If you get caught in that kind of nonsense, you’re surely not a journalist. Of course that was just one in an endless list of blubber that Harding produced about the likes of Assange and Trump. And Putin of course. And now he’s back with more. About Putin.
Somewhere in this new article by Luke Harding and Jason Burke for the venerable publication, they say that Russia only became interested in Africa in 2014. And obviously you know you can stop reading right there. Russia’s been interested in Africa for decades. Because it’s laden with resources. Because everybody else is there to get to those resources.
But Harding manages to write up a piece that makes Russia’s interest terribly suspicious and menacing. Because, you know, Skripal. The Russians did it. He’s basing this on docs he claims to have seen, but doesn’t provide, given to him by an “investigative unit” based in London and funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin’s worst domestic enemy.
Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal.
There are 54 countries in Africa today. Russia SEEKS to bolster its presence in 13. Scary! At the same time, how many countries do you think France has a presence in? Or UK, Italy, US? How about China? And now that we’re on the subject, what do you think they’re all taking out of Africa, leaving the people behind with nothing?
And Russia is supposed to be the threat? You ever heard about Belgian King Leopold and the Congo, and the millions of deaths he caused? 60 years ago there were still African children paraded out in ”human zoos” in Belgium. But Russia is the threat?! How about a history lesson or two?
The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St Petersburg who is a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region. Another is to see off “pro-western” uprisings, the documents say.
In 2018 the US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts. According to Mueller, his troll factory ran an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump.
Prigozhin is a caterer who runs a troll factory. Not saying this is impossible, but it’s certainly poorly written.
The Wagner group – a private military contractor linked to Prigozhin – has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria. The documents show the scale of Prigozhin-linked recent operations in Africa, and Moscow’s ambition to turn the region into a strategic hub.
What operations? Catering operations?
Multiple firms linked to the oligarch, including Wagner, are known by employees as the “Company”. Its activities are coordinated with senior officials inside Russia’s foreign and defence ministries, the documents suggest.
And we have a picture of the beast. Not scary enough? We’ll get one where he eats babies.
Yevgeny Prigozhin in Vladivostok in 2016. Photograph: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Putin showed little interest in Africa in the 2000s. But western sanctions imposed in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea have driven Moscow to seek new geopolitical friends and business opportunities.
Oh yeah, sure, Russia only started looking at Africa in 2014. See, stop reading right there…
Russia has a military presence and peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic. CAR is described as “strategically important” and a “buffer zone between the Muslim north and Christian south”. It allows Moscow to expand “across the continent”, and Russian companies to strike lucrative mineral deals, the documents say.
On 24 May the Kremlin announced it was dispatching a team of army specialists to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press spokesman, they will service Russian-made military equipment. So far Moscow has signed military cooperation deals with about 20 African states.
The west, France, UK, US, has literally raped the Congo, richer than any other place on earth in resources, for many many decades. And now that Russia starts looking, the west gets a dumb fcuk like Harding to write up a scare story about it.
Five days later the Kremlin said it would host the first ever Russia-Africa summit in October in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Putin and Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, will chair the event. About 50 African leaders are due to attend. The aim is to foster political, economic and cultural cooperation.
The leaked documents were obtained by the Dossier Center, an investigative unit based in London. The centre is funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman and exiled Kremlin critic.
Prigozhin has been approached for comment. He has previously denied any links to the troll factory and has said of Wagner that it does not exist. Putin has previously said that entities linked to Prigozhin do not constitute the Russian state.
A map from December 2018 seen by the Guardian shows the level of cooperation between the “Company” and African governments, country by country. Symbols indicate military, political and economic ties, police training, media and humanitarian projects, and “rivalry with France”. Five is the highest level; one is the lowest.
The closest relations are with CAR, Sudan and Madagascar – all put at five. Libya, Zimbabwe and South Africa are listed as four, according to the map, with South Sudan at three, and DRC, Chad and Zambia at two.
Other documents cite Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Mali as “countries where we plan to work”. Libya and Ethiopia are flagged as nations “where cooperation is possible”. The Kremlin has recently stepped up its ground operation in Libya. Last November the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar travelled to Moscow and met the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin was spotted at the talks. Egypt is described as “traditionally supportive”.
We don’t get to hear where Khodorkovsky got the docs from or how reliable they are, and we don’t get to see any of them. We have to believe Luke Harding on his blue eyes. But even then, is there anything shocking here for the non-Skripal crowd? Or is Harding just once more doing the MI6’s job for them?
The graphic gives an overview of “Company” activities and achievements. It claims credit in CAR for getting of rid of politicians who are “orientated to France”, including national assembly representatives and the foreign minister. This appears to be Charles-Armel Doubane, sacked in December. It has “strengthened” the army and set up newspapers and a radio station. Russia is an “83% friend”, it says.
In Madagascar the new president, Andry Rajoelina, won election with “the Company’s support”, the map says. Russia “produced and distributed the island’s biggest newspaper, with 2 million copies a month”, it adds. Rajoelina denies receiving assistance.
Another key territory is Sudan. Last year Russian specialists drew up a programme of political and economic reform, designed to keep President Omar al-Bashir in power. It included a plan to smear anti-government protesters, apparently copy-pasted from tactics used at home against the anti-Putin opposition. (One memo mistakenly says “Russia” instead of “Sudan”.)
One ploy was to use fake news and videos to portray demonstrators in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities as “anti-Islam”, “pro-Israel” and “pro-LGBT”. The government was told to increase the price of newsprint – to make it harder for critics to get their message out – and to discover “foreigners” at anti-government rallies.
I love it when people like Harding use the term “fake news”. Because he’s the very person who’s been caught producing just that, in the Manafort-visits-Assange article mentioned above. That was 100% fake.
Now, don’t get me wrong please. Of course Russia tries to play out factions and parties and countries against one another. Like all others do. They may do it in Sudan, in Comoros, examples Harding makes claims about, and elsewhere:
[..] Other suggestions in the documents include trans-African road and rail-building schemes. A railway could be built linking Dakar in Senegal with Port Sudan in Sudan, along the “old hajj [pilgrimage] route”. A separate 2,300-mile (3,700km) toll road was proposed connecting Port Sudan with Douala in Cameroon. Neither has so far happened.
A plan to revive “pan-African consciousness” appears closely modelled on the idea of Russkiy Mir, or Russian world. The concept has become fashionable under Putin and signifies Russian power and culture extended beyond current borders.
Have you ever seen purer baloney? Russia trying to get Africa to unite because that would look like some ancient idea of turning the whole world Russian? Maybe Stalin has such ideas, but he was Soviet, not Russian, and Putin, who is Russian, doesn’t have it, as you can grasp from his military expenditures. All Putin wants is to keep Russia safe from American and NATO invasions.
One working paper is titled “African world”. It calls for a developing “African self-identity”. It recommends collecting a database of Africans living in the US and Europe, which might be used to groom “future leaders” and “agents of influence”. The eventual goal is a “loyal chain of representatives across African territory”, the March 2018 paper says.
That little paragraph says it all. There’s not one little letter in there that poses any threat to anyone.
More immediate practical measures include setting up Russian-controlled non-governmental organisations in African states and organising local meetings. It is unclear how many Prigozhin initiatives have actually gone forward. There is evidence that media projects mentioned in the documents are now up and running – albeit with marginal impact. They include a website, Africa Daily Voice, with its HQ in Morocco, and a French-language news service, Afrique Panorama, based in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo. Russian operatives also offer thoughts on global politics. One policy paper, titled “Russian influence in Africa”, says Moscow needs to find “reliable partners among African states” and should establish military bases.
And there the whole story has fizzled out into emptiness. Yeah, it says with some vague thing about military bases, but do you know how many western military bases there are in Africa? Tons. So there’s nothing left, zero, from the original threatening tone Harding started off with, but it doesn’t matter, because who’s going to read the whole thing anyway?
Main thing is, the tone, the narrative, have been established once more. Putin is a big threat, re: Skripal and eating babies, and so are Trump and Assange. And they all work together to bring down your safety and quality of life. No, your own government doesn’t do that!
Julian Assange controlled policy, process, publishing and protected sources. He established satellite organisations and was the managing director of the WikiLeaks empire. Jacob Appelbaum went on stages around the world, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people about the value and importance of utilising and supporting WikiLeaks. He was a major conduit to the tech crowd and a constant presence at developer, privacy and journalism conferences. Trevor Fitzgibbon liaised with media bigwigs, musicians and celebrities, recruiting them to the cause and utilising them to enhance WikiLeaks public profile. He managed media relationships, engineered and pushed proactive narratives.
These three men relentlessly championed WikiLeaks. These three men built the original campaign to save Chelsea Manning. These three men helped to save Edward Snowden. These three men all had their public reputations destroyed. You don’t have to look hard on social media or the web to see how often Julian Assange is described as a serial rapist. Nor to discover that Jacob Appelbaum is described as a serial rapist too. And Trevor Fitzgibbon? Yup, also called a serial rapist. What is the likelihood of all three public figures representing the key pillars of WikiLeaks, conveniently being serial rapists? In retrospect, it defies logic. In aggregate, the subterfuge is so obvious as to be ludicrous. But when the CIA is targeting you there’s always more in store. One rapist, two rapists, three rapists, four.
When celebrated Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson was appointed Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks in October 2018, the announcement was lauded across the aisles. The accolades would be short-lived however, as within a week of his accepting the mantle, he was being smeared as “a hostile and abusive person toward women“, and a “violent drunk with a history of being physically and emotionally abusive of women”. The wording of the smear article is as limp as the accusations – “An air of allegations… He may now face allegations… unable to independently confirm the veracity of these allegations…” No victims came forward. No charges were filed. No investigation launched. They just threw their mud at the new head of the WikiLeaks publishing pillar and hoped it would stick, as it had with the others.
“In its statement, WikiLeaks warned: “While the case would collapse in the US due to the prosecution’s reliance on testimony by Thordarson and Monsegur, who are not credible witnesses, the United States can conceal their witnesses’ identities during UK extradition proceedings in order to boost their chances of winning.” It continued: “This will make it impossible for Assange to challenge the credibility of the witnesses during UK extradition proceedings, which will commence on 14 June.”
The US Justice Department is preparing even more charges against journalist and publisher Julian Assange, WikiLeaks warned Thursday. The charges, WikiLeaks said, would be based on the testimony of Sigurdur Thordarson, an FBI informant previously convicted of fraud, who recently travelled to the United States to answer questions aimed at preparing a new indictment. The news came the same day as fresh warnings about the deterioration of Assange’s health. Assange’s father, John Shipton, was scheduled to visit his son in Belmarsh Prison but was turned away and told Assange was seeing a doctor for an apparently urgent visit. “My visit was double-booked, it has been cancelled,” he told Australia’s Herald Sun. “[The doctor’s visit] must be at short notice because a double booking occurred.”
Earlier this week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer warned that Julian Assange could die in prison if his persecution is not stopped immediately. When ABC reporter Philip Williams asked Melzer, “If your calls are ignored, do you fear that he could actually die in prison?” he replied, “Absolutely, yes. That’s a fear that I think is very real.” The Trump administration has until June 14 to present its full request to Britain for Assange’s extradition. The current indictment includes 18 charges, over Assange’s role in the exposure of US war crimes and global diplomatic conspiracies, carrying a maximum sentence of 175 years’ imprisonment. WikiLeaks’ press release, however, stated that the US is likely preparing a superseding indictment. It would include the already unveiled charges, along with new counts against Assange.
WikiLeaks’ press release, however, stated that the US is likely preparing a superseding indictment. It would include the already unveiled charges, along with new counts against Assange. WikiLeaks noted: “Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported that Sigurdur Thordarson was flown to the United States last week where he was ‘comprehensively interrogated,’ in preparation for the filing of a new superseding indictment against Julian Assange by the end of next week.” [..] The FBI informant has no credibility. He has a lengthy record of involvement in illegal spying and state provocations, along with a criminal record encompassing convictions for embezzlement, fraud and sex crimes against minors. Thordarson could not be considered a reliable or honest witness in any prosecution that upheld the right to due process for the accused.
[..] Within a year of his involvement, Thordarson was suspected by WikiLeaks of stealing from the organisation. He was subsequently convicted in Iceland in 2014 of 18 theft-related charges[..] In August 2011, Thordarson claims that he contacted the US embassy in Reykjavik, offering to assist in the “ongoing criminal investigation in the United States” against Assange. He was rapidly picked up as an informant by the FBI. By his own admission, Thordarson met with FBI agents multiple times in Reykjavik between 2011 and 2012. During that period, US authorities flew him to Denmark three times and to the US on one occasion, for secret meetings about WikiLeaks. Thordarson provided the FBI with eight hard drives of material he claimed was from WikiLeaks. He received thousands of dollars from the US government.
“Legitimate journalists are again being caught in the wash of internet cleanups..”
I like Taibbi, but not this. Talking about “Legitimate Journalists” is far too slippery a slope. What makes a journalist legitimate? Being employed by MSM? Is Assange a journalist? (the term invites that discussion). Moreover, he invites YouTube and Facebook to censor people, but only the “illegitimates”. Only the legal system can decide that, not social media.
If you turned on cable news this week, or read our own coverage in Rolling Stone, you might have heard about YouTube’s decision to demonetize well-known conservative commentator Steven Crowder. Crowder’s offense involved calling Vox journalist Carlos Maza a “lispy queer” and a “gay Vox sprite,” leading, says Maza, to further harassment. Much press commentary either cheered YouTube’s move or called it belated. Simultaneously, YouTube announced it would ban whole genres of videos that fell under a hate/conspiracy label. From a Yahoo news summary:
“YouTube announced Wednesday it would ban videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination as well as those denying well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.” “Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended under our YouTube Partner Program.” Many greeted these stories with a shrug. If blue-state audiences even know who Steven Crowder is, they think he’s a jerk. And what could be wrong with removing videos “denying well-documented violent events”?
A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it. Why it matters: At a time when growing income inequality is fueling voter discontent and underpinning an array of social movements, the top 1% of earners and big companies are holding record levels of unused cash. The big picture: U.S. companies raked in a record $2.3 trillion in corporate profits last year, while the country’s total wealth increased by $6 trillion to $98.2 trillion (40% of which went to those with wealth over $100,000). So, where is all the money going?
The IMF notes large companies around the world are overwhelmingly and uniformly choosing not to reinvest much of it into their businesses. They’re hoarding it in cash and buying back stock. “There are only 2 things that money can do — sit on a balance sheet unused, where it’s just earned income earning an interest rate of zero,” ICI chief economist Sean Collins points out. “Or it makes sense to release it to share buybacks or dividends.” • Companies could pay their workers more, but “that would be terrible for the stock market,” says Neil Shearing, chief economist at Capital Economics — half-jokingly. • Companies made a record $1.1 trillion in stock buybacks in 2018 and are on track to surpass that number this year.
But they still have record cash holdings of close to $3 trillion. Wealthy households and individuals are pouring money into asset managers, betting on companies that lose $1 billion a year, bonds from little-known Middle Eastern republics, and giving hot Silicon Valley start-ups more venture capital than they can handle. And private equity has seen so much cashflow that firms have $2 trillion of unused capital. But even that hasn’t been enough to account for all the new money. The top 1% of U.S. households are holding a record $303.9 billion of cash, a quantum leap from the under $15 billion they held just before the financial crisis.
Britain’s next prime minister should “forget about” the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury, Vladimir Putin has said. The Russian president said he hoped whoever succeeded Theresa May would see what he described as the bigger picture and move on from the Skripal attack. “When all’s said and done we need to turn this page connected with spies and assassination attempts,” Mr Putin said on the sidelines of an economic forum in St Petersburg. He described Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to MI6, as London’s spy. “He’s your agent not ours. That means you spied against us and it’s hard for me to say what happened with him subsequently. We need to forget about all this in the final analysis,” he said.
[..] Mr Putin recalled his own experience working first for the Soviet Union’s KGB spy service and then Russia’s FSB security service. “Global issues linked with common national interests in the economic, social and security spheres are more important than games played by intelligence services,” he said. ”I’m talking to you as an expert, believe me. We need to cast off this fluff and get down to business.” [..] Mr Putin also issued a stern warning about the danger of a new arms race, accusing the United States on shunning talks on extending the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which is set to expire in 2021. He said while Russia had repeatedly signalled its intention to begin discussions on extending the pact, Washington had been unresponsive. “We have said 100 times already that we are ready, but no one is talking to us,” he claimed.
