Nov 062019
 
 November 6, 2019  Posted by at 9:34 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Dorothea Lange ‘We’re bound for Kingfisher (OK wheat) and Lubbock (TX cotton). We’ll be in California yet. 1938

 

ABC Stopped Jeffrey Epstein Report ‘Amid Palace Threats’ (BBC)
MSM Execs Part Of ‘Network Of People’ That Covered For Epstein – O’Keefe (RT)
Roger Stone, Trump Friend And Alleged Tie To WikiLeaks, Faces Trial (NPR)
Amid 2016 Election, State Dept Saw Burisma As Joe Biden’s Issue (Solomon)
Sondland Reverses Himself On Ukraine (Pol.)
Ryanair Grounds Three Boeing 737s After Cracks Found (G.)
Boeing Whistleblower Raises Doubts Over 787 Oxygen System (BBC)
The Recession In The Auto Industry Is Tanking The Global Economy (ZH)
China Signs Nearly 200 Deals For New Silk Road Projects (RT)

 

 

The BBC turns on Andrew?

ABC Stopped Jeffrey Epstein Report ‘Amid Palace Threats’ (BBC)

Leaked footage shows a US TV anchor complaining that editors “quashed” a story about paedophile Jeffrey Epstein due to pressure from the Royal Family. ABC’s Amy Robach is seen in the clip griping that her interview with an alleged victim of Epstein and Prince Andrew never made it to air. “The Palace found out,” she says, “and threatened us a million different ways.” An ABC news executive said there was “zero truth” to the assertion. Epstein, a wealthy and well-connected financier, was found dead in a jail cell in August while awaiting trial for sex crimes. His death was ruled a suicide by investigators. In the video, Ms Robach vents frustration that her 2015 interview with Virginia Giuffre – formerly Virginia Roberts – was never broadcast.

The clip was leaked on Tuesday by Project Veritas, a group that seeks to expose perceived liberal bias in the mainstream media. Ms Giuffre, 35, alleges she was abused by Epstein and was ordered to have sex with powerful men including Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. In court documents she said she was forced to have sex with the British royal on three separate occasions while she was under the legal age of consent. Prince Andrew has denied having “any form of sexual contact or relationship” with Ms Giuffre. In 2015, a judge ruled that the allegations made by Ms Giuffre regarding Prince Andrew were “immaterial and impertinent” and ordered them to be removed from a claim against Epstein.

“I’ve had this story for three years. I’ve had this interview with Virginia Roberts,” says Robach, speaking to someone off-camera. “We would not put it on the air. First of all, I was told, ‘who’s Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story.’ “Then the Palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways. “We were so afraid that we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will. “That also quashed the story,” the host of ABC’s 20/20 programme added. Robach also says that the interview included allegations against former US President Bill Clinton. “We had everything,” she continues. “I tried for three years to get it on, to no avail. “And now it’s all coming out and it’s like these new revelations and I freaking had all of it.”

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“They’re fine airing the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, or [President Donald] Trump, or anybody else, but when it comes to Bill Clinton and some of these folks who are mentioned by Amy in this hot mic tape, they say they just didn’t have enough corroboration..”

MSM Execs Part Of ‘Network Of People’ That Covered For Epstein – O’Keefe (RT)

ABC and other mainstream media outlets refused to cover accusations against sex predator Jeffrey Epstein because “a network of people” that includes their executives were implicated, James O’Keefe of Project Veritas told RT. The Disney-owned network has doubled down on its insistence that anchor Amy Robach’s story on Epstein three years ago lacked “enough corroboration” and thus wasn’t aired. This was after Project Veritas released a “hot mic” video of Robach slamming the decision to quash the story. The conservative filmmaker told RT on Tuesday that he believes ABC’s refusal to budge from that explanation backs up Robach’s claim that “a network of people” – including the executives running her channel – are “covering up for this” because they are somehow “implicated.”

Robach had interviewed Epstein’s alleged sex slave Virginia Roberts Giuffre and other victims and claimed to have pictures and other proof to back up her story. The never-aired exposé was such a bombshell that it provoked intimidating calls from “the [UK royal] palace, which threatened [ABC] a million different ways,” and Epstein lawyer Alan Dershowitz – and the media establishment, O’Keeffe said, is very susceptible to such threats. Mainstream media’s decisions to suppress major stories like Epstein or the allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have contributed to a wholesale abandonment of trust in the media by the American people, O’Keeffe continued.

“It’s quite telling that this insider leaked this tape to Project Veritas and not the Washington Post, New York Times, CBS or CNN, because they seem to want to protect the people that were working with Jeffrey Epstein,” he added. They’re fine airing the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, or [President Donald] Trump, or anybody else, but when it comes to Bill Clinton and some of these folks who are mentioned by Amy in this hot mic tape, they say they just didn’t have enough corroboration,” O’Keefe said, recalling that Robach had specifically mentioned that “we had [Bill] Clinton.”

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The advantages of silencing Assange: people can claim anything at all that would support any claim at all no matter how absurd. Assange and Wikileaks have denied any link to Stone, and he himself has too. But it no longer matters with Julian locked up in solitary. And now they use Stone’s empty braggadocio in an actual trial?!

Literally nothing in this report from NPR is true. But who cares anymore?

Roger Stone, Trump Friend And Alleged Tie To WikiLeaks, Faces Trial (NPR)

Stone and some of his associates may have been links in a chain that connected Trump in New York City with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, who at the time had confined himself in the Ecuadorian Embassy there. Assange, in turn, was in contact with Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, which had stolen a trove of embarrassing material from political targets in the United States. WikiLeaks released many of those emails and other documents with disruptive effects on political life in the U.S. — and enjoyed public encouragement by Trump and his campaign. What Mueller’s investigation revealed was how much Trump and aides worked to get more.


The campaign built into its plans the expectation that there would be more damaging revelations about Hillary Clinton, and Trump’s campaign bosses also sought contact with some people connected with the interference over the course of the election season. Charging documents in Stone’s case describe a message from one of Stone’s contacts depicting the person in a photo taken outside the Ecuadorian Embassy — implying that he’d visited Assange — and other messages in which Stone and associates discuss the prospect of more “dumps” from WikiLeaks.

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Solomon rules.

Amid 2016 Election, State Dept Saw Burisma As Joe Biden’s Issue (Solomon)

In recent interviews, Joe Biden has distanced himself from his son’s work at a Ukrainian gas company that was under investigation during the Obama years, with the former vice president suggesting he didn’t even know Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings. There is plenty of evidence that conflicts with the former vice president’s account, including Hunter Biden’s own story that he discussed the company once with his famous father. There also was a December 2015 New York Times story that raised the question of whether Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma posed a conflict of interest for the vice president, especially when Joe Biden was leading the fight against Ukrainian corruption while Hunter Biden’s firm was under investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors.

But whatever the Biden family recollections, the Obama State Department clearly saw the Burisma Holdings investigation in the midst of the 2016 presidential election as a Joe Biden issue. Memos newly released through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Southeastern Legal Foundation on my behalf detail how State officials in June 2016 worked to prepare the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to handle a question about “Burisma and Hunter Biden.” In multiple drafts of a question-and-answer memo prepared for Yovanovitch’s Senate confirmation hearing, the department’s Ukraine experts urged the incoming ambassador to stick to a simple answer. “Do you have any comment on Hunter Biden, the Vice President’s son, serving on the board of Burisma, a major Ukrainian Gas Company?,” the draft Q&A asked.

