Apr 222021
 
 April 22, 2021  Posted by at 8:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  50 Responses »


Giotto Lamentation 1306

 

Unvaccinated Worker Starts Outbreak In Mostly Vaccinated Nursing Home (NYT)
Mass Vaccination Sites Are Shutting Down Over ‘Decreased Demand’ (F.)
COVID Vaccine Blood Clot Risk Was Known, Ignored & Buried (Hudak)
Boris Johnson Says UK Will Have To ‘Learn To Live With Virus’ (RT)
The Covidian Cult – Part II (CJ Hopkins)
The Unraveling of the American Empire (Chris Hedges)
US Sanctions Only Make Russia’s Economy Even More Self-Sufficient (RT)
Putin Says Russia Developing High-Tech Nuclear & Laser Weapons (RT)
Prague Gives Moscow Ultimatum To Let Czech Diplomats Return (Y!)
Ukraine Encourages Western Allies To Kick Russia Out Of SWIFT (EurActiv)
Georgia & Ukraine Launch ‘Remarkable’ Attack On Academic Freedom (RT)
USPS ‘Covert Operations Program’ Monitors Americans’ Social Media Posts (Y!)
In Epic Hack, Signal Developer Turns Tables On Forensics Firm Cellebrite (AT)

 

 

 

 

Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi on blood clotting (full video below)

 

 

Sweden’s continuing success story.

 

 

If you can set off an outbreak where 90% is vaccinated, how can the answer be more vaccination and masks? Obviously, the vaccine doesn’t work as advertized.

And didn’t Pfizer-BioNTech say their contraption was 95% effective? Why then only 66% for these residents?

Note: The New York Times used the term “immunized” for the residents, but that doesn’t seem to be the same as “vaccinated”. Not anymore, at least.

Unvaccinated Worker Starts Outbreak In Mostly Vaccinated Nursing Home (NYT)

An unvaccinated health care worker set off a Covid-19 outbreak at a nursing home in Kentucky where the vast majority of residents had been vaccinated, leading to dozens of infections, including 22 cases among residents and employees who were already fully vaccinated, a new study reported Wednesday. Most of those who were infected with the coronavirus despite being vaccinated did not develop symptoms or require hospitalization, but one vaccinated individual, who was a resident of the nursing home, died, according to the study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Altogether, 26 facility residents were infected, including 18 who had been vaccinated, and 20 health care personnel were infected, including four who had been vaccinated. Two unvaccinated residents also died.

The report underscores the importance of vaccinating both nursing home residents and health care workers who go in and out of the sites, the authors said. While 90 percent of the 83 residents at the Kentucky nursing home had been vaccinated, only half of the 116 employees had been vaccinated when the outbreak was identified in March of this year. The study, released in tandem with one involving Chicago nursing homes, underscored the importance of maintaining measures like use of protective gear, infection control protocols and routine testing, no matter the level of vaccination rates. The rise of virus variants also has increased concerns. Resistance to vaccines has been steep among nursing home staffs nationwide, and the low acceptance rates of vaccination increase the likelihood of outbreaks in facilities, according to the authors, a team of investigators from the C.D.C. and Kentucky’s public health department.

“To protect skilled nursing facility residents, it is imperative that health care providers, as well as skilled nursing facility residents, be vaccinated,” the authors of the Kentucky study wrote. The outbreak involved a variant of the virus that has multiple mutations in the spike protein, of the kind that make the vaccines less effective. Vaccinated residents and health care workers at the Kentucky facility were less likely to be infected than those who had not been vaccinated, and they were far less likely to develop symptoms. The study estimated that the vaccine, identified as Pfizer-BioNTech, showed effectiveness of 66 percent for residents and 75.9 percent for employees, and were 86 percent to 87 percent effective at protecting against symptomatic disease.

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The video is hilarious. Fauci claims that Texas is doing so well without lockdown because Texans behave so much better than locked down Michiganians.

Other than that, he doesn’t answer Jordan’s question, but the chairman says he did anyway. “Your time is up.” It’s like comedy hour.

Mass Vaccination Sites Are Shutting Down Over ‘Decreased Demand’ (F.)

Mass vaccination sites across the U.S. have announced plans to shut down in recent days due to insufficient demand, even though all U.S. adults are now eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines. Palm Beach County, Florida, is shutting down three mass vaccination sites in favor of new mobile vaccination efforts, the Palm Beach Post reported Wednesday, after the sites were operating at only 50% capacity this week. Mass vaccination sites in Clarkesville, Georgia, and North Carolina will shut down by the end of May, officials announced this week, and Summit County, Ohio, canceled a planned mass vaccination clinic on April 27 citing “decreased demand.”

Several Texas mass vaccination sites in Williamson and Galveston counties are shutting down, and Galveston officials asked the state not to send the county any vaccine next week as the number of residents making vaccine appointments declines. Waukesha County, Wisconsin, will likely shut down its mass vaccine site to new first doses by the end of the week, as the county hits its target of 60% of eligible residents being vaccinated. Some vaccination locations have made plans to close before this week: Sites in Las Vegas and Cascade County, Montana, were announced to be shutting down last week, for instance, while Mercer County, Ohio, shuttered their drive-through mass vaccine clinic earlier in April.

Officials are reporting noticeable decreases in the number of people getting inoculated in areas where sites are not closing, including in Texas, Idaho, Missouri, Alabama, Maine and Maryland, where Gov. Larry Hogan predicted Wednesday the state would be shutting down mass vaccination sites “at some point soon.” 3.02 million. That’s the seven-day average of Covid-19 vaccines administered in the U.S. each day as of Wednesday, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data analyzed by the New York Times. That average has been steadily declining in recent days after peaking at approximately 3.3 million shots per day last week.

Jim Jordan Fauci

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Cerebral Venous Thrombosis: all of its symptoms seem to be identical to what we are told COVID-19 symptoms are.

COVID Vaccine Blood Clot Risk Was Known, Ignored & Buried (Hudak)

Joining us today is Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, here to discuss the ‘dangerous mRNA vaccines’ and how he and his organization warned about the blood clots (and much else now coming to pass) that we are now seeing from the COVID-19 injections, months before they began. He stresses that it is important that we come to understand what Cerebral Venous Thrombosis is, and why all of its symptoms seem to be identical to what we are told COVID-19 symptoms are.

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So much for the vaccine success.

All of a sudden dexamethasone pops up again. Ivermectin next?!

Boris Johnson Says UK Will Have To ‘Learn To Live With Virus’ (RT)

The UK will be hit by yet another wave of Covid infections later this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said as he revealed that the government was looking into treating people with tablets against the disease. “The majority of scientific opinion in this country is still firmly of the view that there will be another wave of Covid at some stage this year and so we must as far as possible learn to live with this disease,” he told a news briefing on Tuesday. The PM added that with record infection levels around the world, “we cannot delude ourselves that Covid has gone away.” He also said he saw nothing in the data to suggest the UK would have to deviate from its “cautious but irreversible” roadmap out of lockdown.


Johnson also announced the creation of a new antivirals taskforce to help with the search for new medicines and support their development in clinical trials in order to make them available by the autumn. He said the treatments could include a tablet that would stop people with Covid-19 becoming severely ill, or a pill to prevent someone contracting the virus from close contacts who are infected. The PM did not say if such treatments were currently being trialled. The UK was the first country to repurpose dexamethasone to treat Covid-19, Johnson said. The drug is usually used to treat severe allergies, skin conditions and inflammation.

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“..society has been transformed into something resembling an infectious disease ward, or an enormous hospital from which there is no escape.”

The Covidian Cult – Part II (CJ Hopkins)

How did we ever get to this point … to the point where, as I put it in The Covidian Cult, “instead of the cult existing as an island within the dominant culture, the cult has become the dominant culture, and those of us who have not joined the cult have become the isolated islands within it?” To understand this, one needs to understand how cults control the minds of their members, because totalitarian ideological movements operate more or less the same way, just on a much larger, societal scale. There is a wealth of research and knowledge on this subject (I mentioned Robert J. Lifton in my earlier essay), but, to keep things simple, I’ll just use Margaret Singer’s “Six Conditions of Mind Control” from her 1995 book, Cults in Our Midst, as a lens to view the Covidian Cult through.

Six Conditions of Mind Control

1. Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how she or he is being changed a step at a time. Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. Looking back, it is easy to see how people were conditioned, step by step, to accept the “New Normal” ideology. They were bombarded with terrifying propaganda, locked down, stripped of their civil rights, forced to wear medical-looking masks in public, to act out absurd “social-distancing” rituals, submit to constant “testing,” and all the rest of it. Anyone not complying with this behavioral-change program or challenging the veracity and rationality of the new ideology was demonized as a “conspiracy theorist,” a “Covid denier,” an “anti-vaxxer,” in essence, an enemy of the cult, like a “suppresive person” in the Church of Scientology.

2. Control the person’s social and/or physical environment; especially control the person’s time. For over a year now, the “New Normal” authorities have controlled the social/physical environment, and how New Normals spend their time, with lockdowns, social-distancing rituals, closure of “non-essential” businesses, omnipresent propaganda, isolation of the elderly, travel restrictions, mandatory mask-rules, protest bans, and now the segregation of the “Unvaccinated.” Basically, society has been transformed into something resembling an infectious disease ward, or an enormous hospital from which there is no escape. You’ve seen the photos of the happy New Normals dining out at restaurants, relaxing at the beach, jogging, attending school, and so on, going about their “normal” lives with their medical-looking masks and prophylactic face shields. What you’re looking at is the pathologization of society, the pathologization of everyday life, the physical (social) manifestation of a morbid obsession with disease and death.

3. Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person. What kind of person could feel more powerless than an obedient New Normal sitting at home, obsessively logging the “Covid death” count, sharing photos of his medical-looking mask and post-“vaccination” bandage on Facebook, as he waits for permission from the authorities to go outdoors, visit his family, kiss his lover, or shake hands with a colleague? The fact that in the Covidian Cult the traditional charismatic cult leader has been replaced by a menagerie of medical experts and government officials does not change the utter dependency and abject powerlessness of its members, who have been reduced to a state approaching infancy. This abject powerlessness is not experienced as a negative; on the contrary, it is proudly celebrated. Thus the mantra-like repetition of the “New Normal” platitude “Trust the Science!” by people who, if you try to show them the science, melt down completely and start jabbering aggressive nonsense at you to shut you up.

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“War, when it is waged to serve utopian absurdities [..] descends into a quagmire.”

“All we really make anymore are weapons. Once this is understood, perpetual war makes sense, at least for those who profit from it.”

The Unraveling of the American Empire (Chris Hedges)

America’s defeat in Afghanistan is one in a string of catastrophic military blunders that herald the death of the American empire. With the exception of the first Gulf War, fought largely by mechanized units in the open desert that did not — wisely — attempt to occupy Iraq, the United States political and military leadership has stumbled from one military debacle to another. Korea. Vietnam. Lebanon. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. The trajectory of military fiascos mirrors the sad finales of the Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Russian, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and Soviet empires. While each of these empires decayed with their own peculiarities, they all exhibited patterns of dissolution that characterize the American experiment.

Imperial ineptitude is matched by domestic ineptitude. The collapse of good government at home, with legislative, executive and judicial systems all seized by corporate power, ensures that the incompetent and the corrupt, those dedicated not to the national interest but to swelling the profits of the oligarchic elite, lead the country into a cul-de-sac. Rulers and military leaders, driven by venal self-interest, are often buffoonish characters in a grand comic operetta. How else to think of Allen Dulles, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Trump or the hapless Joe Biden? While their intellectual and moral vacuity is often darkly amusing, it is murderous and savage when directed towards their victims.

There is not a single case since 1941 when the coups, political assassinations, election fraud, black propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, U.S. sanctioned massacres, torture in global black sites, proxy wars or military interventions carried out by the United States resulted in the establishment of a democratic government. The two-decade-long wars in the Middle East, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, have only left in their wake one failed state after another. Yet, no one in the ruling class is held accountable.

War, when it is waged to serve utopian absurdities, such as implanting a client government in Baghdad that will flip the region, including Iran, into U.S. protectorates, or when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, descends into a quagmire. The massive allocation of money and resources to the U.S. military, which includes Biden’s request for $715 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, a $11.3 billion, or 1.6 percent increase, over 2021, is not in the end about national defense. The bloated military budget is designed, as Seymour Melman explained in his book, The Permanent War Economy, primarily to keep the American economy from collapsing. All we really make anymore are weapons. Once this is understood, perpetual war makes sense, at least for those who profit from it.

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For decades now.

US Sanctions Only Make Russia’s Economy Even More Self-Sufficient (RT)

As Washington threatens to impose more sanctions on Russia, analysts expect Moscow’s response to be the same as usual – speeding up the drive to make the nation’s economy more self-sufficient. “The Americans are saying: be careful or we could do more, but Russia is just going to continue down the path toward economic autarky,” the deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance in Washington, Elina Ribakova, told Bloomberg. The administration of US President Joe Biden on Sunday warned of “consequences” if opposition activist Alexey Navalny were to die in prison. The warning followed the introduction by Washington of new economic penalties over claims of Russian hacking and election interference. The measures include a ban on purchases of bonds on Russia’s primary market.

However, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Friday that the fundamentals of the Russian economy were unaffected by the move. “Macroeconomic stability is fully ensured,” Peskov said, “and the efficiency of our economic bloc is recognized internationally. We have no reason to doubt this state of affairs.” International rating agencies confirm that Russia is well positioned for a near-term market disruption because it has a high cash buffer and demand from local banks is robust, according to Fitch. Moody’s said on Monday that Russia’s financial reserves will allow the country to cope with the negative effects of the sanctions. Ratings agency S&P also noted that the sanctions will not have a significant impact on the replenishment of the Russian budget and will not undermine the stability of the country’s financial markets.

Experts point out that during the seven years of Western sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, the Russian government and central bank reduced the country’s exposure to dollars, shifted assets out of the US, and sold a smaller share of its debt to foreigners. Russia has been reshaping its international holdings, cutting the share of the US dollar in favor of other currencies and gold. The country’s foreign reserve holdings have been steadily growing in recent years, and amounted to $580.5 billion as of April 9. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the reserves surged by over $40 billion last year. The share of gold in Russia’s forex reserves jumped above dollars for the first time on record in 2020. The precious metal made up 24% of the central bank’s stockpile as of the end of September. The share of dollar assets was 22%, down from more than 40% in 2018.

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“I hope no one will think of crossing red lines in their relations with Russia. Where that line sits is ours to determine.”

Putin Says Russia Developing High-Tech Nuclear & Laser Weapons (RT)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the vast majority of the country’s Soviet-era atomic stockpile will soon be replaced by modern weapons, warning that Moscow is intent on defending itself against foreign aggression. Speaking as part of his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow on Wednesday, Putin said that his government “wants to have positive relationships with everyone on the international stage, including those with whom relations have broken down recently. We really don’t want to burn bridges.” At the same time, however, he cautioned that “those who mistake this stance for weakness need to know that Russia’s response [to any aggression] will be asymmetrical, swift and harsh.”

Those planning provocations, he said, “will regret their deeds in a way they have not regretted anything else for a long time.” As part of the country’s plans to defend itself, he said, its stockpile of strategic weapons is currently being overhauled, updating older Soviet-era equipment in favor of next-generation technology, such as “hypersonic and laser” armaments. Among the overhaul, he revealed that the advanced RS-28 Sarmat missile will be delivered to troops in the field from 2022. A heavy intercontinental ballistic rocket, it boasts up to 15 nuclear warheads which can be directed against individual targets and each deliver 350 kilotons of atomic hellfire. Ship-mounted missiles and other, “next-generation” projectiles are also slated for deployment in the near future.

According to the president, more than two-thirds of Russia’s military equipment will be “modern” at the end of the next three years, while more than 88% of nuclear weapons will be this year as well. Putin also referenced the Peresvet, a secretive laser cannon that is said to have the potential to shoot down both enemy aircraft and incoming missiles. The weapon has reportedly already been deployed to installations across the country. “We have patience, self-confidence and righteousness on our side,” Putin added. “I hope no one will think of crossing red lines in their relations with Russia. Where that line sits is ours to determine.”

The US is currently reportedly developing a $100 billion ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile system to replace its Cold War-era Minuteman-III rockets. However, it has come under criticism from experts, with the Federation of American Scientists arguing that the program has been driven by industry lobbying rather than a genuine need for the launch complex “in a post-Cold War security environment.”

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“We suggest Prague leave ultimatums for communication within NATO,” said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “With Russia such a tone is unacceptable.”

Prague Gives Moscow Ultimatum To Let Czech Diplomats Return (Y!)

The Czech government on Wednesday warned Moscow it might expel more Russian diplomats unless the 20 Czech nationals ejected from Russia were allowed to return to work within a day. Moscow responded by saying the ultimatum was “unacceptable”. On Saturday, Prague expelled 18 Russian embassy staff in a row over Russia’s alleged role in an explosion that killed two people in the Czech Republic in 2014. Moscow sent back the Czech diplomats in retaliation on Monday. “The Russian Federation has until 1200 tomorrow (1000 GMT) to allow the return of all expelled diplomats back to the Czech embassy in Moscow,” Jakub Kulhanek, the new Czech foreign minister, told reporters. “If they cannot return, I will cut the number of Russian embassy staff in Prague so it would correspond to the current situation at the Czech embassy in Moscow,” he added.

After summoning Russian ambassador Alexander Zmeyevski, Kulhanek said Moscow’s retaliation had been “disproportionate and it in fact paralysed the embassy”. The Russian foreign ministry condemned the Czech position. “We suggest Prague leave ultimatums for communication within NATO,” said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “With Russia such a tone is unacceptable.” The Czech ambassador would be summoned on Thursday, she added. Prague currently has five diplomats and 19 technical staff at the embassy in Moscow, far fewer than the Russian workforce in Prague. “The expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats in turn did not jeopardise the functioning of the Russian embassy,” said Kulhanek, who was only appointed as minister on Wednesday.

The EU backed the Czech Republic as its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc stood “ready to support its further efforts to bring those responsible to justice”. “The EU condemns the disproportionate reaction and subsequent threats of Russian Federation towards the Czech Republic,” Borrell said in a statement, vowing “the staunchest resolve” in addressing disruptive acts by Russian intelligence on EU soil. Czech officials, including Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, who was standing in as foreign minister until Kulhanek’s appointment, said Tuesday that they might aim to reset relations with Russia — and that this could involve the expulsion of all Russian diplomats in Prague. [..] Hamacek also said that Prague would no longer consider buying Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19.

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Creating chaos through proxies.

Ukraine Encourages Western Allies To Kick Russia Out Of SWIFT (EurActiv)

Ukraine on Wednesday (21 April) urged Western allies to show they were prepared to punish Moscow with new sanctions, including kicking Russia out of the global SWIFT payments system, to deter the Kremlin from resorting to more military force against Ukraine. In an interview with Reuters, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said while Kyiv had no new information indicating that Russia had decided to take new military action against Ukraine, it was important for the West to act now to prevent that happening.Ukraine is trying to shore up international support in its standoff with Moscow over a build-up of Russian troops on its eastern border and in Crimea. “I have no information to state that the decision to launch a military operation against Ukraine has already been taken. So it can go in either direction now,” Kuleba said.

“And this is why the reaction of the West, the consolidated reaction of the West, is so important now, to prevent Putin … from making that decision.” Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for a collapse in the ceasefire in the eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed forces in a conflict Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014. Kuleba said he asked Washington to supply “powerful means of electronic warfare” to counter Russia’s capacity to jam Ukrainian communications when he met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week. He also revealed he had urged a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday to consider “banning Russia from SWIFT” as part of a package of new economic sanctions if Russia escalated the situation.

[..] Putin on Wednesday warned the West not to cross Russia’s “red lines”, saying Moscow would respond swiftly and harshly to any provocations. “I read the message of President Putin the following way: ‘we will be crossing your red lines, but you are not allowed to cross our red lines, and we will be defining where our red lines are,’” Kuleba said.

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The University’s riposte is great.

Georgia & Ukraine Launch ‘Remarkable’ Attack On Academic Freedom (RT)

A professor from Ireland’s Dublin City University has lambasted a “remarkable attempt to undermine academic freedom” from the embassies of Georgia and Ukraine after they complained about a course he teaches at the institution. Donnacha Ó Beacháin is an internationally-respected professor with extensive experience teaching students about politics in the countries that once formed the Soviet Union. He was targeted by two diplomats who claimed that his program, named ‘Russia and the post-Soviet space’, was spreading “disinformation and Russian propaganda narratives.” Georgia and Ukraine, who both have strained relationships with Moscow, are covered in the course.

In particular, Ó Beacháin was accused of inviting a “well-known Russian propagandist” to speak. In fact, the person in question was Sergey Markedonov, a visiting fellow at the Washington-based think tank CSIS, which receives funding from the US government. Ó Beacháin described him as “probably the leading authority in Russia on conflicts in the Caucasus.” As well as inviting Markedonov, the professor also pointed out that the course has had a guest speaker from Ukraine, and he even asked the current Georgian ambassador to address the students. “The module is called ‘Russia and the Former Soviet Space,’ but if the Georgia/Ukraine diplomats had their way, the only view we wouldn’t get is from Russia,” Ó Beacháin wrote on Twitter.

In a letter to the embassies, the university’s president, Dáire Keogh, stressed the importance of “academic freedom” and noted that the professor had “invited guests from different backgrounds to expose students to their points of view.” “Those invited to contribute to the module include speakers from Georgian and Ukrainian backgrounds, including former officials,” the letter said. Speaking to Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTE, Ó Beacháin’s colleague John Doyle blasted the complaints as “absolutely unprecedented,” noting that there has never been another issue when an embassy not only complained to a university professor, but also contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs – presumably attempting to create a diplomatic incident.

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The Postal Service? What’s next, the supermarket?

USPS ‘Covert Operations Program’ Monitors Americans’ Social Media Posts (Y!)

The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News. The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as “inflammatory” postings and then sharing that information across government agencies. “Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021,” says the March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers. “Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”


A number of groups were expected to gather in cities around the globe on March 20 as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, to protest everything from lockdown measures to 5G. “Parler users have commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence. Image 3 on the right is a screenshot from Parler indicating two users discussing the event as an opportunity to engage in a ‘fight’ and to ‘do serious damage,’” says the bulletin.