Societies are self-organizing, emergent phenomena. They respond to the circumstances that reality presents, and they take us in unexpected directions. The general expectation in the USA since the Second World War has been for ever-increasing material comfort provided by an inexhaustible techno-industrial cornucopia, kind of a cosmic goodie machine. Well, we’d better adjust our thinking to the fact that the horn-of-plenty is shockingly out of goodies, and that no amount of financial hocus-pocus is going to refill it. Valiant attempts to redistribute the already-existing wealth are liable to prove disappointing, especially when the paper and digital representations of that wealth in “money” turn out to be figments — promises to pay that will never be kept because they can’t be kept.
So, instead of fantasizing about free PhD programs for everybody, and free insulin for the multitudes, consider instead the vista of a reduced population working in the fields and pastures to bring enough food out of the long-abused land to live through the next winter. Consider a world in which, if we are lucky, the electricity runs for a few hours a day, but possibly not at all. Imagine a world in which men and women actually function in different divisions of labor and different social spaces because they must, to keep the human project going. Imagine a world in which the ideas in your head about that world actually have to comport with the way the way that world really works — and the severe penalty for failing to recognize that. That’s the more likely world we’re heading into. It won’t put an end to dreams of utopias and cosmic rewards, but it will be a sobering moment in history.
Seventy years after its publication, George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel “1984” continues to fascinate readers, in particular youngsters growing up in a social media-dominated age of increasing angst. “Some students are very shocked by it, and remain shocked by it,” said Michael Callanan, an English teacher and director of the Orwell Youth Prize, which supports political expression amongst young people. “It is part of the paradox of a book being 70-years-old,” he added. “I think they were taken aback by how fresh and how true to our lives today it strangely is.” Written in 1948, and published the following year, “1984” depicted a chilling future world in which a totalitarian state controls people’s thoughts and actions, suppressing any dissent.
This rigidly-controlled society features a so-called “ministry of truth” that distorts reality, with the ever-watchful eyes of “Big Brother” keeping tabs on citizens’ behaviour. The novel introduced other terms that have endured in the lexicon, including “double-think”, which means “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”, according to Orwell. For Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation, which promotes the work of the writer who died in 1950 aged 46, and administers various awards, his masterpiece was “very prescient”. She noted the book’s description of “two minutes hate” – in which citizens watch a daily film inciting them to hate enemies of the state – as comparable to online hate-mobs today.
Boeing Co learned that a cockpit warning light on its 737 MAX jetliner was defective in 2017 but decided to defer fixing it until 2020, U.S. lawmakers said on Friday. The defective warning light alerts pilots when two sensors that measure the angle between the airflow and the wing disagree. Faulty “angle of attack” data is suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes involving Boeing’s best-selling 737 MAX in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia in March. Those crashes, which killed 346 people, have triggered investigations by aviation regulators and U.S. lawmakers and left Chicago-based Boeing facing one of the biggest crises in its more than 100-year history.
Boeing decided in November 2017 to defer a software update to correct the so-called AOA Disagree alert defect until 2020, three years after discovering the flaw, U.S. Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Rick Larsen said in a press release on Friday. Boeing only accelerated this schedule after the Lion Air accident in Indonesia, they added. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said by email that a company safety review found the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation. “Based on the safety review, the update was scheduled for the MAX 10 entry into service in 2020,” Johndroe said. “We fell short in the implementation of the AoA Disagree alert and are taking steps to address these issues so they do not occur again.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed China’s Xi Jinping to Moscow this week for a three-day state visit. It wasn’t just the personal warmth between the two leaders that was on display. They have met on nearly 30 occasions over the past six years. President Xi referred to Putin as his closest international ally and friend. More importantly, the two nations are solidifying a strategic alliance that could define the shape of geopolitics for the 21st Century. Putin and Xi, who also attended the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum this week, signed a raft of bilateral commercial agreements which will propel Eurasian development and indeed global development.
Of particular significance is the continued drive by Moscow and Beijing to conduct international trade in national currencies, obviating the US dollar as a payment means. This is a crucial step in countering the desired “hegemonic control” of the global financial system by Washington. Time and again, Washington has abused its privileged position of printing or withholding dollars in order to further its own agenda of dominating other nations. That abuse has to stop, and it will stop as Russia and China pave the way to a new, fairer mechanism of international finance and trade. The vision of cooperation and partnership outlined by Putin and Xi is one based on mutual respect and peaceful prosperity.
Not just for those two nations but for all others who participate in the multilateral vision that they promulgate. In that way, the alliance being consolidated by Russia and China is one that offers renewed hope in a progressive and peaceful future for the planet. This positive vision is especially welcome at a time when the US under President Donald Trump is unleashing a barrage of tensions and potential conflicts from its bid to assert global dominance. The US is wielding sanctions and threats at numerous nations, including Russia and China, as well as even towards its own supposed allies in Europe, all in a desperate attempt to assert a hegemonic unipolar ambition.
[..] “twenty-two percent of the earth’s landmass was altered by humans just between 1992 and 2015. Ninety-six percent of the world’s animals, by weight, are now humans and their livestock,” writes Wallace-Wells. He describes “the forces that unleashed climate change – namely ‘the unchecked wisdom of the market’” to conclude that “neoliberalism is the God that failed on climate change.” Indeed those who hope that salvation from the human-induced climate catastrophe will come from our neoliberal leaders are deluding themselves and wasting time.
For those who consider our ravaged climate the work of centuries, this book will be a shock. “More than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in the past three decades,” Wallace-Wells writes. The climate catastrophe is predominantely the creation of the World War II generation, the boomers and their children. And if we don’t wean ourselves quickly from oil and gas, from our meat-intensive diet, and if we don’t stop pouring concrete, large parts of the earth will become uninhabitable. In fact, the UN projects “200 million climate refugees by 2050.” At the high end, Wallace-Wells quotes “a billion or more vulnerable people with little choice but to fight or flee.” You think the Syrian war produced a refugee crisis for Europe (a war, by the way, largely fuelled by climate-change induced drought)? Or that Central American drought has propelled unsustainable numbers of migrants to the U. S.? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
If business continues as usual, by century’s end, we humans will have the distinction of having produced eight degrees of warming. (Currently we’ve produced one degree of warming.) People “at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around outside without dying…whole regions will become unlivable…as soon as the end of this century.” Train tracks will buckle and roads will melt. Another way of stating matters is “twenty-five Holocausts and the worst case outcome puts us on the brink of extinction.” And this disaster has just started.
Before the giants of oil and gas joined the litany of threats facing Greek sperm whales, the plight of the world’s largest-toothed animal was little known. Like the Hellenic trench, which was discovered only two decades ago and is the habitat most associated with the species, the mammals were once the preserve of dedicated oceanographers. Now international eco-warriors, bent on stopping oil companies drilling for underwater reserves, are determined to put both the region and its unique species on the map. At stake is an unusually endangered zone. One of the world’s most significant marine mammal areas, it is home not only to the sperm whale, Greece’s chief predator, but fin whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, fast-vanishing common dolphins, Mediterranean monk seals and loggerhead sea turtles.
All face mortal danger if, as planned, exploration for hydrocarbons is conducted off the country’s western coast. With worries mounting, WWF Greece and Greenpeace recently went to Athens’ highest administrative court, the council of state, in the hope of getting two oil company concessions annulled in waters off western and south-western Crete. The organisations cited inadequate environmental monitoring, both post- and pre-exploration. The move follows publication of an unprecedented declaration by 100 of the world’s leading scientists, conservation and ecological groups. The prospective drilling was described in a two-page statement as the death knell for iconic sea mammals already facing manmade threats ranging from ship strikes and plastic pollutants to radar noise from military naval exercises.
“Despite its global import, cetaceans in the Hellenic trench are already facing a series of direct and severe threats,” the signatories opined, calling on leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras to cancel the offshore activity. “Oil and gas exploration and exploitation as an additional great threat … would become an important blow to their chances of survival.” Greece, they said, should instead follow “the bold political and investment decisions” of other EU member states by embracing renewable energy rather than hydrocarbons, one of the biggest drivers of climate change.
Satellite images reviewed by the Brazilian government show massive deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a grim reminder of the devastation wrought by the country’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro. According to Reuters, 285 square miles of forest was cleared in May, the highest one month total in a decade. The information comes from Brazilian space research institute INPE’s DETER alert system. “If this upward curve continues, we could have a bad year for the Amazon forest,” said INPE satellite monitoring head Claudio Almeida. The Amazon deforestation is just part of a global problem, said youth activist Greta Thunberg. “Disastrous deforestation like this must come to an end,” Thunberg said. “And not just in the Amazon… We are literally sawing off the branch we all live on.”
[..] The Bolsonaro administration in January announced its plans to open the Amazon for resource exploitation—a move that came before the new presidency was even a month old. At the time, Bolsonaro’s chief of strategic affairs Maynard Santa Rosa referred to the Amazon as an “unproductive, desertlike” area that would benefit from development. In April, as Common Dreams reported, indigenous activists in Brazil sounded the alarm over the Bolsonaro government’s attack on the rainforest and made a non-violent demonstration at the country’s capital city of Brasilia. “The white man is our finishing off our planet and we want to defend it,” Alessandra Munduruku, a representative of the Munduruku tribe from the northern state of Pará, said during that protest.
In today’s information age, the media have an extraordinary power to shape public opinion, and no one is exempt from their influence. The media are a veritable ‘fourth power’ in the state next to the traditional branches of government, controlling not only what is said and shown, but also what is not disseminated and, therefore, is withheld from the public. This enormous power comes with an equally enormous ethical responsibility. Many media outlets and individual journalists have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr Assange.
When the media find it more appropriate to spread humiliating jokes about Mr Assange’s cat, his skateboard and his faeces, than to challenge governments consistently refusing to hold their officials accountable for wars of aggression, corruption and serious international crimes, they demonstrate a deplorable lack of responsibility, decency and respect not only towards Mr Assange, but also towards their own readers, hearers and viewers, whom they are supposed to inform and empower. It is a bit like being served poisoned junk food at a restaurant – a betrayal of trust with potentially serious consequences.
[..] By making Mr Assange ‘unlikeable’ and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school. Once totally isolated, it would be easy to violate Mr Assange’s most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage. If the involved states get away with persecuting Mr Assange without ever prosecuting the crimes exposed by him, they will have established a dangerous precedent of impunity threatening freedom of press and opinion worldwide, and they will also have seriously undermined the accountability of government officials for crime and corruption under the rule of law. So there is much at stake here for every single one of us, and everyone should use the democratic means at their disposal to inform themselves, make their voice heard and hold their government accountable.
• Note: the photos are from before Assange fell gravely ill.
• New charges vs Assange, to be filed on June 14, are to be based on testimony from a convicted pedophile, Sigi Thordarson, who stole $50,000 from WikiLeaks, then fled to the FBI when caught.
• Next hearing, planned for 12 June has now also been moved to 14 June. The hearing will be in Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court.
• Kim Dotcom on Twitter: “The US Department of Justice has nothing to do with Justice. Here’s just another example. After everything I’ve seen so far I can say with confidence that there will be no extradition of Julian Assange. The charges are ludicrous and the evidence is non-existent. Typical DOJ.”
The Gateway Pundit has obtained exclusive testimony, as well as photos, from a fellow inmate of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside London’s highest security prison. The inmate, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent multiple photos of Assange from inside Belmarsh maximum security prison and spoke to The Gateway Pundit about the WikiLeaks founder’s situation using a contraband phone he has inside. Along with the photos from inside the prison, the inmate pushed a fundraiser — causing supporters to worry that he was attempting to extort WikiLeaks or harm Assange by violating his privacy. The Gateway Pundit reached out to him to get his side of the story.
This reporter spoke to the inmate through a series of online messages and a phone call for multiple hours on Wednesday evening. At the beginning of the conversation I asked him if he was a prisoner or someone who works there — and if his motive was to extort money from the organization. “I’m in prison right now,” he said, sending a photo from inside his cell. “Extort him for what reason? He exposed the biggest scandals in the world. Whose side do you think someone in prison would be on? The government who have us locked up in here or a fellow prisoner who actually doesn’t deserve to be here?” The photos feature Assange prior to his illness and being moved to the prison’s hospital wing last month. We have not been able to verify if Assange is aware of the existence of the photographs.
Annika Smethurst, the political editor of Australia’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, was preparing to leave her Canberra home shortly before 9am on Tuesday morning. When she heard a knock at the front door, she assumed it was her cleaner. Instead there were five federal police officers on the doorstep, pursuing evidence relating to a story she had written more than 12 months earlier. The police presented their warrants. The journalist told them she wanted a lawyer. Two legal representatives arrived at her house shortly afterwards. The search started in Smethurst’s bedroom. While that was under way, another two officers arrived with electronic equipment to go through her phone and computers. The police wanted access to all her electronic equipment.
They asked for her passwords, downloaded the contents of her phone on to their computer and used keyword searches to check the stored data. While the electronic dump was under way, police looked under Smethurst’s bed, through her clothes, handbags and sewing basket, through the spare room, through her cookbooks and stored Christmas decorations. They picked up 20 USBs in the house and checked them. The search spanned seven hours, with the group leaving about 4.30pm. “I felt shocked,” Smethurst told the Guardian. “I was very cooperative, and to be fair, they were too. They had a warrant. There was very little I could do apart from sitting down and watching them go through the search.
“But it’s a very confronting thing, watching somebody go through the house you’ve lived in for five years. It was uncomfortable. “I was very stressed when they were on my phone. Obviously as a journalist, my business model relies on people being able to ring me and talk to me anonymously, with that information not being seen by anyone else, then all of a sudden, police had access to it, and it was an incredible invasion of privacy.” Tuesday’s raid in Canberra, which came without any warning, was connected to a scoop revealing a plan by one of Australia’s surveillance agencies, the Australian Signals Directorate, to broaden its powers to spy on citizens without their knowledge. It was published in April 2018, and referred immediately for police investigation.
Hopes are running high that potential interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve will support the auto and housing sectors, two parts of the economy that are sensitive to borrowing costs. The risk, though, is rising that any relief won’t come until after these critical leaders of the current economic cycle have already fallen into contraction. Headed into the promotion-heavy Memorial Day weekend, analysts spoke of automakers finally succumbing to the need to spur car sales with deep discounts. What’s remarkable is the line manufacturers have been able to hold off on incentives, which fell for 11 straight months, according to TrueCar Inc.’s ALG data and analytics unit. While shareholders have applauded the safeguarding of profit margins as inventories piled up, the pressure to match supply and demand has given way to three months – and counting – of production cuts.
The rapid rate at which auto layoffs are rising suggest a spillover into the broader economy. Challenger, Gray and Christmas notes that the almost 20,000 announced layoffs in the first four months of the year were up 207% over the same period of 2018. “Job cuts in this sector are likely to continue, especially with the implementation of additional tariffs on Chinese goods,” Andrew Challenger, the firm’s vice president, wrote in a report. “Automakers and suppliers will feel the pressure, which may lead to more cuts.” It’s one thing to have a continuation of losses in the beleaguered retail sector, but the loss of high-paying jobs in both autos and industrials threaten to further hobble the housing market.
Connecting autos to housing isn’t a stretch. Fed officials have maintained that the recent slowdown in inflation would be “transitory” in nature. History, however, reminds us that one form of inflation is anything but passing once in nature. Home prices largely held their gains after recovering in the wake of the last recession. Recently, though, there’s been a downtick in the rate of those gains. Home price appreciation fell to an 11-month low in April, based on a three-month moving average of purchases using Federal Housing Finance Agency data.
The Federal Reserve’s two-day Chicago strategy conference laid the groundwork for the aggressive use of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, to counter the next recession, experts who attended the forum said. With short-term interest rates in a range of 2.25%-2.5%, the Fed does not have a lot of ammunition to fight the next downturn. In the past, the Fed was able to slash rates by 5 percentage points to stimulate the economy as needed. So the Fed is going to use “pretty aggressive, desperate, measures,” to stem the next recession, said Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If you thought you saw QE before, this is going to be QE squared,” Posen said. The Fed bought almost $4 trillion in assets during the Great Recession some 10 years ago to bring down long-term interest rates and stimulate the economy.
Posen and former Fed governor Randy Krozner said the Fed used the conference to prepare the public, lawmakers and the markets to the likely implementation again of this unconventional policy tool. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his top deputy, Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, want to short-circuit any political opposition and bottlenecks that greeted former Fed chief Ben Bernanke’s first use of asset purchases during the Great Recession. “The next time policy rates hit the effective lower bound [i.e. zero] — and there will be a next time — it will not be a surprise. We are now well aware of the challenges the ELB presents, and we have the painful experience of the global financial crisis and its aftermath to guide us,” Powell said in a speech opening the conference.