The recommended answer for Yovanovitch: “For questions on Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma, I would refer you to Vice President Biden’s office.” The Q&A is consistent with other information flowing out of State. As I reported yesterday, when a Burisma representative contacted State in February 2016 to ask for the department’s help in quashing the corruption allegations, Hunter Biden’s role on the company’s board was prominently cited. And a senior State Department official who testified recently in the impeachment proceedings reportedly told lawmakers he tried to warn the vice president’s office that Burisma posed a conflict for Joe Biden but was turned aside. There are no laws that would have prevented Hunter Biden from joining Burisma, even as his father oversaw Ukraine policy for the President Obama..

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400 pages means hours and hours of testimony, but he ‘forgot’ to mention the one thing he knew very well was key to it all? And now, after talking to “the right” people, he suddenly remembers? I’d give Sondland an F- on credibility.

Sondland Reverses Himself On Ukraine (Pol.)

In his revised testimony, released Tuesday by House impeachment investigators, Sondland said that during a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw, Poland, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky raised his concerns to Vice President Mike Pence about the suspension of military aid. Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, added that he later told Andriy Yermak, a top Ukrainian national security adviser, the aid would be contingent on Trump’s desired investigations. “After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland wrote in his addendum, which was released alongside a nearly 400-page transcript of his testimony.


Sondland revealed the exchange in supplemental testimony he submitted to House impeachment investigators on Monday, saying he had failed to recall the episode when he testified in person last month. Sondland, who had a direct line to Trump and was a major donor to his 2016 presidential campaign, had previously indicated he was unaware of any effort to connect military aid to Trump’s demand for politically motivated investigations. Sondland was eager to maintain that public posture, even with other U.S. officials working on Ukraine policy. Eight days after privately telling Yermak that military aid was contingent on Trump’s desired investigations, Sondland wrote in a text message to William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, that Trump had been “crystal clear” that there was no quid pro quo involving military aid and publicly announced investigations.

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It’s all over now, baby blue.

Ryanair Grounds Three Boeing 737s After Cracks Found (G.)

At least three Ryanair Boeing 737s have been grounded due to cracks between the wing and fuselage but this was not disclosed to the public, the Guardian can reveal. The budget Irish airline is the latest to be affected by faults in the “pickle fork” structure, which has sparked an urgent grounding of 50 planes globally since 3 October. While other airlines, such as Australia’s Qantas and America’s Southwest, have disclosed the number of their planes affected by the cracks, Ryanair – which operates the largest fleet of 737s in Europe – has previously refused to confirm how many of its planes have been affected. Last Thursday, the airline told the Irish Times it “does not expect” the global pickle fork issue would “have any impact upon our operations or fleet availability”.


The Guardian can now reveal three of their planes have been affected by the issue. It is understood that experts do not regard the presence of the cracks as a safety issue as long as appropriate checks are carried out. The grounded planes have the registration numbers EI-DCL, EI-DAL and EI-DCJ. All three are more than 15 years old. Flight tracking site Flight Aware shows that DCL and DAL are both currently in a known plane repair site, the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California. The third plane, DCJ, is in storage at Stansted airport in London. A copy of internal Ryanair engineering logs, seen by the Guardian, lists all three as having “pickle fork cracks”. “AOG [aircraft on ground] – R/H pickle fork crack – on repair in VCV [Victorville],” the logs for DAL read.

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Boeing’s response and defense: “safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values”. Maybe try another line next time.

Boeing Whistleblower Raises Doubts Over 787 Oxygen System (BBC)

A Boeing whistleblower has claimed that passengers on its 787 Dreamliner could be left without oxygen if the cabin were to suffer a sudden decompression. John Barnett says tests suggest up to a quarter of the oxygen systems could be faulty and might not work when needed. He also claimed faulty parts were deliberately fitted to planes on the production line at one Boeing factory. Boeing denies his accusations and says all its aircraft are built to the highest levels of safety and quality. The firm has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of two catastrophic accidents involving another one of its planes, the 737 Max.

Mr Barnett, a former quality control engineer, worked for Boeing for 32 years, until his retirement on health grounds in March 2017. From 2010 he was employed as a quality manager at Boeing’s factory in North Charleston, South Carolina. This plant is one of two that are involved in building the 787 Dreamliner, a state-of-the-art modern airliner used widely on long-haul routes around the world. Despite early teething problems following its entry into service the aircraft has proved a hit with airlines, and a useful source of profits for the company. But according to Mr Barnett, 57, the rush to get new aircraft off the production line meant that the assembly process was rushed and safety was compromised. The company denies this and insists that “safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values”.

In 2016, he tells the BBC, he uncovered problems with emergency oxygen systems. These are supposed to keep passengers and crew alive if the cabin pressurisation fails for any reason at altitude. Breathing masks are meant to drop down from the ceiling, which then supply oxygen from a gas cylinder. Without such systems, the occupants of a plane would rapidly be incapacitated. At 35,000ft, (10,600m) they would be unconscious in less than a minute. At 40,000ft, it could happen within 20 seconds. Brain damage and even death could follow.

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Best news ever for the climate movement.

The Recession In The Auto Industry Is Tanking The Global Economy (ZH)

The global economy continues to grind to a halt and the culprit has never been clearer: the auto industry. For the better part of almost 2 years now, we have been reporting monthly on marked slowdowns in key auto markets like China, North America and Europe. Now, the slowdown in this massive industry is what’s helping spur an overall global economic slowdown, according to FT. The reaches of the auto market go deep, with long supply chains and large consumption of raw materials, textiles, chemicals and electronics. The industry is home to millions of jobs and last year, the sector shrank for the first time since the global financial crisis. The IMF is estimating that this fall in output accounted for more than 25% of the slowdown in the global economy between 2017 and 2018.


The sector may also be responsible for up to 33% of the slowdown in global trade growth over the same period, the IMF said. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, deputy director of the IMF’s research department said: “The car sector has been weighing heavily on manufacturing activity and growth.” And the fund’s forecast of a small lift in global trade in 2020 is dependent on a recovery in the auto sector. Conversely, the fund’s analysis also notes the potential further damage that could occur if the auto sector becomes the focus of the ongoing U.S./China trade war.

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But who pays? And in what currency?

China Signs Nearly 200 Deals For New Silk Road Projects (RT)

China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as “One Belt, One Road,” has already attracted nearly 170 participants, Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced, vowing to further develop the project. “To date, China has signed 197 documents on Belt and Road cooperation with 137 countries and 30 international organizations,” he said in the opening speech at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Tuesday. The development of the initiative, which is aimed at boosting trade connections across the world and linking China with other countries, is a central part of plans to open up the Chinese market, according to Xi.


