Mar 212020
 


Dorothea Lange Ex-slave with long memory, Alabama 1937

 

Coronavirus – Getting Angry (John Bronte)
China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Atlantic)
From ‘Chinese virus’ to ‘Trumpandemic’ (RT)
Cuomo Orders New York Lockdown, Shuts Down Non-Essential Businesses (NYP)
New Best Friends: Trump And Archfoes Cuomo And Newsom Bond (JTN) )
Trump’s Approval Rating Soars During Handling Of Coronavirus (JTN)
Biden Plans Shadow Coronavirus Briefings (Pol.)
Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B, Successful in Treating COVID-19 (TeleSur)
The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming (Wired)
Pentagon Sends 2,600 Europe-based Personnel Into Quarantine (RT)
Boeing Suspends Dividend, Halts Buybacks, Stops Paying CEO And Chairman (Y!)
National Guard Chief Denies Rumors Of Martial Law Response To Virus (Solomon)
Schiff Claims ‘Immunity’ To Keep Impeachment Phone Subpoenas Secret (JTN)
Strength and Weakness (Kunstler)
CoronaBonds To Hold The Payments System Together (Steve Keen)
Personal Coronavirus Update 02 March 21st 2019 (Steve Keen)

 

 

Relentless. And unfortunately incresiangly political.

 

Cases 279,320 (+ 32,126 from yesterday’s 250,618)

Deaths 11,587 (+ 1,565 from yesterday’s 10,255)

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 11% !! –

 

 

I would like to have better graphs than the SCMP and COVID2019.app ones, and by that I mean things that I can use in this format. But I don’t see them. Johns Hopkins doesn’t provide these nor does COVID19info.live. The latter even has two different numbers for Confirmed and Infected. Do we need that?

Great admiration for what the Wordometer people are doing, but it would be nice(r) to have multiple sources.

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)

 

 

 

 

“I regard the current course of English speaking democracies (other than New Zealand) as mass murder by the political elite. I think history will regard it that way too.”

Coronavirus – Getting Angry (John Bronte)

First – no matter what you say about the Chinese data – and the Chinese data was full of lies at first – China has controlled the outbreak. Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing are all functional mega-cities with no obvious health catastrophes. The virus has been managed to very low infection rates in Singapore and Taiwan. The numbers (completely real) in Korea show a dramatic slowdown in infection. Korea has not shut restaurants and the like. The place is functioning. But it has had rigorous quarantine of the infected and very widespread testing. It has complete social buy-in. China tests your temperature when you get on a bus or a train. It tests you when you go into a classroom, it tests you when you enter a building. There is rigorous and enforced quarantine.

But life goes on – and only a few are dying. In Singapore nobody has died (yet) though I expect a handful to do so before this over. This is sad (especially for the affected families) but it is not a mega-catastrophe. There is a story in the Financial Times about a town in the middle of the hot-zone in Italy where they have enforced quarantine and tested everyone in the town twice. They have no cases. The second stylized fact – mortality differs by availability of hospital beds.
• A. Coronavirus provided you do not run out of hospital beds probably has a mortality of about 1 percent. In a population that is very old (such as some areas in Italy) the mortality will be higher. In a population that is very young base mortality should be lower. Also co-morbidities such as smoking matter.
• B. If you run out of ICU beds (ventilators/forced oxygen) every incremental person who needs a ventilator dies. This probably takes your mortality to two percent.
• C. Beyond that a lot of people get a pneumonia that would benefit from supplemental oxygen. If you run out of hospital beds many of these people also die. Your mortality edges higher – but the only working case we have is Iran and you can’t trust their data. That said a lot of young people require supplementary oxygen and will die. If you are 40 and you think this does not apply to you then you are wrong. Mass infection may kill you. Iran has said that 15 percent of their dead are below 40.

I will put this in an American perspective with a 70 percent strike rate by the end.
• Option A: 2 million dead
• Option B: 4 million dead
• Option C: maybe 6 million dead.
By contrast, Singapore: a handful of dead. China has demonstrated this virus can be controlled. The town in Italy has demonstrated it can be controlled even where it is rife. Life goes on in Singapore. Schools are open. Restaurants are open in Korea. The right policy is not “herd immunity” or even “flattening the curve”. The right policy is to try to eliminate as many cases as possible and to strictly control and test to keep cases to a bare minimum for maybe 18 months while a vaccine is produced.