As the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy has not served ordinary Americans or spurred investment in new plant and equipment, who has it served? The answer is corporate executives and shareholders. As the liquidity supplied by the Federal Reserve has gone mainly into the prices of financial assets, it is the owners of these assets who have benefited from the Federal Reserve’s policy. Years ago Congress in its unwisdom capped the amount of executive pay that could be deducted as a business expense at one million dollars unless performance related. What “performance related” means is a rise in profits and share price.
Corporate boards and executives achieved “performance” by reducing labor costs by moving jobs offshore and by using profits and borrowing in order to buy back the company’s shares, thus driving up the price. In other words, corporate leaders and owners benefited by harming the US economy, the careers and livelihoods of the American work force, and their own companies. This is the reason for the extraordinary worsening of the income and wealth distribution in the United States that is polarizing the US into a handful of mega-rich and a multitude of have-nots.
The America I grew up in was an opportunity society. There were ladders of upward mobility that could be climbed on merit alone without requiring family status or social and political connections. Instate college tuition was low. Most families could manage it, and the students of those families that could not afford the cost worked their way through university with part time jobs. Student loans were unknown. That America is gone. The few economists capable of thought wonder about the high price/earnings ratios of US stocks and the 26,000 Dow Jones when stock buy-backs indicate that US corporations see no investment opportunities. How can stock prices be so high when corporations see no growth in US consumer income that would justify investment in the US?
In a key finding of the Mueller report, Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is tied to Russian intelligence. But hundreds of pages of government documents — which special counsel Robert Mueller possessed since 2018 — describe Kilimnik as a “sensitive” intelligence source for the U.S. State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian matters. Why Mueller’s team omitted that part of the Kilimnik narrative from its report and related court filings is not known. But the revelation of it comes as the accuracy of Mueller’s Russia conclusions face increased scrutiny.
The incomplete portrayal of Kilimnik is so important to Mueller’s overall narrative that it is raised in the opening of his report. “The FBI assesses” Kilimnik “to have ties to Russian intelligence,” Mueller’s team wrote on page 6, putting a sinister light on every contact Kilimnik had with Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman. What it doesn’t state is that Kilimnik was a “sensitive” intelligence source for State going back to at least 2013 while he was still working for Manafort, according to FBI and State Department memos I reviewed. Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either. He interacted with the chief political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government.
He relayed messages back to Ukraine’s leaders and delivered written reports to U.S. officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show. The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded. Alan Purcell, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017, told FBI agents that State officials, including senior embassy officials Alexander Kasanof and Eric Schultz, deemed Kilimnik to be such a valuable asset that they kept his name out of cables for fear he would be compromised by leaks to WikiLeaks.
President Vladimir Putin said Thursday Russia was prepared to drop a nuclear weapons treaty with the US and warned of “global catastrophe” if Washington keeps dismantling an international arms control regime. Speaking to heads of international news agencies at an economic forum in the city of Saint Petersburg, Putin said Washington showed no genuine interest in conducting talks on extending the New START treaty which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits. “If no-one feels like extending the agreement — New START — well, we won’t do it then,” Putin said.
“We have said a hundred times that we are ready (to extend it),” Putin said. “There is no formal negotiating process.” The treaty was signed by US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in 2010. It expires in 2021. Together with another agreement known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, New START is considered a centrepiece of superpower arms control. Moscow suspended participation in the INF treaty in March after President Donald Trump’s White House announced it would ditch the key agreement for alleged Russian violations of the terms.
Putin said he was puzzled by the absence of a global discussion. “Will anyone think about it, speak up, show some concern?” the Russian leader said. “No — total silence.” Putin said he discussed the issue with Trump during their phone talks in early May. “Donald told me that he is also concerned,” Putin said, adding that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo whom he hosted the same month also spoke “in a similar vein.” “If they think like this, then it is necessary to take practical steps towards joint work,” the Kremlin chief said. Putin said all nuclear powers — both officially recognised as possessing nuclear weapons and not — should take part in future talks. “We have to create a broad platform for discussions and decision-making,” Putin said. “That could be the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Britain’s relationship with Russia can only change when Moscow changes its behavior, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said on Thursday, after President Vladimir Putin said he hoped for better relations under her successor. Putin said he hoped a new British prime minister would work toward improving bilateral relations, badly soured last year by the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England that London blamed on Moscow. The spokeswoman told reporters: “We have been clear that Russia’s pattern of aggression and destabilizing behavior undermines its claims to be a responsible international partner. “We will continue to engage with Russia on matters of international security as this is in the UK’s national interest … however the PM has made clear on numerous occasions we can only have a different relationship if Russia changes its behavior.”
John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has said it is “blindingly obvious” that the new Conservative prime minister will not be able to suspend parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit. The Speaker said it would not be an option after outrage across the political spectrum when the leadership hopeful Dominic Raab suggested he might try to take that path. “That is simply not going to happen. It is just so blindingly obvious that it almost doesn’t need to be stated, but apparently, it does and therefore I have done,” he told MPs. Matt Hancock, another Tory leadership contender, called for all his rivals to rule out the possibility of ending the parliamentary session to stop MPs from voting on whether there should be a no-deal Brexit. He said it undermined parliamentary democracy and risked a general election.
Rory Stewart, another contender, called the suggestion “unconstitutional” and “undemocratic”, adding: “It wouldn’t work.” Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson are also among those who have said they would not pursue such an option in order to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October. Amid suggestions it could even be unconstitutional, Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, asked the government for clarity on whether prorogation to avoid a decision from parliament would be allowed. In response, Mel Stride, the leader of the Commons, said prorogation was “ultimately in the gift of the Queen”, adding: “What I would say is, that I do think Her Majesty should be kept out of the politics of our parliament.
A “smart city” project in Canada has hit yet another snag, as mounting delays and privacy concerns threaten the controversial development along the Toronto’s eastern waterfront. The 12-acre Quayside project, a partnership between Google’s Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto, has come under increasing scrutiny amid concerns over privacy and data harvesting. This week, the US venture capitalist Roger McNamee warned that technology companies such as Google cannot be trusted to safely manage the data they collect on residents. “The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most highly evolved version to date of … surveillance capitalism”, he wrote to the city council, suggesting Google will use “algorithms to nudge human behavior” in ways to “favor its business”.
McNamee, an early investor in Facebook and Google, is co-founder of Silver Lake Partners, one of the world’s largest technology investors. But in recent years, he has soured on many of the technology giants and their handling of data and privacy concerns. “No matter what Google is offering, the value to Toronto cannot possibly approach the value your city is giving up,” he wrote, pleading with officials to abandon the project. “It is a dystopian vision that has no place in a democratic society.”
The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It’s home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic that people thought was mostly floating at the surface, and in amounts they never imagined. Very few people have looked for microplastic concentrations at mid- to deep-ocean depths. But there’s a place along the California coast where it’s relatively easy: The edge of the continent takes a steep dive into the deep ocean at Monterey Bay. Whales and white sharks swim these depths just a few miles offshore. [..] “The deep ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet,” says Van Houtan, “and we don’t know anything about the plastic in the deep ocean.”
Scientists do know about plastic floating on the surface, and have tried to measure how much there is. The Great Pacific garbage patch is just one of many giant eddies in the oceans where enormous amounts of plastic waste collects. But beneath the surface? Not much. So Ventana made several dives to collect water samples at different depths. Technicians filtered the water, looking for microplastic, the tiny fragments and fibers you can barely see. “What we found was actually pretty surprising,” Van Houtan says. “We found that most of the plastic is below the surface.” More, he says, than in the giant floating patches. And also to their surprise, they found that submerged microplastics are widely distributed, from the surface to thousands of feet deep.
The deep ocean is filled with sea creatures like giant larvaceans. They’re actually the size of tadpoles, but they’re surrounded by a yard-wide bubble of mucus that collects food — and plastic. Courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Long-term, intense economic competition between China and the United States is inevitable. It’s simply a result of China’s new economic size. It’s about wealth and power, not political systems or ideology. Forget these two countries per se. Take any country that has been an uncontested economic leader for decades, add a rapidly rising country that is becoming an economic threat, and watch the battle for markets, trade, and intellectual property unfold. The current trade negotiations could get uglier and derail. But even if they don’t, both sides will likely feel they did not get what they needed, and future rounds could get worse. There’s almost never a situation where the two leaders in a market don’t get locked in a protracted, high-stakes struggle.
[..] It’s also worth noting the history of free trade. The United States was one of the most protectionist nations in history during most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the very period in which it rose to economic supremacy, with tariffs routinely as high as 50 percent. More politicians than not backed tariffs because they protected American industry. And supporters liked tariffs because they kept wages high. In addition, in the era before the income tax, tariffs were our chief source of revenue, and Washington relished the fact that they created a government surplus (and many a congressional debate of that era was about how to spend that surplus). The subject dominated the halls of Congress.
[..] Now that the United States has woken up, my best guess is that it is not going to sit idly and let China’s encroachment continue. Trump’s approach may be poorly conceived and ham-handed, but some kind of more assertive response was overdue. China’s raison d’être is its own wealth and preeminence, and it is not likely it will permanently stand down, even if it does so strategically from time to time. In fact, in discussing this trade negotiation, Xi is now invoking China’s almost mythic tale of heroic perseverance, the Long March. Absent a China implosion—a la Japan in the late 1990s—even occasional rapprochement won’t abate the ferocity of this competition. The only question is how polite or impolite, or even bellicose, it will be.
Farmers in the United States cannot afford to lose the Chinese market, but farmers in China will be able to withstand the impact of American tariffs, according to a top agriculture official in Beijing. Han Jun, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said China’s retaliatory tariffs on American products – the latest of which took effect on Saturday – now covered “virtually all US agricultural product exports to China”, warning that US farmers could lose the Chinese market for good. “If the US doesn’t lift all additional tariffs [levied on Chinese products], bilateral agricultural product trade between China and the US, including soybean trade, will never go back to normal,” Han told the official Xinhua news agency.
“If the US loses China’s market, it will be very difficult for the US to regain it.” Han, who is also a top policymaker as deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Rural Affairs, said the two rounds of aid offered by US President Donald Trump to American farmers would not be enough to cover their potential losses if they lost the Chinese market. But he said Chinese farmers would be able to weather the impact of American tariffs. In terms of the soybean trade, while China’s imports from the United States had plunged, it could find ways to diversify its sources, including encouraging Chinese farmers to grow more of the crop and buying more from other countries, Han said.
The net worth of millennials (18- to 35-year-old) has collapsed 34% since 1996, according to a new, shocking report from Deloitte. Millennials are financially worse off than any other generation before them. With student loans, auto and credit card debts, rising rents, and out of control, health-care costs have pushed their average net worth below $8,000. Deloitte told The Washington Post that their findings reveal that millennials are delaying home-buying and marriage because of massive debt loads and rising costs are making big ticketed items virtually unaffordable. “The narrative out there is that millennials are ruining everything, from breakfast cereal to weddings, but what matters to consumers today isn’t much different than it was 50 years ago,” chief retail officer Kasey Lobaugh told the Post.
“Generally speaking, there have not been dramatic changes in how consumers spend their money.” Lobaugh described the soaring wealth inequality gap as another reason why young adults have little or no net wealth. In a separate report, we highlighted in April that 60% of millennials don’t have $500 in savings. The Post said education expenses had climbed 65% in the past decade. Food prices have increased by 26%, health care costs are up 21%, housing jumped 16%, and transportation costs rose 11%. The study showed millennials had delayed the American dream of a house, family, and automobile because of their insurmountable debts. Since 2005, retail spending has increased by about 13%, to roughly $3 trillion per year, but Deloitte said much of that growth is due to population increase, not a robust consumer base.
In the past decade, the income growth of the top 10% of Americans jumped 1,305% more than the bottom 90% of Americans – which means millennials stuck in the gig-economy with multiple jobs and high debt loads will be trapped in a life of financial misery.
In the beginning of your book, you use the metaphor of The Odyssey to describe the choices facing the Federal Reserve Board going back to Alan Greenspan, who we knew as “Uncle Alan” in Washington years ago. You talk about how the Fed went from deflating bubbles before Greenspan, as with the “taking away the punch bowl” image, then to trying to maintain bubbles, and now overtly using monetary policy to stoke inflation and huge asset bubbles. Where does that leave us today?
Rickards: In the book I talk about how Greenspan defeated deflation in 2005 before he left office, but, this was a Pyrrhic victory. Low rates gave rise to the housing bubble and subprime debt crisis. Since 2008, we’ve had more of the same but a more extreme version of Greenspan’s anti-deflation medicine. If Greenspan’s three-year experiment with sub 2% rates gave rise to the Global Financial Crisis, what was the world to make of the Bernanke-Yellen policy of 0% for seven years? Bernanke’s Federal Reserve also engaged in a completely unprecedented money printing binge called quantitative easing.
[..] the Fed has failed to distinguish between credit driven bubbles and mania driven bubbles. The former are dangerous because they are connected with the credit system, the latter less so because people loose money but the crisis is not systemic. The 2000 dot.com bubble was speculative, but not credit driven so it did not turn into a systemic crisis when it popped. Of course 2008 was credit driven and it did metastasize throughout the system right up to the top of the food chain with large banks and the housing GSEs failing. When you are kicking around the idea of should I or should I not pop the bubble, this is a key distinction and the threshold question for policy.
[..] It’s one thing when loose monetary policy results in private credit extremes. The Fed can reign that in. But, what happens when public credit from the Fed is the source of the problem? The Bernanke choice of stoking asset price inflation via zero rates and QE is not something that can be reversed without a great deal of pain. Once you make that trade-off between promoting inflation and future market instability, you have no way out. You’re much better off taking the pain and accepting a lower level of economic growth in the short-run rather than deferring the pain but creating far larger asset bubbles down the road. There is no way out of the Bernanke policy choice without bigger bubbles and much larger market crash that results.
The U.S. internet advertising industry is projected to hit $160 billion by 2023 from $107 billion last year, led by fast-growing categories like mobile video with Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc firmly controlling the market, consultancy PwC said on Wednesday. The two tech giants together commanded nearly 60% of the U.S. internet advertising market in 2018, according to the report, up 3% from the previous year. Google’s YouTube dominates online video, while Facebook has been expanding its video product called Watch and adding advertising options. Google and Facebook are both currently under watch by U.S. regulators for possible antitrust concerns, as well as tech giants Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
U.S. wireless carrier AT&T Inc despite spending $85 billion for media company Time Warner to transform into a media and advertising firm, has only managed to eke out single digit market share, according to PwC. Gaining market share is difficult because platforms must have features that are new and specific as well as some degree of emerging technology, said C.J. Bangah, a principal at PwC. An advantage the telecommunications companies like AT&T have over Google and Facebook is they will benefit from 5G, the next generation wireless network that is expected to bring technology like autonomous cars to reality.
MMT is not a regime that you ‘apply’ or ‘switch to’ or ‘introduce’. Rather, it is a lens which allows us to see how our fiat monetary systems already work. How you decide to use that understanding depends on the value system or ideology you apply to it. It thus makes little sense to talk of ‘MMT-type prescription’ or an ‘MMT solution’. Indeed, governments already operate according to the framework offered by MMT, regardless of what they may claim in public (and the accounting smokescreens they may employ). Citizens are constantly told that the government cannot afford to invest more in education, healthcare, infrastructure, welfare and other public services.
Yet, there is never a lack of money when it comes tax cuts for the rich, bank bailouts, military activities and other programmes that benefit our political and economic elites. As of March 2006, approximately £4.5 billion had been spent by the UK in Iraq, enough to pay for the building of around 44 new hospitals and to fund the recruitment and retention of over 10,300 new teachers for ten years. Yet, there was never any debate about how the UK would ‘fund’ the war. Unfortunately, the mainstream macroeconomic narrative continues to plague large swathes of the left, particularly in Europe. Meadway’s article is representative. It concentrates ‘on the practical and political implications [of MMT], why they are wrong–and why Labour’s own economic programme makes more sense’. In that sense, he is really talking about a conception of the application of MMT according to a certain value set, rather than MMT itself.