Other proposed measures include boosting investment and imports, lowering tariffs, developing free-trade zones, improving business environment as well as deepening bilateral and multilateral cooperation. “Standing at a new historical starting point, China will open its door only wider to the world,” Xi stated, calling for other countries to “stand firm against protectionism and unilateralism.” The ambitious BRI, launched in September 2013 by President Xi, could cost Beijing up to $1.3 trillion by 2027, according to Morgan Stanley’s estimates.

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Nov 052019
 
 November 5, 2019  Posted by at 9:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Olga in a hat with feather 1920

 

Trump Refuses To Rule Out Government Shutdown If Impeachment Continues (Ind.)
Trump’s Impeachment Lures Democrats Into a Cold War Mentality (Maté)
How Far Will They Go? (Kunstler)
Nobody Talks About Impeachment on the Campaign Trail (Atl.)
Democratic Party, Not Russia, Has Delegitimized the Democratic Process (Vos)
Ryanair Says ‘Real Risk’ It Will Have No MAX Aircraft To Fly Next Summer (R.)
Ryanair Says Its Boeing 737 MAX Jets Will Not Fly Before Summer 2020 (Ind.)
FBI Tried To Make Iceland A Complicit Ally In Framing Julian Assange (Ind.au)
Julian Assange: The Lynching of the Charismatic Geek (GR)

 

 

It will get a lot crazier than it has so far.

Trump Refuses To Rule Out Government Shutdown If Impeachment Continues (Ind.)

Donald Trump has refused to rule out forcing a government shutdown if Democrats do not stop their impeachment inquiry into him. “We’ll see what happens,” the US president said when asked about the possibility of agencies being shuttered. During the last shutdown in December and January, hundreds of thousands of workers were furloughed or put on unpaid leave, while others in essential services, like hospital care, air traffic control and law enforcement, worked without pay for 35 days. It was the longest ever. Asked about Democrat concerns that he could shut down the government again if they continue to pursue and impeachment inquiry against him, Mr Trump replied: “I don’t think they believe that at all,”


Speaking on the White House lawn, he added: “I wouldn’t commit to anything. It depends on what the negotiations are.” Congress has a deadline of 22 November to reach a funding agreement before triggering a shutdown. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer last week, said he was “increasingly worried” that Mr Trump could hold the US government hostage as a result of his anger with the impeachment inquiry which was launched last month after a whistleblower complaint from the unidentified US intelligence official who was concerned that the president’s actions on Ukraine were illegal and jeopardised national security.

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The political agendas of the so-called witnesses.

Trump’s Impeachment Lures Democrats Into a Cold War Mentality (Maté)

In the case of Taylor, arming Ukraine was a condition of his willingness to serve in the job. When the Trump administration asked him to take the position in Kiev, Taylor recalls thinking, “I could be effective only if the US policy of strong support for Ukraine… were to continue.” Taylor even told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “If US policy toward Ukraine changed, he would not want me posted there and I could not stay.” No wonder then, that Taylor was upset when he began to hear rumblings that US military assistance to Ukraine was in jeopardy. Another star witness, Vindman, offers a similar outlook. Russia, he says, “has manifested an overtly aggressive foreign policy” necessitating “a deterrent.”

To Vindman, that deterrent is “a strong and independent Ukraine,” which, he believes, is “critical to US national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.” Morrison concurs, declaring that the administration’s policy “was to make sure the United States’ longstanding bipartisan commitment to strengthen Ukraine’s security remained unaltered.” In his view, “security sector assistance… is, therefore, essential to Ukraine.” Given their open dedication to ensuring the continuation of US military aid to Ukraine, it is reasonable to question if the trio’s interpretations of decisions and conversations about freezing military aid were colored by their own policy preferences. As The Washington Post put it, Vindman “told lawmakers that he was deeply troubled by what he interpreted as an attempt by the president to subvert U.S. foreign policy.”

While undoubtedly many Democrats and Republicans share Vindman’s foreign policy views, it should be up to the president, not unelected bureaucrats, to decide US foreign policy. Even if their recollections are accurate, the consequence of embracing their collective worldview is worth considering. We do not need wade far into the intricacies of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to know that the position of Taylor, Vindman, and Morrison—and by extension, the entire liberal political and media establishment now cheering them—is well to the right of what the Democratic Party embodied just one administration ago. The very US military assistance that Trump froze is the same that President Barack Obama refused to provide during his last years in office. Obama feared, as The New York Times noted in 2015, that US weapons sent to Ukraine “would only escalate the bloodshed” in the Donbass and possibly “[end] up in the hands of thugs” (a likely reference to far-right Ukrainians, which proved prescient).

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“They” as in the FBI and CIA. “Ciaramella has just been hung out to dry by his sponsor, Rep. Adam Schiff in a desperate attempt to dissociate himself from the huggermugger within his House Intel Committee that preceded the falsely blown whistle.”

How Far Will They Go? (Kunstler)

The CIA and the FBI are in a fight for their lives now. The evidence shows pretty clearly that these rogue agencies conducted all the election “meddling” of 2016 and that the RussiaGate hysteria was an engineered smokescreen to hide their tracks and cover their asses when the certainty of a Hillary election triumph nauseatingly resolved unfavorably in the cold, gray dawn of 11/8/16. Despite the chatter about an “insurance policy,” they were quite unprepared for the exposure that loomed. They also badly underestimated the resources of what is now a very sturdy alt.media which has managed to weave the real story of what happened over the past three years into a shocking tapestry of massive subversion and treachery.

A big part of the true story is how amazingly incompetent the RussiaGate coupsters were. Did they really believe they could conceal the ties between their agencies and Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS operation, and its feckless front man, British ex-spy Christopher Steele, and the whole outfit’s connection to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee? Did they suppose they could pass off Stephan Halper and Joseph Mifsud as Russian agents when the two have consorted with US and allied intelligence for decades? The US Department of Defense even holds Mr. Halper’s million-dollar pay stubs and Mr. Mifsud appears in photographs of every Western cloak-and-dagger cocktail get-together of spook officialdom for the last twenty years.

The latest, and most desperate gambit is the UkraineGate whistleblower, a CIA employee blatantly playing errand-boy for his mentor John Brennan and deeply tied to 2016 election shenanigans emanating from Ukraine, featuring his former employer, ex-Vice-President Joe Biden. This shadowy figure, pegged as Eric Ciaramella, 33, may shortly find himself in a grand jury chamber answering for his role in this charade. Ciaramella has just been hung out to dry by his sponsor, Rep. Adam Schiff in a desperate attempt to dissociate himself from the huggermugger within his House Intel Committee that preceded the falsely blown whistle.

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It’s all the media talk about, but it’s still not a winner. That says a lot.

Nobody Talks About Impeachment on the Campaign Trail (Atl.)

of the 13 candidates there, just one mentioned impeachment: Tom Steyer, the billionaire activist whose political group and TV ads over the past two years have helped mainstream the idea of removing the president. Steyer argues that his long record of being outspoken in favor of impeachment is a key part of why people should support his candidacy, yet his mention of impeachment Friday night got a warm but not overwhelming response. For the rest, despite all their Trump bashing that the crowd ate up—starting with Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price’s introduction with “Let’s beat Donald Trump and send his ass back to Russia!”—impeachment was absent.

