plea for more donations with just days left in the fourth quarter. The figure was a sharp drop from the previous quarter and accompanied the progressive Democrats’ slight slide in opinion polls in recent weeks in the Democratic contest to face Republican Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. “We’re only days away from the biggest fundraising deadline of the year, and we’re at risk of missing our $20 million goal,” Warren’s campaign said on its website. In an email to supporters, the campaign said its haul of a little over $17 million this quarter was “a good chunk behind where we were at this time last quarter.”


In the third quarter of 2019, Warren’s campaign reported raising $24.6 million, slightly behind the $25.3 million raised by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to swear off big-money fundraisers. Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has for months been polling in the top three of the crowded Democratic field, along with Sanders and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Support for her White House bid has slid since she announced in November how she would finance her $20.5 trillion Medicare for All plan with new taxes on the wealthy and corporations but without raising middle-class taxes. The plan drew criticism from rivals who say it is unrealistic and from some voters concerned that it was too extreme.

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3 years of daily RussiaRussia rants transferred to the field of entertainment. Get real. Here’s hoping OAN does Maddow, MSNBC and Comcast real damage.

Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)

One America News (OAN) is in court against MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow in a $10 million lawsuit after Maddow said her conservative competitor “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Now, Maddow is arguing in court that her words should not be taken as fact. Her actual legal defense, put out in a motion by her lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr., reads: “…the liberal host was clearly offering up her ‘own unique expression’ of her views to capture what she saw as the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the undisputed facts. Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false.’”

During one of her MSNBC segments, Maddow claimed, “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America is really literally is paid Russian propaganda,” and added, “Their on-air politics reporter (Kristian Rouz) is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” Leaving aside that Maddow now says her words should not be believed as fact, a linguistics professor’s testimony is leading observers to believe Maddow is also now lying in court. UC Santa Barbara linguistics professor Stefan Thomas Gries said, “it is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion.”


[..] OAN host Jack Posobiec tweeted at Maddow after she made her defamatory remarks, writing “Do you understand how defamation laws work? Please feel free to respond to our lawyers.” OAN’s lawsuit also named MSNBC, Comcast, and NBC Universal Media as defendants, and accuses Comcast, MSNBC’s parent company, of “anti-competitive censorship” because the network refuses to carry OAN as part of its cable package.

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Who cares after all this time? Let’s see some action.

FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)

The FBI is investigating British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and several other people linked to U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. They said a principal focus of the FBI’s investigation is Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein, and other “people who facilitated” Epstein’s allegedly illegal behavior. Maxwell has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Her lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI also is following up on many leads received from women who contacted a hotline the agency set up at its New York field office in the wake of Epstein’s arrest in July, the sources said.

One of the sources said the probe remains at an early stage. The sources declined to give further details or identify the people they are looking at apart from Maxwell. However, they said the FBI has no current plans to interview Britain’s Prince Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s who stepped down from his public duties in November because of what he called his “ill-judged” association with the well-connected money manager. A representative for the British royal family said that whether the agency interviewed Andrew was “a matter for the FBI.” Following Epstein’s arrest, the FBI urged anyone who had been victimized by Epstein or had additional information to call the agency’s hotline.


U.S. Attorney General William Barr vowed to carry on the case against anyone who was complicit with the financier. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy,” he said in August. The two law enforcement sources said the FBI’s principal focus is on people who facilitated Epstein and that Andrew does not fit into that category. They did not rule out the possibility that the FBI would seek to interview Andrew at a later date.

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“..an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup..”

Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)

What is most perilous for our country now, would be to journey through a second epic crisis of authority in recent times without anybody facing the consequences of crimes they might have committed. The result will be a people turned utterly cynical, with no faith in their institutions or the rule of law, and no way to imagine a restoration of their lost faith within the bounds of law. It will be a deadly divorce between truth and reality. It will be an invitation to civil violence, a broken social contract, and the end of the framework for American life that was set up in 1788.