The great Bilderberg secret of 2019 had to do with why, suddenly, the Trump administration has decided that it wants to talk to Iran “with no preconditions”. It all has to do with the Strait of Hormuz. Blocking the Strait could cut off oil and gas from Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran – 20% of the world’s oil. There has been some debate on whether this could occur – whether the US Fifth Fleet, which is stationed nearby, could stop Tehran doing this and if Iran, which has anti-ship missiles on its territory along the northern border of the Persian Gulf, would go that far. An American source said a series of studies hit President Trump’s desk and caused panic in Washington.
These showed that in the case of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, whatever the reason, Iran has the power to hammer the world financial system, by causing global trade in derivatives to be blown apart. The Bank for International Settlements said last year that the “notional amount outstanding for derivatives contracts” was $542 trillion, although the gross market value was put at just $12.7 trillion. Others suggest it is $1.2 quadrillion or more. Tehran has not voiced this “nuclear option” openly. And yet General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force and a Pentagon bête noire, evoked it in internal Iranian discussions. The information was duly circulated to France, Britain and Germany, the EU-3 members of the Iran nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), also causing a panic.
Oil derivative specialists know well that if the flow of energy in the Gulf is blocked it could lead to the price of oil reaching $200 a barrel, or much higher over an extended period. Crashing the derivatives market would create an unprecedented global depression. Trump’s former Goldman Sachs Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin should know as much. And Trump himself seems to have given the game away. He’s now on the record essentially saying that Iran has no strategic value to the US. According to the American source: “He really wants a face-saving way to get out of the problem his advisers Bolton and Pompeo got him into. Washington now needs a face-saving way out. Iran is not asking for meetings. The US is.”
Brexit minister Jeremy Miles said that efforts towards an acceptable Brexit had reached “the end of the road”. He said any Brexit deal must now be subject to a public vote, with remaining in the EU on the ballot paper. The Labour-led government, along with Plaid Cymru, had previously followed a 2017 policy outlined in the White Paper ‘Securing Wales’ Future’, that aimed to find “the least damaging kind of Brexit”, as Miles put it. But the government in Westminster have made this impossible, he said. “We as a government must recognise these realities and change course,” said Miles. “Parliament should now show the courage to admit it is deadlocked.” Although Wales voted to leave by 52%, public opinion has shifted towards Remain, said Miles.
In a double blow for Mexico, credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded the nation’s sovereign debt rating on Wednesday, citing risks posed by heavily indebted oil company Pemex and trade tensions, while Moody’s lowered its outlook to negative. The Mexican peso weakened as much as 1.3% on the news. Cutting Mexico’s rating to BBB, nearing junk status, Fitch said the financial woes of state oil company Pemex were taking a toll on the nation’s prospects. Fitch said mounting trade tensions influenced its view, according to a statement issued shortly after the end of a meeting in the White House in which Mexican officials tried to stave off tariffs U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to impose next week.
Following a surge in mostly Central American migrants arriving at the U.S. border, Trump threatened blanket tariffs on Mexican imports if it did not do more to stem the flow. “Growth continues to underperform, and downside risks are magnified by threats by U.S. President Trump,” Fitch said. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December with ambitious plans to build a $8 billion refinery, a decision ratings agencies and investors warned would divert funds from its more profitable production and exploration business. Lopez Obrador has said the ratings agencies were punishing Mexico for the “neo-liberal” policies of previous administrations. A Reuters analysis of Pemex accounts from the past decade shows debt increased by 75% during the term of Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, amid a landmark energy reform.
Fiat Chrysler said it has abandoned its $35 billion merger offer for Renault, blaming French politics for scuttling what would have been a landmark deal to create the world’s third-biggest automaker. A source close to the French carmaker’s board said Fiat Chrysler made the move after France sought to delay a decision on the deal in order to win the support of Nissan Motor Co, Renault’s Japanese alliance partner. French government officials had pushed for Nissan to support the merger. Nissan had said it would abstain. The French government, which owns a 15% stake in Renault, had also pushed Fiat Chrysler for guarantees that France would not lose jobs, and for a dividend to be paid to Renault shareholders, including the government, people familiar with the talks said.
Fiat Chrysler’s original proposal offered no special dividend to Renault shareholders. “It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” Fiat Chrysler said in a statement issued early Thursday from London. Renault, in a separate statement, said its board was “unable to take a decision due to the request expressed by the representatives of the French state to postpone the vote to a later meeting.”
Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of France, Russia’s foreign minister has written an article arguing that the commemorations of the event are part of a “false” history that belittles the contributions of the Soviet Union toward defeating Nazi Germany. Sergey Lavrov chastised Western powers in an article published in Russia’s International Affairs magazine on Tuesday, ahead of events in Europe to mark the D-Day landings on the Nazi-occupied Normandy coast. “False interpretations of history are being introduced into the Western education system with mystifications and pseudo-historical theories designed to belittle the feat of our ancestors,” Lavrov wrote.
“Young people are being told that the main credit in victory over Nazism and liberation of Europe goes not to the Soviet troops, but to the West due to the landing in Normandy, which took place less than a year before Nazism was defeated.” He added: “It was the peoples of the Soviet Union who broke the backbone of the Third Reich. That is a fact.” [..] Historians agree that the Soviets sustained the heaviest losses of all powers involved in World War II, placing the death toll for the Red Army at between 9 million and 11 million troops, part of an estimated 26 million Soviet citizens who died. Lavrov also wrote Russia had been falsely labeled as an aggressor in World War II. “Our detractors seek to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in World War II and portray it if not as the main culprit of the war, then at least as an aggressor, along with Nazi Germany,” he wrote.
Russia told the West on Wednesday the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 did not play a decisive role in ending World War Two and that the Allied war effort should not be exaggerated. Moscow’s comments might irk war veterans in Britain where the 75th anniversary on Wednesday of the largest seaborne invasion in history was marked at a ceremony in Portsmouth attended by Queen Elizabeth and world leaders including Donald Trump and Angela Merkel. Speaking at a weekly news conference in Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the western front of World War Two and said Moscow appreciated the Allied war effort.
“It should of course not be exaggerated. And especially not at the same time as diminishing the Soviet Union’s titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened,” she said. The Soviet Union lost over 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War, and Moscow under President Vladimir Putin has taken to marking victory in the war with a massive annual military parade on Red Square. “As historians note, the Normandy landing did not have a decisive impact on the outcome of World War Two and the Great Patriotic War. It had already been pre-determined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, mainly at Stalingrad (in late 1942) and Kursk (in mid-1943),” Zakharova told reporters.
More than 150,000 allied troops launched an air, sea and land attack on Normandy on June 6, 1944 that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany. Moscow, which had been fighting German forces in the east for almost three years by the time of D-Day, and gradually pushing them back from early 1943, had been urging Britain’s Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942. “There was a wish to wait for the maximum weakening of Germany’s military power from its enormous losses in the east, while reducing losses in the west,” she said.
The average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity, according to the first study to estimate human ingestion of plastic pollution. The true number is likely to be many times higher, as only a small number of foods and drinks have been analysed for plastic contamination. The scientists reported that drinking a lot of bottled water drastically increased the particles consumed. The health impacts of ingesting microplastic are unknown, but they could release toxic substances. Some pieces are small enough to penetrate human tissues, where they could trigger immune reactions.
Microplastic pollution is mostly created by the disintegration of plastic litter and appears to be ubiquitous across the planet. Researchers find microplastics everywhere they look; in the air, soil, rivers and the deepest oceans around the world. [..] Most food and drink types have not been tested, however, meaning the study only assessed 15% of calorie intake. “We don’t know a huge amount. There are some major data gaps that need to get filled,” said Kieran Cox, at the University of Victoria in Canada, who led the research.
Other foods, such as bread, processed products, meat, dairy and vegetables, may well contain just as much plastic, he said. “It is really highly likely there is going to be large amounts of plastic particles in these. You could be heading into the hundreds of thousands.” Some of the best available data is on water, with bottled water containing 22 times more microplastic than tap water on average. A person who only drank bottled water would consume 130,000 particles per year from that source alone, the researchers said, compared with 4,000 from tap water.
Vice President Mike Pence told the graduating class of the West Point Military Academy on Saturday that the world is “a dangerous place” and they should expect to see combat. “Men and women of West Point, no matter where you’re deployed, you will be the vanguard of freedom, and you know that the “soldier does not bear the sword in vain.” The work you do has never been more important. America will always seek peace, but peace comes through strength. And you are now that strength. It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.
Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less.”
Attorney General William Barr has turned the attention of the Russia probe to its origin: who started this and why? The answer, as in all the best crime dramas, is probably hiding in plain sight. On July 13, 2016, British academic Dr. Andrew Foxall penned an op-ed in the New York Times, “Why Putin Loves Brexit.” He blamed Russia for the previous month’s Brexit vote, adding in a little noted aside: The United States is so concerned over Moscow’s determination to exploit European disunity that in January, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, began a review of Russia’s clandestine funding of European parties. Bingo! The Obama administration was spying on conservative European political parties.
Which means, almost necessarily under the Five Eyes Agreement, foreign agents were returning the favor and spying on the Trump campaign. On August 11, 2018, I wrote: The British aristocracy has a condescending view of the hoi polloi who voted for Brexit, regarding them as easily manipulated Pygmalion-like by smarter people. They assumed Vladimir Putin was somehow playing Professor Henry Higgins to the flower girls who voted to reject the EU, because that’s how they see the world. Among the Cambridge class, this simple prejudice renders Russian collusion a first principle with no need for supporting evidence…. Without supporting evidence to prove their fantastical worldview, the global elite set out to manufacture some.
First up was Christopher Steele, who hasn’t set foot in Russia since 2009. He wears as a badge the claim that Putin hates him which, if true, means he has no real Russian sources. Maybe because of that, Steele’s farcical dossier on Trump was not enough for the FBI to open an investigation, and these international men of mystery needed something more. They invited George Papadopoulos to London, used a Maltese asset disguised as a Russian agent – Joseph Mifsud – to feed him a whopper about Hillary Clinton’s emails, then claimed he repeated the lie to Andrew Downer, an Australian diplomat with ties to the Clinton Foundation. That was the final straw that caused lovestruck counterintelligence specialist Peter Strzok to open an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign ..
[..] the FBI delegated the inspection of the computer servers to CrowdStrike, an insider paid by the DNC. James Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2017 that CrowdStrike was “a highly respected private company.” What he failed to mention was that a month before his testimony, CrowdStrike had been caught falsely blaming Russia for a hack into a Ukrainian artillery computer app. In other words, at the same time this “highly respected private company” was blaming the Russians for stealing the Clinton campaign’s emails, it was fabricating a different Russian hack to serve Ukrainian misinformation.
The century-old tradition that the Espionage Act not be used against journalistic activities has now been broken. Seventeen new charges were filed yesterday against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. These new charges make clear that he is being prosecuted for basic journalistic tasks, including being openly available to receive leaked information, expressing interest in publishing information regarding certain otherwise secret operations of government, and then disseminating newsworthy information to the public. The government has now dropped the charade that this prosecution is only about hacking or helping in hacking. Regardless of whether Assange himself is labeled a “journalist,” the indictment targets routine journalistic practices.
But the indictment is also a challenge to fundamental principles of freedom of speech. As the Supreme Court has explained, every person has the right to disseminate truthful information pertaining to matters of public interest, even if that information was obtained by someone else illegally. The indictment purports to evade this protection by repeatedly alleging that Assange simply “encouraged” his sources to provide information to him. This places a fundamental free speech right on uncertain and ambiguous footing. Make no mistake, this not just about Assange or Wikileaks—this is a threat to all journalism, and the public interest. The press stands in place of the public in holding the government accountable, and the Assange charges threaten that critical role.
The charges threaten reporters who communicate with and knowingly obtain information of public interest from sources and whistleblowers, or publish that information, by sending a clear signal that they can be charged with spying simply for doing their jobs.
"Populations have to be fooled into wars" "Nearly every war in the last 50 years has been the result of media lies."- Julian Assange The First thing the Zionist mob did with their enormous wealth was to buy off the mainstream media#Iran#Syria#Venezuelapic.twitter.com/ue5dfxiEP4
As Susan Hennessey said, “[I]t will be very difficult to craft an Espionage Act case against him that won’t adversely impact true journalists.” I don’t think this is an accident. I think the government’s indictment has the U.S. news media squarely in its sights. The first sentence of the indictment reads: “To obtain information to release on the WikiLeaks website, ASSANGE encouraged sources to (i) circumvent legal safeguards on information; (ii) provide that protected information to WikiLeaks for public dissemination; and (iii) continue the pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information to WikiLeaks for distribution to the public.”
This is exactly what national security reporters and their news publications often ask government officials or contractors to do. Anytime a reporter asks to receive information knowing it is classified, that person encourages sources to circumvent legal safeguards on information. The news organizations’ encouragement is underscored by the mechanisms they provide for sources to convey information securely and anonymously. (The New York Times’s menu includes SecureDrop, an “encrypted submission system set up by The Times [that] uses the Tor anonymity software to protect [the] identity, location and the information” of the person who sends it.) Like WikiLeaks, these reporters and organizations encourage the sources to provide the “protected information” for public dissemination. And also like WikiLeaks, they often encourage the sources to engage in a “pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information.”
There are other similarities. The government thought it significant that the WikiLeaks website states: “WikiLeaks accepts classified, censored, or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic, or ethical significance” (emphasis in indictment). This sounds very much like the public interest standard that U.S. editors use to decide when and how to publish classified information. Former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie once told me, “‘Highly classified’ doesn’t mean anything to me …. The question is, is it important for the American public to know that its government is acting in its name in this particular way?” Or as the Times’s former executive editor once said, “As journalists in a robust democracy, our responsibility is to publish information of interest to the public, and that includes publishing secrets when we find them.”
[..] the OPCW Fact Finding Mission reflected in their final report none of the findings of their own sub-group of university based engineers from two European universities, but instead produced something that is very close to the amateur propaganda “analysis” put out by Bellingcat. The implications of this fraud are mind-blowing. The genuine experts’ findings were completely suppressed until they were leaked last week. And still then, this leak – which has the most profound ramifications – has in itself been almost completely suppressed by the mainstream media, except for those marginalised outliers who still manage to get a platform, Robert Fisk and Peter Hitchens (a tiny platform in the case of Fisk).
Consider what this tells us. A fake chemical attack incident was used to justify military aggression against Syria by the USA, UK and France. The entire western mainstream media promoted the anti-Syrian and anti-Russian narrative to justify that attack. The supposedly neutral international watchdog, the OPCW, was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers. Which can only call into doubt the neutrality and reliability of the OPCW in its findings on the Skripals too. There has been virtually no media reporting of the scandalous cover-up. This really does tell you a very great deal more about how the Western world works than the vicissitudes of the ludicrously over-promoted Theresa May and her tears of self pity.
Fragmentation is the key word. But the big power blocks will remain, courtesy of the EU structure. Salvini’s Lega may become the largest single party in Europe, but the real power lies in those blocks.
Europeans vote on Sunday in an election expected to further dent traditional pro-EU parties and bolster the nationalist fringe in the European Parliament, putting a potential brake on collective action in economic and foreign policy. Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) in the east of the bloc and will finally close at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) in Italy. Seven states have already voted, with 21 joining in on Sunday in what is the world’s biggest democratic exercise after India. Right-wing populists top opinion polls in two of the big four member states – Italy and supposedly exiting Britain – and could also win in a third, France, rattling a pro-Union campaign championed by centrist President Emmanuel Macron.
However, exit polls in some countries that have already voted have given pro-EU parties some comfort. The Dutch Labour party, all but written off, looks to have finished first, helped by the visibility of having the EU socialists’ lead candidate, current EU deputy chief executive Frans Timmermans. In the Netherlands pro-Union parties scored 70%, up three points on the last European Parliament vote in 2014, and left the upstart anti-immigration party of Thierry Baudet fourth on 11%. The Dutch also turned out in bigger numbers, albeit at just 41%, reinforcing hopes in Brussels of reversing a 40-year trend of declining turnout that critics cite as a “democratic deficit” that undermines the legitimacy of European Union lawmaking.
An exit poll after Friday’s vote in deeply pro-EU Ireland pointed to an expected “Green Wave”. Across the bloc, concerns about climate change and the environment may bolster the pro-EU Greens group and could mean tighter regulations for industry and for the terms the EU may set for partners seeking trade accords. Britain also voted on Thursday and a new party focused on getting out of the EU was forecast by pre-vote opinion polls to come top, but there has been no exit poll data. Attention there has focused on the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May. Results will be out late on Sunday, when all countries have voted.