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@Jake_Hanrahan: “Blown away by the amount of people talking about China’s response to Covid-19 as some kind of model to follow. Are you serious? They have disappeared at least two whistleblowers and hid news of the problem for weeks before it became impossible to do so.”

China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Atlantic)

The evidence of China’s deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record. In suppressing information about the virus, doing little to contain it, and allowing it to spread unchecked in the crucial early days and weeks, the regime imperiled not only its own country and its own citizens but also the more than 100 nations now facing their own potentially devastating outbreaks. More perniciously, the Chinese government censored and detained those brave doctors and whistleblowers who attempted to sound the alarm and warn their fellow citizens when they understood the gravity of what was to come. Some American commentators and Democratic politicians are aghast at Donald Trump and Republicans for referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus” and repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic.

In naming the disease COVID-19, the World Health Organization specifically avoided mentioning Wuhan. Yet in de-emphasizing where the epidemic began (something China has been aggressively pushing for), we run the risk of obscuring Beijing’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders. China has a history of mishandling outbreaks, including SARS in 2002 and 2003. But Chinese leaders’ negligence in December and January—for well over a month after the first outbreak in Wuhan—far surpasses those bungled responses. The end of last year was the time for authorities to act, and, as Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times has noted, “act decisively they did—not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat.”

This is what allowed the virus to spread across the globe. Because the Chinese Communist Party was pretending that there was little to be concerned about, Wuhan was a porous purveyor of the virus. The government only instituted a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23—seven weeks after the virus first appeared. As events in Italy, the United States, Spain, and France have shown, quite a lot can happen in a week, much less seven. By then, mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that more than 5 million people had already left Wuhan.

If that weren’t enough, we can plumb recent history for an even more damning account. In a 2019 article, Chinese experts warned it was “highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” In a 2007 journal article, infectious-disease specialists published a study arguing that “the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” It was ignored.

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When is China going to admit they screwed up royally?

From ‘Chinese virus’ to ‘Trumpandemic’ (RT)

Washington has passed off blame to Beijing for its own failures in addressing the Covid-19 outbreak, China’s Foreign Ministry said, hitting back at the ‘Chinese virus’ rhetoric with the ironic term ‘Trumpandemic.’ “Some people in the United States attempt to stigmatize China’s fight against the epidemic and shirk its responsibility to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters on Friday, referring to the finger-pointing adopted by President Trump and other top officials (after weeks of US media outlets calling it the ‘Chinese’ and ‘Wuhan’ virus). “This practice ignores the huge sacrifices made by the Chinese people to safeguard human health and safety, and denigrates China’s major public health security contributions.”

Over the last two months, Beijing has helped the US buy time in its efforts to combat the coronavirus by providing “timely information” and other aid, the spokesman said, noting that the US president himself acknowledged as much during a press briefing last week. But most of that assistance has gone to waste, he lamented. “It is a pity, as many US media and specialists have noted, that the US has wasted the precious time China has bought.” Despite being the only country that has managed to contain the outbreak, China has been accused of suppressing information in the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak – which began in the city of Wuhan late last year. The spokesman insisted the country has taken “the most comprehensive, strictest and most thorough prevention and control measures,” and has been “open” and “transparent” about the virus.

Geng went on to list the numerous joint meetings between American and Chinese health officials in recent weeks, arguing Beijing was doing its part to assist the US response to the lethal illness, but implored Washington to take responsibility for its own shortcomings. “We hope that the United States will respect objective facts, respect international public opinion, do its own thing… stop slandering other countries, passing on responsibilities, and play a constructive role in fighting the epidemic,” he said. While President Trump argues that the phrase “Chinese virus” is “not racist at all,” stating that he uses the term simply because the pathogen “comes from China,” his insistence on the label has piqued the ire of Beijing. In a string of tweets earlier on Friday, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua slammed the moniker as bigoted, and fired back with its own Trumpian term of derision, renaming the outbreak the “Trumpandemic.”

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After cases exploded. It’s a pattern. New York has a very big problem.

Cuomo Orders New York Lockdown, Shuts Down Non-Essential Businesses (NYP)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered the Empire State to shut down and asked local businesses and manufactures to step up as officials mounted a desperate struggle to slow the corona≠virus pandemic. “I want to be able to say to the people of New York – I did everything we could do,” Cuomo told reporters at the state Capitol. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” The restrictions take effect Sunday night at 8 p.m. and will shut down all nonessential businesses across the state, leaving just grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential operations open. All non-solitary outside activities, like basketball and other team sports are also banned.