Was that the right call? I asked Janet Petersen, the leader of the Democrats in the state Senate, at the end of the night. “Probably,” she said. Iowans care about impeachment, and are paying attention to the national-security and economic-security issues at stake, “but that doesn’t prevent them from paying attention to things that matter, like paying for preschool.” It’s not that the candidates are going easy on the president. They appear to hate Trump and everything he stands for. The most cynical view is that candidates are making a brute-force political calculation, allowing others to speak up so that they can avoid risk. But Pete Buttigieg claims at least part of what’s going on is that candidates, like everyone else, can’t quite wrap their head around everything happening.

“On some level, you could say that the stakes right now, the level of crisis we’re facing, is so great that it’s almost impossible to speak to it through a traditional political process like a campaign,” Buttigieg told me in South Carolina last weekend. “In many ways, we may yet be underreacting.” Of course, part of being a politician is giving people what they want to hear. The candidates aren’t just guessing that they shouldn’t be talking about impeachment—they have teams of advisers and internal polls and focus groups and months of personal interactions that are telling them the topic gets them nowhere, for the same reasons they didn’t talk much on the trail about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report before or after a redacted version of it was released in the spring.

Even Andrew Yang—the candidate who finishes his rallies chanting, “Not left, not right—forward!”—on Friday afternoon threw in this line as he spoke to the crowd in Iowa: “If this is a game of rock-paper-scissors, Donald Trump is the scissors and I am the fucking rock!” But a few minutes later, marching across a bridge in front of hundreds of supporters chanting his name and his slogans, Yang told me that voters don’t want to hear about impeachment, and that he doesn’t think there’s much point in talking about it anyway. “We have to face facts, where not a single Republican crossed the aisle to support the impeachment vote,” he said. “That would certainly suggest that impeachment’s going to run aground in the Senate and this is going to wind up Donald Trump claiming innocence and vindication.”

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We need a special counsel.

Democratic Party, Not Russia, Has Delegitimized the Democratic Process (Vos)

Establishment Democrats and those who amplify them continue to project blame for the public’s doubt in the U.S. election process onto outside influence, despite the clear history of the party’s subversion of election integrity. The total inability of the Democratic Party establishment’s willingness to address even one of these critical failures does not give reason to hope that the nomination process in 2020 will be any less pre-ordained. The Democratic Party’s bias against Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential nomination, followed by the DNC defense counsel doubling down on its right to rig the race during the fraud lawsuit brought against the DNC, as well as the irregularities in the races between former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Tim Canova, indicate a fatal breakdown of the U.S. democratic process spearheaded by the Democratic Party establishment.


Influences transcending the DNC add to concerns regarding the integrity of the democratic process that have nothing to do with Russia, but which will also likely impact outcomes in 2020. The content of the DNC and Podesta emails published by WikiLeaks demonstrated that the DNC acted in favor of Hillary Clinton in the lead up to the 2016 Democratic primary. The emails also revealed corporate media reporters acting as surrogates of the DNC and its pro-Clinton agenda, going so far as to promote Donald Trump during the GOP primary process as a preferred “pied-piper candidate.” One cannot assume that similar evidence will be presented to the public in 2020, making it more important than ever to take stock of the unique lessons handed down to us by the 2016 race.

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How are they ever going to allow the thing to fly, and who will volunteer to be crew or passengers?

Ryanair Says ‘Real Risk’ It Will Have No MAX Aircraft To Fly Next Summer (R.)

Ryanair on Monday said there was a real risk that it would have no Boeing 737 MAX aircraft flying next summer if there are additional delays to the return to service of the grounded aircraft. “We have now reduced our expectation of 30 MAX aircraft being delivered to us in advance of peak summer 2020 down to 20 aircraft and there is a real risk of none,” Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said in a video presentation. “We have already reduced our passenger growth forecast … we may have to cut that again but frankly there is no point in keeping on changing the number until we get more certainty,” he said.

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“In July it was reported that Ryanair was renaming the Max as the “8200”.

Ryanair Says Its Boeing 737 MAX Jets Will Not Fly Before Summer 2020 (Ind.)

Ryanair will not fly the Boeing 737 Max before next summer, the airline’s chief executive has predicted. Europe’s biggest budget airline has 210 Max aircraft on order in a unique, high-capacity configuration, called the Max 200. Deliveries were due to begin in April 2019. But the plane has been grounded worldwide since March following two fatal accidents – both blamed on an anti-stall system known as MCAS. While Boeing has repeatedly insisted that the system will be made safe and the 737 Max will be flying by the end of 2019, Michael O’Leary said his airline will not operate them for a further six months.


He told the BBC Today programme: “Frankly we’ve now accepted they will be delayed beyond next March. “We now don’t expect to get them until summer next year, and then only 20 of them rather than the original 60 that Boeing had contracted to deliver. It’s a big challenge for us.” In July it was reported that Ryanair was renaming the Max as the “8200”. But the Ryanair boss said: “It’s a very safe aircraft, it’s a great aircraft, it has 4 per cent more seats, it operates with 16 per cent less fuel consumption and will enable us to offer lower fares at lower cost than ever.”

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Not an entirely new story, but important anyway. And attention for Assange in Australian media is long overdue.

FBI Tried To Make Iceland A Complicit Ally In Framing Julian Assange (Ind.au)

A minister of the interior wakes up one summer morning and finds out that a plane full of United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents has landed in his country, aiming to carry out police investigations without proper permission from the authorities. How many statesmen would have the strength to say, “No, you can’t do this”, to the United States? Former Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson, in fact, did this — and for the sake of investigative journalism. He understood that something wrong with the sudden FBI mission in Reykjavik, and that this had to do with the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. Initially, it looked like a simple matter of collaboration against cyber attacks.

Mr Jónasson told IA: “In June 2011 I was told that U.S. intelligence had discovered that hackers were preparing an attack on Icelandic governmental institutions. I was asked if we wanted to cooperate with the Americans.” Of course, Iceland was interested in hearing what they had to say and then the idea was to evaluate whether to cooperate and to what extent. Icelandic police officers went to Washington and American officers visited Iceland in order to map the problem out, but no proof of possible attacks emerged. However, in August 2011, a plane full of FBI agents accompanied by prosecutors landed in Reykjavik. Jónasson says: “When I heard of this, I asked my colleagues in the Ministry if, unknown to me, the FBI had been given permission to carry out police work in Iceland. I certainly had not given such a permission and the decision should anyway have been on my table.”

He then spoke with the Chief of Icelandic Police, having been told a meeting had been planned. Jónasson explains: “I knew that the FBI were on the way to Police Headquarters with the intention to map out co-operation linked to the WikiLeaks issue. I requested that no such meeting should take place and that there should be no further contact whatsoever.” The FBI agents were not permitted to carry out any police work in Iceland. But this was not only about defending Iceland´s sovereignty. According to Mr Jónasson, during this process, he had been informed that the FBI showed up in Reykjavik with the aim of framing Julian Assange. While it would be logical to ask for some kind of documentary proof to this effect, Jónasson is clear:

“I am the proof. When I say they came here to frame Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, I don’t say this lightly, I am selecting my words very carefully, I know what I am talking about. I am stating this in accordance with my word of honour that I knew this was the case. I have testified to this effect in front of a parliamentary committee and in the parliamentary assembly, and my words have not been contested”>

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Coverage of Greta Thunberg’s Asperger is all positive. How about Assange?