[..] Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy may pip the Christian Democrats of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s power broker, to become the biggest single party in the 751-seat chamber. Right-wing ruling parties in Poland and Hungary, defying Brussels over curbs to judicial and media independence, will also return eurosceptic lawmakers on Sunday.
With Theresa May finally on her way out of Downing Street, a Tory leadership contest that has been bubbling under for months is now starting. It’s a two-stage process. The first sees votes among Conservative MPs designed to whittle the contenders down to just two front-runners. The second stage sees the party’s grassroots members choose between them in a postal ballot. In other words, it is members of the public – those who pay £25 a year to join the Conservative Party – who get the final say on who the next prime minister is. There will not be a general election because the party is already in power. So, who are its members and what do they think on key issues, not least of course Brexit?
We don’t know exactly how many Conservative Party members there are because – unlike the UK’s other parties – the Conservatives don’t regularly release the figures. The last time they did so was back in March 2018, when they put the figure at 124,000. That’s larger than some of the more pessimistic guesstimates, but way down on the peak of nearly three million that the party boasted in the early 1950s. Membership plunged after that before levelling off at around one million in the 1970s and 1980s, since when it has been dropping almost inexorably. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that the Tories have far fewer members than the Labour Party. Even if we assume that Labour’s membership has fallen from the late 2017 peak of more than 550,000, it still has a huge advantage over the Conservatives when it comes to campaigning on the ground.
[..] What Tory members haven’t cooled on, however, is Brexit. Indeed, since we started tracking them in 2015, they’ve hardened their position. It is clear that they are not supporters of the deal negotiated by their outgoing leader. In fact, it is now the case that fully two-thirds of them back a no-deal Brexit – an outcome supported by only a quarter of voters as a whole. Nor are they in the least bit keen on the idea of letting the public have another say on the UK’s EU membership. Some 84% of them oppose the idea of a new referendum on the issue. In short, the grassroots aren’t simply sceptical on Europe; they can’t wait to leave, whatever that might take. This, then, is the Conservative Party electorate. And those MPs hoping to succeed Mrs May will need to pitch their promises accordingly.
Don’t say “death spiral,” but Tesla has unquestionably entered a perilous new era. Last September, a month after Elon Musk’s notorious “funding secured” tweet, I wrote a New York Times opinion piece about the fact that the real problem at Tesla, Musk’s electric-car company, was not necessarily Musk’s irresponsible, and perhaps illegal, behavior as C.E.O. Rather, it was the Tesla balance sheet, which was larded with $11 billion in debt, some $1.7 billion of which needed to be paid off before November 2019. Debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when a company doesn’t have the operating earnings to service that debt, a single dollar of debt can be too much. And then it becomes more like a Ponzi scheme, which, to be honest, Tesla is increasingly resembling.
Can Tesla convince investors to give it enough new capital to pay off the maturing debt before the world concludes that the company doesn’t have the resources to meet its obligations as they become due? That, of course, is the textbook definition of a bankrupt company. When I last wrote about Tesla, the company’s stock was trading at $300 per share, giving Tesla a market capitalization of around $51 billion. Nowadays, Tesla’s stock is trading around $190 per share and the company is valued at around $34 billion. That’s a loss of a cool $17 billion for equity investors, in eight months. In November, Tesla repaid $230 million of convertible debt with some of its cash pile instead of converting the debt to equity because its stock price was well below the conversion price. In March, Tesla paid off another $920 million in convertible notes in cash, again because its stock price was below the conversion price.
In recent years, researchers have been pushing the boundaries of biology in order to come up with new “plant-based” alternatives to existing food products. Essentially, “synthetic biology” is being used “to create life forms from scratch”… Impossible’s “bleeding” veggie burger, shrimp made of algae, and vegan cheeses that melt are all making their way into restaurants and on to supermarket shelves, offering consumers a new generation of plant-based proteins that look, act, and taste far more like the real thing than ever before. What consumers may not realize, however, is that many of these new foods are made using synthetic biology, an emerging science that applies principles of genetic engineering to create life forms from scratch.
[..] “GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce their own built-in pesticide in every cell. When bugs bite the plant, the poison splits open their stomach and kills them. Biotech companies claim that the pesticide, called Bt — produced from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis’ has a history of safe use, since organic farmers and others use Bt bacteria spray for natural insect control. Genetic engineers insert Bt genes into corn and cotton, so the plants do the killing.” The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and unlike the spray, cannot be washed off the plant.” Do you think that it is actually safe to eat such “food”?
Sadly, the health consequences from eating GMO food may not just be temporary. In fact, one study found that the effects of eating genetically-modified food could last for a lot longer that anyone had anticipated… “The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.”
Glyphosate weed killers may be contributing to the growing worldwide epidemic f non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that causes swelling of the liver, and can eventually lead to cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure. Researchers at the University of California (UC) San Diego found that higher levels of glyphosate detected in urine corresponded significantly with individuals that have also been diagnosed with NAFLD. Advocates are urging lawmakers at every level to respond to the accumulating science on the danger of glyphosate herbicides, ban their use, and adopt policy changes that put into place organic land management practices.
“There have been a handful of studies, all of which we cited in our paper, where animals either were or weren’t fed Roundup or glyphosate directly, and they all point to the same thing: the development of liver pathology,” said Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor and chief in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine in a press release. [..] With glyphosate still the most popular herbicide used in the U.S., exposure to the chemical is alarmingly widespread. “The increasing levels [of glyphosate] in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup [glyphosate] treated crops into our diet,” said Dr. Mills. He cautions that the results need further follow up, and there may be other pesticides in the environment leading to similar disease outcomes. “There are so many synthetic chemicals we are regularly exposed to,” Dr. Miller notes. “We measured just one.”
Robert Mueller’s 448-page “Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” contains at least two major omissions which suggest that the special counsel and his entire team of world-class Democrat attorneys are either utterly incompetent, or purposefully concealing major crimes committed against the Trump campaign and the American people.
First, according to The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland (a former law clerk of nearly 25 years and instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame) – the Mueller report fails to consider whether the dossier authored by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele was Russian disinformation, and Steele was not charged with lying to the FBI.
“The Steele dossier, which consisted of a series of memorandum authored by the former MI6 spy, detailed intel purportedly provided by a variety of Vladimir Putin-connected sources. For instance, Steele identified Source A as “a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure” who “confided that the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”
Other supposed sources identified in the dossier included: Source B, identified as “a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin”; Source C, a “Senior Russian Financial Officer”; and Source G, “a Senior Kremlin Official.” -The Federalist
As Cleveland posits: “Given Mueller’s conclusion that no one connected to the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the election, one of those two scenarios must be true—either Russia fed Steele disinformation or Steele lied to the FBI about his Russian sources.”
Mueller identified only two principal ways Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election: “First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.”
Surely, a plot by Kremlin-connected individuals to feed a known FBI source—Steele had helped the FBI uncover an international soccer bribery scandal—false claims that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia would qualify as a “principal way” in which Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
[..] the only lawmaker to even mention this possibility has been Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who raised the issue with Attorney General William Barr last week: “My question,” said Grassley, “Mueller spent over two years and 30 million dollars investigating Russia interference in the election. In order for a full accounting of Russia interference attempts, shouldn’t the special counsel have considered whether the Steele dossier was part of a Russian disinformation and interfere campaign?” [..] Barr said that he has assembled a DOJ team to examine Mueller’s investigation, findings, and whether the spying conducted by the FBI against the Trump campaign in 2016 was improper.
Mueller’s second major oversight – which we have touched on repeatedly – is the special counsel’s portrayal of Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud as a Russian agent – when available evidence suggests he may have been a Western agent.
Weeks after returning from Moscow, Mifsud – a self-described Clinton Foundation member – ‘seeded’ the rumor that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016, according to the Mueller report.
As Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) noted on Fox News on Sunday, “how is it that we spend 30-plus-million dollars on this, as taxpayers and they can’t even tell us who Joseph Mifsud is?” “…this is important, because, in the Mueller dossier, they use a fake news story to describe Mifsud. In one of those stories, they cherry- pick it,” Nunes added.
[..] As conservative commentator and former US Secret Service agent Dan Bongino notes of Mifsud, “either we have a Russian asset who’s infiltrated the highest echelons of friendly Intelligence Services, or we have a friendly who was setting up George Papadopoulos.”
This poses questions about Mueller, Mifsud and Steele and many other people and organizations involved, but the central question remains unaddressed: did Russia truly meddle and interfere in the 2016 election?
We don’t know, we have only Mueller’s word for that, and he’s ostensibly based it on reports from US intelligence, which has very obvious reasons to smear Russia. That Mifsud is presented as a Russian agent, with all the doubts about that which we have seen presented, doesn’t help this point.
That Steele hadn’t visited Russia since 1993 when he complied his dossier is not helpful either. His information could have originated with “the Russians”, or with US intelligence, and he would never have been the wiser. That is, even IF he was a straight shooter. What are the odss of that?
And of course the strongest doubts about Russian meddling and interference, along with offers of evidence to underline and reinforce these doubts, have been offered by Julian Assange and the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) group.
But as I’ve repeatedly said before, after Mueller had to let go of the “Russia collusion with the Trump campaign” accusation, he was free to let the “Russian meddling aided and abetted by Julian Assange” narrative stand, beacuse he didn’t have to provide proof for that, as long as he didn’t communicate with either the Russians (easy), the VIPS (whom he stonewalled) or Assange (who’s been completely silenced).
So we have -at least- 4 major omissions in the Mueller investigation and report:
1) the Mueller report failed to consider whether the dossier authored by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele was Russian disinformation (and Steele was not charged with lying to the FBI).
2) Mueller’s portrayal of Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud as a Russian agent – when available evidence suggests he may have been a Western agent.
3) Mueller declined to talk to the VIPS, who offered evidence that the DNC servers were not hacked but content was copied onto a disk at the server’s location
4) Mueller refused to hear Julian Assange, who offered evidence that it was not the Russians that had provided WikiLeaks with the emails.
Mueller was supposedly trying to find the truth about Trump’s ties to Russia/Putin, and he refused to see and hear evidence from two organizations, WikiLeaks and the VIPS, which he absolutely certainly knew could potentially have provided things he did not know. Why did he do that? There’s only one possible answer: he didn’t want to know.
Why not? Because he feared he would have had to abandon the “Russian meddling and interference” narrative as well. If, as both WikiLeaks and the VIPS insisted, the emails didn’t come from “the Russians”, all that would have been left is an opaque story about “Russians” buying $100,000 in Facebook ads. And that, too, is awfully shaky.
That’s an amount Jared Kushner acknowledged he spent every few hours on such ads during the – multi-billion-dollar – campaign. Moreover, many of these ads were allegedly posted AFTER the elections. And we don’t even know it was Russians who purchased the ads, that’s just another story coming from US intelligence.
It is not so hard, guys. “Omissions” or “oversight” is one way to put it, but there are others. Assange could have cleared himself of any claims of involvement in meddling and perhaps proven Guccifer 2.0 was not “Russian”. His discussions with the DOJ, preparations for which were in an advanced stage of development, were killed in 2017 by then-FBI head James Comey and Rep. Mark Warner.
Mueller never wanted the truth, he wanted to preserve a narrative. The VIPS, too, threatened that narrative by offering physical evidence that nobody hacked the emails. Mueller never reached out. Mueller, the former FBI chief, who must know who these men and women are. Here’s a list, in case you were wondering:
Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
• William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
• Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)
• Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
• Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
• James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS)
• Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)
• Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
• John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
• Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
• Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.)
• Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)
• Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
• David MacMichael, former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
• Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)
• Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)
• Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
• Peter Van Buren,U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
• Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)
• Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War
And then you lead a Special Counsel investigation, you spend 2 years and $30 million, you get offered evidence in what you’re investigating, and you just ignore these people?
And there are still people who want to believe that Robert Swan Mueller III is a straight shooter? They must not want to know the truth, either, then.
Here’s wondering if Bill Barr does, who’s going to investigate the Mueller investigation. Does he want the truth, or is he just the next in line to push the narrative?
Is there anyone in power left in America who has any courage at all to expose this B-rated theater?
Tulsi Gabbard has been reviled for talking to Assad. Why not talk to Assange as well, Tulsi? How about Rand Paul? We know he wanted to talk to Assange last year. Anyone?
While long-expected, amid two chaos-ridden years as the Justice Department’s No.2, the day has finally come when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has reportedly sent his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, will leave post May 11. “I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education and prosperity,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In his letter, Mr. Rosenstein cited the Justice Department’s progress in executing the Trump administration’s agenda: fighting violent crime, combating the nation’s drug abuse crisis, toughening immigration enforcement and supporting local law enforcement. “Productivity rose, and crime fell,” he wrote.
“Our nation is safer, our elections are more secure and our citizens are better informed about covert foreign efforts and schemes to commit fraud, steal intellectual property, and launch cyberattacks,” he wrote. “We also pursued illegal leaks, investigated credible allegations of employee misconduct and accommodated congressional oversight without compromising law enforcement interests.” Mr. Rosenstein made no mention of the special counsel in his resignation letter, but instead, as WSJ reports, wrote of the Justice Department’s responsibility to avoid partisanship. “Political considerations may influence policy choices, but neutral principals must drive decisions about individual cases,” he wrote.
President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday against Deutsche Bank and Capital One in an attempt to block congressional subpoenas for his business records, claiming House Democrats are simply attempting to harass him. Politico reported that in a joint statement, Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the Trump suit “meritless.” They claimed Trump’s suit was a tactic to delay accountability. Waters is the chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee and Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff said at the time that the subpoenas were part of an investigation “into allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process.”
Two House committees subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and several other financial institutions earlier this month as part of investigations into Trump’s finances. The lawsuit by Trump, his sons Donald Jr. and Eric and his daughter Ivanka, was filed in Manhattan federal court. The Trump Organization and the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust are among the other plaintiffs. The Trumps want a federal judge to declare the subpoenas unlawful and unenforceable. The lawsuit also seeks to block the financial institutions from disclosing information and complying with the subpoenas. [..] “This case involves congressional subpoenas that have no legitimate or lawful purpose,” the suit, obtained by The New York Times, said.
“The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage. No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one.”
AFP headline was: “US military spending up for first time in 7 years”. But that’s not the story. It’s Russia. Even France spends more. And stories keep on coming about Russia threatening just about everyone.
US military spending has risen for the first time in seven years, reflecting Trump administration policy, according to a new report released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Worldwide military spending also rose by 2.6 percent to $1.8 trillion overall last year, SIPRI calculated. It was the second year running the global figure has risen, bringing military spending to its highest level since 1988. “The increase in US spending was driven by the implementation from 2017 of new arms procurement programmes under the Trump administration,” said Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme.
The US figure alone of $649 billion was as much as the next eight highest military budgets. But Chinese as well as US spending helped push the overall spending figures for the year higher, said the report. China’s spending has risen 83 percent since 2009, bringing it up to second place, ahead of Saudi Arabia, India — which is modernising its armed forces — and France. [..] Russia meanwhile dropped out of the top five spenders, with its military budget declining since 2016, said the report. Western countries’ economic sanctions against Russia, in place since 2014 because of its conflict with Ukraine, have hit the country’s military budget.
By the end of 2019, fighting in Yemen will have claimed about 102,000 lives, according to new figures from the United Nations that indicate the war has killed far more people than previously reported. A UN-commissioned report by University of Denver also revealed that more Yemenis were dying of hunger, disease and the lack of health clinics and other infrastructure than from fighting. About 131,000 Yemenis will have died from these side effects of the conflict between the beginning in 2015 and the end of 2019, according to the 68-page study, called Assessing the Impact of War on Development in Yemen. The combined death toll from fighting and disease is 233,000, or 0.8 percent of Yemen’s 30 million-strong population.
Researchers also said that those five years of conflict will have cost Yemen’s economy $89bn. “It’s worse than people expected,” Jonathan Moyer, an assistant professor and lead author on the report, told Middle East Eye. “It’s one of the highest-impact internal conflicts since the end of the Cold War. On par with Iraq, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – conflicts with an impact on development that lasts for a generation.” According to Moyer, the vast majority of the victims of Yemen’s conflict are children under five. The report says that one child dies from the war and its side effects every 11 minutes and 54 seconds. Moyer’s team also projected forward, calculating Yemen’s losses if the war were to drag on until 2030. If fighting continues until then, the death toll would reach 1.8 million, the economy would have lost $657bn, 84 percent of Yemenis would be malnourished and 71 percent of them would live in extreme poverty, researchers said.