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Hacking the hackers turns out to be easy.

In Epic Hack, Signal Developer Turns Tables On Forensics Firm Cellebrite (AT)

For years, Israeli digital forensics firm Cellebrite has helped governments and police around the world break into confiscated mobile phones, mostly by exploiting vulnerabilities that went overlooked by device manufacturers. Now, Moxie Marlinspike—creator of the Signal messaging app—has turned the tables on Cellebrite. On Wednesday, Marlinspike published a post that reported vulnerabilities in Cellebrite software that allowed him to execute malicious code on the Windows computer used to analyze devices. The researcher and software engineer exploited the vulnerabilities by loading specially formatted files that can be embedded into any app installed on the device. “There are virtually no limits on the code that can be executed,” Marlinspike wrote.

He continued: “For example, by including a specially formatted but otherwise innocuous file in an app on a device that is then scanned by Cellebrite, it’s possible to execute code that modifies not just the Cellebrite report being created in that scan, but also all previous and future generated Cellebrite reports from all previously scanned devices and all future scanned devices in any arbitrary way (inserting or removing text, email, photos, contacts, files, or any other data), with no detectable timestamp changes or checksum failures. This could even be done at random, and would seriously call the data integrity of Cellebrite’s reports into question.”

Cellebrite provides two software packages: The UFED breaks through locks and encryption protections to collect deleted or hidden data, and a separate Physical Analyzer uncovers digital evidence (“trace events”). To do their job, both pieces of Cellebrite software must parse all kinds of untrusted data stored on the device being analyzed. Typically, software that is this promiscuous undergoes all kinds of security hardening to detect and fix any memory-corruption or parsing vulnerabilities that might allow hackers to execute malicious code. “Looking at both UFED and Physical Analyzer, though, we were surprised to find that very little care seems to have been given to Cellebrite’s own software security,” Marlinspike wrote. “Industry-standard exploit mitigation defenses are missing, and many opportunities for exploitation are present.”

Read more …

 

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Apr 162021
 


Dirk de Herder Amstel Bridge, Amsterdam 1946

 

Biden Declares Russia Threat ‘National Emergency’ (Fox)
Kremlin Pledges To Respond In Kind To Any ‘Illegal’ New US Sanctions (R.)
The West’s Sole Prerogative Is Russia Has No Right To Self-Defense (Kovalik)
US Intel Walks Back Claim Russians Put Bounties on American Troops (DB)
Update: Master List Of Official Russia Claims That Proved To Be Bogus (Taibbi)
SecDef Austin Hints at Continued US Military Involvement in Afghanistan (AW)
The Role of Reserve Currencies (Michael Pettis)
The Middle Class Has Finally Been Suckered into the Casino (CHS)
Arts Venue Closures Likely After Long Delay in Federal Grant Program (Dayen)
E-Euro Starts To Take Shape (Dolan)
Twitter Suspends Project Veritas’ James O’keefe After Undercover Scoops (RT)
China’s Economy Grows By A Record 18.3% In Q1; It’s Not Enough (ZH)
Just 3% of World’s Ecosystems Remain Intact (G.)

 

 

Another one of those days where there’s just too much news. So I split it up in this Debt Rattle and this Covid Rattle published before.

Note: I could have called this a Russia Rattle, the US provocations vs Moscow reign supreme. In that vein, it is remarkable (if anything still is at all) that at the exact same moment the “Russian bounties on American soldiers’ lives” narrative is fully debunked, it still serves as the main driver behind the new sanctions on Russia. Facts are just inconvenient details by now, it’s the story that counts.

 

 

Biden court packing

 

 

OPCW

 

 

“Putin So Upset Over Biden’s Killer Comments He Moved 28,222 Russian Troops To Ukraine Border..”

The only thing the Russia sanctions have accomplished is they made Russia stronger, self-sufficient.

Biden Declares Russia Threat ‘National Emergency’ (Fox)

President Biden on Thursday signed an executive order declaring a “national emergency” over the threat from Russia, as his administration slapped new sanctions on the country. The U.S. Department of State said it is expelling 10 officials from Russia’s bilateral mission. “Today, we announced actions to hold the Russian Government to account for the SolarWinds intrusion, reports of bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and attempts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. The White House also released a letter to Congress stating that the president has issued “an Executive Order declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States posed by specified harmful foreign activities of the Government of the Russian Federation.”

The letter said that Russia had aimed to “undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections,” engaged in “malicious cyber-enabled activities,” targeted journalists and dissenters outside of its borders, and violated international law. This, Biden said in the letter, constitutes “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.” Blinken’s statement went into more detail, citing not only the SolarWinds hack that compromised many agencies in the federal government but also the poisoning of top Putin political rival Alexei Navalny. “We remain concerned about Navalny’s health and treatment in prison, and call for his unconditional release,” Blinken said.


Navalny is currently in the custody of the Russian government and reported not to be well. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki previously said that “[t]he Russian government is responsible for his health and well-being.” Blinken also emphasized Thursday, however, “the United States will also seek opportunities for cooperation with Russia, with the goal of building a more stable and predictable relationship consistent with U.S. interests.” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to the Russian state-run media organization TASS, said “[w]e condemn any pursuit of sanctions, we consider them illegal. In any case, the principle of reciprocity in this matter is valid; reciprocity in a way that best serves our interests.”

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Putin called for the summit first, just not one in person. That Biden did it, is also just a narrative. He calls Putin a killer and declares more sanctions, and only then says: let’s talk. Not going to happen now.

Kremlin Pledges To Respond In Kind To Any ‘Illegal’ New US Sanctions (R.)

The Kremlin said on Thursday it would respond in kind to any new “illegal” new U.S. sanctions on Russia and warned any new measures would reduce the chances of a summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin taking place. People familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that the United States may announce sanctions on Russia as soon as Thursday for alleged interference in U.S. elections and malicious cyber activity, targeting several individuals and entities. The Kremlin has denied U.S. allegations that Russia tried to meddle in the 2020 U.S. presidential election or that it was behind a cybersecurity breach affecting software made by SolarWinds Corp.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would wait to see what happened on the sanctions front before commenting in detail. But he said the Kremlin’s stance on sanctions and its response to them remained unchanged. “We condemn any intentions to impose sanctions, consider them illegal, and in any case the principle of reciprocity operates in this area,” said Peskov. “Reciprocity so that our own interests are ensured in the best possible way.” Russia did not want relations with Washington to be a case of “one step forward and two steps back,” he added. Biden, in a phone call on Tuesday, proposed a summit with Putin to tackle a raft of disputes and told Moscow to reduce tensions over Ukraine triggered by a Russian military build-up.


The Kremlin has so far responded coolly to the summit idea making clear it will be contingent upon U.S. behavior towards Russia. Peskov said on Thursday that any new U.S. sanctions would not increase the chances of such a summit taking place, but said it would be up to the two presidents to decide on the matter. Putin’s participation in a Biden-backed climate summit remained under discussion, Peskov said. He said the situation around Ukraine remained tense with NATO and U.S. forces still deployed close to Russia’s own borders. It was therefore premature, he said, to talk about de-escalation, despite reports that the United States had canceled the deployment of two of its warships to the Black Sea.

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“I’ve learned to hate the Russians, all through my whole life; if another war comes, it’s them we must fight. To hate them and fear them, to run and to hide…”

The West’s Sole Prerogative Is Russia Has No Right To Self-Defense (Kovalik)

As tensions increase between Moscow and NATO over a buildup of troops near the Donbass, actually initiated by Ukraine, the West’s apparent position is that Russia has no right to self-defense. That’s been the case for decades. Having grown up in middle America during the waning years of the Cold War, I possessed a not-so-healthy fear of an imminent Soviet invasion or attack. Bob Dylan would capture this type of fear and hysteria in his 1964 song ‘With God on Our Side’, which he ripped off from the Clancy Brothers and Dominic Behan. Dylan’s updated version of ‘The Patriot Game’ declared: “I’ve learned to hate the Russians, all through my whole life; if another war comes, it’s them we must fight. To hate them and fear them, to run and to hide…”

It is quite incredible to me that, nearly 60 years later, with the USSR itself having fallen in the meantime, these words still ring true in the West today. However, the truth is, as I came to find out later in life, it is the Russians who have had much more to fear from us than we have from them. And it is this understanding and indeed empathy for Russia which motivates me now to wish my country would stop its aggressive moves towards that country before it is too late; before we find ourselves involved in another great war in Europe. From the point of view of Russia, it is they who have been under constant threat from the West, certainly from the time of the Napoleonic Wars to the present. It is France which invaded Russia in 1812, with the result being the loss of about 200,000 Russian lives.

The Russians were able to survive and emerge victorious only by burning down three quarters of Moscow to the ground, leaving the French stranded and unable to supply themselves. In 1941, Soviet Russia, abandoned by the UK and the US to its own fate, was invaded by Nazi Germany and laid siege to. Ultimately, the Soviets were able to turn Germany back in the great battle of Stalingrad, but the USSR would lose nearly 27 million lives by the end of the war. While 80 to 90 percent of the German casualties were suffered on the Eastern Front at the hands of the Soviets and Communist Partisans, Russia’s incredible sacrifice in WWII has largely been forgotten and even denied in the West, with the US and the UK now taking credit for the Allied victory.

While Ernest Hemingway remarked – quite rightly – that “Every human being who loves freedom owes to the Red Army more than he will be able to pay in a lifetime,” these words, and the sentiment behind them, have been forgotten in a haze of collective amnesia. Incredibly, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not even invited to the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz on Holocaust Memorial Day – this despite the fact that it was the a Russian regiment from Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) which liberated the captives of the death camp.

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It served its purpose. And the MSM was all too happy to go along.

US Intel Walks Back Claim Russians Put Bounties on American Troops (DB)

It was a blockbuster story about Russia’s return to the imperial “Great Game” in Afghanistan. The Kremlin had spread money around the longtime central Asian battlefield for militants to kill remaining U.S. forces. It sparked a massive outcry from Democrats and their #resistance amplifiers about the treasonous Russian puppet in the White House whose admiration for Vladimir Putin had endangered American troops. But on Thursday, the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence only had “low to moderate” confidence in the story after all. Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue.

“The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks on U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier,” a senior administration official said. “This information puts a burden on the Russian government to explain its actions and take steps to address this disturbing pattern of behavior,” the official said, indicating that Biden is unprepared to walk the story back fully. Significantly, the Biden team announced a raft of sanctions on Thursday. But those sanctions, targeting Russia’s sovereign debt market, are prompted only by Russia’s interference in the 2020 election and its alleged role in the SolarWinds cyber espionage. (In contrast, Biden administration officials said that their assessment attributing the breach of technology company SolarWinds to hackers from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service was “high confidence.”)


“We have noted our conclusion of the review that we conducted on the bounties issue and we have conveyed through diplomatic, intelligence, and military channels strong, direct messages on this issue, but we are not specifically tying the actions we are taking today to that matter,” a senior administration official told reporters in reference to the bounty claims. According to the officials on Thursday’s call, the reporting about the alleged “bounties” came from “detainee reporting”–raising the specter that someone told their U.S.-aligned Afghan jailers what they thought was necessary to get out of a cage. Specifically, the official cited “information and evidence of connections to criminal agents in Afghanistan and elements of the Russian government” as sources for the intelligence community’s assessment.

Russian bounties Trump

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Taibbi’s list from last month has been updated with “Bountygate”.

Update: Master List Of Official Russia Claims That Proved To Be Bogus (Taibbi)

Updated 4/15/21 “Bountygate.” In July of 2020, according to “officials briefed on the matter,” the New York Times reported, and the Washington Post “confirmed,” that “a Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan.” It’s impossible to overstate how head over heels the politicians and press alike went with this story. It became instantly election-year fodder, with Kamala Harris saying of Trump, “He let Putin get away with placing bounties on the heads of our troops.” Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth instantly called for hearings into the matter, making the inevitable Russiagate tie-in. “First, Donald Trump encouraged Russia to interfere in our democracy, and they did,” she said. “Now, Russia is secretly paying militants to kill U.S. troops. Trump has known for months but apparently done nothing to stop them.”

The story had a dual impact politically, dealing a blow to Trump throughout the summer of a general election, while also seeming to present a reason not to withdraw from Afghanistan two weeks before Congress voted on the re-authorization of the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) justifying the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. In hindsight, it’s incredible to see how easy it is for military or intelligence officials to impact budgetary or policy matters: just leak a hot story before a key vote. The Daily Beast was one of many news outlets to go full click-farm, with banner headlines like, “Russian ‘Bounties’ Mess is all of Trump’s Scandals Rolled into One” and “Russian Bounties Led to U.S. Troops’ Deaths, Intelligence Officials Believe,” with graphics announcing “BOMBSHELL,” “HOSTILE POWER” and “SHOCK VALUE!”


The Washington Post’s official “fact checker” column gave Trump its dreaded “four Pinocchios” rating for saying, “that’s an issue that many people said was fake news.” In fact, many people did say it was fake news, including Colin Powell, who went on MSNBC to describe the coverage of the story as “hysterical,” adding, “What I know is that our military commanders on the ground did not think that it was as serious a problem as the newspapers were reporting and television was reporting.” Two months after the story came out, an on-the-record military official was less certain:

Roughly seven months after that, on April 15, 2021, a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call that the U.S. now assessed with “low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019.” The Beast, one of the chief propagators of the original fairy tale, ran a new story over the graphic, TURNAROUND. “U.S. Intel Walks Back Claim Russians Put Bounties on American Troops,” the headline read, adding, without irony, that “there were reasons to doubt the story at the time.” [..] Does this mean the Russians don’t meddle? Of course not. But we have to learn to separate real stories about foreign intelligence operations with posturing used to target domestic actors while suppressing criticism of domestic politicians. It’s only happened about a hundred times in the last five years — maybe it’s time to start asking for proof in these episodes?

Russian bounties

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We are so surprised.

SecDef Austin Hints at Continued US Military Involvement in Afghanistan (AW)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday said the US would continue to support the Afghan government’s military after President Biden withdraws troops from the country and hinted at a possible “counterterrorism” force in the region that could strike targets in Afghanistan. “We will look to continue funding key capabilities such as the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing, and we will seek to continue paying salaries for Afghan Security Forces,” Austin said at a NATO press conference in Brussels. “We will also work closely with them and with our allies to maintain counterterrorism capabilities in the region,” he added. “I think you’ll understand why I won’t get into specific details about where our counterterrorist assets may be positioned,” Austin said when asked where counterterrorism troops could be deployed in the region.


“In terms of our ability to acquire targets and engage them in places where we are not … We have the reach and the ability to in fact do that,” he said, suggesting the US wants to maintain the capability to bomb Afghanistan. The New York Times reported on Thursday on how the US is planning to continue fighting in Afghanistan “from afar.” The report reads: “The Pentagon, American spy agencies and Western allies are refining plans to deploy a less visible but still potent force in the region to prevent the country from again becoming a terrorist base.” Unnamed US officials speaking to the Times floated neighboring Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as possible locations to reposition forces from Afghanistan.

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Great Twitter thread from Pettis. The entire narrative about the e-yuan being a huge threat to the USD makes very little sense. Nobody wants the e-yuan for the same reason they don’t want the yuan. China has total control.

The Role of Reserve Currencies (Michael Pettis)

Apologies in advance for this very long thread, but as regular readers know, I worry greatly about common misunderstandings of the role of reserve currencies. The author seems to assume that what makes a currency a dominant reserve currency is its low frictional trading costs, which is why, he believes, digital currencies, with China in the lead, will dominate international trade. But while a low frictional trading cost is a necessary condition, it is not nearly sufficient. A quick glance at the role of the US dollar over the past 100 years, the period during which it achieved dominant status, makes this clear: when the world was short of savings relative to its investment needs, during the first fifty years of that period (a period characterized by the global need to rebuild economically from 2 world wars) the US was a permanent net provider of savings to the world.

In the next five decades, however, when the global economy was substantially rebuilt and needed to export excess savings, the US automatically became a permanent net absorber of foreign savings. Of course during this time the US shifted from permanent trade surpluses, when the world needed the US to supply it with food, capital goods and consumer goods, to permanent trade deficits, when the world urgently some place in which to dump excess production of consumer goods. This was no mere coincidence. To me it suggests three things. First, that reserve currency status is a function of a lot more than low-cost trading. In fact given that the cost is already so low, and seems to be in permanent decline anyway, I suspect it doesn’t even matter much any more.


What seems to matter a lot more is the willingness of the reserve-currency country to run large imbalances in response not to its own needs but rather to the needs of the rest of the world. As an excellent CFR resource shows, the US typically absorbs 40-50% of global imbalances, and the Anglophone economies — with similar financial markets all of whom, like the US, punch way above their weights as international reserve currencies — collectively absorb 65-75% of global imbalances. Given that China’s currency (and that of other surplus countries, like Japan) punches so far below it’s weight, it is surprising that anyone would argue that there is no relationship between the international status of a currency and its willingness and ability to absorb global imbalances.

Second, the reason these countries are “willing” to accept major reserve-currency status has more to do with ideology than with economic rationality, driven by, and reinforcing, the disproportionate power of the financial sector on domestic decision-making. Like the UK in the 1920s, they are perhaps too willing to sacrifice the needs of the producer side of their economies in order to maintain the overwhelming power of the financial side. The result, as Matthew Klein and I show in our book, is that these reserve-currency countries have constantly to choose between allowing unemployment to rise or allowing debt to rise. They have mostly chosen the latter.

And third, while China has been promising for nearly two decades that its currency will achieve dominant reserve status within five years or so, in fact the RMB is probably the least important of the top ten currencies given China’s status as the second largest economy and largest trader in the world, and by relevant standards its role has barely improved in the past decade and may even have declined. Why? Because for all over-excited talk about achieving major international status, Beijing has always refused to take the economic steps needed to increase its role in absorbing global imbalances. On the contrary, when Covid-19 created a demand shock in a world already suffering from excess savings and insufficient demand, Beijing had an incredible opportunity to boost the role of the RMB by boosting net domestic demand. Instead it implemented a muscular supply-side response that actually worsened its contribution to global demand imbalances.


In the end I do expect the international status of the US dollar eventually to decline, but not because of the rise of the yen (which, we were told in the 1980s and 1990s, was virtually assured) or of the RMB. Either it will decline because the US decides that it is no longer willing to absorb the huge and rising economic cost of dominant reserve-currency status to its producing sectors and its balance sheet in exchange for the declining geopolitical benefits and to maintain the status and dominance of of its financial sector (which may be the same thing), or it will decline when the cost of maintaining the power of the dollar helps sufficiently undermine the US economy, which has always been the real source of American power. The experience of the UK in the 1920s provides an accelerated vision of how that can happen.

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The middle class got suckered in the moment banks and central banks, Fannie and Freddie, started pumping up housing prices and manipulating mortgage rates. And yeah, now they’re suckered into stocks, because rates are negative, and savings worse than worthless.

The Middle Class Has Finally Been Suckered into the Casino (CHS)

For 12 long years, savers have been eviscerated while gamblers have been ceaselessly backstopped and bailed out by the Fed. In the Fed’s rigged casino, it’s not only rational to make high-risk bets, it’s rational to borrow as much money as you can to increase your stake and leverage your bets–because the Fed has our backs and so every wager on markets lofting higher will pay off. It’s crazy not to max out credit and leverage because the Fed has guaranteed every punter will be a winner. I explained the feedback loop this creates–the more the Fed guarantees markets will never be allowed to decline, the greater the incentives to borrow and leverage ever riskier bets in the Fed’s casino[..]

The middle class has finally surrendered the last of its rational risk-aversion and gone all-in on bets in the Fed’s rigged casino. Big players don’t use margin accounts in brokerages; they have immense lines of credit and tools to leverage their bets. It’s the so-called retail traders who use margin, and so the unprecedented highs in margin debt are evidence that the middle class has gone all-in on bets markets will only loft higher forever. Record inflows into equities adds more evidence that the middle class has been suckered into the Fed’s rigged casino. Why lose money every day in savings and money market accounts when newbie punters are raking in $250,000 a month playing options on Gamestop?

Alas, the majority of this “wealth” is phantom, as revealed by the chart of tangible (real) / intangible (financial) assets. The Fed’s casino prints trillions of dollars and gives them to the biggest gamblers for free, and so the artificial semblance of free money for everyone who gambles is compelling. Unfortunately, the Fed’s casino is only rigged to benefit the Fed’s cronies. Everyone else is suckered in to lose whatever they have. The Fed’s cronies have been impatiently waiting for the suckers to surrender their rational risk aversion and flood into the rigged casino to share in the Fed’s limitless wealth machine: the more you risk, the more you win!

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This could have been in today’s Covid Rattle, I know.

Arts Venue Closures Likely After Long Delay in Federal Grant Program (Dayen)

A critical $16.25 billion grant program to sustain thousands of small creative venues that haven’t been able to open since the pandemic began has yet to deliver a cent of relief four months after passage, due to delays and faulty technology at the Small Business Administration (SBA). A website constructed to take grant applications closed last week after only four hours online, because of constant crashes and an inability to intake documents. It has not been restored and there’s no timetable for its return. The program, based on the landmark Save Our Stages legislation put into last December’s COVID relief bill, was the largest investment in the arts in U.S. history. But the byzantine application process (often requiring over 100 pages of documents) and stubborn lack of payout has music clubs, small museums and movie theaters, and other venues either closing or looking to sell out to larger firms.

“Understandably, landlords can’t last forever,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director with the National Independent Venues Association, a lead driver of Save Our Stages. “Eviction notices are coming. People are like, ‘we can’t do this anymore.’” The situation reinforces the importance of policy implementation, the primary responsibility of the executive branch. SBA has been notorious for decades for failing in its mission to support small businesses, and the changeover in administrations to President Biden has not ameliorated this. A critical Inspector General report released a week ago noted that the grants management office where the program is being run from has only one designated official managing the process; the rest of the staff is on “temporary detail.”