The first crisis of the era was the Great Financial Crash of 2008 based on widespread malfeasance in the banking world, an unprecedented suspension of rules, norms, and laws. GFC poster-boy Angelo Mozilo, CEO and chairman of Countrywide Financial, a sub-prime mortgage racketeering outfit, sucked at least half a billion dollars out of his operation before it blew up, and finally was nicked for $67 million in fines by the SEC — partly paid by Countrywide’s indemnity insurer — with criminal charges of securities fraud eventually dropped in the janky “settlement.” In other words, the cost of doing business. Scores of other fraudsters and swindlers in that orgy of banking malfeasance were never marched into a courtroom, never had to answer for their depredations, and remained at their desks in the C-suites collecting extravagant bonuses. The problems they caused were papered over with trillions of dollars that all of us are still on-the-hook for. And, contrary to appearances, the banking system never actually recovered. It is permanently demoralized.

How it was that Barack Obama came on-duty in January of 2009 and got away with doing absolutely nothing about all that for eight years remains one of the abiding mysteries of life on earth. Perhaps getting the first black president into the White House was such an intoxicating triumph of righteousness that nothing else seemed to matter anymore. Perhaps Mr. Obama was just a cat’s paw for banksterdom. (Sure kinda seems like it, when your first two hires are Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.) The failure to assign penalties for massive bad behavior has set up the nation for another financial fiasco, surely of greater magnitude than the blow-up of 2008, considering the current debt landscape. Not a few astute observers say they feel the hot breath of that monster on the back of their necks lately, with all the strange action in the RePo market — $500 billion “liquidity” injections in six weeks.

But now we are a year into Attorney General Bill Barr coming on the scene — the crime scene of RussiaGate and all its deceitful spin-offs. The Mueller investigation revealed itself as not just a thumping failure, but part of a broader exercise in bad faith and sedition to first prevent Mr. Trump from winning the 2016 election and then to harass, obstruct, disable, and eject him from office. And six months after Mr. Mueller’s face-plant, out comes the Horowitz Report tracing in spectacular detail further and deeper criminal irregularities in the US Justice agencies. What’s more, tremendous amounts of evidence for all this already sits on-the-record in public documents. The timelines are well understood. And so, an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup — that our polity is so saturated in corruption nothing will be allowed to clean it up.

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But not really.

Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)

The Guardian has corrected an article describing a “plot” to “smuggle” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of London, more than a year after publication. Russia called the article “disinformation and fake news” from the outset. Assange is currently languishing in London’s Belmarsh Prison, awaiting a hearing on his extradition to the US where he is facing espionage charges. However, in the runup to Christmas 2017 he was still safe inside the city’s Ecuadorian embassy. At the time, Assange had become a thorn in the side of Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno, and Moreno was reportedly mulling a plan to offer him a diplomatic post in Russia, shifting him out of the UK and away from the threat of extradition.

When The Guardian reported on the story in 2018, it turned up the drama. Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper described a “plot” to “smuggle” Assange out of London on Christmas Eve, speeding the fugitive publisher away in a diplomatic vehicle and onwards to refuge in Russia. Ultimately, the report claims, the plan was deemed “too risky” and called off. Though the report painted a picture of a Kremlin-instigated cloak-and-dagger operation, Ecuador would have been well within its rights to grant Assange diplomatic status, had the UK Foreign Office signed off on it. However, plots and plans sell better than backroom diplomatic wrangling, and the paper went with the spy-movie version of events.

It even shoehorned in a paragraph on Assange’s “ties to the Kremlin,” and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation, for good measure. The Russian embassy in London called the article a clear example of “disinformation and fake news by British media.” On Sunday, the Guardian itself issued a correction. “Our report should have avoided the words ‘smuggle’ and ‘plot’ since they implied that diplomatic immunity in itself was illicit,” read a statement from the paper. The correction was made after a complaint from Fidel Narvaez, who served as Ecuador’s London consul at the time of the alleged “plot.” The paper described Narvaez as a middleman between Assange and the Kremlin. Narvaez outright denied any discussions with Moscow.