Dear Mr. Muilenburg: On April 4, 2019 you somewhat belatedly released a statement that “We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds….” You added that a preliminary investigation made it “apparent that in both flights” the MCAS “activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information.” These and other remarks reflect years of mismanagement by Boeing executives, now tragically bearing bitter fruit. Your acknowledgement of the problems with the 737 MAX somehow escaped inclusion in your messages to shareholders, the capital markets and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It is now stunningly clear that your overly optimistic outlook on January 20, 2019 – after the Indonesian Lion Air crash – was misleading. Whatever the public learns, day after day about the troubles of your company, it is still far less than what Boeing knows will come out day by day, and not just about the deadly design of the 737 MAX. Your narrow-body passenger aircraft – namely, the long series of 737’s that began in the nineteen sixties was past its prime. How long could Boeing avoid making the investment needed to produce a “clean-sheet” aircraft and, instead, in the words of Bloomberg Businessweek “push an aging design beyond its limits?” Answer: As long as Boeing could get away with it and keep necessary pilot training and other costs low for the airlines as a sales incentive.
Boeing kept on this track until the competition from its only competitor, Airbus, came along with its A320neo. The year 2011 was a crucial period for the company. Top management was into preliminary work on a new aircraft and then panicked over Airbus’s success. To compete with Airbus, Boeing equipped the 737 MAX with larger engines tilted more forward and upward on the wings than prior 737’s. Thus began the trail of criminal negligence that will implicate the company and its executives.
Southwest Airlines, the largest Boeing 737 MAX customer, says Boeing told them a standard flight angle alert system had to be bought separately to be activated, contradicting the manual – and only after the deadly Lion Air crash. The system in question, officially known as the angle of attack (AOA) disagree light, is basically an indicator at a plane’s control board. The light is expected to go on whenever the aircraft’s nose pitches up or down too far, warning its pilots of a potentially dangerous situation. Such a light was a standard issue on earlier models of Boeing planes, and was expected to work in the same manner on the ill-fated MAX 737 planes – except it wasn’t – instead coming as part of an additional indicator package.
When the new planes were delivered to Southwest Airlines, the “lights were depicted to us by Boeing as operable on all MAX aircraft” regardless of purchasing the add-on, the airline operator said in a statement. The manual for the aircraft showed that as well, the company said. After the first deadly crash of a 737 MAX plane in October, operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air, Boeing notified Southwest that the indicators were actually not working by default. The company then promptly installed the optional package that made the warning lights function as the Southwest pilots had expected. Boeing, in a statement to CNBC, said the disagree lights would in the future be included as a standard feature – that is if the grounded jet returns to operations.
The boss of Boeing has denied accusations that its two 737 Max aircraft involved in fatal crashes lacked an optional safety feature, which might have alerted the pilots to technical malfunctions that partly caused the accidents. “We don’t make safety features optional,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chairman and chief executive, said at the company’s annual meeting in Chicago on Monday. “Every one of our airplanes includes all of the safety features necessary for safe flight.” A preliminary investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash last month found it was triggered by a faulty “angle of attack” sensor, which monitors the inflight position of the plane.
The erroneous readings from the sensor in turn activated the aircraft’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), an auto-pilot program that encourages the plane’s nose to dip down. [..] It was revealed over the weekend that Boeing had removed warnings about pitch sensor malfunction from the standard 737 Max (MCAS) safety package. The Wall Street Journal reported that the warning system, which was present in previous 737 models, was only operative on 737 Max jets if the operator airlines had paid for a package of additional safety features. “In this case again, as in most accidents, there are a chain of events that occurred. It is not correct to attribute that to any single item,” Muilenburg said.
“We know that there are some improvements that we can make to MCAS and we will make those improvements.” He told shareholders that software updates being carried out would make the grounded 737 Max fleet “one of the safest airplanes ever to fly”, adding: “Yet, we know we can always be better. We have a responsibility to design, build and support the safest airplanes in the sky. The recent accidents have only intensified our dedication to it.” [..] It was also revealed on Monday that four Boeing employees had called the Federal Aviation Administration to raise serious concerns about the 737 Max. The calls began coming in within hours of Ethiopian investigators releasing a preliminary report on the crash.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has filed a criminal complaint in Ecuador, accusing the diplomatic staff at the London embassy of spying on the whistleblower before leaking illegally obtained data to a third party for extortion. Lenin Moreno’s government violated Assange’s privacy by secretly recording the journalist’s daily activities starting from March 2018, said a complaint submitted Monday to the attorney general’s office in Ecuador on behalf of the whistleblower. It says the spying was conducted with the help of Promsecurity, a private contractor firm which administers electronic surveillance at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Naming three officials of the diplomatic mission, including Ambassador Jaime Marchán, as well as four members of Promsecurity, the complaint alleges that the government violated at least four counts of domestic law by illicitly monitoring Assange’s activity. Those involved apparently tried to extort €3 million from WikiLeaks threatening to publish audio, video and personal documents of Assange unless they get paid. Ecuadorian law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for each violation mentioned in the complaint. The matter is “very sensitive and complicated” Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda told reporters after filing the case in Quito, asking for the judiciary to investigate the case. The lawyer did not reveal to whom the Australian’s personal information had been leaked to, but noted that that the Spanish authorities are already investigating the extortion scheme.
Russian gun rights activist and graduate exchange student Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week for “conspiracy to act as a foreign agent without registering.” Her “crime” was to work to make connections among American gun rights activists in hopes of building up her organization, the Right to Bear Arms, when she returned to Russia. She was not employed by the Russian government nor was she a lobbyist on Putin’s behalf. In fact the Putin Administration is hostile to Russian gun rights groups. Nevertheless the US mainstream media and Trump’s Justice Department are treating her as public enemy number one in a case that will no doubt set the dangerous precedent of criminalizing person-to-person diplomacy in the United States.
The Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) was passed in 1938 under pressure from the FDR Administration partly to silence opposition to the US entry into World War II. While a handful of cases were prosecuted during the war, between 1966 and 2015 the Justice Department only brought seven FARA cases for prosecution. Though very few cases have been brought on FARA violations, one of them was against Samir Vincent, who was paid millions of dollars by Saddam Hussein to lobby for sanctions relief without registering. He got off with a fine and “community service.” Millions of dollars in unregistered payments from Saddam Hussein gets no jail time, while Butina gets 18 months in prison for privately promoting a cause most Americans support! How is this justice?
The US Justice Department is not even as tough on illegals who commit capital crimes in the US! Unfortunately Maria Butina was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the rise of the “Russiagate” hysteria, Butina’s case was seen as a useful tool by Democrats to push the idea that President Trump was put into office by the Russians. Plus, many of them are also hostile to our Second Amendment and to the National Rifle Association. So it was a perfect storm for Butina.
The sense of gathering crisis persists. It is systemic and existential. It calls into question our ability to carry on “normal” life much farther into this century, and all the anxiety that attends it is so hard for the public to process that a dismaying number of citizens opt for suicide. There is no coherent consensus about what is happening and no coherent proposals to do anything about it. Bad ideas flourish in this nutrient medium of unresolved crisis. Lately, they dominate the scene on every side. A species of wishful thinking that resembles a primitive cargo cult grips the technocratic class, awaiting magical rescue remedies to extend the regime of Happy Motoring, consumerism, and suburbia that make up the crumbling armature of “normal” life in the USA.
The political Right seeks to Make America Great Again, as though we might return to a 1962 heyday of industrial mass production by wishing hard enough. The Left seeks the equivalent of an extended childhood for all, lived out in a universal safe space, where all goods and services come magically free from a kindly parent-like government, and the sunny days are spent training unicorns to find rainbows. The decade-long “recovery” from the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 amounted to ten years of fake-it-til-you-make-it — with the prospect nil of actually making it to something like economic and cultural soundness. Are we too far gone now? Some kind of shock therapy is surely in the offing, and probably in the form of a violent financial readjustment that will alter the terms of getting and spending so drastically as to topple the matrix of rackets that masquerades as the nation’s business.
In the sharp light of spring it is clear that Macron’s winter strategy: the Great National Debate, has achieved nothing for the government and more tellingly perhaps, has further revealed Macron’s own incapacity to either change himself or shift course. As one anonymous French state official reportedly said: ‘Mitterrand gave them an extra week’s holiday, but Macron can’t manage anything’. He simply seems unable in any form to communicate with either the Gilets or the people of France. His constant speeches, with their casual insults and lack of empathy, remain one of the best recruitment tools the Gilets possess. His recent pronouncements continue this trend.
His promise to rebuild the cathedral in five years was met with scorn – ‘this is not a railway line’, said one commentator, while his invitation to the world (a typical empty gesture) angered and aroused traditionalists. Indeed, as has been widely reported, his endorsement of cash donations from billionaires, simply provided the Gilets with yet more free sticks to beat him and the state. Even his big showpiece speech was cancelled when the Cathedral burst into flames. And what was his big announcement? A freeze on hospital and school closures, the index-linking of pensions to inflation and the closing of the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the university that produces the country’s political and civil elite, all of which, particularly the last, were seen as too late and totally irrelevant.
After all it doesn’t put food on the table or help the people get to the end of the month with any money. As I noted in previous articles, this is typical of Macron, revealing only how his personal authority is slipping away, and strangely enough, how irrelevant he is becoming to the entire debate.
Globalization is waning, and a U.S.-China trade deal would do nothing to reverse that phenomenon, according to a global investment strategist. Peak globalization has actually already come and gone, according to David Roche, president and global strategist at London-based Independent Strategy. “The actual reversal of globalization started over seven years ago,” well before the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, as countries worldwide instituted more protectionist policies, Roche told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last week. In fact, even China — whose leaders are now some of the loudest proponents of global systems — will see most of its future growth come from domestic pursuits, he projected.
“Globalization is on a back foot, it’s not the trade deal with China, a trade deal agreement which would flip the switch and turn on the motor again — the damage has been done,” he added. “There is no way going forward that China is able to grow by using international trade. It is going to grow more domestically.” In fact, China is not the only country looking inward. For many years, Roche noted, countries like Italy have had populist governments adopting nationalist policies, prioritizing the short-term benefit of their citizens instead of embracing globalization and the interconnectivity it entails.
Climate change can’t be halted if we carry on degrading the soil, a report will say. There’s three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon’s being released by deforestation and poor farming. This is fuelling climate change – and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population, the authors will say. Problems include soils being eroded, compacted by machinery, built over, or harmed by over-watering. Hurting the soil affects the climate in two ways: it compromises the growth of plants taking in carbon from the atmosphere, and it releases soil carbon previously stored by worms taking leaf matter underground.
The warning will come from the awkwardly-named IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – a panel studying the benefits of nature to humans. The body, which is meeting this week, aims to get all the world’s governments singing from the same sheet about the need to protect natural systems. IPBES will formally release its report on Monday 6 May. About 3.2 billion people worldwide are suffering from degraded soils, said IPBES chairman Prof Sir Bob Watson. “That’s almost half of the world population. There’s no question we are degrading soils all over the world. We are losing from the soil the organic carbon and this undermines agricultural productivity and contributes to climate change. We absolutely have to restore the degraded soil we’ve got.”
Protests against climate change should be extended to the other greatest threat facing humanity, according to England’s chief medical officer, who says an Extinction Rebellion-style campaign is needed to save people from antibiotics becoming ineffective in the face of overuse and a lack of regulation. The threat of antibiotic resistance is as great as that from climate change, said Dame Sally Davies, and should be given as much attention from politicians and the public. “It would be nice if activists recognised the importance of this,” she said. “This is happening slowly and people adjust to where we are, but this is the equivalent [danger] to extreme weather.”
Davies said efforts to combat the problem of common illnesses becoming untreatable by antibiotic medicines should be coordinated at a worldwide level in a similar way as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of scientists set up in 1988 to tackle global warming. The IPCC warned last year that climate change would lead to disaster within 12 years if urgent action was not taken to reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Davies said the consequences of antibiotic resistance posed at least as great a threat to humanity’s future, and in the same timescale, but few efforts had been made to deal with the issue. “There is not the appetite [among pharmaceutical companies] to develop new medicines,” she said. “There is a systemic failure. We need something similar to the IPCC.”
She listed a series of problems that the world has allowed to build up, from overuse of antibiotics and a lack of restraints on prescribing strong medications, to the rampant use of the drugs on animals, including by farmers for “growth promotion”, as the drugs can make animals put on weight faster. Such use has been banned in Europe and the US, but is common elsewhere, and even in the EU and US, the use of strong antibiotics critical to human health is still allowed on animals despite scientific advice to the contrary.
Remember Spying on Trump was called “Crossfire Hurricane”? Well now it’s renamed to “Crossfire Boomerang”. BOOM. Karma!
From the moment the Special Counsel investigation into Trump-Russia collusion began, we’ve been presented with a portrait of Robert Swan Mueller III as a man of unassailable character, a straight shooter, as impartial as can be. But Mueller was director of the FBI for 12 years (2001-2013), he was the king of the spies.
Does anyone really have the idea that the people who work in US intelligence are the country’s straightest shooters? Not everybody does. For instance, not Mike Pompeo, who bluntly stated: We lied, we cheated, we stole; It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”
So why should we believe Mueller is a man of such unassailable character when he rose to one of the very top ranks in intelligence? It doesn’t make much sense, except of course it’s what politics and media – and intelligence- want us to believe. It may not make sense, but boy, does it work.
And then at some point obviously you have to wonder why Mueller got the Special Counsel job on May 27 2017. Because of that unassailable character, we were told at the time. But if that doesn’t apply to Pompeo, why would it be true of Mueller? And why Mueller while there were strong links to US intelligence that would obviously have to be probed by the counsel (but were not).
That brings us straight to the next question: The main issue, post-report, is not whether Trump tried to stop the Mueller probe. The main issue instead is why it was instigated to begin with. Yes, US intelligence. CIA. And then there’s yet another question: When did Mueller know there was no collusion? Not just 1 or 2 weeks before presenting his report, that’s for sure.
So when? 6 months ago? A year? Did he ever really think there was collusion? If so, based on what? The almost entrirely discredited Steele dossier? Did he have faith in that? The Mifsud-Papadoloulos-Downer connection ‘engineered’ by CIA asset Stephen Halper? Did he have faith in that? Or was the whole thing goal-seeeked from the start?
It appears very silly to assume that Mueller did not start his job with an agenda, because of the heavy involvement of his former employees and colleagues and his best friend James Comey, whose firing by Trump was one of the main reasons to start the investigation. Sounds like a very hard one to sell, but the media did a great job. Everybody bought into it.
And then the whole thing collapsed. Yes, collapsed. Because this was never about finding the truth, it was always about digging for dirt. On Trump. Think Mueller wasn’t aware of that? I own a bridge….
Mueller was forced to find Trump and his team not guilty on conspiracy or collusion -and obstruction. This is because he would have had to prove this, and couldn’t. But he’s left the accusations against the Russian government and Julian Assange stand. Not because he has evidence for that, but because he doesn’t have to prove them.
Nobody believes a word any Russian says anymore, thanks to the MSM and US intelligence campaign against them. As for Assange, it’s obvious what Robert Mueller has done. He’s completely ignored the one person who could have helped him find the truth -just not the dirt-. and let him rot in hell. Here’s wishing for that same hell to befall Mueller and all of his family.
There is zero chance that Mueller didn’t know his buddy and successor James Comey prevented Assange from talking with the DOJ in 2017. Neither wanted Assange’s evidence to become public, because that would have killed the Russia narrative as well as the WikiLeaks one. And then what?
Let’s make one thing clear. All that proof of Russian hacking and Russian Facebook ads? It doesn’t exist. The entire story is fictional. How do we know? Because the only source that says it is true is US intelligence. And they can not be believed. As Mueller’s investigation once again shows.
Mueller and Barr, like all of Washington -it’s a bipartisan effort-, want the narrative to remain alive that the Russians hacked and meddled in the US elections in favor of Trump, and that Julian Assange was in cahoots with them. None of which Mueller has any evidence for. And Mueller at all have no problem sacrificing Assange and Chelsea Manning while they’re at it.
Assange is not the only expert source who is silenced. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity -VIPS- also can’t get their voice heard. People who ran US intelligence for decades are being silenced by those who succeeded them. As if they don’t exist. As if their expertise is worthless.
The evidence they offer simply doesn’t rhyme with the official narrative promoted by their successors and the CIA and FBI. Remember: Mueller only dropped in his report what he would have had to provide evidence for. The rest is still there, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
One VIPS member is Larry Johnson, “former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)”. Trump referenced him the other day on Twitter:
“Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson accuses United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama Administration Spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign.” @OANN WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!