SBA Spokesperson Andrea Roebker, said that the program, known as Shuttered Venues Operating Grants (SVOG), has been “built from the ground up,” and that the agency “is committed to delivering this much-needed relief to these venues, many of which have been closed for extended periods of time.” But in the meantime, venue operators must wait agonizingly, living on borrowed time, borrowed money, and the fear of collapse.

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So far, all the e-currencies look like feeble attemps at suppressing bitcoin. The problem: central banks want full control.

E-Euro Starts To Take Shape (Dolan)

The promised digital euro started to take shape this week and signals from Frankfurt may offer some relief to nervy commercial banks worried about being sidelined by the latest disrupter. With the “hands off” pandemic accelerating the demise of physical cash, and private-sector crypto and stablecoins threatening to invade the space, the pledge last year of a digital euro within five years came before the European Central Bank knew what exactly it would be or how it would function. As nearly every central bank working on digital legal tender suggesting a different model or system, the debate over design has ranged widely over the past 6 months – from digital tokens to a direct central bank accounts or something in between.

But responses from the ECB’s public consultation, released this week, have gone some way to narrowing the options discussed – with the feedback showing a preference for privacy, though not anonymity, and a role for the existing banking system. Although this was just one survey, and the ECB laced it with caveats about how unrepresentative the sample was of euro zone citizens, it may give some clues to the direction of travel. Respondents’ heavy stress on privacy and security appears to be coupled with a preference for the digital euro to exist offline, like a token held in smartphones or digital wallets. What’s more, they seem to want it to exist alongside rather than instead of physical cash and to operate in conjunction with the existing banking system.


That addresses one of the biggest financial stability concerns plaguing plans for digital currencies, already being trialled by the People’s Bank of China and which the U.S. Federal Reserve has called a “high priority project”. Many fear that if a digital currency is effectively a open-ended deposit account directly with the central bank, then its inherent guarantee will see deposits flee commercial banks, especially in a crisis, and undermine the retail banking system. To counter that, ECB board member Fabio Panetta has proposed limiting deposits to households only, and to a maximum of 3,000 euros – effectively penalising holdings in excess of that, and accounts held by companies or investors, with deeply negative interest rates.

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“Section 230 may have protected them before, but it will not protect them from me. The complaint will be filed Monday.”

How much different would Project Veritas’ situation be if it were sympathetic to the Dems?

Twitter Suspends Project Veritas’ James O’keefe After Undercover Scoops (RT)

Twitter has banned Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe for alleged violation of its policies on “platform manipulation and spam,” silencing his account amid a series of undercover scoops on CNN’s propagandist tactics. The social media giant told O’Keefe on Thursday that his account is permanently suspended and will not be reinstated, citing an allegation that he used fake or multiple accounts to manipulate conversations on the platform. Twitter said in a statement to The Hill and other media outlets that “you can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” The shutdown came after O’Keefe posted three straight days of scoops in which CNN technical director Charlie Chester is shown on video, talking to an undercover reporter.


Chester, who reportedly thought he was talking to a Tinder date, told the reporter about CNN’s propagandist efforts to oust President Donald Trump, its fearmongering about Covid-19 to boost ratings and its efforts to make Black Lives Matter look good. O’Keefe’s suspension from Twitter will likely come as good news to CNN, which hasn’t responded to the latest round of Project Veritas stories about the network and has lobbied for competing news outlets to be censored for reporting “misinformation.” O’Keefe issued a statement on Thursday, vowing to sue Twitter for defamation and denying that he operated fake accounts. “This is false, this is defamatory, and they will pay,” he said. “Section 230 may have protected them before, but it will not protect them from me. The complaint will be filed Monday.” He invited supporters to follow him on Telegram.

Veritas
https://twitter.com/i/status/1382848287506583552

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“Guo Shuqing, China’s top banking regulator, said in March that the country was exposed to “bubbles” in international markets and its own real estate sector.”

China’s Economy Grows By A Record 18.3% In Q1; It’s Not Enough (ZH)

China’s economy grew by a record 18.3% in the first three months of 2021, its fastest annual growth rate in history reflecting the weak comparison to the lockdown period in early 2020. However, in keeping with the recent theme of China’s slowing credit impulse, the GDP print wasn’t nearly enough and disappointed markets which were expecting an 18.5% number.

The Chinese slowdown was even more visible in the quarter-on-quarter growth which slowed to just 0.6% from 2.6% in the previous three months – the second lowest quarterly growth rate since the financial crisis with the sole exception of the covid crash quarter a year ago, while the picture in the monthly data dump was mixed at best.

China’s expansion was supported by household consumption, which had previously lagged behind the wider recovery but is expected to play a greater role in driving growth this year. Retail sales beat expectations to add 34.2% in March, rebounding from a period of lockdowns a year earlier. Industrial production also boosted growth, with the metric adding 24.5% in the first quarter and alongside booming exports has helped prop up growth over the past year, it did, however, miss expectations in March and only rose 14.1% year-on-year. The Chinese recovery from the pandemic also helped it dominate global trade, with exports rising every month since June last year. In March, exports added 30% in dollar terms compared with the same month a year earlier.


In light of China’s recent aggressive deleveraging which has pushed China’s CSI300 just shy of dipping below the 200DMA, focus has shifted to the prospect of rate rises, with signs of overheating across parts of the economy despite persistently low consumer price inflation. The government is trying to curb leverage across its property sector, as well as rein in record rates of steel production following a construction boom. Several high-ranking officials have warned about the risks of high asset prices in recent months. Guo Shuqing, China’s top banking regulator, said in March that the country was exposed to “bubbles” in international markets and its own real estate sector.

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Setting your own home on fire after using it as a garbage dump and toilet bowl. Smartest species ever.

Despite 100s of years of science and warnings, we still appear unable to understand our planet is not infinite.

Just 3% of World’s Ecosystems Remain Intact (G.)

Just 3% of the world’s land remains ecologically intact with healthy populations of all its original animals and undisturbed habitat, a study suggests. These fragments of wilderness undamaged by human activities are mainly in parts of the Amazon and Congo tropical forests, east Siberian and northern Canadian forests and tundra, and the Sahara. Invasive alien species including cats, foxes, rabbits, goats and camels have had a major impact on native species in Australia, with the study finding no intact areas left. The researchers suggest reintroducing a small number of important species to some damaged areas, such as elephants or wolves – a move that could restore up to 20% of the world’s land to ecological intactness.

Previous analyses have identified wilderness areas based largely on satellite images and estimated that 20-40% of the Earth’s surface is little affected by humans. However, the scientists behind the new study argue that forests, savannah and tundra can appear intact from above but that, on the ground, vital species are missing. Elephants, for example, spread seeds and create important clearings in forests, while wolves can control populations of deer and elk. The new assessment combines maps of human damage to habitat with maps showing where animals have disappeared from their original ranges or are too few in number to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Some scientists said the new analysis underestimates the intact areas, because the ranges of animals centuries ago are poorly known and the new maps do not take account of the impacts of the climate crisis, which is changing the ranges of species.


It is widely accepted that the world is in a biodiversity crisis, with many wildlife populations – from lions to insects – plunging, mainly due to the destruction of habitat for farming and building. Some scientists think a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth is beginning, with serious consequences for the food, and clean water and air that humanity depends upon. “Much of what we consider as intact habitat is missing species that have been hunted [and poached] by people, or lost because of invasive species or disease,” said Dr Andrew Plumptre, the lead author of the study, from the Key Biodiversity Areas Secretariat in Cambridge, UK. “It’s fairly scary, because it shows how unique places like the Serengeti are, which actually have functioning and fully intact ecosystems. “We’re in the UN decade of ecosystem restoration now, but it is focusing on degraded habitat,” he said. “Let’s also think about restoring species so that we can try and build up these areas where we’ve got ecologically intact ecosystems.”

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 March 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  26 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Acrobat 1930

 

“Did You Agree To This? Everybody’s Locked Up” – Edward Snowden (ZH)
Coronavirus Crisis Unlikely To Be Over By The End Of The Year – WHO (G.)
WHO Panel: Hydroxychloroquine Should Not Be Used To Prevent COVID-19 (Hill)
Data On Long Covid In UK Children Is Cause For Concern, Scientists Say (G.)
A Return To Normalcy Seen In November (K.)
Party Like It’s 1984 (Jim Kunstler)
US, EU Set To Impose Sanctions On Russia (NBC)
Duckworth Calls For Russian Bounties Intelligence To Be Declassified (Hill)
Stefan Halper’s Role In Crossfire Hurricane Larger Than Previously Known (ET)
Halper Reports Reveal Wider-Ranging Operation To Spy On Trump Campaign (JTN)
Bernie Sanders Vows To Force Vote On $15 Minimum Wage (Hill)
Joe Biden Says His Hands Are Tied On $15 Minimum Wage. That’s Not True (Sirota)
Finance As Culture (Luttig)
Mob Justice May Be Poetic Justice, But Cuomo Deserves Due Process (Turley)
Cuomo Swears He Always Kept Mask On While Sexually Harassing Women (BBee)
Odyssey Banned for Violence, Sexism; Is this the End of World Classics? (GR)

 

 

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Word!

“Did You Agree To This? Everybody’s Locked Up” – Edward Snowden (ZH)

A new video montage of recent interviews with former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden exposes how the global COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns – which have been particularly severe and far-reaching in Western countries like the UK, Canada, and in a number of major US cities – coupled with the already immense power of Silicon Valley and its allies in the national security state, has served to keep individuals and entire populations ‘gated off’ from one another. “This is just the beginning,” Snowden warns of these unprecedented times. “All of these things today have consequences which we are not informed about.” “I would say this is sort of unusual… we’re all spread all over the world in different rooms, everybody’s locked up… but for me this is how I’ve always lived.”

He narrates that so much of our life is “intermediated by the screens.” Increasingly our lives are “intermediated by these screens. We spend less time outside and more and more time staring into glass or through glass to connect with that larger world – something beyond ourselves.”Ultimately he poses the following questions as a warning in the video entitled, “Edward Snowden 2021: The Most VICIOUS HONEST 10 Minutes of your LIFE!”… “Increasingly it feels something distinct from us, something apart from us – something that we are witnessing rather than participating in. Ask yourself: Is this your will? Is this what you want? Did you agree to this? Is this consistent with the vision of the future you want to see?

Snowden continues, “The institutional powers of our day… which have assumed for themselves some mandate – whether to conduct business, whether its to govern the lives of others, whether it’s to make war, .. these institutional powers don’t seem to particularly care about your answer to that question: is this what you wanted? Is this OK? Did you agree to it?” The answer is frequently “you don’t have a choice” as to whether you agree or not… “because they have the gun, they have the baton. And Facebook would say ‘Click OK to continue’ – and if you don’t you can’t do anything…”

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the “virus is very much in control”…

Coronavirus Crisis Unlikely To Be Over By The End Of The Year – WHO (G.)

Despite the spread of Covid-19 being slowed in some countries due to lockdowns and vaccination programs, it is “premature” and “unrealistic” to the think the pandemic will be over by the end of the year, the World Health Organization’s executive director of emergency services has said. Speaking at a press briefing Geneva, Dr Michael Ryan said while vaccinating the most vulnerable people, including healthcare workers, would help remove the “tragedy and fear” from the situation, and would help to ease pressure on hospitals, the “virus is very much in control”. “It will be very premature, and I think unrealistic, to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year,” Ryan said.


“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalisation, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic.” The number of new global infections rose last week for the first time in almost two months. Reported cases increased in four of the WHO’s six regions: the Americas, Europe, south-east Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. “This is disappointing, but not surprising,” said the director general of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We’re working to better understand these increases in transmission. Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard.” He said while vaccines would help to save lives, “if countries rely solely on vaccines, they’re making a mistake”.

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Meawhile in Greece…

A Return To Normalcy Seen In November (K.)

Greek authorities’ main concern is now the timeline for a return to normalcy, after a year of the pandemic. The economy cannot withstand many more months of lockdowns and increasing coronavirus fatigue is gripping the population. Experts say the return to normalcy will happen when “herd immunity” is achieved. For that to happen, they say, 70% of the population must be vaccinated. Then, of course, there are questions of how long the immunity lasts, whether the disease will recur, and so on. According to a team of researchers at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki who have developed a Covid-19 risk evaluation model, the vaccination of 70% of the population, and thus herd immunity, will be achieved in November, provided there are 1 million vaccinations per month.


Under this caveat, the percentage of the vaccinated population, now standing at 9%, will reach 30% at the end of May, 38% in June, 46% in July, 54% in August and 62% in September. By the end of May, a “wall of immunity” for the most vulnerable groups – the elderly and those suffering from serious underlying diseases – will have been built, the researchers say. “[The wall] doesn’t mean complete freedom but at least means the likelihood of lockdown becomes remote,” says Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, professor of environmental engineering at Aristotle University.

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Ok, let’s see the trials.

WHO Panel: Hydroxychloroquine Should Not Be Used To Prevent COVID-19 (Hill)

The anti-inflammatory drug hydroxychloroquine should not be used to prevent COVID-19, according to a new recommendation from the World Health Organization. Multiple clinical trials of more than 6,000 people showed the drug had no meaningful effect on death or admissions to the hospital in people who had no prior exposure to COVID-19. The trials showed a “moderate certainty” that not only did hydroxychloroquine have no meaningful effect on laboratory confirmed COVID-19 infection, it also probably increased the risk of adverse effects.


The WHO’s recommendation was published in The BMJ, a medical journal. A WHO expert panel is studying different drugs that could be used to prevent COVID-19 infection, and the hydroxychloroquine recommendation is the first that the panel has published. “The panel considers that this drug is no longer a research priority and that resources should be used to evaluate other more promising drugs to prevent COVID-19,” the WHO said in a statement. The recommendations are meant “to provide trustworthy guidance on the management of COVID-19 and help doctors make better decisions with their patients,” the WHO said.

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No word on how many children are affected. If it’s just five, maybe they should tell us.

Data On Long Covid In UK Children Is Cause For Concern, Scientists Say (G.)

Scientists have warned that emerging data on long Covid in children should not be ignored given the lack of a vaccine for this age group, but cautioned that the evidence describing these enduring symptoms in the young is so far uncertain. Recently published data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has caused worry. The data suggest that 13% of under 11s and about 15% of 12- to 16-year-olds reported at least one symptom five weeks after a confirmed Covid-19 infection. ONS samples households randomly, therefore positive cases do not depend on having had symptoms and being tested.

With schools in England poised to reopen on Monday – Prof Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage committee and director of clinical operational research at University College London – in a Twitter post suggested that although emerging data on long Covid in children was uncertain, it should not be ignored, particularly given there was no licensed vaccine for these age groups, and there probably won’t be until the end of this year or early next year. Although children are relatively less likely to become infected, transmit the virus and be hospitalised, the key question is whether even mild or asymptomatic infection can lead to long Covid in children, said Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London.

[..] Some children are initially asymptomatic or have mild symptoms but then it might be six or seven weeks before they start experiencing long Covid symptoms, which can range from standard post-viral fatigue and headaches to neuropsychiatric symptoms such as seizures, or even skin lesions. At the moment there is no consensus on the scale and impact of long Covid in adults, but emerging data is concerning. For children, the data is even more scarce. Recent reports from hospitals in Sweden and Italy have generated concern, but this data is not from national trials – they are single-centre studies – and include relatively small patient numbers, said Sir Terence Stephenson, a Nuffield professor of child health at University College London.

Stephenson was awarded £1.36m last month to lead a study investigating long Covid in 11- to 17-year-olds. “I don’t have a scientific view on what long Covid is in young people is – because frankly, we don’t know,” he said.

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Of course, steers and cows are easier to push around than bulls, and the technology for transforming bulls into steers — or men in to eunuchs — is not that complex or nuanced..

Party Like It’s 1984 (Jim Kunstler)

Chalk up a fatal blow to The Patriarchy. That avatar of toxic masculinity, Mr. Potato Head has been dumped into the same humid chamber of perdition where the ghosts of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Theodore Bilbo, and Phyllis Schlafly howl and squirm — liberating the billions of potatoes world-wide from the mental prison of binary sexuality. The move by Hasbro (bro? really??) may yet disappoint the legions in Wokesterdom as a-bridge-not-far-enough while they await the debut of Transitioning Potato Head, complete with play hormone syringe and play scalpel, so that the under-six crowd can begin to map out their own gender reassignments without the meddling of Adult 1 and Adult 2, formerly known as Mommy and Daddy.

Was it mere coincidence that the action in Toyland happened the same week that one Rachel Levine was grilled in hir Senate confirmation hearing for the post as Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services? The hearing tilted toward transphobia when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) asked zie, a little too aggressively, if they were in favor of pubescent children opting for sexual reassignment in opposition to xyr parents. The nominee, who hirself transitioned from “male” to “female” in 2011, answered that transgender medical issues are “complex and nuanced.” True (perhaps). And probably more than a Senator who transitioned from ophthalmologist to politician might appreciate.

Such are the great preoccupations of American leadership in these late days of empire. Are their any “historic firsts” left for Progressives to achieve in the march to a transhuman nirvana? An “undocumented” president? Animal representation in the House and Senate? A-I “entities” qualifying for public office — Governor Smartphone? Let’s face it, the pitiful old school humans in charge of things for so long are making a hash of our affairs. A cash register could probably do a better job as Chairman of the Federal Reserve than the always-waffley Jerome Powell. And a MacBook Pro might make a better president than Joe Biden in the brief daily operational hours before his managers a “call a lid.” We’d have to come up with some new personal pronouns for them, of course.

Pundits and observers-of-the-scene have warned us that all this artificially-generated turmoil over the sex-of-things is but one part of the prelude to a “Great Reset” in which people the world over are to be herded into corrals of ultra-regulated behavior. Of course, steers and cows are easier to push around than bulls, and the technology for transforming bulls into steers — or men in to eunuchs — is not that complex or nuanced. The question is: will enough American men submit to castration, either chemical, financial, political, or literal? Maybe not.

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Oh, cut it out already.

US, EU Set To Impose Sanctions On Russia (NBC)

The U.S. and the European Union are expected to impose coordinated sanctions on Russia as early as Tuesday for the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his arrest and detention that followed, three sources familiar with the planning said. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not otherwise authorized to speak to the media. The sanctions will be the first to target Moscow since Joe Biden became president and opened a comprehensive review of U.S.-Russia policy, including the Kremlin’s actions against Navalny, interference into the U.S. election, the Solar Winds hack and reported bounties offered to Taliban-linked groups to target U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Trump administration declined to take action against Russia for the attempted assassination of Navalny.

The U.S. is expected to use legal authorities to impose sanctions on Russia for its use of a chemical nerve agent against Navalny in August, said a senior administration official, a congressional aide and a Western diplomat. Toxicology tests conducted in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that Navalny was poisoned with a novel form of the Novichok nerve agent in violation of the international Chemical Weapons Convention. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the attack. Upon his return to Russia in January, Navalny was arrested and sentenced to more than two years in jail. He has been transferred to a penal colony. The E.U. has taken action against Russia for poisoning Navalny, restricting travel and freezing the assets of six Russians in October, but this week’s sanctions would be the first issued under the E.U.’s new human rights regime.

E.U. Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told the Atlantic Council last week that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had asked the E.U. to coordinate with the U.S. on the new sanctions. The E.U.’s procedural vote to formally adopt the sanctions will close at noon Tuesday Brussels time. “I wouldn’t want to speak to any measures that we may have coming, but suffice it to say that we have coordinated very closely,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday about the cooperation between the U.S and the E.U. Price did not elaborate on the timing of the sanctions but added, “We’ve been working on it as an urgent challenge.” An investigation by U.N. experts released Monday found that the attack against Navalny falls within a wider trend, observed over several decades, of arbitrary killings and attempted killings of Russian citizens and government critics, both within Russia and extraterritorially.

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I said cut it out!

Duckworth Calls For Russian Bounties Intelligence To Be Declassified (Hill)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Monday called for the Biden administration to declassify intelligence related to reports that the Kremlin offered bounties to Taliban forces for targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “While any intelligence assessment on this matter is understandably sensitive, the American public, and Gold Star Families in particular, have a pressing need to know if there is any truth to these claims,” Duckworth wrote in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines first obtained by Politico. “I believe such a finding may be presented while protecting classified information.” The intelligence, first reported last year, was dismissed as a “hoax” by then-President Trump.

Last September, Gen. Frank McKenzie, who oversees U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said the military was still investigating, adding that the report “has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me.” Haines has been tasked with reviewing intelligence on recent Russian activity, including the alleged bounty initiative. In her letter, Duckworth asked for Haines to publish an unclassified report to “provide urgently needed transparency on this grave matter.” Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, was one of the leading voices calling for action in response to the report last year. In July, she led a letter from Senate Democrats asking to see the then-president’s intelligence briefings relating to the alleged bounties.

“Despite my persistent attempts to bring transparency to these alarming reports, the Trump administration failed to provide an official response to basic questions: did the United States Government or our partners assess the likelihood of the existence of the GRU bounty payment activity, and did the United States Government find evidence indicating correlation or causation between GRU bounty payments and deadly attacks on U.S. troops by Taliban-linked militants?” Duckworth wrote in the letter on Monday, referring to Russia’s secretive military intelligence agency.

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Always thought his role was quite substantial.

Stefan Halper’s Role In Crossfire Hurricane Larger Than Previously Known (ET)

Newly released FBI documents shed light on two meetings between FBI Agent Stephen Somma and FBI source Stefan Halper, providing further insight into the wide scope of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign—and the active role played by Halper, who acted as a confidential human source (CHS) for the FBI. Although Halper was not considered an official CHS for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation prior to these meetings, Somma had known Halper since 2011, according to the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on FISA Abuse. Additionally, Somma had served as Halper’s handler from “2011 through 2016” as part of Somma’s “regular investigative activities.”

The FBI’s meetings with Halper on Aug. 11 and 12, 2016, were done at the proposal of Somma, who said he “lacked a basic understanding” of political campaigns. Somma said that he selected Halper because he knew that Halper had been “affiliated with national political campaigns since the early 1970s” and “might have information about, and potentially may have met, one or more of the Crossfire Hurricane subjects”—Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Somma said that he did not initially tell Halper that there was already an open FBI investigation or who the subjects were, nor, he told the IG, did he tell Halper of the conversation between Papadopoulos and Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, which was the FBI’s claimed reason for opening Crossfire Hurricane.