Julian Assange: The Lynching of the Charismatic Geek (GR)

Once upon a time, there was a very bright little boy in Australia who grew up as stranger to conventional society. His mother went from husband to husband, from theater to cult, always on the eccentric margins, while the boy’s natural father was left behind. As an adolescent he found his own world in cyberspace, which offered a field for his insatiable curiosity. As he learned about that great world out there and its secrets, he developed his very own rigorous ethic: his vocation was to search for true facts and share them with the public. Living outside the usual social codes, his moral compass was uninhibited by the usual niceties. Truth was truth, deception was wrong, lies on the part of the powerful should be exposed.

The original sin of Julian Assange was the same as that of Galileo Galilei. Galileo sinned by revealing to the people things the elite already knew or at least surmised, but wished to keep secret from the masses, in order not to shake the people’s faith in the official truth. Assange did the same thing with the formation of WikiLeaks The official version of reality was challenged. All lies should be exposed. By far the most sensitive targets of his wide-ranging reality revelations were the lies, the hypocrisy, the inhuman brutality of the United States in its wars of global hegemony. To Assange, these things were simply wrong. At first, WikiLeaks attracted a great deal of popular attention and even acclaim. Julian Assange became famous. He was a geek, but he didn’t look like a geek.

Tall, handsome, striking with his nearly white hair, Julian was something strange: a charismatic geek. He arrived in Sweden with near superstar status. Swedish women contrived to get him into their beds. They bragged about having sex with Julian: he was a trophy lover. But the charismatic geek didn’t know the social codes of the peculiar Swedish forms of virtuous promiscuity. This lacuna was exploited by his enemies in extravagantly unpredictable ways. Julian Assange tried to straighten out what seemed to be a serious misunderstanding before leaving Sweden. But the Swedish side failed to make matters clear and he left for London. In London, he was quickly taken up by the radical chic branch of the British upper class, the champagne and caviar humanitarians. The naïve charismatic geek who didn’t know the social codes no doubt thought he was among friends. He didn’t belong to any political or social movement in the UK, he depended on the beautiful people who for a time found him an interesting outsider, one of their latest causes.

Julian Assange may have been socially naïve, but he very acutely perceived what the imperial powers were working up against him. The totally unjustifiable demand for extradition to Sweden for questioning – unjustifiable because they had declined to question him while he was there and then declined to question him in the UK – appeared to Julian to be an obvious device to enable Sweden to extradite him to the United States, given the total obedience of post-Olof Palme Sweden to the wishes of Washington. Others didn’t see this so clearly, except for the excellent President of Ecuador at the time, Rafael Correa. Correa offered Assange asylum in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange, unconventional, negligent of the codes, but with a clear view of the danger stalking him, jumped the bail set up for him and moved into the embassy.

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Sep 302017
 
 September 30, 2017  Posted by at 8:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Boulevard de Clichy, Paris 1887

 

Trump’s 1,500-word Airball (Stockman)
Puerto Rico Supply Failure Stops Food, Water Reaching Desperate Residents (G.)
Abenomics: Bat-Shit-Crazy (Muir)
Congress Can Give Every American A Pony (Kelton)
Homeowners Face Double Whammy Of Interest Rates And Slumped Market (Ind.)
ECB Wants to Weed Out Smaller Banks to Cut Competition (DQ)
VW’s Dieselgate Bill Hits $30 Billion After Another Charge (R.)
Could Ryanair’s ‘Pilotgate’ Spell The End Of Cheap Flights? (Ind.)
Citizens United No More (Jim Kunstler)
The Slimy Business of Russia-gate (Robert Parry)
Catalan Government Says Millions Will Turn Out For Referendum (G.)
Aid Programs Are Designed To Keep Countries In Poverty (Ren.)

 

 

The White House should consult with Stockman. He’s been there. This is going nowhere good. “..after nine months of work these geniuses have come up with $6 trillion of easy to propose tax rate cuts and virtually no plan whatsoever to pay for them..”

Trump’s 1,500-word Airball (Stockman)

The Donald’s strong point isn’t his grasp of policy detail. The nine page bare-bones outline released yesterday is nothing more than an aspirational air ball that lacks virtually every policy detail needed to assess its impact and to price out its cost. It promises to shrink the code to three rates (12%, 25%, 35%), for example. But it doesn’t say boo about where the brackets begin and end compared to current law. Needless to say, a taxpayer with $50,000 of taxable income who is on the 15% marginal bracket today might wish to know whether he is in the new 12% or the new 25% bracket proposed by the White House. After all, it could change his tax bill by several thousand dollars. Similarly, to help pay for upwards of $6 trillion of tax cuts over the next decade, it proposes to eliminate “most” itemized deductions. These “payfors” would in theory increase revenues by about $3 trillion.

Then again, the plan explicitly excludes the two biggest deductions – the charitable deduction and mortgage deduction – which together account for $1.3 trillion of that total. And it doesn’t name a single item among the hundreds of deductions that account for another $1 trillion of current law revenue loss. They’re just mystery meat to be stealthily extracted during committee meetings after Congressman have run the gauntlet of lobbyists prowling the halls outside. Stated differently, after nine months of work these geniuses have come up with $6 trillion of easy to propose tax rate cuts and virtually no plan whatsoever to pay for them. In fact, this latest nine pages of puffery contains just 1,500 words – including obligatory quotes from the Donald and page titles. I hate to get picky, but the Donald’s team has been on the job for 250 days now. And all they came up with amounts to just three words each per day in office.

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Blaming Puerto Rico on Trump as well is cheap and easy. The Jones Act must go, but Congress has left it intact. So have successive presidents.

Puerto Rico Supply Failure Stops Food, Water Reaching Desperate Residents (G.)

Nine days after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, thousands of containers of food, water and medicine are stuck in ports and warehouses on the island, as logistical problems continue to stop desperately needed supplies from reaching millions of Americans. In many parts of the US territory, food, medicine and drinking water are scarce, and amid a growing humanitarian crisis, local researchers have suggested the death toll could be much higher than the 16 deaths reported so far. On Thursday, the White House temporarily waived the Jones Act – the 1920 legislation which had prevented foreign ships from delivering supplies from US ports to Puerto Rico. But the breakdown of the island’s supply chain has left many concerned that the move will not be enough to get goods to the people who need them most.

Yennifer Álvarez, a spokesperson for Puerto Rico’s governor, said about 9,500 shipping containers filled with cargo were at the port of San Juan on Thursday morning as the government struggled to find truckers who could deliver supplies across the island. The delivery issue is aggravated by an intense shortage of gasoline. About half of Puerto Rico’s 1,100 gas stations are out of action; at those that are open, people have been queuing for up to nine hours to buy fuel for vehicles or the generators which have become essential since the island is still without electricity. Rafael Álvarez, vice-president of Méndez & Co, a food distribution company based in San Juan, said he was worried that if fuel was not efficiently distributed soon, people might get desperate. “I really hope things are worse today than they are going to be tomorrow,” he said.