Though The Guardian corrected its choice of words, the bulk of its story remains as is. The identity of the anonymous sources cited remain a mystery, as does the level of awareness the Russian government had about the plan at any stage in its formation. As events transpired, Assange was bundled out of the embassy by Metropolitan Police in April, after Ecuador revoked his asylum.

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Nothing more fitting mere days before 2020. Russia’s hypersonics travel at 27x the speed of sound. China’s testing 5x. The US? Nothing so far.

Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

Russia has deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, with Vladimir Putin boasting that it puts his country in a class of its own. The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite. Putin has said Russia’s new generation of nuclear weapons can hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield, though some western experts have questioned how advanced some of the weapons programmes are. The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept.

The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Putin the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard had entered combat duty. “I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders. The strategic missile forces chief, Gen Sergei Karakaev, said during the call that the Avangard had been put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural mountains. Putin unveiled the Avangard and other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, saying its ability to make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target would render missile defense useless. “It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball,” he said at the time.


China has tested its own hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of travelling at least five times the speed of sound. It displayed the weapon called Dong Feng 17, or DF-17, at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese state. US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons. The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.

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Dec 242019
 
 December 24, 2019  Posted by at 10:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  19 Responses »


George N. Barnard Federal picket post near Atlanta, Georgia 1864

 

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)
‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)
Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)
US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)
Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)
Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)
Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)
New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)
World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)
For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)
‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

 

 

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

She has some intriguing arguments: “they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.”

The discussion is far from over.

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)

McConnell is proposing that House Dems and then White House lawyers make their arguments to the senators. The trial could be wrapped up in a couple of weeks, unless senators ≠decide after hearing the arguments that they need to hear witnesses. But Schumer wants more witnesses guaranteed upfront. After 17 witnesses, 8,000 pages of testimony and legal arguments, 106 House staff members working full-time, six high-paid outside lawyers and millions of dollars spent to produce a party-line vote in the House to impeach, Senate Democrats are hankering for another long, drawn-out spectacle. They aren’t outsmarting anyone except themselves. The witnesses they are seeking are unlikely to show up, no matter what political tricks the Democrats try.

Meanwhile, national support for impeachment is steadily falling, and every day Democrats spend on impeachment lessens their chances of unseating Trump in November. Schumer wants four White House officials, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, to testify. But Democrats lost their chance to bring in these witnesses by voting to impeach. Close advisers to any president are protected by executive privilege. That isn’t a Trump invention. Presidents, including George Washington, have said “no” when Congress demanded access to evidence of White House decision-making. President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, was especially aggressive about asserting privilege.

The Constitution creates three equal branches of government, and the president has a duty to protect his branch from congressional overreach. When these two branches clash, the federal courts are the referee. That’s true generally, but House Dems took a shortcut. When Trump refused to provide certain witnesses, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff balked at “a lengthy game of rope-a-dope with the courts.” It was a short-sighted move. Once House Dems voted to impeach, they lost any chance to have the federal courts order Trump’s advisers to appear. The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that judges cannot interfere in impeachment trials, because the Senate has “the sole power” over them.

In fact, minutes after the vote, federal appeals judges asked Congress to show why its case to compel the testimony of former White House lawyer Don McGahn isn’t abruptly ended because “the articles of impeachment render the case moot.” With the courthouse doors slammed shut on impeachers, they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.

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The only thing left for Pelosi appears to try and draw it out.

‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Monday that the “Constitutional outrage” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “needs to end,” and that if it continues into 2020, “the Senate needs to strike back.” “The Senate will decide how we dispose of this sham created by the house,” Graham tweeted, referring to the impasse created by Pelosi – who is refusing to transmit two articles of impeachment against President Trump until the Senate agrees to her terms. President Trump also had words for Pelosi on Monday after the Speaker called for “fairness” in a Senate trial.