Somma was proven to be prophetic, as Halper already had direct knowledge of two of the three people considered subjects of Crossfire Hurricane. And Halper would later fashion a meeting in London with Papadopoulos, the one person he didn’t already know. Halper also managed a meeting with Sam Clovis from the Trump campaign. Additionally, based on the FBI documents obtained by Just The News, it appears that Halper was responsible for pushing Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as a “person of interest” to the FBI with what appears to have been a false story that the FBI failed to immediately verify—and then later failed to correct as the story gained traction in the media during a crucial period of the Trump presidency.

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Problem remains: who will investigate the investigators?

Halper Reports Reveal Wider-Ranging Operation To Spy On Trump Campaign (JTN)

Once-secret reports show the FBI effort to spy on the Trump campaign was far wider than previously disclosed, as agents directed an undercover informant to make secret recordings, pressed for intelligence on numerous GOP figures, and sought to find “anyone in the Trump campaign” with ties to Russia who could acquire dirt “damaging to Hillary Clinton.” The now-declassified operational handling reports for FBI confidential human source Stefan Halper — codenamed “Mitch” — provide an unprecedented window both into the tactics used by the bureau to probe the Trump campaign and the wide dragnet that was cast to target numerous high-level officials inside the GOP campaign just weeks before Americans chose their next president in the November 2016 election.

Among the revelations, the memos make clear that: Almost immediately after the FBI opened a Russia collusion probe on July 31, 2016 narrowly focused on the foreign lobbying of a single Trump campaign aide named George Papadopoulos, agents pressed Halper for information on more than a half dozen other figures, including future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, foreign policy adviser Sam Clovis, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, economic adviser Peter Navarro, future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign adviser Carter Page. Halper provided significant exculpatory evidence to the FBI — including transcripts of conversations he recorded of targeted Trump advisers providing statements of innocence — that was never disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approved a year of surveillance targeting the Trump campaign, and specifically Page.

While current FBI Director Chris Wray has insisted the bureau did not engage in spying on the Trump campaign, Halper’s taskings include many of the tradecraft tactics of espionage, including the creation of a fake cover story (he wanted a job at the Trump campaign), secret recordings, providing background on targets, suggested questions to ask and even contact information for potential targets. But the memos’ most explosive revelations are the sheer breadth of the FBI’s insufficiently predicated dragnet targeting the Trump campaign, and the agents’ clearly stated purpose of thwarting any Trump campaign effort to get dirt from Russia that could hurt his Democratic rival.

“The Crossfire Hurricane investigative team is attempting to determine if anyone in the Trump campaign is in a position to have received information either directly or indirectly from the Russian Federation regarding the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton,” one of the early FBI electronic communications (ECs) from Halper’s undercover work stated. Ordinarily, FBI counterintelligence investigations that target Americans legally must be predicated on specific allegations that narrowly focus the bureau’s spy powers on limited targets to avoid unnecessary infringement of privacy and civil liberties. But the Halper documents reveal a large, unfocused FBI search with little substantiation of alleged wrongdoing, and significant evidence that undermined the core allegations, experts told Just the News.

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Bernie vs Ol’ Joe.

Bernie Sanders Vows To Force Vote On $15 Minimum Wage (Hill)

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says Democrats should “ignore” the recent ruling of the Senate parliamentarian and is vowing to force the Senate to vote this week on an amendment to set the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour. Sanders on Monday declared he would not back down on his signature wage initiative after Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled last week that a provision setting the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour would not be eligible under special budget rules Democrats are using to avoid a filibuster while passing their coronavirus relief bill. “My personal view is that the idea that we have a Senate staffer, a high-ranking staffer, deciding whether 30 million Americans get a pay raise or not is nonsensical.


“We have got to make that decision, not a staffer who’s unelected, so my own view is that we should ignore the rulings, the decision of the parliamentarian,” Sanders told reporters. Sanders added, “Given the enormous crises facing this country and the desperation of working families, we have got to as soon as possible end the filibuster.” “We cannot have a minority of members define what the American people want,” he said. Sanders said he will force a vote on an amendment raising the federal minimum wage this week. “To the best of my knowledge, there will be a vote on the minimum wage, and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I intend to offer the bill that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and we’ll see how the votes go.” “If we fail in this legislation, I will be back,” he warned. “We are going to keep going. “We are going to raise that minimum wage very shortly to $15 an hour,” he said.

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LBJ did it.

Joe Biden Says His Hands Are Tied On $15 Minimum Wage. That’s Not True (Sirota)

When a Republican is president, Democratic politicians, pundits and activists will tell you that the presidency is an all-powerful office that can do anything it wants. When a Democrat is president, these same politicians, pundits and activists will tell you that the presidency has no power to do anything. In fact, they will tell you a Democratic president cannot even use the bully pulpit and other forms of pressure to try to shift the votes of senators in his own party. A tale from history proves this latter myth is complete garbage – and that tale is newly relevant in today’s supercharged debate over a $15 minimum wage. In that debate so far, we have seen Democratic senators prepare to surrender the $15 minimum wage their party promised by insisting they are powerless in the face of a non-binding advisory opinion of a parliamentarian they can ignore or fire.

That explanation is patently ridiculous and factually false, so Democratic apologists are starting to further justify the surrender by suggesting that even if the party kept a $15 minimum wage in the Covid relief bill, conservative Democrats such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema would block it anyway. The White House itself is now falling back on the idea that it doesn’t have the votes to do much of anything, insinuating that Joe Biden – who occupies the world’s most powerful office – somehow has no power to try to change the legislative dynamic. And this spin is being predictably amplified across social media. [..] it is laughable and preposterous to argue that a newly elected president has zero power to even try to shift the dynamic.

And yet, whether you call this all deliberate deception or learned helplessness, this fantastical myth of the Powerless President will inevitably be used to shield Biden from criticism for abandoning his pledge to fight for a $15 minimum wage. The apologism is particularly absurd because unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who was a relative newcomer to politics, Biden’s major selling point was that he knows “how to make government work”. The guy explicitly pitched himself as the best Democratic presidential candidate by suggesting that in an era of gridlock, he knows how to make the Democratic agenda a reality and Get Things Done™, like master of the Senate Lyndon Baines Johnson. That’s where LBJ himself comes in to destroy the narrative that Democratic presidents in general – and Biden specifically – are inherently helpless.

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Memes “R” Us.

Finance As Culture (Luttig)

In practice, what does financialization look like? We’ve all heard the institutional narrative. The US stock market has nearly tripled in the past 10 years. The FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real estate) now accounts for 20% of US GDP, versus 10% in 1947. S&P buybacks nearly doubled in the 2010s. IPOs grew 2.5x in 2020. But financialization is no longer purely institutional; it has seeped into our culture. A combination of low interest rates, a historic tech bull run, and the resulting torrent of fomo has tethered us to our monitors to watch candlestick charts. The financialization of culture has manifested in two primary ways: lottery culture and equity culture. We’ve always had lottery culture, in which people trade assets hoping to make money without understanding or conviction of their fundamental value.

In the summer of 1929, for example, Joe Kennedy’s shoe shine boy gave him stock tips, signaling the market peak. But lottery culture has exploded in the past few years. Robinhood has achieved its vision of democratizing access to financial markets, boasting over ten million monthly active users and exponential growth. Retail investor trading as a percentage of stock market volume has more than doubled since 2010. When “stocks only go up”, people realize the stock market is a casino with much better payouts. Gamified trading has tethered us to our phones and bank accounts. Through GameStop, even protest became financialized. At the peak of the GameStop saga, millions of Americans owned GME, arming themselves against hedge funds.

This was part protest, part nihilistic hail mary to get rich. The number of subscribers to the wallstreetbets (WSB) subreddit certainly spiked in 2021, but the exponential compounding for years beforehand implies a degree of inevitability. Memes took lottery culture to new heights. Stocks popular among a retail audience, like Apple, have historically traded at higher multiples than others in their category. Tesla accelerated the divergence between retail excitement and fundamentals: TSLA revenue grew 50% over the past two years, but meme culture helped its market cap grow by 12x. GameStop completed the meme-fundamentals duality: investors don’t even pretend that the company’s fundamentals will ever substantiate its market cap.WSB revealed where Robinhood culture was headed all along: a nihilistic lottery. It was historically viewed as a disorganized and degenerate mob, but the mob has evolved into a laser-focused and motivated militia.

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So do the people who died in care homes.

Mob Justice May Be Poetic Justice, But Cuomo Deserves Due Process (Turley)

In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before at Northwestern University Law School to announce President Obama’s “kill list” policy, under which he reserved the right to unilaterally order the death of any American deemed an imminent threat. After all, Holder explained, “the Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The response was as chilling as the message: The audience of judges, lawyers and law students applauded an attorney general who just told them that any of them could be killed tomorrow on the president’s order. Some of us denounced the “kill list” policy, which foreshadowed what has become a campaign against due process. In our hair-triggered culture of Twitter attacks and “canceling” opponents, due process is treated as hopelessly arcane and inconvenient.

Our political discourse must now be tweet-worthy — less than 280 words — and delivered in a news cycle measured in minutes. Due process, like free speech, is rarely valued until its loss becomes personal. Take Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.). Cuomo advanced his political career by positioning himself at the front of every mob pursuing political rivals, as during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Before hearing the defense of now-Justice Kavanaugh, Cuomo described the allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford as presumptively true. He not only effectively called Kavanaugh a rapist, without any due process, but demanded that Kavanaugh take a polygraph as a condition to be believed. Cuomo was not alone. Many Democratic leaders insisted that “women must be believed” when raising sexual harassment allegations and declared Kavanaugh guilty before hearing any testimony.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) dismissed due process concerns for Kavanaugh, adding: “When we talk about … due process and justice, it must focus on the victim.” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said Kavanaugh was not entitled to a presumption of innocence and that men should “just shut up” and accept the allegations. Last year, when Lindsey Boylan’s allegations went public, I wrote a column asking if Cuomo would presume himself guilty, absent a polygraph. Now, after Boylan added details of Cuomo’s alleged kissing and propositioning her, many are struggling with his (and their) prior positions against due process. While CNN, MSNBC and other networks blacked-out the story or barely covered it, others — including many on the right — have declared Cuomo to be guilty and dangerous.

Cuomo deserves due process, despite loudly denying it for others. Simply because Boylan made the allegations is not proof of guilt. Both sides have a right to be heard — not a right to be believed solely on their word. Due process allows us to determine who is a victim — not, as AOC suggested, to vindicate one party as the declared victim. [..] Of course, as Gov. Cuomo has learned, one can lead a mob one day only to be pursued by the mob on the next. It would be easy to leave him to the mob and call it poetic justice, but that is not justice of any kind. Cuomo should receive all of the due process he denied to others — not because he deserves it, but because he embodies the costs of ignoring it.

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He’ll be arrested any day now.

Cuomo Swears He Always Kept Mask On While Sexually Harassing Women (BBee)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized this weekend for his long-standing habit of sexually abusing young women he holds power over. And while that all sounds quite bad, Governor Cuomo did make it clear to the public that he always wore a mask and socially distanced during these interactions– a fact that has some folks saying he should get off free. “I have the greatest respect for my employees,” Cuomo explained during a press conference. “Especially the girls—we’ve got a lot of young girls on staff who do a really good job.” Cuomo paused for a moment and seemed to wink at someone offscreen.


“And I can guarantee you right now, sure I might be a sexual predator, but not once did I remove my mask, never once broke the six-foot rule during conversations with my girls– at least in 2020. Isn’t that right, Kelly?” Cuomo went on to explain how some of his sexual jokes may not have landed with the women since they couldn’t see his facial expressions. He also claimed that the women may have misheard him since his words were muffled by his mask and they were standing so far apart. “Do I regret making those comments?” Cuomo asked as he stood up to leave the press conference. “No. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some strip poker, er– I mean poker, to play.”

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Ban the Bible!

Odyssey Banned for Violence, Sexism; Is this the End of World Classics? (GR)

Odyssey, Homer’s classic of world literature written in the time of Ancient Greece, was recently banned in Lawrence, Massachusetts for portraying ideas that do not conform to modern norms of behavior. The move, reported recently by the Wall Street Journal, appears to stem from a “social justice” movement, created by Twitter users, called #DisruptTexts. Its proponents believe that any world literature that does not portray the norms that they hold today in terms of gender roles, violence and racial equality must be banned in the interest of shaping a new generation that will not be allowed to come into contact with concepts that they consider repugnant — or even just outdated.

Penelope, sitting at her loom patiently for twenty years while hubby Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War, is not the model of female behavior that teachers who espouse this new type of book banning want their students to emulate. But not only do they not want their students to emulate these behaviors — they want to ban books that contain they want to ban books that portray violence, traditional gender roles and racism, making sure that future generations will never learn about the many adventures of Odysseus and his companions as they made their way across the sea, fought against Troy and wended their way back home after twenty years away.

Books such as this, which provide a treasury of historical references and form the basis of educated peoples’ understanding of the Classical world, naturally contain violent images of battle and strife and portray the social milieu of the day. Until recently, however, teachers would focus on the tremendous literary and historical merit of the world of Homer and other ancient writers, leaving their students to come to their own conclusions as to whether or not they would like to wage warfare or alternatively sit at home weaving while the husband is away at battle.

[..] But the politically-correct rush to judgment, which began in recent years with the banning of American classics such as Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and even more recent works such as How to Kill a Mockingbird — for the use of the n-word — has come back to bite society now that the floodgates have been opened. Originally, the pendulum swung the other way, and it was conservative Americans who were originally guilty of banning books — despite the freedom of speech and expression explicitly enshrined in the Constitution. The first book to be officially banned in America was Thomas Morton’s “New English Canaan,” published in 1637.

A massive, three-volume work, it contained not only Morton’s insightful observations about Native Americans, but also — raising the ire of those who had settled Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Company — a biting satire of the Puritans. As the centuries went on, it wasn’t just political positions that drew the ire of book banners, it was more often portrayals of sex that attracted the eye of censors and caused works of literature to come under scrutiny. And the list of banned books in America is shamefully long, including Peyton Place,The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Beloved, and The Lord of the Flies.

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Tulsi Syria
https://twitter.com/i/status/1366391821362819077

 

 

 

 

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Aug 232020
 


Paul Cézanne Les (Grandes) Baigneuses 1905

 

Send in the Clowns for the Circus Is in Town (Curtin)
Biden Says Trump Seeks To ‘Defund The Police’ (Fox)
House Passes $25 Billion Post Office Bailout As Trump Rages On Twitter (ZH)
My Discussion With John Durham’s Lead Investigator, William Aldenberg (CT)
John Brennan Was Put in a Completely Legitimate Perjury Trap (RS)
550,000 Primary Absentee Ballots Rejected In 2020, Far Outpacing 2016 (NPR)
US Spies’ Obsession With RT Comes Full Circle In Senate Report (RT)
Navalny Was Not Poisoned (MoA)
US Sanctions Devastate Syria’s People And Post-War Reconstruction (Maté)
The Real Huge Jobs Numbers Will Make Your Blood Run Cold (Snider)
Governments Are Faking It, and Copying Each Other (AIER)

 

 

Global new cases and deaths remain stubbornly high. US new cases are trending down, wonderful, now bring down deaths numbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Smith
https://twitter.com/i/status/1297350692357668865

 

 

The Society of the Spectacle.

Send in the Clowns for the Circus Is in Town (Curtin)

Don’t bother, they’re here, already performing in the center ring under the big top owned and operated by The Umbrella People. Trump, Biden, Pence, Harris, and their clownish sidekicks, Pompeo, Michelle Obama, et al., are performing daily under the umbrella’s shadowy protection. For The Umbrella People run a three-ring circus, and although their clowns pop out of separate tiny cars and, acting like enemies, squirt each other with water hoses to the audience’s delight, raucous laughter, and serious attentiveness, they are all part of the same show, working for the same bosses. Sadly, many people think this circus is the real world and that the clowns are not allied pimps serving the interests of their masters, but are real enemies.

The Umbrella People are the moguls who own the showtime studios – some call them the secret government, the deep-state, or the power elite. They run a protection racket, so I like to use a term that emphasizes their method of making sure the sunlight of truth never gets to those huddled under their umbrella. They produce and direct the daily circus that is the American Spectacle, the movie that is meant to entertain and distract the audience from the side show that continues outside the big top, the place where millions of vulnerable people are abused and killed. And although the sideshow is the real main event, few pay attention since their eyes are fixed on the center ring were the spotlight directs their focus. The French writer Guy Debord called this The Society of the Spectacle.

For many months now, all eyes have been directed to the Covid-19 propaganda show with Fauci and Gates, and their mainstream corporate media mouthpieces, striking thunderbolts in the storm to scare the unknowing audience into submission so the transformation of the Great Global Reset, led by the World Economic Forum and the International Monetary Fund, can proceed smoothly. Now hearts are aflutter with excitement to see the war-loving Joe Biden boldly coming forth like Lazarus from the grave to announce his choice of a masked vice-presidential running mate who will echo his pronouncements. And the star of the big top, the softly coiffured reality television emcee Trump, around whom the spectacle swirls, elicits outraged responses as he plays the part of the comical bad guy. Punch and Judy indeed.

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Defending the mass incarceration policies? You sure?

Biden Says Trump Seeks To ‘Defund The Police’ (Fox)

President Trump is the one who wants to “defund the police,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden asserted during an interview Friday. “I don’t want to defund police departments. I think they need more help, they need more assistance,” Biden told ABC News for a wide-ranging interview airing Sunday that also includes Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Biden accused the president of proposing cuts to programs that support local police, in sharp contrast to the Republican incumbent’s campaign-trail rhetoric. Harris also stressed that voters should watch the president’s actions rather than listen to his words. “There is so much about what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth that is designed to distract the American people from what he is doing,” Harris told ABC.

Instead of slashing funding, police departments should focus on forcing out officers who abuse their authority, the former vice president said. “There are unethical senators, there are unethical presidents, there are unethical doctors, unethical lawyers, unethical prosecutors, there are unethical cops. They should be rooted out,” Biden told interviewer Robin Roberts. Racial injustice protesters across the country have been calling for the defunding of police departments in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 death in police custody in Minneapolis and other cases of alleged police brutality. Biden told Roberts that if elected president he would call for national standards for police departments and would make police misconduct records more easily accessible for public scrutiny.

He said Trump plans to cut “half a billion dollars of local police support,” referring to proposed cuts to a federal program aimed at hiring more local officers. Biden said he would call for more resources and social service support for police. “We have to make it clear that this is about protecting neighborhoods, protecting people, everybody across the board,” he said. “The only guy that actually put in a bill to actually defund the police is Donald Trump,” Biden added, after defending the 1994 crime bill he backed while a U.S. senator from Delaware.

That legislation, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, called for community-based policing efforts – but has been criticized for leading to mass incarceration of African Americans and other minorities. “Everybody forgets a third of that bill that I wrote was to put more cops in the street, not in their automobiles, but getting out and knowing the community – knowing who owns the local grocery store, knowing everybody in the community, and crime will drop,” he said.

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If it really needs $25 billion (or more), the problem doesn’t seem to be where critics currently locate it.

House Passes $25 Billion Post Office Bailout As Trump Rages On Twitter (ZH)

Despite the fact that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has delayed his most controversial cost-saving measures until after the November vote, and endured a shellacking at the hands of Senate Democrats on the Homeland Security Committee, House Speaker and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi forged ahead with the help of 26 defecting Republicans to pass a bill calling for $25 billion in financial assistance for the Post Office. As more states announced plans to hold their elections largely by mail in November (a system that some used for the primaries) the Postal Service announced earlier this month that too much voting by mail could delay the arrival of some votes. Pelosi called a special session of the House during recess and on a Saturday to lend this piece of political theater even more impact.

The vote is the culmination of a Democratic crusade about late mail – literally, a few people complained about their mail being late, a few others posted some context-free photos of mail sorting machines being destroyed, and – boom – Democrats suddenly had an army of twitter trolls shrieking about veterans dying because their medication came a day late. One Connecticut family even complained that USPS had lost the cremated remains of a loved one and veteran (they were found 12 days later thanks to one dedicated worker who supposedly delivered the remains personally). They blamed DeJoy personally for the mistake, and ever since, the state’s AG William Tong has seized every opportunity to draw attention to “out of service” mail sorting machines.

DeJoy is due for round two before the House Oversight Committee on Monday, which should be even more brutal than Friday’s pile-on (at least, for DeJoy’s sake, the Senate is controlled by Republicans). But in the latest transparent bit of political theater organized by “political mastermind” Nancy Pelosi – and surely this is right up there with her wardrobe choices during the unveiling of the Dems’ police reform bill – is the victorious vote on Saturday, which has almost no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate. As we mentioned above, 26 Republicans defected to help Democrats pass the bill 257 votes to 150. In addition to the money, the bill called for reversing certain operational changes imposed under DeJoy. Six states are also suing USPS and DeJoy personally (along with the chairman of the USPS board) claiming these changes infringe on states ability to hold free and fair elections.

[..] Now, get ready for some strongly worded statements from Pelosi when Mitch McConnell inevitably refuses to call it for a vote. The Senate has introduced its own, scaled down, plan to help USPS as part of a proposed COVID relief bill that thanks to Democrats, likely will never become a reality.

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The conservative press has a few very clever and educated people writing on the Russiagate fall-out. They’re going to be needed. This is “sundance” at The Last Refuge.

My Discussion With John Durham’s Lead Investigator, William Aldenberg (CT)

On June 7, 2018, an indictment against Senate Intelligence Committee Security Director James Wolfe was unsealed. Approximately six weeks later, July 21, 2018, the DOJ mysteriously declassified and publicly released the Carter Page FISA application. That’s when I noticed the first two documents were related. The FISA application was the “top secret classified document” described in the Wolfe indictment. Immediately I recognized it wasn’t just any copy of the FISA application that was released by the DOJ; but rather a very specific copy of the FISA application. What the DOJ released was the exact copy used in the leak investigation of James Wolfe. The ramifications of this specific copy being publicly released were immediately noted, although almost everyone seemed to gloss over the issue in favor of discussing the content.