And sure enough, the Guardian today described Johnson as a “conservative conspiracy theorist”. This stuff is predictable. But at least we know that while Mueller et al ignore the VIPS, Trump knows at least something about them. A few excerpts of a letter they sent to Trump last week (which he hasn’t seen, undoubtedly):
[..] the Mueller report left unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president.
Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth [..] Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC.
[..] In Barr’s words: “The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.
Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election.” We are eager to see if Mueller’s report contains more persuasive forensic evidence than that which VIPS has already debunked.
“But They Were Indicted! “Circular reasoning is not likely to work for very long, even with a U.S. populace used to being brainwashed by the media. Many Americans had mistakenly assumed that Mueller’s indictment of Russians — whether they be posting on FaceBook or acting like intelligence officers — was proof of guilt. But, as lawyers regularly point out, “one can easily indict a ham sandwich” — easier still these days, if it comes with Russian dressing.
The VIPS mention a few times they can’t get heard. They sent Barr a letter 5 weeks ago, and never got an answer. Here they say: “.. specialists will have a field day, IF — and it is a capital “IF” — by some miracle, word of VIPS’ forensic findings gets into the media this time around.”
The evidence-impoverished, misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 6, 2017 had one saving grace. The authors noted: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.” Forensic investigators can follow a trail of metadata and other technical properties. VIPS has done that.
If, as we strongly suspect, Mueller is relying for forensics solely on CrowdStrike, the discredited firm hired by the DNC in the spring of 2016, he is acting more in the mold of Inspector Clouseau than the crackerjack investigator he is reputed to be. It simply does not suffice for Mueller’s former colleague James Comey to tell Congress that CrowdStrike is a “high-class entity.” It is nothing of the sort [..] Comey needs to explain why he kept the FBI away from the DNC computers after they were said to have been “hacked.”
And former National Intelligence Director James Clapper needs to explain his claim last November that “the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.” What forensic evidence? From CrowdStrike? We at VIPS, in contrast, are finding more and more forensic evidence that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked by the Russians or anyone else — and that “Guccifer 2.0” is an out-and-out fraud. Yes, we can prove that from forensics too.
No Russian hacking. No Guccifer 2.0. But Mueller mentions both a lot.
Again, if Mueller’s incomplete investigation is allowed to assume the status of Holy Writ, most Americans will continue to believe that — whether you colluded the Russians or not — Putin came through for you big time. In short, absent President Putin’s help, you would not be president.
Far too many Americans will still believe this because of the mainstream-media fodder — half-cooked by intelligence leaks — that they have been fed for two and a half years. The media have been playing the central role in the effort of the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank) complex to stymie any improvement in relations with Russia.
We in VIPS have repeatedly demonstrated that the core charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election are built on a house of cards. But, despite our record of accuracy on this issue — not to mention our pre-Iraq-war warnings about the fraudulent intelligence served up by our former colleagues — we have gotten no play in mainstream media.
Most of us have chalked up decades in the intelligence business and many have extensive academic and government experience focusing on Russia. We consider the issue of “Russian interference” of overriding significance not only because the allegation is mischievously bogus and easily disproven. More important, it has brought tension with nuclear-armed Russia to the kind of dangerous fever pitch not seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Russian provocation was real — authentic, not synthetic.
[..] We recall that you were apprised of that Memorandum’s key findings because you ordered then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to talk to William Binney, one of our two former NSA Technical Directors and one of the principal authors of that Memorandum. On October 24, 2017, Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney by explaining the genesis of the odd invitation to CIA Headquarters: “You are here because the president told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”
[..] Binney, a plain-spoken, widely respected scientist, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. [..] As we told Attorney General Barr five weeks ago, we consider Mueller’s findings fundamentally flawed on the forensics side and ipso facto incomplete. We also criticized Mueller for failing to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.
You may be unaware that in March 2017 lawyers for Assange and the Justice Department (acting on behalf of the CIA) reportedly were very close to an agreement under which Assange would agree to discuss “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” in the leak of the DNC emails and agree to redact some classified CIA information, in exchange for limited immunity. According to the investigative reporter John Solomon of The Hill, Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA) vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, learned of the incipient deal and told then-FBI Director Comey, who ordered an abrupt “stand down” and an end to the discussions with Assange.
Why did Comey and Warner put the kibosh on receiving “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” [read Russia]? We won’t insult you with the obvious answer.
Assange is now in prison, to the delight of so many — including Mrs. Clinton who has said Assange must now “answer for what he has done.” But is it too late to follow up somehow on Assange’s offer? Might he or his associates be still willing to provide “technical evidence” showing, at least, who was not the culprit?
VIPS can’t get their voices heard. Everyone ignores them. These are highly experienced veterans of US intelligence, whose successors, and politics, and media, simply act as if they don’t exist. And while it’s curious to see how they go out of their way NOT to create the impression that Mueller makes his “mistakes” on purpose, the gist is just that.
What this adds up to is not just that Mueller has come up with nothing in his $20-30-50 million investigation, but that he has purposely left things in his report that he has no evidence for but also doesn’t have to prove, because those he accuses cannot defend themselves. Note also that Mueller has never indicted Assange, he has only smeared him.
Mueller doesn’t just have nothing, he has less than nothing. What is left of his “findings” once the collusion and obstruction elements are gone, are things that either he himself (his team) or US intelligence has concocted out of thin air. And have you seen even one ‘journalist’ who has questioned these fantasies?
I see only ‘reporters’ more than willing to heap their own fiction on top of the report’s. They’ll grudgingly accept there’s no collusion only to run away with what can still be construed as obstruction, but not a single one questions the Russian hacking or emails or Facebook ads anymore or Assange’s involvement, though Mueller offers zero proof for any of these things. Ditto for Guccifer 2.0.
The GRU (Main Directorate of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces, formerly the Main Intelligence Directorate) is a very advanced operation. When they hack something they leave no traces. US intelligence is just as capable of leaving GRU “traces” as the GRU itself is of NOT leaving them. The CIA is not smarter than the GRU. That’s what we’re looking at here.
How many Americans do you think there are who think this is the way to conduct investigations ostensibly aimed at truth-finding? You know, if only they knew?!
The only thing perceived as reality in America today is a bunch of fantasies designed to hide the truth. What truth there is, is left to rot in hell. What a place -and time- to live.
Rembrandt van Rijn A woman bathing in a stream 1654
A dear friend the other day accused me of defending Trump. I don’t, and never have, but it made me think that if she says it, probably others say and think the same; I’ve written a lot about him. So let me explain once again. Though I think perhaps this has reached a “you’re either with us or against us’ level.
What I noticed, and have written a lot about, during and since the 2016 US presidential campaign, is that the media, both in the US and abroad, started making up accusations against Trump from scratch. This included the collusion with Russia accusation that led to the Mueller probe.
There was never any proof of the accusation, which is why the conclusion of the probe was No Collusion. I started writing this yesterday while awaiting the presentation of the Mueller report, but it wouldn’t have mattered one way or the other: the accusation was clear, and so was the conclusion.
Even if some proof were found though other means going forward, it would still make no difference: US media published over half a million articles on the topic, and not one of them was based on any proof. If that proof had existed, Mueller would have found and used it.
And sure, Trump may not be a straight shooter, there may be all kinds of illegal activity going on in his organization, but that doesn’t justify using the collusion accusation for a 2-year long probe. If Trump is guilty of criminal acts, he should be investigated for that, not for some made-up narrative. It’s dangerous.
Axios report[ed] that since May 2017, exactly 533,074 web articles have been published about Russia and Trump-Mueller, which in turn have generated “245 million interactions – including likes, comments and shares – on Twitter and Facebook.” “From January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day) through March 21, 2019 (the last night before special counsel Robert Mueller sent his report to the attorney general), the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts produced a combined 2,284 minutes of ‘collusion’ coverage, most of it (1,909 minutes) following Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017,” MRC reports
What the Mueller report says is that 500,000 articles about collusion, and 245 million social media interactions in their wake, were written without any proof whatsoever (or Mueller would have used that proof). That doesn’t mean they may not have been true, or that they can’t be found to be true in the future, it means there was no proof when they were published. They Were All Lying.
The same goes for the Steele dossier. It holds zero proof of collusion between Trump’s team and Russia. Or Mueller would have used that proof. New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, CNN: they all had zero proof when they published, not a thing. Or Mueller would have used that proof. Rachel Maddow’s near nightly collusion rants: no proof. Or Mueller would have used that proof.
That there is no proof also means there has never been any proof. Why that is important, and how important it is, is something we’re very clearly seeing in the case concerning Julian Assange. That, too, is based on made-up stories.
I suggested a few days ago in the Automatic Earth comment section that the advent of the internet, and social media in particular, has greatly facilitated the power of repetition: say something often enough and few people will be able to resist the idea that it must be true. Or at least some of it.
If you look at the amount of time people spend in ‘their’ Facebook, the power of repetition becomes obvious. 245 million social media interactions. On top of half a million articles. How were people supposed to believe, in the face of such a barrage, that there never was any collusion?
Or that Assange is squeaky clean, both in person and in his alleged involvement in the collusion? There is only one way to counter all this: for people like me to keep pointing it out, and to hope that at least a few people pick it up.
That has nothing to do with defending Trump. It has to do with defending my own sanity and that of my readers. Of course it would have been easier, and undoubtedly more profitable, to go with the flow and load on more suspicions, allegations and accusations.
All those media made a mint doing it, and the Automatic Earth might have too. But that is not why we are here.
The Democrats, and the media sympathetic to them, now have seamlessly shifted their attention from Collusion to Obstruction. Which leads to a bit of both interesting and humorous logic: No Collusion? No Obstruction.
The Mueller probe would never have happened if it had been clear there was no collusion. But everyone and their pet hamster were saying there was. And there was the Steele dossier, heavily promoted by John McCain and John Brennan. Neither of whom had any proof of collusion.
The obstruction the anti-Trumpers are now aiming their arrows at consists of Trump allegedly wanting to fire Mueller and/or stopping an investigation that should never have been instigated into a collusion that never existed and was based on a smear campaign.
And now they want to impeach him for that? For attempting to stop the country wasting its resources and halt an investigation into nothing at all?
Know what I hope? That they’ll call on Mueller to testify in a joint session of Senate and Congress and that Rand Paul gets to ask him to address this tweet of his:
“Rand Paul: BREAKING: A high-level source tells me it was Brennan who insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier be included in the Intelligence Report… Brennan should be asked to testify under oath in Congress ASAP.”
And why Mueller refused to go talk to Assange, who offered actual evidence that no Russians were involved. Or how about these stonkers:
“Undoubtedly there is collusion,” Adam Schiff said. “We will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues. That is, is the president or people around him compromised? … It doesn’t appear that was any part of Mueller’s report.”
Preet Bharara: “It’s clear that Bob Mueller found substantial evidence of obstruction.”
There’ll never be such a joint session, the Democrats want to play a home game in Congress. So there will have to be a separate session in the Senate. No doubt that will happen. Trump was right about one thing (well, two): 1) A special Counsel fcuks up a presidency, and 2) this should never happen to another president again.
Not that I have any faith in Capitol Hill, mind you. Because they will agree, and they will agree on one thing only, as Philip Giraldi stipulates once more:
[..] even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people. A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189.
It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.”
And that brings us back to Robert Mueller’s investigation into hot air, which, while it entirely eviscerates even the notion of collusion, still contains accusations against Julian Assange and ‘the Russians’.
Why does he leave those in, when there was no collusion? It’s dead simple. Because unlike accusations against Trump, he doesn’t have to prove them. Which is why I will not stop saying, as I first did some 10 weeks ago, that Robert Mueller Is A Coward And A Liar.
Again, this has nothing to do with defending Trump, it’s about defending and maintaining my own sanity and yours, and the rule of law.
As I said back then about Mueller refusing to talk to Assange, and James Comey in 2017 making sure the DOJ didn’t either :
Every single American should be alarmed by this perversion of justice. Nothing to do with what you think of Trump, or of Assange. The very principles of the system are being perverted, including, but certainly not limited to, its deepest core, that of every individual’s right to defend themselves. Just so Robert Mueller can continue his already failed investigation into collusion that has shown no such thing, and which wouldn’t have been started 20 months ago if we knew then what we know now.
Get off your Trump collusion hobby-horse, that quest has already died regardless, and start defending the legal system and the Constitution. Because if you don’t, what’s to keep the next Robert Mueller from going after you, or someone you like or love? It’s in everyone’s interest to demand that these proceedings – like all legal proceedings- are conducted according to the law, but in Mueller’s hands, they are not.
And that should be a much bigger worry than whether or not you like or dislike a former game-show host.
I’ve said this before as well: I’ll always defend Julian Assange, but I won’t defend Donald Trump. Is that clear now?
Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral has been saved from “total destruction,” according to a French fire official, after a massive fire ripped through the structure on Monday and caused the roof and main spire to collapse. The blaze burned for eight hours, but has now been largely extinguished, according to firefighters. One official was quoted as saying the two iconic rectangular towers have been saved, which will come a relief after one of the towers caught fire earlier in the evening. Earlier, a French Interior Ministry official had said that firefighters might not be able to save the cathedral. “The worst has been avoided, but the battle isn’t fully won yet,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement outside of the cathedral.
He also expressed his sympathies to Catholics around the world, the people of Paris and the people of France. The fire broke out just days before Easter. “We will rebuild the cathedral together,” Macron said, adding that France will start an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the renovations. President Macron is treating the fire as a national emergency. Residents living close to the cathedral were evacuated in case the building collapsed, said Paris Mayor Anne Hildago. The area surrounding the cathedral, Paris’ Ile de la Cite, was also evacuated, according to Reuters.
Some of the wood that burned in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on Monday was put in place in the year 1160. The beams and exterior of the roof over the nave, the long main section of the building, date from between 1220 and 1240. Nearly a millennium ago it was forest; today, after a catastrophe that cuts to the heart of French culture and human history, it’s ash. “It was one of the oldest—until today—surviving roofs of that kind,” says Robert Bork, an architectural historian at the University of Iowa. “It’s incomparable.” [..] By Monday night, the art and treasured objects kept in the cathedral had been saved, it seemed. But architectural historians around the world were emailing each other frantically: If the lower three-quarters of the building resist, if the stone walls stand, it’ll be possible to imagine restoring Notre Dame.
“If the fire burns out while the stone vaults are intact, then the repair is a repair,” Bork says. “If the vaults start to crack and fall down, then the building is going to be lost. We’d be talking about rebuilding, not a repair.” Parisian fire brigades held the line. They kept the fire from spreading into the towers of the western face of the cathedral. The wood—itself an architectural treasure—was lost. “Cathedrals like Chartres had all burned off,” Bork says. “This was quite special, and it was from the time that they were really developing roof techniques.” But the rest of the building seems to have been spared. [..] because it survived largely intact into the digital era, Notre Dame lives on in the virtual world, too—and that may make its restoration all the more complete.
For the last half-decade or so, an architectural historian named Andrew Tallon worked with laser scanners to capture the entirety of the cathedral’s interior and exterior in meticulous 3D point clouds. His billion points of light revealed a living structure; the magnificent flying buttresses had indeed held the walls true, but the Gallery of Kings, statues on the western facade, were a foot out of plumb, Tallon told National Geographic in 2015. Just as it had in Victor Hugo’s day, the entire building had in fact fallen into disrepair by then. In 2017, the problems became too serious to ignore. The New York Times reported on stacks of masonry, fallen or removed, in the gardens. Gargoyles had given way to plastic pipes to drain away rainwater. A remodel was imperative, though as Time reported, it wasn’t clear who would pay for it.
This is the renovation project that was underway when the fire started, and architects now hope that Tallon’s scans may provide a map for keeping on track whatever rebuilding will have to take place. Tallon died late last year, and his mentor, a pioneer in using modern engineering forensics in historic architecture named Robert Mark, died in early 2019. “Both of them loved this building,” Bork says. “I’m just glad they didn’t have to see this.”
I’m writing this because I have to. The first time I saw Notre Dame was in 1980. Summertime, early morning, before the bakeries were open. The slanted light made the reliefs on the doors stand out. The second time I saw it, a year later, somebody (I have now been reminded it was Bill Ford) read out to me a complete analysis of the three doors of the façade. Deliberately assymetrical, each one contains a moral universe. As I write it will be lucky if they survive. The spire is gone, the stained glass is gone, the wood of the roof timber is gone. By the time it is rebuilt, as a partial replica, most people alive today will already be dead. Notre Dame was -and will be- a monument to civilisation. In an age when there were no information storage devices other than handwritten books, giant stone buildings were society’s hard drives.