“Pelosi gives us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so,” Trump tweeted, adding “She lost Congress once, she will do it again!” Pelosi says she will only transmit the impeachment articles to the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announces the process they will use for Trump’s trial. McConnell has advocated for a similar process to Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment, which included an initial agreement to first hear the case, followed by a vote on whether to call witnesses.

Speaking with “Fox and Friends” on Monday, McConnell said “we’re at an impasse” and “we can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.” McConnell blasted Pelosi for trying to “tell us how to run the trial.” “Look, what we need to do is to listen to the arguments, have a written questioning period, and then decide whether we need witnesses or not,” McConnell said, adding that some Republican senators “have said, ‘I am thinking of myself as a juror,'” while others believe “the case against President Trump is very thin.” -NBC News

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Either Joe drops Hunter or the Dems will drop Joe.

Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)

Hunter Biden is the subject of multiple criminal investigations related to “fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” it’s claimed in court documents filed Monday in his Arkansas paternity case. The claims were put forward by a Florida-based private-eye firm, D&A Investigations, in Biden’s ongoing case against alleged baby mama Lunden Alexis Roberts, a former Washington, DC, stripper who went by “Dallas.” Soon after the claims were filed, a judge struck the allegations down because they were filed by an “intervener,” according to court papers. Biden filed a motion to strike down the claims, arguing “the notice is filed by a non-party simply to make scandalous allegations in the pending suit to gain some media attention.”

Biden, 49, “is the subject of more than one criminal investigation involving fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” the filing alleges. One of those purported investigations relates to Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company with which Biden held a lucrative board post while his father, Joe, was vice president — drawing allegations of impropriety from Republicans including President Trump. Biden and a group of business associates “established bank and financial accounts with Morgan Stanley … for Burisma Holdings Limited … for the money laundering scheme,” D&A claims, further alleging that the accounts showed an average account value of nearly $6.8 million between March 2014 and December 2015.

Biden and the others — including Devon Archer, John Galanis and Bevan Cooney — allegedly “utilized a counterfeiting scheme to conceal the Morgan Stanley et al Average Account Value,” D&A claims in the papers filed at the Circuit Court of Independence County, Arkansas. The filing additionally alleges that Biden had a hand in a plot including Galanis, Cooney and Archer to rip off Sioux Native Americans to the tune of $60 million through the shady sale of tribal bonds. Galanis, Archer and Cooney were found guilty for their roles in June 2018, following a lengthy trial in Manhattan federal court. In November, Archer’s conviction was overturned by a Manhattan federal judge.

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In case you were wondering who really rules the USA.

US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)

It’s rare that I read something on the Washington Post that I don’t find highly biased, even repugnant. But with their recent article on the Afghanistan Papers, they truly knocked the ball out of the park. The facts they shared should have every American protesting in the streets. Trillions of dollars have been spent on a war that the Pentagon knew was unwinnable all along. More than 2300 American soldiers died there and more than 20,000 have been injured. More than 150,000 Afghanis were killed, many of them civilians, including women and children. And they lied to us constantly. Congress just proved that the truth doesn’t matter, though. A mere 22 hours after the release of this document, the new National Defense Authorization Act that breezed through the House and Senate was signed by the President.

That bill authorized $738 billion in military spending for 2020, actually increasing the budget by $22 billion over previous years. So, how is your representation in Washington, DC working out for you? [..] I know, I know – WaPo. But believe me when I tell you this is something all Americans need to see. This was an article that took three years of legal battles to bring to light. WaPo acquired the documents using the Freedom of Information Act and got more than 2000 pages of insider interviews with “people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.” These documents were originally part of a federal investigation into the “root failures” of the longest conflict in US history – more than 18 years now.

Three presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, have been involved in this ongoing war. It turns out that officials knew the entire time this war was “unwinnable” yet they kept throwing American lives and American money at it.

Read more …

“Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are.”

Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)

When you get down to it, the sickness at the heart of our nation these days is the result of countless bad choices, large and small, that we’ve made collectively over decades, including the ones made by our elected officialdom. The good news is that we could potentially move in the opposite direction and start making better choices. However deficient and unappetizing you think Mr. Trump is, and how crudely unorthodox his behavior, that equation is what got enough people to vote for him. The strenuous efforts to antagonize him, disable him, and get rid of him by any means necessary — including police-state tactics, bad faith inquisitions, and outright sedition — have prevented the nation as a whole from entertaining a realistic new consensus for making better choices. In fact, it has achieved just the opposite: a near civil war, edition 2.0.

All the people of America, including the flyovers, are responsible for the sad situation we’re in: this failure to reestablish a common culture of values most people can subscribe to and use it to rebuild our towns into places worth caring about. Main Street, as it has come to be, is the physical manifestation of that failure. The businesses that used to occupy the storefronts are gone, except for second-hand stores. Nobody in 1952 would have believed this could happen. And yet, there it is: the desolation is stark and heartbreaking. Even George Bailey’s “nightmare” scene in It’s a Wonderful Life depicts the supposedly evil Pottersville as a very lively place, only programmed for old-fashioned wickedness: gin mills and streetwalkers.

Watch the movie and see for yourself. Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are. The dynamics that led to this are not hard to understand. The concentration of retail commerce in a very few gigantic corporations was a swindle that the public fell for. Enthralled like little children by the dazzle and gigantism of the big boxes, and the free parking, we allowed ourselves to be played. The excuse was “bargain shopping,” which actually meant we have sent the factories to distant lands and eliminated your jobs, and all the meaning and purpose in your lives — and cheap stuff from Asia is your consolation prize. Enjoy…

Read more …

After Doctors For Assange, it’s high time for Lawyers For Assange. Take the governments involved to court in their own countries.

Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)

The medical degrading of Assange has assumed ever greater importance, suggesting unwavering state complicity. On November 22, over 65 notable medical doctors sent the UK Home Secretary a note based on Melzer’s November 1 findings and Assange’s state at the October 21 case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. “It is our opinion that Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health. Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care).”

In a second open letter to the UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice dated December 4, the Doctors for Assange collective warned that the UK’s “refusal to take the required measures to protect Mr Assange’s rights, health and dignity appears [to] be reckless at best and deliberate at worst and, in both cases, unlawfully and unnecessarily exposes Mr Assange to potentially irreversible risks.” The same grounds were reiterated in a December 16 letter to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, with a curt reminder that she had “an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.” In the event that Payne took no action on the matter, “people would want to know what you […] did to prevent his death.”

In the addendum to the open letter, further to reiterating the precarious state of Assange’s health and medical status as a torture victim, the doctors elaborate on the circular cruelty facing the publisher. An individual deemed “a victim of psychological torture cannot be adequately medically treated while continuing to be held under the very conditions constituting psychological torture, as is currently the case for Julian Assange.” Appropriate medical treatment was hardly possible through a prison hospital ward. A lesson in understanding mental torture is also proffered. “Contrary to popular misconception, the injuries caused by psychological torture are real and extremely serious. The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress.”

At Assange’s case management hearing on December 19, restrictions on medical opinion were again implemented; psychiatrist Marco Chiesa and psychologist David Morgan were prevented from attending. Both had been signatories to the spray of open letters. According to Morgan, he had hoped to “provide some observations about Julian Assange’s health, psychologically, and with my colleagues, physically.” Instead, it transpired that access was denied, according to psychologist Lissa Johnson, “despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.”

Read more …

They have been for 5.5 years. But they have already been found guilty before any trial. The “investigators” went with Ukraine and Bellingcat instead, and are now so deeply invested they can’t get out anymore.

Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)

Moscow is poised to give assistance in the investigation of the crash of flight MH17 in 2014, as it always has been, a Russian EU envoy has assured stakeholders, responding to a call for cooperation by the Dutch foreign minister. “We are ready to cooperate in clarifying all the circumstances of the incident,” Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, told media on Monday. In fact, Moscow has always been poised to do so, but its proposals were brushed aside, the diplomat recalled. Moscow is also prepared to hand over “the data we have” to its Dutch counterparts, ahead of a court trial that will look at the evidence collected by the Netherlands-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in March next year, Chizhov said.

The envoy spoke shortly after Stef Blok, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, said Russia’s contribution is needed to find some missing facts about the crash, which killed 298 passengers and crew. The Hague had “asked the Russian Federation to cooperate in a factual investigation into the closing of airspace above and around Ukraine,” Blok wrote to Dutch lawmakers on Sunday. Blok’s letter comes two months after Chris van Dam, spokesman for the MH17 probe, announced the inquiry will focus on why Ukraine’s airspace “was not closed” over Donetsk at the time of intense hostilities between the government military and rebel forces in the breakaway Donbass region.

Back in 2015, a report released by the Dutch Safety Board confirmed that, while it was hard to find out who was behind downing of flight MH17, the airspace over Ukraine should have been closed. Meanwhile, lawyers representing some victims of the crash maintain that it was Ukraine’s responsibility to ensure the safety of civilian air traffic during the fighting. [..] Moscow has consistently said that, despite not being included in the investigation team, it is still open to cooperation. Russia has already provided radar records, declassified military data on a missile thought to have downed the plane, and files proving that the projectile which downed the plane had been in Ukraine since the 1980s – but the data was persistently rejected as the probe proceeded.

Read more …

St Petersburg to Sevastopol: a 43-hour train ride.

New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)

President Vladimir Putin has heralded the opening of a railway bridge to the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula by posing in the driver’s cab and praising construction workers. But opening of the railway was immediately condemned by the European Union as “another violation” by Russia of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory. Russia’s 19km (12-mile) bridge to Crimea first opened in May last year. President Putin marked that occasion by driving a lorry over it. On Monday he asserted that millions of cars had already crossed the bridge and said the rail link “was a big deal as well”, with plans to carry 14 million passengers and 13 million tonnes of freight in 2020. Until the bridge was built, Russia had to rely on sea and air to supply the peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in February 2014 before annexing it through a referendum rejected by the United Nations as invalid.


The $3.6bn (£2.8bn; €3.2bn) bridge was built by a close friend of the president, Arkady Rotenberg. Mr Rotenberg and several of his companies had EU and US sanctions imposed on them. Russia’s president said the Kerch Strait bridge, with its new rail link, would have an impact on Russia’s economy as a whole. In a tweet, the presidency declared the bridge open to railway traffic. Mr Putin boarded a three-carriage train in the Crimean city of Kerch, stood in the cab beside the driver and sounded the horn, before sitting with Mr Rotenberg as well as Russian and local officials as they travelled across the strait to Taman in southern Russia. Mr Putin told construction workers that there had only been three times in 145 years that the rail route from St Petersburg to Sevastopol in Crimea had been broken: during the Russian revolution, during World War Two and in 2014.

Read more …

Some things simply won’t happen because they can’t.

World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)

The amount of food needed to feed the world’s population by the end of the century could increase by almost 80%, a study has suggested. Researchers from Germany said a trend of increasing Body Mass Index (BMI) is resulting in individuals requiring more calories. The authors warn that failure to meet the need for more calories could lead to greater global inequality. The findings have been published in the journal Plos One. The study, carried out by a team from the University of Gottingen, calculated that 60% of the calorie increase would be a result of the growing number of people in the world.


According to the UN World Population Prospects, the global population was estimated to increase from almost seven billion in 2010 to almost 11 billion in 2100. Yet, more that 18% of the increase in the calories from 2010 levels would come from a projected increase in height and weight figures in the global population. “The increase in the average daily required energy rises by 253 kcal per person between 2010 and 2100 in our estimations, assuming a rising BMI and height,” explained co-author Lutz Depenbusch from the World Vegetable Center. He told BBC News: “On a global scale, we calculate that the effect of the BMI and height increases in our model would lead to additional calorie requirements that match the 2010 requirements of India and Nigeria combined.”