Over the course of the next several months the ramifications became more clear. Despite overwhelming evidence James Wolfe was never charged with leaking the FISA application on March 17, 2017. Quite the contrary, even to this day the official position of the FBI, DOJ and U.S. government is that Wolfe *did not* leak the FISA application. There’s a very big reason for that; as both myself and special agent William Aldenberg discussed. First, in order to fill in another corner of the interview foundation it must be remembered the goal of the DOJ under former AG Jeff Sessions, despite his recusal on all things Trump, was the removal of political influence in the DOJ. That same objective has been repeated ad infinitum by current AG Bill Barr.

This approach is why everyone in/around any issue that skirts on the investigative tissue keeps saying: “a very delicate balance is being navigated”, and “very sensitive approaches” are needed. None of the former -and some remaining embed- officials in the FBI, DOJ, or Special Counsel actors, had any aversion to the use of weaponized politics in their corrupt investigations of President Trump. However, in the current investigation of the former weaponized political investigations the primary avoidance filter is politics. As expressed by almost everyone in and around the issue, any evidence that comes from inside the political silo is considered unusable. This sets up a rather challenging approach… hence the overused “delicate balances” etc. This overlay, the aggressive need not to use political information, is also frustrating.

Some are beginning to question whether it is actually a shield to justify a lack of accountability or institutional preservation. Keep up the pressure, the concerns are valid. The public doesn’t draw distinctions from the origin of evidence. Regardless of whether information comes from HPSCI ranking member Devin Nunes; and/or Senators Grassley, Johnson or Graham (political silo); or from the DOJ itself via John Bash, Jeff Jensen or John Durham; the public is absorbing all it. However, the current AG Barr instructions imply the non use of evidence emanating from the political silo in very direct terms.

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And here is lawyer/prosecutor “Shipwreckedcrew” at Red State.

John Brennan Was Put in a Completely Legitimate Perjury Trap (RS)

Shapiro’s statement claims that Brennan was told by Durham that he is neither a “target” nor “subject,” and that he is only a witness to events under review. Maybe that’s true, but it does not sound true to me. And the statement does not say that comment was made to Brennan yesterday before the interview took place. I can say that I had several occasions during my career as a prosecutor where criminal defense lawyers asked me similar questions about their client in response to an interview request. I can’t say that I always refused to answer, but as a general matter my response was something that I learned when I was starting out from more experienced federal prosecutors —

“Counsel, this interview today is voluntary. Your client is free to leave right now, and answer none of the questions we have. He’s free to stop answering questions at any time while the interview is underway. He’s free to ask to take a break, step outside the room with you, and then return to answer the question or not answer the question. What does he want to do?” John Brennan could have been questioned before a grand jury, without the presence of his attorney in the room. That would be true IF, as suggested by Shapiro’s statement, Brennan was only a “witness”. To explain that, let’s take a moment to address the whole “Target” v. “Subject” v. “Witness” construct the press is so happy to report about.

Labeling an individual a “target” has a clear meaning in federal criminal prosecutions. It refers to someone about whom the prosecutor believes there is already sufficient admissible evidence to seek an indictment from a grand jury, and obtain a conviction at trial. The investigation is ongoing, but the grand jury already has identified a “target” for eventual prosecution. Anyone who is “not a target” is — “not a target”. There is no other “classification” of individuals with meaning. Many people in the business toss around the term “subject”, but that is a “made-up” classification that does not exist. I have received “Subject” letters from prosecutors on behalf of clients, but those all involve a request to interview my client.

A “Target” letter is different. When you receive a “Target” letter it advises you that a federal grand jury has already received evidence upon which criminal charges may be issued in the future. It advises the “Target” that they should seek counsel, and if they cannot afford counsel they should contact the Federal Defender’s Office in their district for legal representation. Once they have secured counsel, their lawyer should contact the prosecutor to discuss the matter. The purpose behind a “subject” letter is merely to instill fear in the recipient and to “encourage” them to talk about others before others talk about them — as information from others might push them closer to the “target” category. Unwitting lawyers think there is meaning behind the “subject” designation but there is not.

Fear is a great motivator. “Doing unto others before they do unto you” is sort of a universal maxim among the idiot criminal class. So if you are not a “target” — meaning there isn’t sufficient evidence at this time to charge you with a crime — then by default you are a “witness.” But “witnesses” can, and often do talk themselves into being “targets” during such interviews. That was the purpose of the interview, Mr. Brennan, not because you have some wonderful insights to provide Mr. Durham and his investigators to make their job easier.

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This is not even about the mail-in votes yet. There better be a very clear winner in November, or else.

550,000 Primary Absentee Ballots Rejected In 2020, Far Outpacing 2016 (NPR)

An extraordinarily high number of ballots — more than 550,000 — have been rejected in this year’s presidential primaries, according to a new analysis by NPR. That’s far more than the 318,728 ballots rejected in the 2016 general election and has raised alarms about what might happen in November when tens of millions of more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, many for the first time. Election experts said first-time absentee voters are much more likely to make the kinds of mistakes that lead to rejected ballots. Studies also show that voters of color and young voters are more likely than others to have their ballots not count. Most absentee or mail-in ballots are rejected because required signatures are missing or don’t match the one on record, or because the ballot arrives too late.

“If something goes wrong with any of this, that’s a problem writ large, but it’s also going to be one that hits some populations of the United States a bit harder than others, potentially disenfranchises different groups of folks at higher rates,” said Rob Griffin of the Democracy Fund, which is conducting a sweeping survey of the 2020 electorate with researchers at UCLA. Griffin said, so far, about a quarter of those who voted in person in the last election say they plan to vote by mail this November. The same is true for those who have never voted before and will be casting their first ballots in this year’s election. The numbers compiled by NPR are almost certainly an underestimate since not all states have made the information on rejected mail-in ballots available.

Even with limited data, the implications are considerable. NPR found that tens of thousands of ballots have been rejected in key battleground states, where the outcome in November — for the presidency, Congress and other elected positions — could be determined by a relatively small number of votes. For example, President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by almost 23,000 votes. More than 23,000 absentee ballots were rejected in the state’s presidential primary in April. More than 37,000 primary ballots were also rejected in June in Pennsylvania, a state Trump won by just over 44,000 votes.

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US intelligence and the Wolfowitz/Brzezinski neocon cabal have severely compromised US national security for decades, only to funnel trillions towards US arms manufacturers, who today produce second rate weapons to boot. It is high time to stop this. Security is much better served by dialogue.

US Spies’ Obsession With RT Comes Full Circle In Senate Report (RT)

Reading the final Senate Intelligence Committee report on ‘Russian meddling’ in US elections, it’s obvious they believe RT is the Christmas tree at its center, with WikiLeaks, troll bots, third parties etc. merely the ornaments. The US establishment’s obsession with RT dates all the way back to March 2011, when then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton complained about the US “losing… the information war.” The infamous Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on ‘Russian meddling’ from January 2017 devoted more than a quarter of its total volume to RT – seven out of 25 pages, to be precise. It was so obvious, even reporters with intimate inside knowledge of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) were skeptical.

The ICA was based on the CIA-FBI-NSA-ODNI claim that “RT is the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” Yet the bulk of its ‘evidence’ consisted of 2012 ‘open source’ research that was entirely irrelevant to the 2016 election. That pattern is now repeated in the latest SSCI report, in which RT is referenced more than 100 times. Published on Tuesday, the 966-page behemoth almost seems intended to discourage reading. It’s not difficult to see why: the report basically regurgitates every single assertion made over the past four years of ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy-mongering, with insinuation and innuendo doing a lot of the heavy lifting. For example, the word “likely” appears nearly 140 times throughout the report, while “almost certainly” appears 21 times.

One such assertion is that WikiLeaks and its senior leadership “resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors,” which is backed by circular reasoning: media reports, and then US laws based on them. This is followed by the assertion that RT has “provided both beneficial coverage of WikiLeaks and a formal, compensated media platform for [Julian] Assange.” Assange hosted a 12-episode interview show for RT in 2012, called World Tomorrow. This is the sole basis for the SSCI to assert the existence of an “alliance between RT and WikiLeaks” that is somehow “part of the Russian government’s overall strategy to use its state-controlled media to undermine US democratic institutions.”

Straining to prove the existence of this ‘alliance,’ the SSCI literally resurrects the completely debunked conspiracy theory that during the October 2016 release of the Podesta emails, “RT announced WikiLeaks releases on Twitter prior to WikiLeaks making that announcement itself.” As both WikiLeaks and RT have repeatedly clarified, the content of Podesta6 and Podesta15 releases had been posted on the website, but not yet announced on Twitter. RT journalists were monitoring the website, saw the upload, and reported on it – as journalists are supposed to do. That hasn’t stopped Western media, pundits and politicians from making a crazy conspiracy theory out of it, obviously.

The committee doesn’t stop there, however. They also argue that RT’s “efforts to impugn the US democratic process involve its support for third-party candidates and pushing messaging that ‘the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’” You heard it right, reporting on the existence of parties beyond Democrats and Republicans is somehow impugning democracy. Never mind that this quote is actually from the 2012 annex of the ICA, though it is used here to discuss RT’s “support” for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in 2016. That alleged support consisted of hosting a Green Party debate on a RT America show, and inviting Stein to RT’s anniversary receptions in New York and Moscow.

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An unnecessary step too far, if you ask me. It should have said the odds that he was poisoned are very slim. Other than that, yes, Navalny is a dimwitted CIA puppet whom Putin doesn’t mind at all having around.

Navalny Was Not Poisoned (MoA)

On Thursday morning the Russian rightwing and racist rabble rouser Alexey Navalny fell ill during a flight from Tomsk in Siberia to Moscow. He eventually went into a coma. The plane had to be rerouted for an emergency stop in Omsk. Navalny was brought into a clinic and put on a ventilator. Meanwhile his spokeswomen Kira Yarmysh claimed, without evidence, that Navalny had been poisoned: Yarmysh believes Navalny, who showed no symptoms prior to the flight, was “poisoned with something mixed into his tea” as it was “the only thing he drank this morning.” In the middle of the journey, she wrote later, he began sweating, went to the toilet, and apparently lost consciousness for a period. RIA Novosti reported that Navalny did not eat or drink anything on the flight.

The doctors in the intensive care unit in Omsk had difficulties to stabilize Navalny. A number of tests were made but no poisons were found. Yesterday evening the patient had stabilized. On request of his family he was transported to Germany where he is currently undergoing treatment. The hospital in Omsk said that Navalny had experienced severe hypoglycemia: The head physician of the Omsk emergency hospital, Alexander Murakhovsky, said that Alexei Navalny’s condition was caused by a sharp drop in blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is also known as diabetic shock: “When a person experiences diabetic shock, or severe hypoglycemia, they may lose consciousness, have trouble speaking, and experience double vision. Early treatment is essential because blood sugar levels that stay low for too long can lead to seizures or diabetic coma.”

Hypoglycemia can sometimes happen rapidly and may even occur when a person follows their diabetes treatment plan. A diabetic shock happens when someone with diabetes has taken too much insulin or has eaten too little. My father had diabetes and I have seen him experiencing this problem several times. He always carried a piece of sugar with him to use it as soon as he felt the first symptoms. My mother taught me the basic first aid I would have to to apply should my father be unable to help himself. Thankfully I never had to use it. It is important that the measures are taken immediately. A prolonged coma can lead to brain damage. As Navalny was on a plane up in the air it took quite a while to get him into a hospital. His prolonged coma may have created additional damage to his body.

People with diabetes usually learn how to control their blood sugar level. I have found no information that Navalny actually has diabetes but that does not say much as it is not something people usually talk about. I am not aware of any medication or poison that rapidly lowers the blood sugar level and can be applied secretly. It would also be stupid to use such in an attempt to kill someone as the attacked person simply has to eat something to negate the effect. The ‘western’ media jumped onto the ‘Navalny was poisoned’ claim to heap the usual trash on Russia. They also claimed that Navalny is the ‘opposition leader’ in Russia even as he polls at 2% which is lower than the leader of the communist party and several other real opposition politicians. Nor is Navalny a ‘liberal’. He is a rightwing nationalist and racist who sees Cechen and other non-Russian people as cockroaches that should be killed.

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Start talking to Russia and this, too, can be over.

US Sanctions Devastate Syria’s People And Post-War Reconstruction (Maté)

JOSHUA LANDIS: Well, the sanctions are…the stated reason for the sanctions is that they are to…they’re to force the Assad regime to accept UN resolutions, which call for free elections—free and fair elections—to end the sectarian form of government, and to start a political process that the Special Envoy to the United States, James Jeffrey, has said would lead to Assad leaving power. So, in a sense, this is regime change. He has said it’s not about regime change, and the Trump administration people say we don’t insist on regime change; we want a radical change of regime behavior. But we know that’s not going to happen. Assad has won the war, and these sanctions end up, you know, immiserating the Syrian people, is what it…you know, Assad is going to be able to eat three square meals a day, he can fly it in if he has to, he’s not going to be made miserable.

There are a lot of Syrian opposition members that see this as a way to punish Assad. James Jeffrey has, in his downtime, has said this…his job is really about turning Syria into a quagmire for Russian and Iran. So, those are the three different agendas, really, to punish Assad, to try to carry out some kind of regime change, and perhaps ignite this UN sanct…you know, these UN resolutions that are supposed to bring about a political process, and then also turn Syria into a quagmire so it becomes a millstone around the necks of Russia and Iran. And those, you know, those policies are not going…are not really going to be achieved. Russia has made Syria a key factor in its foreign policy. It’s not going to abandon Syria, and Syria doesn’t cost them that much.

There’s not going to be a public uprising against Assad. Many people have said, oh, some Druze were demonstrating this and that, but Assad has put down the opposition and has won a civil…very bloody civil war. He’s not going to be overthrown by some demonstrations today, and he’s not going to be moved by Western sanctions. So, this…the result of these policies is going to be to starve Syrians, increase instability in Syria, send Syrians [as] more refugees…waves of refugees out into the West, and probably to promote terrorism, because their people will be so poor and unhappy. So, it’s not good for American foreign policy, I think, in the long run. It’s not good for Syrians. It’s not good for humanitarian interests.

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This is going to take a very long time to resolve in any possible way. What’s going to happen to these people in the meantime?

The Real Huge Jobs Numbers Will Make Your Blood Run Cold (Snider)

There is simply no way to spin these figures as anything good. Not just the usual ones were talk about here, but more so some new data that you probably haven’t seen before. Beginning with the regular, it doesn’t matter that the level of initial jobless claims has declined substantially over the past few weeks. The fact of the matter is after 22 weeks of dislocation, at least eleven of them under reopening, these continue to rip along at around 1 million per week. One million. We’d never seen so much as 700k before (though the labor market is getting into the top range of 1981-82 adjusting for population, as if that’s some good thing). Forget about the first half of the contraction (which the shutdown caused) and just focus on this second set of weeks since early May.

There’s no way to describe them, more than double anything we’ve ever seen before. Not shutdown but the visible display of economic damage. The rebound isn’t being very bouncy, for one thing, no matter how many gigantic gobs of purported “stimulus” has been thrown at the economy. It ain’t stimulating. The number of jobs still being lost this late into it is unthinkable; historic. I wrote a couple days ago about another key factor which appears to be what the productivity estimates have revealed; the terrifying possibility that though there’s been more job losses than at any time in history there may not yet have been enough of the longer-run variety to balance business perceptions of far lower post-GFC potential.

“Before even getting to July, this divergence between hours and headline payrolls had already suggested that companies may have been holding on to more workers than the decline in output would’ve demanded. In other words, the level of output and actual work performed had declined more than the reduction in headcounts, by a lot more, leaving us to suspect businesses were holding back a sort of reserve of their own workers (who were still on the books but idle nonetheless) having them at-the-ready for when reopening got started.”

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Jeffrey A. Tucker at the American Institute for Economic Research gets a lot right, but some things awfully wrong (common flu is a coronavirus?! That hurts!).

In a world with zero preparedness and zero competence, politicians hide behind each other and state they only follow science, because that is an even better shield against criticism.

Governments Are Faking It, and Copying Each Other (AIER)

A mystery for months is how it is that so many governments in so many different places on earth could have adopted the same or very similar preposterous policies, no matter the threat level of the virus, and without firm evidence that interventions had any hope of being effective. In the course of two weeks, traditional freedoms were zapped away in nearly all developed countries. In a seriously bizarre twist, even the silliest policies replicated themselves like a virus in country after country. For example, you can’t try on clothing in a store in Texas or in Melbourne, or in London or in Kalamazoo. What’s with that? We know that the COVID bug is least likely to live on fabrics unless I have symptoms of it, sneeze on my handkerchief and then I stuff it in your mouth.

[..] I invite you to examine a very interesting study published by the National Academy of Sciences: Explaining the homogeneous diffusion of COVID-19 nonpharmaceutical interventions across heterogeneous countries. A clearer title might be: how so many governments behaved so stupidly at once. The theory they posit seems highly realistic to me:

“We analyze the adoption of nonpharmaceutical interventions in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries during the early phase of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Given the complexity associated with pandemic decisions, governments are faced with the dilemma of how to act quickly when their core decision-making processes are based on deliberations balancing political considerations. Our findings show that, in times of severe crisis, governments follow the lead of others and base their decisions on what other countries do. Governments in countries with a stronger democratic structure are slower to react in the face of the pandemic but are more sensitive to the influence of other countries. We provide insights for research on international policy diffusion and research on the political consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This seems to fit with what I’ve seen anecdotally. These guys in charge are mostly attorneys with specializations in bamboozling voters. And the “public health authorities” advising them can get credentials in the field without ever having studied much less practiced medicine. So what do they do? They copy other governments, as a way of covering up their ignorance. As the study says: ” While our paper cannot judge what an “optimal” adoption timing would be for any country, it follows, from our findings of what appears to be international mimicry of intervention adoptions, that some countries may have adopted restrictive measures rather sooner than necessary. If that is the case, such countries may have incurred excessively high social and economic costs, and may experience problems sustaining restrictions for as long as is necessary due to lockdown fatigue.”

Which is to say: the closures, lockdowns, and imposed stringency measures were not science. It was monkey see, monkey do. The social psychology experiments on conformity help explain this better than anything else. They see some governments doing things and decide to do them too, as a way of making sure they are avoiding political risk, regardless of the cost. ” Why did so many governments go so nuts at once, disregarding their own laws, traditions, and values by bludgeoning their own people with the excuse of science that has turned out to be almost completely bogus? Some people claim conspiracy but a much simpler answer might be that, in their ignorance and stupor, they copied each other out of fear.”

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Mar 172020
 


Edwin Rosskam Shoeshine, 47th Street, Chicago’s main Negro business street 1941

 

A View From Italy’s Coronavirus Frontline (G.)
The UK Only Woke Up “In The Last Few Days” (BF)
Julian Assange’s Mother Calls For His Immediate Release Over COVID19 Fears (ES)
Americans Get a Taste of Life Under Sanctions (MPN)
De Blasio Urges ‘Nationalization’ Of Key Industries (Fox)
Spain Takes Over Private Healthcare Amid More Lockdowns (G.)
Mitt Romney’s Coronavirus Economic Plan: $1,000 To Each American Adult (Vox)
Chinese Scientists Find Infected Monkeys Developed Immunity (SCMP)
New Zealand Launches Massive Spending Package To Combat COVID-19 (G.)
What The ECB Must Do To Save The Euro Zone Economy (SCMP)
EU Calls For 30-Day Ban On Foreigners Entering Bloc (G.)
Things Have Changed (Kunstler)
DOJ Drops Charges Against Russian Troll Farm for 2016 Election Meddling (L&C)

 

 

As the potential and existing economic and political disruption sinks in, everyone comes with their own re-inventions of the wheel. Predictable behavior. The US and UK can still stumble their way towards a worse outcome than necessary, but Italy no longer has such freedom. They made their big mistakes a few weeks ago.

And as politicans get measures, supplies and treatments wrong, they still have room left for gigantic mistakes is responding to economic consequences. Stuck as they may be bewteen the 2-3 weeks they tell you this will last and the many months they say it will.

Unless someoe stops them real soon, they will spend, trillions this time, bailing out banks and large companies that only exist to a large extent because they were bailed 12 years ago as well, and let the people rot away. But then, who are the main campaign contributors?

 

Cases 184,133 (+ 13,281 from yesterday’s 170,852)

Deaths 7,182 (+ 656 from yesterday’s 6,526)

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 8%!)

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

 

 

Steve Keen

 

 

What it will look like.

A View From Italy’s Coronavirus Frontline (G.)

There are the elderly couples who died hours apart and without their families around them. There is the 47-year-old woman who died at home, and who remained there for almost two days because funeral companies refused to collect her body. There are the doctors who lost their lives after assisting their infected patients. Among the 2,158 people to have been killed by the coronavirus pandemic in Italy as of Monday, the oldest was 95 and the two youngest were 39. “The reality is this virus is spreading like wildfire. Death is not certain, but the contagion is real,” said Luca Franzese, whose sister, Teresa, 47, died at home in Naples on 7 March. “My parents are heartbroken, they are destroyed..”

Teresa, who lived with her elderly parents, sister, brother-in-law and their two children, suffered from epilepsy but was otherwise in good health. A week before she died, she came down with the flu. “My parents called her doctor but they refused to come to the house despite knowing she had a disability,” said Franzese. “She went into a coma on 7 March, we tried to call the emergency hotline, they arrived after 40 minutes. In the meantime, I tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” Teresa tested positive for the virus postmortem. Franzese spoke of his family’s frustration at being “abandoned” by the authorities after his sister was left to die at home.

It was only after he made an appeal for help via Facebook that a local funeral company eventually came to collect her body. But as with other coronavirus victims, she was buried quickly and without ceremony to mitigate the risk of infection posed by her corpse. Her parents, who have underlying health issues, tested negative for the virus, as did Luca and a nephew. The rest of Teresa’s immediate family of seven have tested positive. [..] not all of the dead had other health issues, at least as far as is known. Luca Carrara lost his father, Luigi Carrara, 86, and mother, Severa Belotti, 82, within a few hours of each other. He told the Italian press they were in good health. “I was unable to see my parents, they died alone, that’s what this virus is,” he added. “The truth is this is not a banal flu and if you end up in hospital, you leave either alive or dead.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1239741543654834179

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Actual headline (way too long): The UK Only Realised “In The Last Few Days” That Its Coronavirus Strategy Would “Likely Result In Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths””

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, tweets: “It said it took a study from Imperial to understand the likely burden of COVID-19 on the NHS. But read the first paper we published on COVID-19 on Jan 24. 32% admitted to ITU with 15% mortality. We have wasted 7 weeks. This crisis was entirely preventable.”