“People are getting very anxious with the heat and the lack of easily accessible drinkable water.” Because of Puerto Rico’s crippling economic crisis, few people had the money to afford more than a week’s worth of emergency supplies, said Alvarez. But if fuel was readily available, Alvarez said, goods could be efficiently delivered around the island and generators would reliably function, resolving many of the territory’s most pressing concerns. Alvarez’s warehouse is at 100% capacity with shelf-stable products including cereals, granola bars and pasta sauce. Yet although the goods are ready to move to local grocery stores, only around 25% of his normal distribution fleet is available, because of the shortage of fuel or damage inflicted by the storm. And few stores are open because they need diesel to power their generators.

“The food industry is really intact except for diesel fuel,” Alvarez said. “We need diesel fuel to operate.” Federal and state officials have said there is enough diesel on the island, but it too has been difficult to distribute. “You know, the gas and fuel issue is not a matter of how much do we have – it’s a matter of how we can distribute it,” Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, told NPR.

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“And just like that, Abeconomics was born. Since then the Bank of Japan balance sheet has swelled from 30% of GDP to 95%!”

Abenomics: Bat-Shit-Crazy (Muir)

Between 1999 and 2012, the Bank of Japan increased their balance sheet threefold, raising it from 10% of GDP to 30%. Many a pundit screamed about Japan’s irresponsible monetary policy, but then the 2008 Great Financial Crisis hit, and suddenly the BoJ’s policies didn’t seem that extreme. The Fed embarked on a massive quantitative easing program, followed by most of the rest of the developed world. Next thing you knew, the Bank of Japan’s bloated balance sheet seemed like just one of many. Post GFC, the rate at which these other Central Banks were expanding their balance sheet put extreme stress on the Japanese economy as the BoJ’s relatively tame quantitative easing policy was overwhelmed by the rest of the world. Global deflation was exported to Japan. And just when things couldn’t get worse, Japan was hit by the tsunami/nuclear disaster.

Paradoxically, this caused a spike in the USDJPY rate down to 75, with the Yen hitting an all-time high value against the US dollar. This proved the final straw for the Japanese people, and Prime Minister Abe was elected on a platform of breaking the back of deflation through innovative extreme policies. And just like that, Abeconomics was born. Since then the Bank of Japan balance sheet has swelled from 30% of GDP to 95%! It’s too easy to take this for granted. The blue tickets just seem to keep coming, and coming, and coming. Pretty soon, it all seems so normal. But it isn’t. Not even close. This is bat-shit-crazy monetary expansion. Forget about arguing whether it is appropriate or needed. It doesn’t matter. The markets don’t give a hoot about your opinion. Nor does the BoJ. Heck, they barely even care what Yellen or Trump thinks.

They are going to do what they think best for their people, and that means inflating the shit out of their currency. What I find amazing is how complacent the markets have become about all of this. Sure when Abeconomics first came to pass there were tons of worrisome hedge fund presentations about the inevitability of disaster. But since then Kyle Bass and all the other Japan skeptics have moved on to China, or to the most recent hedge-fund-herding-theme-of-the-day. Yet at one point a few years back a reporter asked Kyle if he could put on one trade for the next decade and couldn’t touch it, what would it be? Bass answered gold denominated in Yen. I have this sneaking suspicion our favourite Texas hedge fund manager’s call was way more prescient than even he imagines (I just hope Kyle hasn’t taken it all off to bet on the China collapse.)

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At the very least the topic warrants a serious discussion. Just saying Stephanie’s crazy is not that.

Congress Can Give Every American A Pony (Kelton)

In her new book, Hillary Clinton mocks Sen. Bernie Sanders’ populist agenda. BERNIE: I think America should get a pony. HILLARY: How will you pay for the pony? You might find Clinton’s question intuitively reasonable. If you promise to fight for big things, then you should draw a detailed road map to the treasure chest that will fund them all. After all, the money has to come from somewhere. But what if I told you that your intuition was all wrong? What if it turned out that the government really could give everyone a pony — and a chicken and car? That is, so long as we could breed enough ponies and chickens and manufacture enough cars. The cars and the food have to come from somewhere; the money is conjured out of thin air, more or less.

When Clinton asks where the money will come from, she’s ordering the government’s fiscal operations like so:
1. Government collects money from us in the form of taxes (T)
2. Government figures out how much it wants to spend and then borrows any additional money it needs (B)
3. Government spends the money it has collected (S)

Since none of us learned any differently, most of us accept the idea that taxes and borrowing precede spending – TABS. And because the government has to “find the money” before it can spend in this sequence, everyone wants to know who’s picking up the tab. There’s just one catch. The big secret in Washington is that the federal government abandoned TABS back when it dropped the gold standard. Here’s how things really work:
1. Congress approves the spending and the money gets spent (S)
2. Government collects some of that money in the form of taxes (T)
3. If 1 > 2, Treasury allows the difference to be swapped for government bonds (B)

In other words, the government spends money and then collects some money back as people pay their taxes and buy bonds. Spending precedes taxing and borrowing – STAB. It takes votes and vocal interest groups, not tax revenue, to start the ball rolling. If you need proof that STAB is the law of the land, look no further than the Senate’s recent $700-billion defense authorization. Without raising a dime from the rest of us, the Senate quietly approved an $80-billion annual increase, or more than enough money to make 4-year public colleges and universities tuition-free. And just where did the government get the money to do that? It authorized it into existence.

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The future inside all housing bubbles. And there are more of those than anyone acknowledges.

Homeowners Face Double Whammy Of Interest Rates And Slumped Market (Ind.)

Homeowners are facing a twin blow of increased mortgage payments and a slowing housing market, with London prices falling for the first time in eight years. Across the UK the average price of a home increased at its slowest slowest pace in more than four years in September, Nationwide said on Friday. The news came shortly after Bank of England governor Mark Carney gave his clearest signal yet that the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee would raise its benchmark interest rate from 0.25%. “What we have said, that if the economy continues on the track that it’s been on, and all indications are that it is, in the relatively near term we can expect that interest rates would increase somewhat,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, on Friday. A rate hike would mean more expensive home loans for homeowners who have grown used to ultra-low interest rates.

The MPC meets on 2 November to make its decision and a rate rise would be the first in more than a decade. Any increase is expected to be small but would place additional strain on households already stretched amid higher inflation and weak wage growth. A 0.25% rise would mean a person with a £200,000 mortgage on the average UK variable rate of 4.6% would pay an extra £28.72 per month. An increase of 1% would add an extra £117.10 to payments, though this scenario is not expected to become a reality in the short term. Higher payments could prove painful for homeowners, especially as the housing market begins to stutter. London house prices fell 0.6% in the year to September, Nationwide said – the first annual drop since the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009. It was the first time since 2005 that London was the worst performing region in the country.

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Centralization is dead.