Read more …

The system many people claim would be too expensive to repair or replace. Sounds like pretty straightforward fraud to me.

For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)

Alexa Kasdan had a cold and a sore throat. The 40-year-old public policy consultant from Brooklyn, N.Y., didn’t want her upcoming vacation trip ruined by strep throat. So after it had lingered for more than a week, she decided to get it checked out. Kasdan visited her primary care physician, Roya Fathollahi, at Manhattan Specialty Care, just off Park Avenue South and not far from tony Gramercy Park. The visit was quick. Kasdan got her throat swabbed, gave a tube of blood and was sent out the door with a prescription for antibiotics. She soon felt better, and the trip went off without a hitch. Then the bill came. The news was that her insurance company was mailing her family a check — for more than $25,000 — to cover some out-of-network lab tests.

The actual bill was $28,395.50, but the doctor’s office said it would waive her portion of the bill: $2,530.26. “I thought it was a mistake,” she says. “I thought maybe they meant $250. I couldn’t fathom in what universe I would go to a doctor for a strep throat culture and some antibiotics and I would end up with a $25,000 bill.” The doctor’s office kept assuring Kasdan by phone and by email that the tests and charges were perfectly normal. The office sent a courier to her house to pick up the check. How could a throat swab possibly cost that much? Let us count three reasons. First, the doctor sent Kasdan’s throat swab for a sophisticated smorgasbord of DNA tests looking for viruses and bacteria that might explain Kasdan’s cold symptoms.

Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, says such scrutiny was unnecessary. “In my 20 years of being a doctor, I’ve never ordered any of these tests, let alone seen any of my colleagues, students and other physicians order anything like that in the outpatient setting,” she says. “I have no idea why they were ordered.” The tests might conceivably make sense for a patient in the intensive care unit or with a difficult case of pneumonia, Mishori says. The ones for influenza are potentially useful, since there are medicines that can help, but there’s a cheap rapid test that could have been used instead.

The second reason behind the high price is that the doctor sent the throat swab to an out-of-network lab for analysis. In-network labs settle on contract rates with insurers. But out-of-network labs can set their own prices for tests, and in this case the lab settled on list prices that are 20 times higher than average for other labs in the same ZIP code. In this case, if the doctor had sent the throat swab off to LabCorp -Kasdan’s in-network provider- it would have billed her insurance company about $653 for “all the ordered tests, or an equivalent,” LabCorp told NPR. The third reason for the high bill may be the connection between the lab and Kasdan’s doctor. Kasdan’s bill shows that the lab service was provided by Manhattan Gastroenterology, which has the same phone number and locations as her doctor’s office.

Read more …

A fitting end to the year.

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

It’s the most controversial time of the year. Following the August death of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, a rash of sweaters, Christmas tree ornaments and other holiday goods have appeared on retail sites like Amazon and Etsy touting conspiracies that the 66-year-old was murdered. “Christmas lights are a lot like Epstein — they don’t hang themselves,” reads one $19.80 sweater on Amazon featuring the 66-year-old in a Santa hat. Plenty of ornaments also include the allegation, including this one, which also features a noose.

“During Christmas, an elf may sit on a shelf, but Epstein didn’t kill himself,” says another Amazon sweater, available starting at $29.99 in eight different colors.“Dasher & dancer & prancer & Epstein & didn’t & kill himself & Donner & Blitzen,” reads one $18.99 T-shirt. An almost-classic gingerbread-themed ornament has a naughty box, a nice box — and an “Epstein didn’t kill himself” box, which is checked. “Merry Christmas!” reads the cover of a $6.99 notebook, “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” A ransom-style note sweater with “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself,” is available in designs featuring Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Kim Jong-un.

Read more …

 

 

 

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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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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