The UK Only Woke Up “In The Last Few Days” (BF)

The UK only realised “in the last few days” that attempts to “mitigate” the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would not work, and that it needed to shift to a strategy to “suppress” the outbreak, according to a report by a team of experts who have been advising the government. The report, published by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team on Monday night, found that the strategy previously being pursued by the government — dubbed “mitigation” and involving home isolation of suspect cases and their family members but not including restrictions on wider society — would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over”.

The mitigation strategy “focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection”, the report said, reflecting the UK strategy that was outlined last week by Boris Johnson and the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance. But the approach was found to be unworkable. “Our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over,” perhaps by as much as eight times, the report said. In this scenario, the Imperial College team predicted as many as 250,000 deaths in Britain.

“In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days,” the report explained, due to new data on likely intensive care unit demand based on the experience of Italy and Britain so far. “We were expecting herd immunity to build. We now realise it’s not possible to cope with that,” professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious diseases epidemiology at Imperial, told journalists at a briefing on Monday night. As a result, the report — which its authors said had “informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in the last weeks” — said: “We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time.”

A suppression strategy, along the lines of the approach adopted by the Chinese authorities, “aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely”. It requires “a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members”, and “may need to be supplemented by school and university closures”. An “intensive intervention package” will have to be “maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more)“, the report said, painting an extraordinary picture of what life could be like in the UK for the next year and a half.

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And in a country as screwed up as Britain, jail is the last place to be.

“An Iranian judiciary spokesman says the country has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

Julian Assange’s Mother Calls For His Immediate Release Over COVID19 Fears (ES)

The mother of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appealed for his immediate release from Belmarsh Prison over fears he could catch coronavirus while behind bars. Christine Assange’s plea came after a leading prison boss warned last week that the worsening Covid-19 epidemic will kill inmates throughout the UK, describing the conditions inside jails as a fertile breeding ground for the virus. Coronavirus cases have surged throughout the UK in recent days, with 14 more deaths confirmed on Sunday.


More than 1,500 people nationwide have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began, but officials say the true figure of people with the disease is likely to be far higher. In a series of posts on social media, Ms Assange described her son as being “weak from chronic illness” and implored Britons and Americans to push politicians into action over his case. Those with underlying health conditions are more at risk of contracting the virus.

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Be kind.

Americans Get a Taste of Life Under Sanctions (MPN)

Across fifty states, Americans are collectively bracing for the incoming COVID-19 pandemic to hit. In the face of the virus, people are resorting to panic buying, stocking up on vital foods and goods, leading to pressing shortages of key products like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Perhaps more concerning, however, is that health experts all agree that the country is ill-equipped for the coming medical emergency. “We are not prepared, nor is any place prepared for a Wuhan-like outbreak,” said Dr. Eric Toner of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And we would see the same sort of bad outcomes that they saw in Wuhan – with a very high case fatality rate, due largely to people not being able to access the needed intensive care.”

Chief among the problems is a lack of ventilators, a crucial machine to help critically ill patients breathe properly. New York City, for example, has barely one sixth of the ventilators it would need for a critical outbreak. If things get truly bad, the city has drafted laws to compel prisoners at Rikers Island jail to dig mass graves. One of the principal reasons why the U.S. is so unprepared is that it spends so little on public health in comparison with what it spends on war. The U.S. military’s projected budget is $934 billion per year, the Pentagon’s is $712 billion. In contrast, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) costs the taxpayer only $6.6 billion. At a time of crisis, many Americans are reassessing which organization they feel is truly protecting them from danger. While increasing the military budget, President Trump has consistently argued for cuts to the CDC. Amazingly, the Trump administration confirmed last week that it intends to slash funding from the body, even as the country begins reeling from the impact of COVID-19.

The crippling shortages, inability to move and the likely overwhelming of medical services will give Americans a taste of what it is like to live under sanctions that it imposes on a number of countries worldwide. U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, declared illegal and a “crime against humanity” by the United Nations, are conservatively estimated to have killed more than 40,000 people between 2017 and 2018 alone. Diabetics, for example, have been unable to get insulin because of the embargo, leading to mass deaths. The Cuban government estimates that the American embargo has cost it over $750 billion. Meanwhile, Iran, wracked by the virus that has caused more than 850 confirmed deaths, has been decimated by Trump’s increased sanctions.

The Iranian rial lost 80 percent of its value, food prices doubled, and rents and unemployment soared. Because of the sanctions, patients with conditions like leukemia and epilepsy have been unable to get treatment. After the coronavirus hit it, no country would sell the Islamic Republic basic medical supplies like masks, fearful of reprisals from the world’s only superpower. The shortages are so bad that doctors are being forced to share facemasks with other hospital staff. Eventually the World Health Organization stepped in and began supplying Iran directly. The Iranian government also invented an app to deal with COVID-19, hoping to share information with its citizens to help fight its spread but Google removed it from its app store citing the sanctions that prevent it from promoting anything Iranian-made. The effect of the sanctions in helping spread COVID-19 across Iran and beyond is immeasurable.

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Why is it taking so long? Could it be because these industries pay for campaigns?

De Blasio Urges ‘Nationalization’ Of Key Industries (Fox)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is arguing that the best way to tackle the coronavirus outbreak is for the federal government to take over critical private companies in the medical field and have them running 24 hours a day. The mayor, who made multiple media appearances over the weekend, said that the current situation calls for drastic measures which include nationalizing certain industries. “This is a case for a nationalization, literally a nationalization, of crucial factories and industries that could produce the medical supplies to prepare this country for what we need,” de Blasio told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Saturday, calling for “24/7 shifts” during what he called a “war-like situation.”


The following day, de Blasio reiterated this message, telling CNN that “the federal government needs to take over the supply chain right now.” He specified the need for companies that make ventilators, surgical masks, and hand sanitizers to be taken over and made to work around the clock. New York state already has started producing hand sanitizer in response to shortages and price gouging. The city itself has also taken drastic steps to deal with the crisis, forcing restaurants to limit themselves to takeout and delivery service, and closing many establishments to prevent the spread of the virus through crowds. The mayor predicted that coronavirus will continue to be a problem “for at least six months.” Sunday evening, it was announced that New York City schools will be shutting down until at least April 20, a measure de Blasio previously had resisted, despite facing pressure to do so.

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Temporarily, but better than nothing.

Spain Takes Over Private Healthcare Amid More Lockdowns (G.)

In Spain, where the coronavirus toll climbed to 309 on Monday with 9,191 confirmed cases, the government announced sweeping measures allowing it to take over private healthcare providers and requisition materials such as face masks and Covid-19 tests. The health minister, Salvador Illa, said private healthcare facilities would be requisitioned for coronavirus patients, and manufacturers and suppliers of healthcare equipment must notify the government within 48 hours. The Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to leave their homes only if they needed to buy food or medicine or go to work or hospital. The transport minister, José Luis Ábalos, said it was “obvious” the measures would be extended beyond the planned 15-day period.

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Romney is but a follower. Tulsi Gabbard started this. House Resolution HRes 897.

Mitt Romney’s Coronavirus Economic Plan: $1,000 To Each American Adult (Vox)

On Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican and former GOP presidential nominee, called for $1,000 cash payments to every American adult as coronavirus measures to keep people in their homes threaten to put millions out of work. “While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options,” Romney argued in a press release. This, to be clear, is not the same as Yang’s proposal. Yang wanted monthly checks as a regular government policy, while Romney is supporting a one-off $1,000 check as an emergency measure. In that context, $1,000 might not be enough:


Former Obama chief economist Jason Furman has proposed payments of as much as $3,000 per adult and $1,500 per child. But the fact that a conservative Republican is proposing unrestricted cash payments during a GOP administration – in which even heavily regulated government programs like food stamps are under attack – is notable. And Romney is not alone in this. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), one of the most conservative members of the Senate GOP and a likely future presidential contender, went on Fox & Friends on Monday morning to call on Congress to dispense with complicated mechanisms like tax credits and instead put “cash in the hands of affected families”:

Some Democrats not in leadership have also been pushing their own versions of this idea. There is already a cash bill in the House from Democratic Reps. Tim Ryan and Ro Khanna that would give at least $1,000 to every American making under $65,000, and as much as $6,000 to some families with children. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, who served as chief economist to President George W. Bush, has argued that cash payments are needed not so much to stimulate the economy as to help people whose jobs are impossible to perform due to social distancing. It’s a humanitarian measure, not a stimulus measure.


“Financial planners tell people to have six months of living expenses in an emergency fund. Sadly, many people do not,” Mankiw writes on his blog. “Considering the difficulty of identifying the truly needy and the problems inherent in trying to do so, sending every American a $1000 check asap would be a good start. A payroll tax cut makes little sense in this circumstance, because it does nothing for those who can’t work.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1238516118391791617

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Interesting for 2021, perhaps. Not now.

Chinese Scientists Find Infected Monkeys Developed Immunity (SCMP)

Scientists who infected monkeys with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 have found that those that recovered developed effective immunity from the disease – a potentially important discovery in the race to develop a vaccine. But the researchers also found that the animals could become infected through their eyes, which means wearing a face mask may not be enough to protect people from the disease. Scientists around the world have been racing to develop a vaccine and the first clinical trials could be held in China and the US within a month. But a number of cases, where people who had tested negative for the disease and were discharged from hospital only to give a positive result a few days later, have cast doubt on the process.

The rate of reoccurrence ranged from 0.1 to 1 per cent nationwide, according to China’s state media reports. However, in some provinces such as Guangdong up to 14 per cent of the discharged patients had reportedly returned to hospital because of the test results. If it turns out that these patients had been reinfected by the same virus, then vaccines will not prove effective. But the monkey experiment carried out by a team from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences may help dispel that fear. [..] after tests returned negative results and X-rays showed their internal organs had fully recovered, two monkeys were dosed with the virus through the mouth. The scientists recorded a temporary temperature rise, but other than that everything appeared to stay normal. Autopsies were performed on these two monkeys about two weeks later, and the researchers could not find a trace of the virus in their body.

[..] Professor Zhong Nanshan, a leading government scientist, said in Guangzhou last week that they had found a strong presence of antibodies in recovered patients, which meant the virus could no longer use them as a carrier again. “Now the question everyone cares about is whether the close contacts and family members may be infected because [the patient] tested positive again. So far I have not seen any evidence,” Zhong said.

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People first, not businesses. Wage subsidies for companies is not the way to go. Give people the money, so companies don’t have to pay them, move the salary burden from their books.

New Zealand Launches Massive Spending Package To Combat COVID-19 (G.)

New Zealand’s government has announced a spending package equivalent to 4% of GDP in an attempt to fight the effects of Covid-19 on the economy, in what ministers called the most significant peace-time economic plan in the country’s modern history. It includes covering wages for people who are required to self-isolate but cannot work from home, or those caring for relatives who are sick with the virus, even if they are not sick or do not test positive for Covid-19. “This package is one of the largest in the world on a per capita basis,” Grant Robertson, the finance minister, told reporters at New Zealand’s parliament on Tuesday. On Tuesday, authorities began spot checks on travellers, with two people arriving from south-east Asia already facing deportation for failing to self-isolate.


Stephen Vaughan at Immigration NZ said: “This kind of behaviour is completely irresponsible and will not be tolerated which is why these individuals have been made liable for deportation.” The NZ$12.1bn stimulus includes wage subsidies, bolstering the healthcare sector’s response to the virus, more money for low-income families and those on social welfare, and changes to business tax. New Zealand has only eight confirmed and two probable cases of Covid-19. But a decision to impose strict travel restrictions on the weekend – requiring almost all travellers arriving from anywhere to self-isolate for 14 days – is expected to wreak havoc on business, especially in the country’s tourism sector, New Zealand’s biggest export earner. Businesses hard-hit by the virus – experiencing more than a 30% decline in revenue compared to last year – will be eligible to receive wage subsidies to keep paying staff.

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Disband itself.

What The ECB Must Do To Save The Euro Zone Economy (SCMP)

It doesn’t take much to expose the flaws in the euro zone economy but the coronavirus epidemic has already ripped asunder any hope of getting back to sounder growth for a long time. Europe is clearly heading into recession as the pandemic takes a heavy toll on consumer demand, business activity and financial market confidence. We are heading into uncharted territory with the national lockdowns in Italy and Spain foreshadowing bigger trouble ahead for Europe’s largest economies, Germany and France, with plenty of negative spillover likely for the rest of the region. Just how deep the recession descends depends upon how effectively Europe’s policymakers respond. Judging by the official response so far, it’s no surprise markets are panicking.


Europe’s bond and credit markets are definitely showing the strain. It’s not so much that Germany’s yield curve has turned negative on safe-haven and flight-to-quality flows, but that bond spreads for riskier markets have started to surge. The bellwether 10-year spread of Italian government bonds over equivalent German yields has exploded out to 2.34 per cent in recent days as investors have fled for cover. Talk about Italy’s “doom loop” has resurfaced again, with deepening recession risk, the fragility of the Italian banking sector and the potential threat of future credit default combining to put the wind up the markets. It hasn’t helped that the European Central Bank seems to be turning its back on the bond market’s plight.

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27 countries, 27 different policy sets. What EU?

EU Calls For 30-Day Ban On Foreigners Entering Bloc (G.)

The European commission has proposed a 30-day ban on foreigners entering the bloc as EU governments imposed closures and lockdowns rarely seen outside wartime in a continuing effort to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak. As the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged countries to “test, test, test” for the virus, saying it “cannot be fought blindfolded”, the commission president called for an end to all non-essential travel to Europe. “The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” Ursula von der Leyen said. “We think non-essential travel should be reduced right now in order to not spread the virus further, be it within the EU or by leaving the EU.”

Von der Leyen said the restrictions – which would not apply to UK nationals – should last for 30 days initially but may be extended if necessary. Permanent EU residents, family members of EU nationals, diplomats, doctors and coronavirus researchers would also be exempted, she said. Officials said the move, which could be approved by leaders in a video conference on Tuesday, was aimed mainly at removing the need for national controls at borders between the 26 members of the passport-free Schengen zone. Germany, which has recorded 5,813 cases and 13 deaths from Covid-19, introduced border controls with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland on Monday, allowing through only those with a valid reason for travel such as residents, cross-border commuters and delivery drivers.

In line with a growing number of EU countries, the federal government and state leaders also agreed to close almost all shops except food stores, banks, pharmacies and petrol stations, ban religious gatherings, shutter hotels and restrict visits to hospitals and care homes. Schools in most German states were closed and Bavaria declared a disaster situation to allow the state’s authorities to push through new restrictions faster. The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, urged citizens to limit their social contacts. “Restrictions on our lives today can save lives tomorrow,” he said.

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“Something old and played-out is limping offstage, and something new is stepping on. Aren’t you glad you watched all those debates?”

Things Have Changed (Kunstler)

Where does this all lead? Eventually, to a land and a people who operate their society in a very different way at a much more modest scale. The task of reorganizing our national life is immense. (There will be plenty to do, so don’t worry about that.) You can forget about the grandiose techno-narcissistic visions of electrified motoring and a robotic nirvana of perpetual sex-crazed leisure. Everything we do has to be downscaled, from whatever manufacturing we can cobble back together to rebuilding commercial ecosystems at a finer grain from region to region — in other words, what we now call small business, geared locally.

Expect giant AgriBiz to founder on a shortage of capital, especially, and expect smaller farms to organize emergently, worked by more humans working together. That is, if we want to keep eating. Expect the small towns in the well-watered parts of the country to revive while the groaning metroplexes spiral down into entropic sclerosis. Consider the value of our vast inland waterway system and the opportunities to move goods on them, when the trucking industry unravels. Consider lending a hand at rebuilding the railroad system in this country.

There will be economic roles and social roles for all those willing to step up to some responsibility. Young people may see tremendous opportunity replacing the wounded economic dinosaurs wobbling across the landscape. It’ll be all about going local and regional and making yourself useful in exchange for a livelihood and the esteem of others around you — aka, your community. Government has been working tirelessly to make itself superfluous, if not completely ineffectual, impotent, and rather loathsome in the face of this crisis that has been slowly-but-visibly building for half a century. Something old and played-out is limping offstage, and something new is stepping on. Aren’t you glad you watched all those debates?

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But don’t worry, the New York Times already runs an article entitled: “Can Russia Use the Coronavirus to Sow Discord Among Americans?”

How can anyone continue to read that rag?

DOJ Drops Charges Against Russian Troll Farm for 2016 Election Meddling (L&C)

And after all of that, the Russian troll farm’s American lawyers have the last laugh? The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia led by former William Barr aide Timothy Shea has filed a motion to dismiss the case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which has often been referred to as the Russian troll farm defendant. Concord Management was one of many people or entities charged in a Feb. 2018 indictment by then-special counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Thirteen Russians and three companies were charged in the indictment. Federal prosecutors now want to dismiss their case against Concord Management.


“The United States will continue its efforts to apprehend the individual defendants and bring them before this Court to face the pending charges, but because substantial federal interests are no longer served by continuing with the proceedings against the Concord Defendants, the government moves, respectfully, to dismiss with prejudice Count One of the indictment as to them,” the filing said. The Department of Justice alleged that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” and Concord bankrolled the troll farm as part of a massive conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election.

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Dec 062019
 
 December 6, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein President Roosevelt tours drought area, near Bismarck, North Dakota Aug 1936

 

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)
Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)
Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)
Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)
Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)
Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)
French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)
UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)
Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)
Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)
BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

 

 

There’s a concerted effort to bring back Mueller into the impeachment narrative. I’m not entirely sure why the Dems would want that. A little video with the article suggests Trump would have lied to Mueller -in writing- about contacts with WikiLeaks. You know, Julian Assange, the man who can’t defend himself. The same reason why Mueller could leave him in the report. Along with the 13 Russians. Pelosi can swing from Ukraine back to RussiaRussia. She already did, actually.

So will they bring back Mueller’s bumbling testimony as well? Be careful what you wish for.

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)

Democrats are debating a risky step that may immeasurably bolster their impeachment case but could multiply the political price for ramming it home. Including elements of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report suggesting President Donald Trump was guilty of obstruction would help arguments he did exactly the same in the Ukraine investigation. But reviving the controversy over the special counsel’s probe could blur the much clearer current abuse of power case and play into Trump’s claims that both Washington intrigues are all part of the same “hoax.” Such an accusation would not be based in fact, but it would surely increase the exposure of swing state Democratic House members already facing an existential vote over impeachment. [..]

Democrats provoked fresh speculation that they were moving towards admitting some Mueller evidence by scheduling a Judiciary Committee hearing for Monday with staffers from two committees: Intelligence, which investigated the Ukraine scandal, and Judiciary, which dealt with allegations of obstruction in the Mueller report. This followed comments by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, that could be taken as a hint that Democrats were examining the Mueller option. “President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020 election,” Nadler said in his committee’s opening impeachment hearing on Wednesday. “In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.”

But in a situation as emotionally and politically fraught as an impeachment, confronting each action can provoke a politically damaging counter-reaction. Democrats who wanted to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump after the release of the Mueller report failed to convince a critical mass of their own leadership that the case was sufficiently clear to the American people. That was one reason why Pelosi held out so long against rising pressure in her own caucus for an effort to oust the President, amid fears of a political backlash. In the CNN town hall, the speaker suggested that the Ukraine case was far more black and white. “It wasn’t so clear to the public,” Pelosi said, referring to Mueller’s findings.

“The Ukraine (situation) has removed all doubt, it was self-evident that the President undermined our national security, jeopardized the integrity of our election as he violated the oath of office.” The President and his supporters, perpetrating a massive disinformation campaign to create uncertainty and ambiguity about the Ukraine case, has been trying to brand it as an extension of the Mueller saga. Folding in the special counsel’s evidence could help do his work for him. For instance, in the first televised House Intelligence Committee hearing last month, the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, told witnesses: “the main performance — the Russia hoax — has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel.”

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Turley of course is the one expert who disagreed with the three others.

Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)

The most dangerous place for an academic is often between the House and the impeachment of an American president. I knew that going into the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of Donald Trump. After all, Alexander Hamilton that impeachment would often occur in an environment of “agitated passions.” Yet I remained a tad naive in hoping that an academic discussion on the history and standards of it might offer a brief hiatus from hateful rhetoric on both sides. In my testimony Wednesday, I lamented that, as in the impeachment of President Clinton from 1998 to 1999, there is an intense “rancor and rage” and “stifling intolerance” that blinds people to opposing views.

My call for greater civility and dialogue may have been the least successful argument I made to the committee. Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record. Some of the most heated attacks came from Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee. [..] As I stated Wednesday, I believe the Clinton case is relevant today and my position remains the same. I do not believe a crime has been proven over the Ukraine controversy, though I said such crimes might be proven with a more thorough investigation. Instead, Democrats have argued that they do not actually have to prove the elements of crimes such as bribery and extortion to use those in drafting articles of impeachment.

In the Clinton impeachment, the crime was clearly established and widely recognized. As I said 21 years ago, a president can still be impeached for abuse of power without a crime, and that includes Trump. But that makes it more important to complete and strengthen the record of such an offense, as well as other possible offenses. I remain concerned that we are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. Trump will not be our last president. What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. These “agitated passions” will not be a substitute for proof in an impeachment. We currently have too much of the former and too little of the latter.

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More Mueller.

Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)

Warning that U.S. democracy is at stake, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a congressional committee on Thursday to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a historic step setting up a fight over whether to oust him from office. In a dramatic televised statement, Pelosi accused the Republican president of abusing his power and alluded to Britain’s King George III, the monarch against whom the American colonies rebelled in forming the United States in 1776, saying that in the United States, “the people are the king.” “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections,” said Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress.