This is like losing the hard drive of medieval Paris. Every inch had meaning – not just the meaning imbued by the carpenter and the stonemason, but the meaning imbued by the student, the monk, the penitent -and then by the emergent French bourgeois society. I know almost nothing about architecture, but I do understand music. And the music composed in Notre Dame during the high period of feudalism is some of the most complex, beautiful and emotionally expressive you will ever hear. Understanding the music helped me understand the building. Andrieu’s requiem dirge for Guillaume de Machaut, O Fleur des Fleurs, seems to be on loop inside my head. The challenge was to make it as complicated as possible but as directly expressive.
The one time I did the full tour of the inside was in 1986, before mass global tourism took off. I didn’t understand its vastness even then. If you have ever seen it, you have to hold those memories close now, because you will probably never in your lifetime see the whole thing rebuilt. Last year I went to Tito’s birthplace in Croatia. A small village of wood huts. A tank could have destroyed it in half an hour. It was a reminder that, until the mid 20thcentury, most of the world was built of wood, thatch and fragile bricks. Notre Dame was built to last until the end of the world, out of stone, glass and vast forests of thick timber frames.
Picked up on Twitter: Brooke Windsor – I took this photo as we were leaving #NotreDame about an hour before it caught on fire. I almost went up to the dad and asked if he wanted it. Now I wish I had. Twitter if you have any magic, help him find this
Salma Hayek’s husband, the French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, pledged almost $113 million to rebuild Paris’ historic Notre Dame Cathedral after Monday’s devastating fire. Pinault announced Tuesday that he will draw almost $113 million in funds from his family’s investment firm, Artemis, “to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre-Dame,” the French newspaper Le Figaro reported. Pinault, 56, who is the chairman and CEO of Kering, a Paris-based luxury group behind brands including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, married the Mexican and American actress Salma Hayek in Paris in 2009, Yahoo News reported.
The couple owns a residence nearby the destroyed 12th-century medieval Catholic cathedral. “As many others I’m in deep shock and sadness to witness the beauty of Notre-Dame turn into smoke. I love you Paris,” Hayek said on Instagram, sharing an image of the cathedral ablaze. Pinault’s father, the 82-year-old Francois Pinault, is worth $37.3 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. The family’s contribution is the first major donation to reconstruction efforts after the fire engulfed the historic structure, leading to the collapse of the structure’s main spire.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec announced this morning Attorney General William Barr is expected to send Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and make it public on Thursday (ahead of the long weekend’s news cycle). Those following Mueller’s investigation will pore over the report’s almost 400 pages for any new disclosures of contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 election, as well as evidence that the president sought to obstruct justice by interfering in the probe.
But, as Bloomberg reports, readers also will puzzle over sections that Barr has said he’ll blank out. He’s said the redacted material will be color-coded to indicate whether it involves classified material, grand jury information or damage to the reputation of a private citizen “peripheral” to the investigation. One key question the report may answer is why Mueller decided not to make a recommendation one way or the other on whether to charge Trump with obstructing justice.
I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but, given the arrest of Julian Assange last week, and the awkward and cowardly responses thereto, I felt it necessary to abandon my customary literary standards and spew out a spineless, hypocritical “hot take” professing my concern about the dangerous precedent the U.S. government may be setting by extraditing and prosecuting a publisher for exposing American war crimes and such, while at the same time making it abundantly clear how much I personally loathe Assange, and consider him an enemy of America, and freedom, and want the authorities to crush him like a cockroach.
Now I want to be absolutely clear. I totally defend Assange and Wikileaks, and the principle of freedom of the press, and whatever. And I am all for exposing American war crimes (as long as it doesn’t endanger the lives of the Americans who committed those war crimes, or inconvenience them in any way). At the same time, while I totally support all that, I feel compelled to express my support together with my personal loathing of Assange, who, if all those important principles weren’t involved, I would want to see taken out and shot, or at least locked up in Super-Max solitary … not for any crime in particular, but just because I personally loathe him so much.
I’m not quite sure why I loathe Assange. I’ve never actually met the man. I just have this weird, amorphous feeling that he’s a horrible, disgusting, extremist person who is working for the Russians and is probably a Nazi. It feels kind of like that feeling I had, back in the Winter of 2003, that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, which he was going to give to those Al Qaeda terrorists who were bayonetting little babies in their incubators, or the feeling I still have, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Trump is a Russian intelligence asset who peed on Barack Obama’s bed, and who is going to set fire to the Capitol building, declare himself American Hitler, and start rounding up and murdering the Jews.
I don’t know where these feelings come from. If you challenged me, I probably couldn’t really support them with any, like, actual facts or anything, at least not in any kind of rational way. Being an introspective sort of person, I do sometimes wonder if maybe my feelings are the result of all the propaganda and relentless psychological and emotional conditioning that the ruling classes and the corporate media have subjected me to since the day I was born, and that influential people in my social circle have repeated, over and over again, in such a manner as to make it clear that contradicting their views would be extremely unwelcome, and might negatively impact my social status, and my prospects for professional advancement.
Take my loathing of Assange, for example. I feel like I can’t even write a column condemning his arrest and extradition without gratuitously mocking or insulting the man. When I try to, I feel this sudden fear of being denounced as a “Trump-loving Putin-Nazi,” and a “Kremlin-sponsored rape apologist,” and unfriended by all my Facebook friends. Worse, I get this sickening feeling that unless I qualify my unqualified support for freedom of press, and transparency, and so on, with some sort of vicious, vindictive remark about the state of Assange’s body odor, and how he’s probably got cooties, or has pooped his pants, or some other childish and sadistic taunt, I can kiss any chance I might have had of getting published in a respectable publication goodbye.
So . . . I have a few questions. First, why was there no Sanders-Russia probe? Why, when President Obama directed John Brennan, his hyper-political CIA director, to rush out a report on Russia’s influence operations, did we not hear about the WikiLeaks-Russia objective of helping Sanders win the Democratic nomination? Brennan & Co. couldn’t tell us enough about our intelligence-agency mind readers’ confidence that Putin was rootin’ for Trump. Why nothing about the conspirators’ Feelin’ the Bern? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there is any basis for a criminal investigation of Senator Sanders.
But there appears to have been no criminal predicate for a “collusion” investigation of Donald Trump, either — not a shred of public evidence that he conspired in the Putin regime’s hacking, other than that presented in the Clinton-campaign-sponsored Steele dossier (if you can call that “evidence” — though even Christopher Steele admits it’s not). Yet, Trump was subjected to an investigation for more than two years — on the gossamer-light theory that Trump stood to benefit from Moscow’s perfidy. Yes, of course, this cui bono claim was amplified by what were said to be Trump’s intriguing, if noncriminal, ties to Russia.
To my knowledge, however, the mythical pee tape of Steele lore has never been located; it is unlikely, then, that there are any Trump photos that compare, intrigue-wise, to a shirtless Bernie boozing it up in the Soviet Union. Surely that should have been worth a FISA warrant or four. A more serious question: Why hasn’t Assange been indicted for criminal collusion with the Kremlin — the same hacking conspiracy for which Mueller indicted the Russian operatives with whom Mueller says Assange collaborated? The same conspiracy for which the president of the United States, though not guilty, was under the FBI’s microscope for nearly three years?
The most striking thing about the Assange indictment that the Justice Department did file is how thin it is, and how tenuous. Leaping years backwards, ignoring “collusion with Russia,” prosecutors allege a single cyber-theft count: a conspiracy between Assange and then–Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning to steal U.S. defense secrets. This lone charge is punishable by as little as no jail time and a maximum sentence of just five years’ imprisonment (considerably less than the seven years Assange spent holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid prosecution).
This is very peculiar. Manning, Assange’s co-conspirator, has already been convicted of multiple felony violations of the espionage act — serious crimes that the Assange indictment says WikiLeaks helped Manning commit . . . but which the Justice Department has not charged against Assange. Why? Probably because espionage charges are time-barred. Which brings us to the possibility — perhaps even the likelihood — that Assange will never see the inside of an American courtroom.
In an April 8 letter sent to both U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe, Crosby added that during her February visit to the embassy, the conditions of Assange’s confinement had significantly worsened since her first visit in 2017. Her letter noted the severe psychological toll Assange suffered in his prolonged and indefinite confinement. “Mr. Assange’s situation [inside the embassy] differs from a typical prisoner in a conventional prison,” she wrote in her letter. “In fact, his position is worse than a conventional prison in many respects. His confinement is indefinite and uncertain, which increases chronic stress and its myriad of chronic physical and serious psychological risks, including suicide.”
During seven years of confinement, Assange had suffered “a number of serious deleterious effects of sunlight deprivation,” she wrote, including “neuropsychological impairment, weakened bones, decreased immune function, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.” He also displayed physical and psychological symptoms as a result of “prolonged social isolation and sensory deprivation.” “I believe the psychological, physical, and social [aftereffects] will be long-lasting and severe,” Crosby wrote.Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy and arrested by British authorities on April 11, three days after her letter was sent to the U.N. and the Council of Europe. [..] Crosby wrote in her letter to the U.N. and the Council of Europe that Assange suffered from “multiple medical conditions” that had become “more complex and urgent” over the two years she had evaluated him.
“He has no ability to access necessary medical care, and he does not have access to the outdoors and sunlight. Even minimum standards for prisoners dictate at least one hour of sunlight daily and access to natural light.” While the British government and Assange’s many critics say that it was his choice to stay in the embassy, Crosby argues that Assange was denied the fundamental right to health care that should have been afforded to him as a refugee.In her April 8 letter, Crosby wrote that the “highest priority” for Assange’s medical care was his “critical need for an oral surgery procedure,” adding that “the severe daily pain” from his dental condition is “inhumane.” She had consulted with a dentist who had examined Assange, she wrote, and learned that the dental surgery could not be performed in the embassy. In her letter, Crosby says that the British government had repeatedly rejected requests to give Assange safe passage to a hospital for treatment.
There is probably a good reason that US government authorities did not essay to make Mr. Assange a witness on-the-record: because his testimony would have prevented Mr. Mueller from bringing his bullshit charges against the Russian internet trolls he indicted — who will never have to come to trial in the USA in any case, and thus never refute The Narrative so earnestly promoted by the Mueller team — until it all fell apart on March 24. But these are not terms that the Slate Political Gabfest chose to follow in their analysis of Julian Assange and his activities. Rather we got the following, transcribed verbatim:
Bazelon: “Assange is so detestable it’s really tempting to get as far away from him as possible. One look at him and I feel that way about him.” Plotz: “Do you think Joe Biden would get a little handsy with him?” Bazelon: “He’s far creepier.” Dickerson: “You don’t find that Dickensian beard alluring?” Bazelon: “It’s awful. But I always thought he was clean-shaven yucky.” Such are the Deep Thoughts of America’s leading Wokester political analysts. One also might ask why Mr. Assange has not been charged by the US with espionage, if that’s what their beef with him really is. In the meantime, behold the disgraceful episode of American journalists pimping for the leviathan state’s privilege to suppress the free flow of news and their own freedom of the press. Imagine them subjecting Daniel Ellsberg to such a hazing.
One of my old friends’ father was at one time something of a Cold Warrior: he did something or other for the US defense establishment—nuclear submarine-related, if I recall correctly. This work activity apparently led him to develop a particularly virulent form of Russophobia; not so much a phobia as a pronounced loathing of all things Russian. According to my friend, her father would compulsively talk about Russia in overly negative terms. He would also sneeze a lot (allergies, perhaps), and she said that it was often difficult for her to distinguish his sneezes from his use of the word “Russia” as an expletive. But perhaps she was trying to draw a distinction without a difference: her father was allergic to Russia, his allergy caused him to sneeze a lot and also to develop a touch of Tourette’s, thus his sneezes came out sounding like “Russia!”
What had caused him to develop such a jaundiced view of Russia? The reason is easy to guess: his work activity on behalf of the government forced him to focus closely on what his superiors labeled as “the Russian threat.” Unfolded a bit, it would no doubt turn out that what Russia threatened was Americans’ self-generated fiction of overwhelming military superiority. Unlike the United States, which had developed any number of plans to destroy the Soviet Union (of which nothing ever came due to said lack of overwhelming military superiority) the Soviet Union had never developed any such plans. And this was utterly infuriating to certain people in the US. Was this truly necessary, or was this an accident?
We could take into account geopolitical, military or economic considerations, consider the (no longer relevant) clash of socialist vs. capitalist ideologies or any number of other irrelevancies. Or we could find hints of what’s really behind this syndrome from certain efforts to combat it. Consider this lyrics from Sting’s 1985 debut solo album “The Dream of Blue Turtles.” Sting sang soulfully: “I hope the Russians love their children too.” From what mystical source sprang Sting’s forlorn hope? That the Russians may be a race of soulless automatons hell-bent on wanton destruction of all life on Earth, but that perhaps there is just a tiny streak of humanity running through their character—they love their children too—and that it will hold them back? Sting’s Russia is almost pure evil, but not quite, and a tiny speck of goodness is what keeps the world balanced on the edge of destruction.
The U.S. Federal Reserve should shore up its ability to fight economic downturns by committing to let inflation run above 2% “in good times,” a top policymaker said on Monday. The comments by Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, echoed remarks made earlier in the day by another Fed policymaker who cited the U.S. economy’s falling a bit short on the central bank’s inflation target as a problem. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, is currently at 1.8%. Rosengren said he supports an approach that would see the Fed, which is “forced to accept” inflation below its 2% target during recessions, commit to achieve above-2% inflation “in good times.” Policymakers, for instance, could target a range of 1.5-2.5%.
“My own preference would be an inflation range,” because hitting the current target will only get harder with rates as low as they are, Rosengren said at Davidson College in North Carolina. “Even though we’re only missing by a little bit it actually does matter if you miss by a little bit on a regular basis.” The remarks come ahead of a broad policy review being conducted by the Fed this year. How the Fed meets its inflation target is one of the key topics. The president of the Chicago Fed, Charles Evans, said earlier on Monday that the U.S. central bank should embrace inflation above its target half the time and consider cutting rates if prices do not rise as fast as expected.
Greece’s president called on Monday for Britain to free the Parthenon marbles from the “murky prison” of its national museum, upping the rhetoric in a near 200-year-old campaign for the sculptures’ return. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos spoke at Athens’ own glass-fronted Acropolis Museum, which campaigners hope will one day house the classical reliefs and figures taken by a British diplomat in the early nineteenth century. “Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos said. There was no immediate response from the British Museum.
Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule. They have been placed in a gallery inside the British Museum in London, lit by a long skylight. Greece has repeatedly requested their return since its independence in 1832, and stepped up its campaign in 2009 when it opened its new museum at the foot of the Acropolis hill. That building holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces, lit by the sun coming through a glass wall looking over the original site. “This museum can host the Marbles,” Pavlopoulos said. “We are fighting a holy battle for a monument which is unique.” The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire.
Microplastic is raining down on even remote mountaintops, a new study has revealed, with winds having the capacity to carry the pollution “anywhere and everywhere”. The scientists were astounded by the quantities of microplastic falling from the sky in a supposedly pristine place such as the French stretch of the Pyrenees mountains. Researchers are now finding microplastics everywhere they look; in rivers, the deepest oceans and soils around the world. Other recent studies have found microplastics in farmland soils near Shanghai, China, in the Galápagos Islands, a Unesco world heritage site, and in rivers in the Czech Republic.
Humans and other animals are known to consume the tiny plastic particles via food and water, but the potential health effects on people and ecosystems are as yet unknown. However the ubiquity of the pollution means it needs to be taken very seriously, said Steve Allen, at the EcoLab research institute near Toulouse and who led the new work in the Pyrenees: “If it is going to be a problem, it is going to be a very big problem. I don’t think there is an organism on Earth that is immune to this.” About 335m tonnes of plastic is produced each year – while it degrades extremely slowly, it can be broken into smaller and smaller pieces.
Microplastic pollution in rivers and oceans is now well known but just two previous studies have looked at its presence in the air, one in Paris, France, and another in Dongguan, China. Both found a steady fall of particles. The new study, published in Nature Communications, is the first to show microplastic is raining down just as hard in remote environments and that it can travel across significant distances through wind. The team collected samples from high altitudes in the Pyrenees that were far from sources of plastic waste – the nearest village was 6km away, the nearest town 25km, and the nearest city 120km.