ECB Wants to Weed Out Smaller Banks to Cut Competition (DQ)

The biggest financial problem in Europe these days is that it is “over-banked,” according to Daniele Nouy, Chair of the ECB’s Supervisory Board, and thus in charge of the Single Supervisory Mechanism, which regulates the largest 130 European banks. In a speech bizarrely titled “Too Much of a Good Thing: The Need for Consolidation in the European Banking Sector,” Nouy blamed fierce competition for squeezing profits for many of Europe’s banks while steadfastly ignoring the much larger role in the profit squeeze played by the ECB’s negative-interest-rate policy. ECB President Mario Draghi agrees. The profits of the largest 10 European banks rose by only 5% in the first half of 2017, compared to 19% for the US banks, which benefited from higher interest rates, stronger capital markets, better capitalization, and larger market shares, according to a new report by Ernst and Young.

In its latest annual health check of European banks, Bain Capital found that 31 institutions, or 28% of the 111 financial institutions they assessed, are in the “high-risk” quadrant. Location seemed to be a far more important factor than size. Banks in Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain have become “a breed apart in continued distress,” the report said, adding: “Every single bank that has failed in the past decade and for which there are financial statements available…fell into this quadrant before their demise.” Scandinavian, Belgian, and Dutch banks figured prominently among the 38% of the banks that attained the strongest position, outperforming on virtually all financial indicators. By contrast, many German and UK banks fell into the second category, that of “weaker business model.” In fact, virtually all the large German names fit into this category as their profitability and efficiency languish at levels comparable with their Greek counterparts.

They include Deutsche Bank, which in the midst of its third revamp in so many years, just reported its worst revenues in three and a half years. Deutsche Bank is far from alone. The dismal reality is that nine long years after the global financial crisis began, many systemic European banks pose as big a risk to the financial system, if not bigger, as they did back then. The only major difference is that now they’re hooked on Draghi’s myriad monetary welfare schemes (LTRO, TLTRO I and II…), which have managed to keep them afloat even as the ECB’s monetary policy puts a massive squeeze on their lending margins by driving interest rates to unfathomably low levels. But rather than raising interest rates — a scary thought given how major Eurozone economies like Italy and Spain have come to depend on QE to keep servicing their public debt — the ECB plans to reduce competition in the banking sector by weeding out smaller banks.

It’s a process that is already well under way, as Nouy explained in her speech: “Since 2008, the number of banks in the euro area has declined by about 20%, to around 5,000. And the number of bank employees has fallen by about 300,000, to 1.9 million. Total assets of the euro area banking sector peaked in 2012 at about 340% of GDP. Since then, they have fallen back to about 280% of GDP.” But this is not about shrinking the size of the banking sector; it’s about shrinking the number of players within it and in the process creating trans-European banking giants. To achieve that goal, all Europe needs are “brave banks” that are willing to conquer new territory: “Cross-border mergers would do more than just help the banking sector to shrink. They would also deepen integration. And this would take us closer to our goal of a truly European banking sector.”

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Time for Merkel to stop cozying up to carmakers.

VW’s Dieselgate Bill Hits $30 Billion After Another Charge (R.)

Volkswagenis taking another $3 billion charge to fix diesel engines in the United States, lifting the total bill for its emissions test cheating scandal to around $30 billion. Shares in the German carmaker fell as much as 3% on Friday, as traders and analysts expressed dismay the company was still booking charges two years after the scandal broke. “This is yet another unexpected and unwelcome announcement from VW, not only from an earnings and cash flow perspective but also with respect to the credibility of management,” said Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst. Europe’s biggest automaker admitted in September 2015 it had used illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel emissions tests, sparking the biggest business crisis in its 80 year history. Before Friday, it had set aside 22.6 billion euros ($26.7 billion) to cover costs such as fines and vehicle refits.

On Friday, it said hardware fixes were proving tougher than expected, as it booked an additional 2.5 billion euro provision. “We have to do more with the hardware,” a VW spokesman said, adding U.S. customers were having to wait longer for their cars to be repaired. The news relates to the program to buy back or fix up to 475,000 2 liter diesel cars. In Europe, where only a software update is required for the 8.5 million affected cars, besides a minor component integration for about 3 million of those, fixes are running smoothly, the spokesman added. The additional provision will be reflected in third-quarter results due on Oct. 27, VW said. Ellinghorst, who has an “outperform” rating on VW shares, expects the company to report third-quarter group earnings before tax and interest of €4.04 billion. “You have to ask if this is a bottomless pit,” said one Frankfurt-based trader of the U.S. charges.

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Something needs to stop it.

Could Ryanair’s ‘Pilotgate’ Spell The End Of Cheap Flights? (Ind.)

Ryanair has apologised to 800,000 passengers for cancelling their flights because of a pilot shortage, and then misleading them about their rights. But an obligation to meet travellers’ out-of-pocket expenses has raised fears that airlines’ costs – and fares – could soar because of demands for recompense. Airlines who cancel flights appear to have an open-ended liability for out-of-pocket expenses, which could include anything from tickets for an FC Barcelona Champions’ League football match to lost wages. The payments are additional to EU requirements to cover hotel rooms and meals connected with flight disruption. Costs could feed through to more expensive tickets – which, with supply reduced because of mass cancellations by Ryanair, are already rising.

[..] The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had demanded a statement from Ryanair explaining its obligations under European passengers’ rights rules. The airline complied shortly before the 5pm deadline. The statement explains in unprecedented detail the options open to passengers whose flights are cancelled: a Ryanair flight, if one is available on the same route on the same or next day; a Ryanair flight from a nearby airport; a flight on one of Ryanair’s seven “disruption partner airlines”, including easyJet, Jet2, Aer Lingus and Norwegian; or “comparable alternative transport” by air, rail or road. Europe’s biggest budget airline also promises to “reimburse any reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred by customers as a result of these flight cancellations”.

Passengers who have already accepted a refund or alternative Ryanair flight are able to reconsider, while those who have booked on a rival airline can claim the difference in fare paid. The improved offer to passengers could double Ryanair’s previous estimate of €50m in extra costs because of the debacle. This represents less than 5% of its expected full-year profit. But the obligation to refund “any reasonable out-of-pocket expenses” could add significantly more. “This could open the floodgates to claims,” said one senior aviation executive.

[..] The move came two weeks after Ryanair began to cancel hundreds of flights at very short notice, having “messed up” rostering of pilots. It initially cancelled a tranche of 2,100 departures until the end of October, saying that its winter programme would be unaffected. But on 27 September Ryanair said it would ground 25 of its jets this winter – representing one-16th of its fleet – and cut 18,000 flights from the schedules. By giving more than two weeks’ notice of cancellations, the airline avoided the obligation to pay cash compensation. Affected passengers were emailed with two options: a refund, or re-booking on a different Ryanair flight. The option to fly on a rival airline at Ryanair’s expense was not mentioned – an omission that infuriated the CAA’s chief executive, Andrew Haines.

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“..Okefenokee Swamp of identity politics and Russia paranoia..”

Citizens United No More (Jim Kunstler)

I have an idea for the political party out of power, the Democrats, sunk in its special Okefenokee Swamp of identity politics and Russia paranoia: make an effort to legislate the Citizens United calamity out of existence. Who knows, a handful of Republicans may be shamed into going along with it. [..] corporations have not always been what they are deemed to be today. They evolved with the increasingly complex activities of industrial economies. Along the way — in Great Britain first, actually — they were deemed to exist as the equivalent of legal persons, to establish that the liabilities of the company were separate and distinct from those of its owners. In the USA, forming a corporation usually required an act of legislation until the late 19th century.