At the heart of the Democratic-led House’s impeachment inquiry is Trump’s request that Ukraine launch an investigation targeting Joe Biden. The former vice president is a top contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election. “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said. She had opened the investigation in September. She was referring to Jerrold Nadler, whose House Judiciary Committee has the responsibility of drawing up the formal charges that would later be voted on by the full House. Two people knowledgeable about the process said the panel could draft and recommend the articles of impeachment to the House as early as Dec. 12.

[..] Judiciary Democrats said the report by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller documenting Russian interference in the 2016 election could be part of testimony they hear on Monday from a committee lawyer, who is presenting evidence along with a Democratic lawyer from the House Intelligence Committee. Republican committee lawyers are also expected to testify. Including material from Mueller’s report in an article of impeachment would demonstrate a pattern of behavior involving foreign interference in U.S. elections, House Judiciary Democrat Pramila Jayapal said.

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Talk about a swamp. Giuliani is talking to Ukraine people. Not sure where that fits in.

Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)

Ukraine has fired the prosecutor investigating cases involving Hunter Biden and Burisma and has transferred responsibility to the Soros-controlled ‘National Anti-Corruption Bureau’ (NABU) for disposal. This is the same NABU led by Artem Sytnyk who was caught on tape bragging about helping the Clinton campaign in its effort to discredit Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Konstantin Kulik was fired from the General Prosecutor’s Office on November 22 due to corruption charges against him. Sources for CD Media describe the firing as being political in nature, as a way to ‘tidy up’ any loose ends regarding Biden and Burisma, to keep the information from the public eye during the ‘impeachment’ campaign in the United States.

They describe Victor Trepak (New Deputy General Prosecutor), Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko, and Sytnyk as being under the control of the George Soros/Deep State infrastructure in-country. Trepak was involved in the infamous ‘black ledger’ in the Manafort affair, which is now considered to be fake. The State Bureau of Investigation may be headed by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Trepak it was reported by “Ukrainian Truth” with reference to sources, reported Ukrainian news outlet GordonUA.com. “Soros and the Democrats appointed their agents of influence to the General Prosecutor’s Office (Kasko and Trepak). They put Sytnyk in NABU and Kholodnitsky in SAP (Special Prosecutor) in order to destroy the evidence of corruption of the Democrats in Ukraine and to continue the process of the country’s rape with impunity. They are corruption. If they put Trepak, the author of the ‘black ledger’, as the head of the State Bureau of Investigation, then the process of covering up their crimes will be completed,” declared a confidential intelligence source in Ukraine.

In an interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Babel, Kasko discusses the development of Kulik’s firing. According to him, the National Bureau of Investigation will deal with almost all of the cases that Kulik conducted: “All the cases that Kulik was involved in are currently being inventory. In 99 percent of cases, NABU will deal with them. This is a good body to put an end to and clarify what actually happened in these matters. “

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End the Fed.

Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)

The total amount of repurchase agreements (“repos”) on the Fed’s balance sheet as of December 4, released today, declined to $209 billion, from $215 billion a month ago. These repos included: • $70 billion in overnight repos, issued on Wednesday morning that unwound today; all prior overnight repos had already unwound. • $88 billion in multi-day repos with maturities of up to two weeks; • $50 billion in 42-day repos; of which $25 billion were issued on November 25 and $25 billion on December 2. They will unwind early next year. Before the repo market blew out in mid-September, the repos on the Fed’s balance sheet were zero. This chart shows the weekly balances of repos on the Fed’s balance sheet as of each Wednesday:

In these “repo operations,” the Fed buys Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and government “Agency” securities, under an agreement whereby the counter parties have to repurchase those securities on a set date at a set (higher) price. The interest rate is determined by the difference between the price the Fed buys the securities at, and the pre-set higher price it sells the securities back to the original counter party. [..] The Fed has stated many times that it wants to get rid of its holdings of MBS. And it’s progressing with the plan. In November, the Fed shed $22 billion in MBS, exceeding the self-imposed cap of $20 billion per month for the seventh month in a row. Over the past seven months, it has shed $160 billion in MBS, or about $22.8 billion a month on average. Its holdings are now down to $1.42 trillion, below where they had first been in November 2013:

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Big Brother appears inevitable.

Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)

A filmmaker working on a documentary that’s critical of U.S. policies. A writer who operates a pseudonymous Twitter account to evade an authoritarian regime in their home country. An activist who uses Facebook to organize protests at the U.S.-Mexico border. These are the kinds of people who might not want U.S. immigration agents poring over their social media profiles before deciding whether they should be allowed into the country. Yet that’s exactly what the State Department now requires as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” of millions of visa applicants. As of May, people who need a visa to enter the U.S. have to disclose any social media handles they’ve used over the past five years on 20 platforms, from Instagram and Twitter to YouTube and Weibo (the Chinese microblogging service).


If they don’t, their visas could be denied. Two U.S.-based documentary film organizations filed suit on Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C. to challenge the policy, arguing that it will have a chilling effect on the filmmakers they work with. Along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the International Documentary Association and Doc Society are suing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security because their international members are “concerned that their political views will be used against them during the visa process.” “They self-censor to avoid being associated with controversial ideas or sensitive topics,” the complaint states. The nonprofit groups surveyed over 100 international filmmakers and found that “a significant majority said it would chill their speech online.”

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“We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down…”

French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)

France faced a second day of travel chaos, shuttered schools and understaffed hospitals on Friday as unions said they would be no let-up in a strike against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms until the president backed down. Much of France ground to a halt on Thursday as transport workers went on strike – joined by teachers, doctors, police, firemen and civil servants – while smoke and tear gas swirled through the streets of Paris as some protests turned violent, leading to dozens of arrests. On Friday there were heavy cancellations of rush-hour trains into Paris and 10 out of 16 metro lines were closed while others ran limited services.


Traffic jams totaling more than 350 kilometers clogged the main roads in and around the capital, according to traffic app Styadin, as many commuters took to their cars. Rail workers extended their strike through Friday, while unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. “We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down,” said 50-year-old Paris transport employee Patrick Dos Santos. The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who took office in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

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With 6 days left, what’s the use?

UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)

Labour’s co-campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne said they had recorded numerous examples where his party’s leadership had received “more negative treatment, harsher scrutiny and slanted editorial comment” than Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. “That bias has been reflected in the framing, content and balance of BBC reporting during the campaign,” Gwynne wrote in a letter to the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall. “If the Conservatives are allowed to ‘play’ or manipulate the BBC, and this behavior goes unchecked, then the corporation will have effectively been complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.”

The broadcaster, which is funded by a tax on all television-watching households and regularly faces accusations of bias from across the political spectrum, is bound by strict rules to ensure impartiality. “The BBC will continue to make its own independent editorial decisions, and is committed to reporting the election campaign fairly, impartially and without fear or favor,” a BBC spokesman said. Labour, trailing the Conservatives by about 10 points in opinion polls before the Dec. 12 vote, are particularly unhappy that Johnson has not agreed to be interviewed by veteran journalist Andrew Neil, who has already subjected the other major party leaders to tough questioning.

Labour said they had agreed to the Neil interview on the understanding that Johnson had also signed up. “Instead, the BBC allowed the Conservative leader to pick and choose a platform through which he believed he could present himself more favorably and without the same degree of accountability,” Gwynne said. On Thursday, having just interviewed the head of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage on BBC TV at prime-time, Neil issued an on-air challenge to Johnson to appear before him. He also detailed a series of questions he would ask, focusing on whether Johnson could be trusted over campaign promises.

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Ready for prime time TV. If Boris is MIA, just broadcast this.

Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)

The BBC’s Andrew Neil says he wants to quiz Boris Johnson about whether he can be trusted. The Conservative leader is – so far – the only main party leader not to submit to an election grilling on BBC One.

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Great story. Who has the movie rights?

Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)

We first started noticing major ‘odd’ exports of gold from Turkey to Iran in May 2012. Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country in bursts. “Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.” Then, in 2014, we discussed Turkey’s “200 tons of secret gold” trade with Iran detailing how a complex network that spanned Turkey, China, Dubai and Iran was used to skirt US sanctions on energy exports from Iran. The operation featured an Iranian-born businessman who liked fast horses, faster cars and the fastest planes.

His unique skill: Getting gold into sanctions-encircled Iran. Enough gold that for a time he became the government’s key instrument in improving Turkey’s irksome economic imbalance. At the time, the plot revealed what one observer called, “one of the most complex illicit finance schemes [prosecutors] have seen.” In 2017, the man at the center of the scheme, Reza Zarrab, was arrested (and briefly disappeared) and was tied to Turkey’s president. “Zarrab is thought to have been close to the Erdogan family and, indeed, he was given Turkish citizenship, alongside Iranian. This is a real stress point.”

Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 and turned against Mehmet Hakan Atila – a director at Turkey’s Halkbank – who was convicted on Jan. 3, 2018, and after serving a total 32 months behind bars was returned to Turkey and has since become the head of the Istanbul stock exchange. And since then “one of the biggest money-laundering schemes ever” has disappeared from the headlines… until now. Thanks to a massive leak of more than a million documents from a British offshore shell company provider, think Panama Papers 2.0, we now learn exactly how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries hopscotch the globe, with the help of intermediaries, in search of tax havens that help it try to wriggle free from the grip of crippling U.S.-led sanctions.

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We’ll end humanity yet.

BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

Humans are probably being exposed to far more of a widely used dangerous chemical – found in plastics, canned goods and receipt paper – than previously understood, according to a new study. The analysis, in the peer-reviewed scientific journal the Lancet, uses a new method for evaluating exposure to BPA, or bisphenol-A. BPA disrupts hormones critical to many body functions and is linked with obesity and other diseases. Pregnant women who are exposed to it are more likely to have children who have problems with growth, behavior and fertility, as well as a higher cancer risk. Many companies have phased out using BPAs, marketing new products with similar replacement bisphenols as safer without sufficient evidence for their claims, experts say.


The new research examined levels of BPA in urine but also counted the metabolites of BPA. Metabolites are formed when the body breaks down and eliminates a chemical. Using the new method, the scientists analyzed the urine of 29 pregnant women in their second trimester and found their BPA exposure levels to be an average of 44 times higher than what was measured with the traditional method. Patricia Hunt, a co-author of the study who is a molecular biosciences professor at Washington State University, said she was “horrified” by the high levels her group found in the pregnant women.

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Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Paul Gauguin A seashore 1887

 

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)
‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)
Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)
No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)
New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)
James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)
Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)
Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

 

 

Did they plan this in advance?

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday demanded Turkey stop its military incursion in Syria and imposed new sanctions on the NATO ally as Trump scrambled to limit the damage from his much-criticized decision to clear U.S. troops from Turkey’s path. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump had told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Monday to agree to an immediate ceasefire. He also said he would travel to the region soon to try to mediate the crisis. Pence said Trump had been firm with Erdogan on the phone. “The United States of America simply is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion in Syria any further. We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table,” Pence told reporters.

Turkey launched a cross-border operation into northern Syria on Wednesday just days after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call that he planned to move ahead with a long-planned move against America’s Kurdish allies in the region. Trump abruptly announced a redeployment of 50 American troops from the conflict zone to get them out of harm’s way, dismissing criticism that this would leave the Kurds open to attack. This was widely seen as giving Erdogan a green light for his operation. With lawmakers in the U.S. Congress moving to impose sanctions of their own, Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against current and former officials of the Turkish government for contributing to Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.


In a statement, Trump said he had increased tariffs on imports of Turkish steel back up to 50 percent, six months after they were reduced, and would immediately stop negotiations on what he called a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey. “Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion,” said Trump.

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The New York Times had no credibility left anyway.

‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)

A damning report by the New York Times, which accused Russia of bombing four UN-protected hospitals in Syria, is a product of misinformation by Western intelligence services and jihadists, the Russian military said. On Sunday, the leading US newspaper said it had irrefutable proof that Russian warplanes had bombed four sites in Syria, which it knew to be locations of civilian hospitals. The accusation stems from analysis of social media, interviews with witnesses, data provided by local plane spotters and records of communications of the Russian military deployed in Syria. The bombings, which happened on May 5 and 6, are just a faction of attacks on civilian infrastructure, for which Moscow carries responsibility, the newspaper alleged.

Responding to the accusation on Monday, the Russian military said Times report was flawed for several reasons, including failure to explain that Idlib Governorate, where the four alleged bombings took place, lives under rule of brutal jihadists. That detail affects the entire narrative, indicating its flawed sourcing. “Gadgets, modern radio scanners, protected notebooks, internet connection are all things that the local civilian population simply cannot afford. They are more interested in daily surviving under the yoke of the terrorists,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov. He was referring to the equipment used by “plane spotters”, who provided their data to Times.


The newspaper said those observers “insisted on anonymity for their safety”, but the Russian military says they shouldn’t have bothered and identified them as the people behind a “combat intelligence system” based on equipment developed by a US company called Hala Systems. The system known as Sentry is a collection of suitcase-sized sensors connected into a network plus an AI-based algorithm, which uses signals from those sensors as well as social media data to analyze and predict airstrikes in Idlib. Hala Systems says it’s a for-profit company that develops and operates the system on grants from governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark the United States, and Germany.

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Electable?

Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)

Bernie Sanders released a proposal today that would gradually shift 20 percent of corporate equity into funds owned and controlled by the workers in each company. The plan, which would apply to all publicly-traded companies and large closely-held companies, would move 2 percent of corporate stock into worker funds each year for a decade. Once the shares are transferred into the funds, workers would begin receiving dividends and have the ability to exercise the voting rights of the shares, including the right to vote on corporate board elections and on shareholder resolutions. Sanders’s plan is by far the most radical worker ownership proposal put forward by a presidential candidate in recent memory.

By last count, the market value of publicly-traded domestic companies stood at $35.6 trillion. This means that the Sanders plan would shift at least $7.1 trillion of corporate equity into worker funds by gradually diluting the value of previously-issued corporate stock. Those who stand to “lose” from the proposal are the incumbent owners of corporate equity, which are overwhelmingly affluent people. At present, the top 10 percent of families own around 86.4 percent of corporate equities and mutual fund shares, with the top one percent owning 52 percent by themselves.


Closely-held businesses, which will also be affected by the scheme if they are large enough, have similarly concentrated ownership, with the top 10 percent of families owning 87.5 percent of private business equity and the top one percent of families owning 57.5 percent of it. Of course, these incumbent owners will not actually lose anything in an absolute sense. The average historical return of the US stock market has been 9.8 percent per year, while the average return of the last 10 years has been just over 13 percent. The effect of the two percent share issuances is to knock the total rate of return down by two percentage points, meaning that incumbent owners still get richer year-over-year, just less so than they would absent the Sanders plan.

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Well, they’re on oil company. What did you expect?

No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)

Royal Dutch Shell still sees abundant opportunity to make money from oil and gas in coming decades even as investors and governments increase pressure on energy companies over climate change, its chief executive said. But in an interview with Reuters, Ben van Beurden expressed concern that some shareholders could abandon the world’s second-largest listed energy company due partly to what he called the “demonisation” of oil and gas and “unjustified” worries that its business model was unsustainable. The 61-year-old Dutch executive in recent years became one of the sector’s most prominent voices advocating action over global warming in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Shell, which supplies around 3% of the world’s energy, set out in 2017 a plan to halve the intensity of its greenhouse emissions by the middle of the century, based in large part on building one of the world’s biggest power businesses. Still, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from Shell’s operations and the products it sells rose by 2.5% between 2017 and 2018. A defiant van Beurden rejected a rising chorus from climate activists and parts of the investor community to transform radically the 112-year-old Anglo-Dutch company’s traditional business model. “Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it,” van Beurden said. “We have no choice” but to invest in long-life projects, he added.

[..][ “We can sustain an upstream portfolio all the way into the 2030s if there is an economic rationale for doing that and a societal rationale for doing that,” van Beurden said. “Fortunately enough, we have more of those than we have money to spend on them.” Van Beurden rejected as a “red herring” arguments that Shell’s oil and gas reserves, which can sustain its current production for around eight years, would be economically unviable, or stranded, in the future. A lack of investment in oil and gas projects could lead to a supply shortage and result in price spikes, he said. “One of the bigger risks is not so much that we will become dinosaurs because we are still investing in oil and gas when there is no need for it anymore. A bigger risk is prematurely turning your back on oil and gas.”


Shell plans to increase its annual spending to around $32 billion by 2025 from the current $25 billion, with up to one tenth allocated to renewables and the power business. The company, the world’s largest dividend payer, plans to return $125 billion to shareholders in the five years to 2025.

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“..banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks.”

New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)

Germany has finalised rules for the build-out of 5G mobile networks that, in a snub to the United States, will not exclude China’s Huawei Technologies. Government officials confirmed that Germany’s so-called security catalogue foresaw an evaluation of technical and other criteria, but that no single vendor would be barred in order to create a level playing field for equipment vendors. “We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference in Berlin on Monday. The United States has piled pressure on its allies to shut out Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28%, saying its gear contained ‘back doors’ that would enable China to spy on other countries.


German operators are all customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks. The Shenzhen-based company has denied the allegations by Washington, which imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead. U.S. officials have also argued that, under China’s national intelligence law, all citizens and companies are required to collaborate in espionage efforts.

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No kidding: “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”

James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)

Losing a job and having your career go up in flames can be scarring. But the smoldering embers sometimes give forth to fertile new soil from which to start anew. Few have had a more public and dramatic firing than former-FBI director James Comey, who President Donald Trump infamously and suddenly ousted in 2017 amid inquiries into Russian meddling and suspicions that he did not have Comey’s loyalty. That fateful decision sent Comey’s law-enforcement career up in smoke — and precipitated the special-counsel investigation by Robert Mueller — but also laid the groundwork to launch a lucrative second-act in media, including six-figure speaking fees, prestigious writing contracts, a TV series, and a multimillion dollar book deal.

In a profile of his post-FBI life by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times, Comey asserts his primary preoccupation now, as a self-described “unemployed celebrity,” is stopping Trump. This vocation, while lacking the official powers of his former post in the FBI, appears well-suited for raking in piles of cash. Comey may have lost a roughly $170,000 annual salary as FBI director, but now he earns as much in a single speaking engagement. He’s been traveling the country giving six-figure paid speeches on leadership, as well as gratis appearances at universities, according to the NYT. “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”


Comey recently gave talks at Yale, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and the Sacramento Speaker Series, and he’s due to speak at “Politicon” in Nashville later this month. He also has a contract to write opinion columns for The Washington Post, according to the NYT. And then there’s the forthcoming CBS Studios miniseries, in which he’ll be portrayed by actor Jeff Daniels. The series is based on Comey’s bestselling 2018 book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” which reportedly netted him millions as well. Of course, Comey was already a multimillionaire before accepting the job in 2013 as FBI director under President Barack Obama. In financial filings, he reported a net worth of $11 million, not including an anticipated $3 million payout from hedge-fund giant Bridgewater Associates, where Comey spent a couple years as general counsel.

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Whitney Webb continues her series.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)

Media reports cite Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell as having developed a close relationship at least by February 2000, when Andrew had spent a week at Epstein’s controversial New York penthouse at 9 East 71st Street. One report published in 2000 by London’s Sunday Times claimed that the two were introduced by Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, often referred to as “Fergie” in the press, and further claims that this introduction had taken place several years prior. Epstein is alleged to have first been introduced to Andrew via Maxwell in 1999. Years after this introduction was made, Jeffrey Epstein would provide financial assistance to Ferguson at Prince Andrew’s behest by paying Ferguson’s former personal assistant £15,000, allegedly in order to allow for “a wider restructuring of Sarah’s £5 million debts to take place,” according to The Telegraph.

Oddly, by April of that year, Maxwell and Prince Andrew were spotted by their fellow diners at a posh New York restaurant holding hands, prompting both the Prince and Maxwell to claim that their relationship was merely “platonic.” However, a separate report from 2007 in the Evening Standard refers to Maxwell as one of Prince Andrew’s former girlfriends. Within a year of their close relationship having become public, Andrew and Ghislaine were reported to have gone on eight different vacations together, of which Epstein accompanied them for five. Andrew also brought Maxwell and Epstein to celebrate the Queen’s birthday in 2000 as his personal guests.


Several reports from this period also provide interesting insight into Maxwell’s business activities and private life. One article from 2000, published in London’s Sunday Times, states that “for all her high-profile appearances on Manhattan’s A-List merry-go-round, she [Maxwell] is secretive to the point of paranoia and her business affairs are deeply mysterious.” It goes on to say that Maxwell “has been building a business empire as opaque as father’s” — referencing Robert Maxwell’s business empire, which included multiple front companies for Israeli intelligence — and adds that “her office in Manhattan refuses to confirm even the nature or the name of her business.”

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A slightly different take.

Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)

The new slogans of Hong Kong’s black bloc – a mob on a rampage connected to the black shirt protestors – made their first appearance on a rainy Sunday afternoon, scrawled on walls in Kowloon. Decoding the slogans is essential to understand the mindless street violence that was unleashed even before the anti-mask law passed by the government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) went into effect at midnight on Friday, October 4. By the way, the anti-mask law is the sort of measure that was authorized by the 1922 British colonial Emergency Regulations Ordnance, which granted the city government the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.

Perhaps the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was unaware of this fine lineage when she commented that the law “only intensifies concern over freedom of expression.” And it is probably safe to assume that neither she nor other virulent opponents of the law know that a very similar anti-mask law was enacted in Canada on June 19, 2013. More likely to be informed is Hong Kong garment and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, billionaire publisher of the pro-democracy Apple Daily, the city’s Chinese Communist Party critic-in-chief and highly visible interlocutor of official Washington, DC, notables such as US Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and ex-National Security Council head John Bolton.


On September 6, before the onset of the deranged vandalism and violence that have defined Hong Kong “pro-democracy protests” over the past several weeks, Lai spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Stephen Engle from his Kowloon home. He pronounced himself convinced that – if protests turned violent China would have no choice but to send People’s Armed Police units from Shenzen into Hong Kong to put down unrest. “That,” he said on Bloomberg TV, “will be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square massacre and that will bring in the whole world against China….. Hong Kong will be done, and … China will be done, too.”

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Science fights poverty?! Sounds like absolute BS to me. I asked Steve Keen if he knows the winners. He replied:

“No. Experimental economics is the latest fad, though it’s not supposed to encompass real world experiments like the IMF’s program for Argentina.”

Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

U.S.-based economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday for work fighting poverty that has helped millions of children by favoring practical steps over theory. French-American Duflo becomes only the second woman to win the economics prize in its 50-year history, as well as the youngest at 46. She shared the award equally with Indian-born American Banerjee and Kremer, also of the United States. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their work had shown how poverty could be addressed by breaking it down into smaller and more precise questions in areas such as education and healthcare, and then testing solutions in the field.

It said the results of their studies and field experiments had ranged from helping millions of Indian schoolchildren with remedial tutoring to encouraging governments around the world to increase funding for preventative medicine. “It starts from the idea that the poor are often reduced to caricatures and even the people that try to help them do not actually understand what are the deep roots of (their) problems,” Duflo told reporters in Stockholm by telephone. “What we try to do in our approach is to say, ‘Look, let’s try to unpack the problems one-by-one and address them as rigorously and scientifically as possible’,” she added.


The team pioneered “randomized controlled trials”, or RCTs, in economics. Long used in fields such as medicine, an RCT could for example take two groups of people and study what difference a treatment makes on one group while the other group is only given a placebo. Applied to development economics, such field experiments found for example that providing more textbooks and free school meals had only small effects, while targeting help for weak students made a big difference to overall educational levels. “It’s a prize not just for us but for the whole movement,” Banerjee later told a joint news conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they both work. Kremer is a researcher at Harvard University.

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When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set


Lin Yutang

 

 

 

Jul 042019
 


Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Jun 252019
 


Caravaggio Conversion on the way to Damascus 1600-01

 

Something’s been nagging me for the past few days, and I’m not sure I’ve figured out why yet. It started when Donald Trump first called off the alleged planned strikes on targets in Iran because they would have cost 150 lives, and then the next day said the US would do sanctions instead. As they did on Monday, even directly targeting Trump’s equal, the “Supreme Leader Khameini”.

When Trump announced the sanctions, I thought: wait a minute, by presenting this the way you did, you effectively turned economic sanctions into a military tool: we chose not to do bombs but sanctions. Sounds the same as not doing a naval invasion but going for air attacks instead. The kind of decisions that were made in Vietnam a thousand times.

However, Vietnam was all out war (well, invasion is a better term). Which shamed the US, killed and maimed the sweet Lord only knows how many promising young Americans as well as millions of Vietnamese, and ended in humiliating defeat. But the US is not in an all out war in Iran, at least not yet. And if they would ever try to be, the outcome would be Vietnam squared.

Still, that’s not really my point here. It’s simply about the use of having the world reserve currency as a military weapon instead of an economic one. And I think that is highly significant. As well as an enormous threat to the US. The issue at hand is overreach.

While you could still argue that economic sanctions on North Korea, Venezuela and Russia are just that, economic and/or political ones, the way Trump phrased it, comparing sanctions one on one with military strikes, no longer leaves that opening when it comes to Iran. The new Iran sanctions are a preliminary act of war. Simply because of how he presented them. He explicitly stated that he swapped one for the other.

 

There are quite a few people who have been harping on the demise of the USD as reserve currency for a long time, and I always think: look, nobody wants the yuan, let alone the ruble. There’s no trade being executed in these currencies. So taking over from the USD is a pipe dream.

But that may very well change, and perhaps very fast too, if the US uses the dollar not as an economic weapon (and there are plenty issues with that already), but as a military one. That would potentially hugely speed up any efforts to move away from the buck in international trade.

For the simple reason that it becomes unreliable. Traders hate that, they can’t have that. A reserve currency must be neutral -to a point-. The world of trade doesn’t want the yuan because Beijing controls it and can therefore change conditions and values overnight. But if and when the US uses the USD as a military tool, it essentially risks doing exactly the same: it deneutralizes the USD.

Using the USD as an economic weapon is ugly, but something global trade can deal with. A military weapon, though, is something else altogether. And I see no sign that Trump understands this. The thing is, using your currency, which also happens to be the world reserve currency, as a military tool, means you’ve become a threat to everyone, the entire globe, overnight.

And people don’t want to live that way. Not Iran, not Russia, not China, not Europe, no-one. It’s one thing to use the USD for sanctions. But it’s a real different thing to use it as just a military alternative to “bombing a country into obliteration”.

 

What Trump did comes awfully close to signing the death warrant for the USD as the global reserve currency. And it’s really only because he and his people weren’t paying attention. He could have phrased the entire thing differently, and it would have been business as usual, a business that Moscow and Beijing are actively trying to undermine, but they could have waited a bit longer reacting.

Now, however, their plans have to be sped up. They’re going to be buying a lot of gold, as they’ve already been doing, they’ll try to do their mutual business in their own currencies backed by this gold, and they’ll speed up alternatives-to-USD plans with other countries in their neighborhood. Because they have no choice anymore.

I see Tyler Durden reporting that the US threatens to throw a Chinese state-owned bank out of the SWIFT system, and I think: great idea. Why not force China to quit the reserve currency system, the petrodollar, outright?! Why not force it to hasten the Asian/Russian alternative trade model into existence? What a great and lovely idea.

The US should today make friends. It should preserve the reserve currency status of the USD for as long as it can, by convincing allies and foes alike that it will protect its neutrality in global trade. But Trump and his people are doing the exact opposite, they’re playing all-on-red.

The US no longer has the economic, political or military might to dictate to the entire world any terms it wants to. Those days are long gone. That ended in Vietnam. Trump’s living in the last century, while Bolton and Pompeo, they live in their own time and world.

 

But yeah, sure, perhaps this is what the dying days of an empire MUST look like. Maybe there’s a model to follow and there’s no escape, maybe it’s all written in the stars. Like Rome and Greece and Genghis Khan. Maybe things simply just have to play out. Still, looking at that Trump statement about the new Iran sanctions that started me off, it doesn’t feel all that smart.

 

 

 

 

Mar 302019
 


René Magritte The muscles of the sky 1927

 

May Hopes To Hold Fourth Vote On Brexit Deal (Ind.)
May Ready To Trigger Election Within 10 Days (Ind.)
EU Gives Britain 11 Days To Come Up With New Brexit Plan (G.)
The Democrats Are Self-Destructing (PCR)
Wokester’s Nightmare (Kunstler)
Barr Says Mueller Report Will Be Released In Mid-April ‘If Not Sooner’ (AP)
On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won (Taibbi)
US Readying Sanctions On Russia Over Nerve-Agent Attack In Britain (R.)
Southwest To Keep Boeing 737 MAX Off Schedules Through May (R.)
TUI Sticks With Boeing, Sees 737 Maxs Flying By Mid-July (R.)
Human Population Explosion Squeezes Out Wildlife On African Savannah (Ind.)
The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides (PO)

 

 

Get me Bill Murray on the phone.

May Hopes To Hold Fourth Vote On Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May hopes to bring her Brexit deal back to parliament again next week after it was rejected for a third time by MPs – and appears poised to trigger a general election if parliament fails to agree a way forward. Despite the embattled prime minister’s dramatic promise on Wednesday that she would hand over the keys to 10 Downing Street if her Tory colleagues backed the withdrawal agreement, parliament voted against it on Friday, by 344 to 286. The Commons vote was held on the day when Britain was meant to be leaving the European Union, as Parliament Square outside overflowed with raucous pro-Brexit protesters.

A string of leave-supporting Conservative backbenchers who had twice rejected the deal, including Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, switched sides to support the agreement. But with Labour unwilling to shift its position, and the Democratic Unionist party’s 10 MPs implacably opposed, it was not enough to secure a majority for May. The result was a sense of stunned disbelief in Westminster. Asked what could happen next, one government source said: “Last one out, turn off the lights.” Immediately after the defeat was announced, May told MPs: “The implications of the house’s decision are grave. The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April. In just 14 days’ time.”

Under the deal agreed by EU leaders in Brussels last week, if May had passed her withdrawal agreement this week, Brexit would have been delayed until 22 May. Now, she will have to return to Brussels for an emergency European council summit on 10 April. The EU27 expect her to ask for a longer delay – requiring Britain to participate in the European elections in May – or accept a no-deal Brexit two days later. However, her aides hope the 22 May date could still be in play if her deal is accepted next week.

Read more …

So what’s she waiting for?

May Ready To Trigger Election Within 10 Days (Ind.)

Britain is veering towards a new general election after MPs voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a third time on Friday. She strongly hinted after the defeat that she will take the country to the polls if parliament does not pass a deal respecting the 2016 referendum result in the next 10 days. Ministers told The Independent a new election was a clear possibility featuring in the prime minister’s thinking, with her likely to have one final attempt to push her deal through next week. As thousands of pro-Brexit protesters shouted outside parliament, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish nationalists, who form the third biggest group in the House of Commons, also called for an election.


It comes as MPs will once again take control of the chamber’s schedule on Monday to hold indicative votes to see if a soft-Brexit compromise can achieve a majority. [..] Asked whether an election was now becoming a clear possibility, one cabinet source told The Independent without hesitation: “Yes. Absolutely. No question.” There had been speculation that the vote itself was set up for 29 March to make a show of Mr Corbyn’s party voting against Brexit ahead of a pending election campaign. One cabinet minister later said: “We would throw at them the question of ‘what did your MP do on exit day?’ “This is going to be difficult for a lot of individual Labour MPs in Leave areas.”

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10 days, 11 days, they’re intent on entertaining us every single day.

EU Gives Britain 11 Days To Come Up With New Brexit Plan (G.)

The EU has given the British government 11 days to come up with a fresh Brexit plan to avoid crashing out of the bloc at 11pm on 12 April. In the immediate aftermath of the crushing rejection of the prime minister’s deal, the European council president, Donald Tusk, called an emergency leaders’ summit. Should the UK seek a lengthy extension, leaders will debate any request at an extraordinary meeting on 10 April. EU capitals would require a clear justification at least two days earlier from Downing Street on the reason for a lengthy delay to allow officials to prepare. “We expect the UK to indicate a way forward before then, well in time for the European council to consider,” an official said.


EU heads of state and government expressed their alarm at the continued impasse in Westminster following the third defeat of May’s deal. The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “It is up to the UK to indicate how it plans to proceed in order to avoid a no-deal scenario. The European council has agreed unanimously that the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.” However, he added: “I believe we must be open to a long extension should the UK decide to fundamentally reconsider its approach … I believe that will result in a generous and understanding response from the 27.”

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Haven’t heard from Paul Craig Roberts in a while. Is that just me?

The Democrats Are Self-Destructing (PCR)

I know Democrats are disappointed not to have Trump’s head presented to them by Mueller on a silver platter. But surely not even Democrats are stupid enough to believe the Russiagate conspiracy tale. It was all cooked up by the military/security complex to prevent Trump from normalizing relations with Russia, thereby removing the enemy that justifies the $1,000 billion annual budget. Before writing such nonsense as Hartmann has written, he should have read Barr’s summary of the report. Barr quotes Mueller directly from the report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Again from Mueller’s report: “The evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”


Other Democrats who cannot cope with their disappointment claim that although cleared of election theft collusion Trump was not cleared of obstruction of justice. This is nonsensical even for Democrats. As Trump committed no crime, what evidence did he obstruct? The evidence of his innocence? Just as murder requires a body, obstruction requires a crime to obstruct. But facts are boring to Democrats. They were certain that all the lies that they and the media whores told would find their way into Mueller’s report. Mueller’s staff was Democrat to the core, and Mueller used every dirty trick in the book in his effort to get something on Trump. It simply couldn’t be done. Democrats will never get over it, just as they never have got over Iran-Contra. Hartmann couldn’t write about the “Russiagate coverup” without dragging in Ronald Reagan and the “Iran-Contra coverup.”

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“It’s also very likely that Robert Mueller learned that the Steele Dossier was a fraud in the summer of 2017, if not shortly after his appointment in May of that year..”

Wokester’s Nightmare (Kunstler)

All of a sudden, a whole lot of people who have been punking the public-at-large will have to answer for their behavior. Despite the fog of misdirection blowing out of The New York Times, The WashPo, CNN, and MSNBC, it’s become obvious that the RussiaGate hoax was kicked off by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a cabal of Obama appointees in several executive agencies. The evidence is public, fully documented, and overwhelming that the so-called Steele Dossier was the sole animating instrument in both the 2016 pre-election effort to incriminate the Golden Golem of Greatness, and the Mueller Investigation launched post-election to cover-up those same political misdeeds of the Clinton campaign, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA, NSA, and State Department.


It’s also very likely that Robert Mueller learned that the Steele Dossier was a fraud in the summer of 2017, if not shortly after his appointment in May of that year, and yet he dragged out his investigation for almost two years in order to defame and antagonize Mr. Trump — and deflect attention from the ugly truth of the matter. It is certain Mr. Mueller knew that the Steele Dossier was purchased by Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS political “research” company, which was simultaneously in the paid employ of Mrs. Clinton and the Russian political lobbying agency Prevezon (as reported by Sean Davis in The Federalist). If the FBI brass did not bring that to Mr. Mueller’s attention right away, then either their incompetence is epic or they are criminally liable for concealing the hoax.

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Mueller’s doing the redacting with Barr.

Barr Says Mueller Report Will Be Released In Mid-April ‘If Not Sooner’ (AP)

Congress should expect to receive a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation by mid-April, Attorney General William Barr said Friday. In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, Barr said he shares a desire for Congress and the public to be able to read Mueller’s findings, which are included in the nearly 400-page report Mueller submitted last week. Barr said he does not plan to share the report with the White House before making it public. He said that while President Donald Trump would have the right to assert executive privilege over certain parts of the report, “he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.”

Mueller officially concluded his investigation when he submitted the report last Friday. Two days later, Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress that detailed Mueller’s “principal conclusions.” Mueller’s report did not find that the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with Russia, Barr wrote, and did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided on their own that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction.

Barr said he is preparing to redact multiple categories of information from the report. Those include grand jury material; information that would compromise sensitive sources and methods; information that could affect ongoing investigations, including those referred by Mueller’s office to other Justice Department offices; and information that could infringe on the personal privacy and reputation of “peripheral third parties.” “Our progress is such that I anticipate we will be in a position to release the report by mid-April, if not sooner,” he said.

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Getting a bit tired of all the regurgitating and gloating, but this look back is nice.

On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won (Taibbi)

Nate Silver, the ex-baseball stats guru and renowned “National Oracle™” (as Gizmodo cheekily called him), laughed at Trump’s chances[1]. His site, FiveThirtyEight, ran a story called “Why Donald Trump Isn’t a Real Candidate, In One Chart.” The piece said Trump was more likely to “play in the NBA finals” or cameo in another Home Alone movie than win the nomination. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “I’m so certain Trump won’t win the nomination that I’ll eat my words if he does. Literally.” Milbank ended up actually doing this, for which he deserves a lot of credit. “Donald Trump is going to lose because he is crazy,” was the take of Jonathan Chait, who would soon be writing Trump might have been recruited by the KGB in 1987.

It isn’t just that wizards of prognostication were wrong. The bigger issue was why they were so confident. A common take was the political establishment just wouldn’t allow it. Former “The Note” writer Mark Halperin used to talk about having his finger on the pulse of the “Gang of 500,” which he described as “campaign consultants, strategists, pollsters, pundits and journalists who make up the modern-day political establishment.” The subtext of Halperin’s pieces was that the Gang of 500 decided elections. It’s hard to understand how it never occurred to Halperin or anyone else that people might be grossed out by the concept of 500 self-appointed guardians of democracy deciding the presidency for 300 million people.

In this case, just by saying out loud the idea that the people who mattered would never let Trump win, probably helped Trump win. It validated his talk about “elites.” Nate Cohn of The New York Times wrote Trump had “just about no shot of winning the nomination no matter how well he is doing in the early polls.” He prefaced this by saying it is “the party elites who traditionally decide nomination contests.” When Trump defied these predictions and sealed up the Republican nomination, he immediately became subject to a new legend, about how he was destined to be the biggest landslide loser in history of general elections: bigger than Alf Landon or even George McGovern, whose very name in America is synonymous with “loser.”

Here are some takes on Trump’s campaign after he sealed up the nomination: David Brooks: Trump will be the “biggest loser” in American politics. The Week: “Trump is poised to lose the biggest landslide in modern American history.” George Will: “Donald Trump may find a place in history – by losing just that badly.” I belong on this infamous list myself. In one of the worst mistakes of my career, I ended up changing my mind about “free-falling” Trump’s chances, spending the stretch run predicting doom for Republicans. I read too many polls and ignored what I was seeing, i.e. that even the post-Access Hollywood Trump was still packing stadiums.

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I swear I thought it was an April Fools prank.

US Readying Sanctions On Russia Over Nerve-Agent Attack In Britain (R.)

The White House has received a package of new sanctions to be imposed on Russia in retaliation for the 2018 nerve-agent attack on a Russian double agent in Britain, Bloomberg reported on Friday. Officials at the U.S. Treasury and State Departments have vetted the sanctions and are awaiting approval from the White House to issue them, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter. Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March 2018 after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to the front door of Skripal’s home.


Both Skripal and his daughter survived. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack. Asked about Friday’s report, a Trump administration official noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a phone call in February that the United States was determined to hold Russia accountable for the attack through sanctions.

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Don’t think they’ll make it.

Southwest To Keep Boeing 737 MAX Off Schedules Through May (R.)

Southwest Airlines Co said on Friday it was pulling its Boeing Co 737 MAX jets from flight schedules through May, extending its earlier timeline from April 20, according to a company memorandum seen by Reuters. “This will impact the lines in May, but, now that the decision has been made, we can construct our schedule without those flights well in advance in hopes to minimize the daily disruptions,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and the company said in the joint memorandum. Boeing’s top-selling 737 MAX jetliner has been grounded in the wake of two deadly crashes involving that model in five months, one in Indonesia last October and another on March 10 in Ethiopia.

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Europe’s no 1 tour operator. Note how nice Boeing and them are to each other:“..he was “very certain” of receiving some compensation from Boeing, probably next year.|”

TUI Sticks With Boeing, Sees 737 Maxs Flying By Mid-July (R.)

TUI remains committed to its Boeing 737 MAX orders despite two fatal crashes that have led to the grounding of the plane worldwide and caused the Anglo-German tour operator to issue a profit warning on Friday. TUI said its profit would fall by at least 200 million euros ($225 million) this year due to the cost of substituting planes, loss of business and lower fuel efficiency – further evidence of the financial impact of the two deadly accidents after warnings from North American airlines. The holiday firm’s shares fell to an all-time low.

Global airlines and travel groups have had to make contingency plans after 737 MAX planes were taken out of service following an Ethiopian Airlines disaster on March 10 that killed 157 people, five months after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189. Boeing is planning a software fix to address an issue that can arise when the MAX’s anti-stall system, MCAS, repeatedly pushes the plane’s nose down. The MCAS system is at the center of safety investigations into the two crashes. Based on feedback from Boeing and EU regulator EASA, the planes should be flying again in July, TUI’s Chief Executive Friedrich Joussen told analysts on a call.

CEO Joussen said: “We are saving $1 million per year per aircraft in fuel, but – and here comes the but – safety first.” TUI has little scope to cancel flights, as some airlines are doing, because the flights feed its hotel and cruise business. It is leasing planes complete with crews to replace those due to have been flown by 737 MAXs at the cost of $1 million each per month, executives said, adding they had seen some tightening of the so-called wet-leasing market. Bookings were down by 10 percent in major markets since the Ethiopian crash, Joussen said, adding he was “very certain” of receiving some compensation from Boeing, probably next year.

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“.. a 400 per cent increase in human population over the last decade, while more than three quarters of the populations of some of the larger species of migrating animals like wildebeest, zebra and gazelle have been wiped out..”

Human Population Explosion Squeezes Out Wildlife On African Savannah (Ind.)

Encroachment by people into one of Africa’s most celebrated ecosystems is “squeezing the wildlife in its core”, by damaging habitation and disrupting the migration routes of animals, a major international study has concluded. Boundary areas of the Serengeti-Mara region in East Africa have seen a 400 per cent increase in human population over the last decade, while more than three quarters of the populations of some of the larger species of migrating animals like wildebeest, zebra and gazelle have been wiped out, scientists revealed after examining 40 years of data. Despite being one of the most protected ecosystems on Earth, the influx of people and livestock around both the Serengeti and Masai Mara has had a detrimental impact on plants, wild animals and soils.


This has occurred in two main ways, the study found. Firstly, the protected areas’ or “buffer zones” where more livestock including cattle are being reared, are leaving less and lower quality grasses for wildebeest, zebra and gazelle to graze. Secondly, the presence of people and farm animals has also reduced the frequency of natural fires, which in turn impacts the variety of vegetation, altering grazing opportunities for wildlife in the core protected areas. Publishing their findings in the journal Science, the authors said the impacts were cascading down the food chain. Animals were forced to eat less palatable herbs and therefore the beneficial interactions between plants and microorganisms that enable the ecosystem to flourish were being altered.


Zebra, gazelle and wildebeest populations have fallen as human populations have risen on the edges of protected areas (Getty)

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h/t Tyler

The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides (PO)

We decided to analyze data to uncover which states in the United States had the most and least exposure to pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals, with a particular focus on glyphosate, the active ingredient that is in the news right now. We looked at data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to see which compounds were most popular and which locations had the highest usage levels of these chemicals. By a significant margin, the most popular herbicide in the United States is glyphosate, which is four times more popular than the second most popular chemical. Not surprisingly, large agricultural states like California, Washington, and Illinois use the most pesticides.

However, some states that use a lot of these chemicals see very little glyphosate usage, while others nearly exclusively use the compound. In California for example, only 6 percent of pesticide usage is glyphosate, while in Montana, 52 percent of such usage is from glyphosate. [..] By a significant margin, glyphosate is the most popular pesticide used in American agriculture. Over 130 million kilograms were used in 2016, which was approximately four times more than the second-place pesticide, Atrazine. In total, just over 544 million kilograms of pesticides were used in the U.S. in 2016, and 24 percent of that was glyphosate. It’s hard to overestimate just how pervasive Roundup and glyphosate are this country.

Read more …