After that, they merely had to register with the states. Then congress had to sort out the additional problems of giant “trusts” and holding companies (hence, anti-trust laws, now generally ignored). In short, the definition of what a corporation is and what it has a right to do is in a pretty constant state of change as economies evolve. [..] This homework assignment should be given to the Democratic members of congress, since they are otherwise preoccupied only with hunting for Russian gremlins and discovering new sexual abnormalities to protect and defend.

The crux of the argument is that corporations cannot be said to be entirely and altogether the equivalent of persons for all legal purposes. In law, corporations have duties, obligations, and responsibilities to their shareholders first, and only after that to the public interest or the common good, and only then by pretty strict legal prescription. It may be assumed that the interests of corporations and their shareholders are in opposition to, and in conflict with, the public interest. And insofar as elections are fundamentally matters of the public interest, corporations must be prohibited from efforts to influence the outcome of elections.

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“.. we are now in a phase of Russia-gate in which NGO “scholars” produce deeply biased reports and their nonsense is treated as front-page news..”

The Slimy Business of Russia-gate (Robert Parry)

The “Field of Dreams” slogan for America’s NGOs should be: “If you pay for it, we will come.” And right now, tens of millions of dollars are flowing to non-governmental organizations if they will buttress the thesis of Russian “meddling” in the U.S. democratic process no matter how sloppy the “research” or how absurd the “findings.” And, if you think the pillars of the U.S. mainstream media – The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and others – will apply some quality controls, you haven’t been paying attention for the past year or so. The MSM is just as unethical as the NGOs are. So, we are now in a phase of Russia-gate in which NGO “scholars” produce deeply biased reports and their nonsense is treated as front-page news and items for serious discussion across the MSM.

Yet, there’s even an implicit confession about how pathetic some of this “scholarship” is in the hazy phrasing that gets applied to the “findings,” although the weasel words will slip past most unsuspecting Americans and will be dropped for more definitive language when the narrative is summarized in the next day’s newspaper or in a cable-news “crawl.” For example, a Times front-page story on Thursday reported that “a network of Twitter accounts suspected of links to Russia seized on both sides of the [NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem] issue with hashtags, such as #boycottnfl, #standforouranthem and #takeaknee.” The story, which fits neatly into the current U.S. propaganda meme that the Russian government somehow is undermining American democracy by stirring up dissent inside the U.S., quickly spread to other news outlets and became the latest “proof” of a Russian “war” against America.

However, before we empty the nuclear silos and exterminate life on the planet, we might take a second to look at the Times phrasing: “a network of Twitter accounts suspected of links to Russia.” The vague wording doesn’t even say the Russian government was involved but rather presents an unsupported claim that some Twitter accounts are “suspected” of being part of some “network” and that this “network” may have some ill-defined connection – or “links” – to “Russia,” a country of 144 million people. It’s like the old game of “six degrees of separation” from Kevin Bacon. Yes, perhaps we are all “linked” to Kevin Bacon somehow but that doesn’t prove that we know Kevin Bacon or are part of a Kevin Bacon “network” that is executing a grand conspiracy to sow discontent by taking opposite sides of issues and then tweeting.

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What will Barcelona look like on Monday morning?

Catalan Government Says Millions Will Turn Out For Referendum (G.)

The Catalan government has laid out its plans for the referendum on independence from Spain, claiming that more than 7,200 people will staff 2,315 polling stations across the region to stage a vote that has triggered the country’s worst territorial crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago. On Friday afternoon, the pro-independence regional government unveiled plastic ballot boxes and predicted that 60% of Catalonia’s 5.3 million eligible voters would head to the polls on Sunday in defiance of the Spanish government, the police and the courts. “Catalans will be able to vote,” said the region’s vice-president, Oriol Junqueras. “Even if someone attacks a polling station, Catalans will still be able to vote.” Junqueras gave no further details but called on people to behave responsibly and to ignore the “provocations of those who want to stop the vote”.

His words were echoed by the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who told Reuters: “I don’t believe there will be anyone who will use violence or who will want to provoke violence that will tarnish the irreproachable image of the Catalan independence movement as pacifist.” On Friday afternoon, a large convoy of tractors driven by Catalan farmers and flying independence flags rolled into Barcelona to show support for the vote and to protest against moves to halt it. Both the Spanish government and the country’s constitutional court have declared the vote illegal. Over the past 10 days, the authorities have stepped up their efforts to stop the referendum, arresting 14 senior Catalan government officials, shutting down referendum websites, and seizing millions of ballot papers. Spain’s interior ministry has deployed thousands of extra police officers to the region and the infrastructure ministry announced on Friday that the airspace over Barcelona would be closed to helicopters and light aircraft until Monday.

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Nothing new.

Aid Programs Are Designed To Keep Countries In Poverty (Ren.)

The income gap between rich countries and poor countries is not diminishing. It has been increasing dramatically, and not only during colonialism. Since the 1960s, the income gap between north and south has tripled. “There’s something fundamentally wrong and it won’t be changed with a bit of aid here in there,” Hickel says. “We need to fundamentally restructure the global economy and make it fair.” Hickel’s central thesis is that there is nothing natural about poverty. His book examines structurally determined behaviour, designed in fact, to deliver the poverty outcomes we witness around the world. “One of the dominant understandings out there that I seek to question in the book is the idea that rich countries are giving aid to poor countries in any meaningful quantity,” he says.

“In fact there is a lot of aid given – it’s about $130 billion per year transferred from rich countries to poor countries. That’s an enormous amount of money.” Some of the money comes in the form of charity. A lot of it in the form of loans, with debt strings – and conditions – attached. “A lot of the aid that’s given comes with conditions attached that the recipients of the aid have to implement certain economic policies, or have to votes with the donor country in UN agreements and so on,” says Hickel. “There’s no free lunch.” “But even if we assume that there was a free lunch, that $130 billion dollars are really being transferred for free from rich countries the poor countries, even that is misleading because in fact vastly more than that amount flows in the opposite direction – from poor countries to rich countries – for all sorts of reasons.

“The biggest one is probably illicit financial flows, most of which are in the form of tax evasion by major multinational companies operating in the global south, headquartered often in rich countries that are effectively stealing wealth, their profits from global south countries and stashing them away in tax havens because of rules written by the WTO that make this practice possible.” The World Trade Organisation basically governs the rules of global trade, for the most part, centrally. It is a very anti-democratic institution, where the vast majority of bargaining power has long been in the hands of a handful of countries which get to determine rules that end up serving their interests. “That’s one of the reasons that we see these financial flows in such magnitude,” says Hickel.

“These financial flows outstrip the aid budget by a factor of 10. So for every dollar of aid that poor countries receive, they lose 10 dollars to multinational tax havens. Another one is debt service. Poor countries pay $200 billion per year in debt service to banks in rich countries. “And that’s just the interest payments on debts, many of which have been paid-off already many times over, some of which are accumulated by legitimate dictators. That’s a direct cash transfusion from from poor to rich. That outstrips the aid budget by a factor or two.”

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