The lockdown also requires all nonessential government and private-sector employees to work from home. Cuomo said the MTA will continue to run city subways, buses and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains. The agency announced Friday it will allow backdoor boarding on local buses beginning Monday to help protect bus drivers from exposure “We have to do it, we have to be serious,” Cuomo said. “Everyone has personal freedom, and everyone has personal liberty, and I’ll always protect that,” he added. “But everyone also has a responsibility to everyone else.”

Laundromats and gas stations will be allowed to remain open, as will liquor stores and restaurants for take-out and delivery service only. Doctors’ and veterinarians’ offices can remain open, too. The new emergency action came as the Empire State’s coronavirus case count ballooned. Officials had tallied more than 7,100 cases across the state by 12 a.m. Friday — more than 4,400 in New York City. Just 10 hours later, the city Health Department reported the Big Apple’s case load had surged to more than 5,100 cases.

Read more …

Not friends, but working together. These people all recognize their own faults. They’re all 2-3 months late.

New Best Friends: Trump And Archfoes Cuomo And Newsom Bond (JTN) )

It’s often said that crises bring out the worst or the best in people. Adrift in a lifeboat at sea, strangers will either figure out how to cooperate, or kill and eat each other. It may be that the nation’s capital is being enveloped in a cloud of nice — instead of choosing the kill and eat option. President Trump suggested as much yesterday when he looked over a slightly-less-packed-than-usual press room. “I like this social distancing,” he mused. “I think it’s making you guys nicer. All these empty spaces … “You guys over there should probably move further from each other,” he said, flapping his hand at a few reporters, “but it’s nice”

The niceness cloud has also enveloped Trump and a couple of his legendary enemies: California Governor Gavin Newsom, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and President Trump have very recently become the Three Caballeros. At every press conference — and all three leaders are doing daily COVID-19 press updates — praise is bestowed and compliments showered. There are gratuitous namechecks — as with the lover who feels compelled just to repeat the name of the beloved — and many allusions to late night phone calls when details of policy are apparently being hashed out. In his press conference yesterday, for instance, as Trump detailed the FDA’s expedited approval of a new virus treatment, he managed to work in the news that he’d spoken with Cuomo “at great, great length last night; he wants to be first in line.”

Considering that he and the governor are now besties, Cuomo will probably in fact be first in line to get the prescription drug to his state’s consumers — just as he’s recently gotten everything on his virus wish list, from a national guard deployment to Westchester County, site of an early hot spot, to a mobile testing drive-through, also for Westchester, to an Army Corps of Engineers deployment, to a Navy hospital ship which will soon be docked in New York Harbor in case New York City runs out of hospital beds.

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Red alert at the DNC: “30% of Democrats approve, which is about double the number from last week’s poll..”

Trump’s Approval Rating Soars During Handling Of Coronavirus (JTN)

New polling Friday showed President Trump’s approval ratings among Americans have soared during the coronavirus crisis, including his handling of the pandemic response and the economy A new Axios-Harris poll, released Friday, showed the president with an 53 percent overall approval among U.S. adults surveyed March 17 and 18, compared to 49 percent among those polled March 14 and 15. 56 percent of respondents in the latest poll said they approved of the president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, an increase from 51 percent last week. And 60 percent of Americans this week said they approved of the president’s handling of the economy, a slight increase from 59 percent last week.

Despite stock market declines and rising unemployment figures released this week, the president’s approval rating for “Stimulating Jobs,” remained unchanged at 60 percent among both groups polled. When asked “Which of the following sources do you get your information from regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?” 44 percent of Americans named “The White House/President,” an increase of 11 points from the previous survey. Respondents naming “National media” fell to 53 percent from 55 percent, while those answering “Local media,” dropped to 51 percent from 57 percent. Additionally, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday found that 55 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, a double-digit increase in support from the week before.

“In the new poll, 55% of Americans approve of the president’s management of the crisis, compared to 43% who disapprove,” reported ABC’s Kendall Karson. “Trump’s approval on this issue is up from last week, when the numbers were nearly reversed.” The ABC/Ipsos poll also found “30% of Democrats approve, which is about double the number from last week’s poll, and 69% disapprove, down from 86%,” Karson wrote. “Meanwhile, an overwhelming 92% of Republicans approve, up from 86% last week. Only 8% disapprove, compared to 11% in last week’s poll.”

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The Dems of course can’t have Trump ratings rising, but pray tell, how are regular appearances of Biden going to counter that trend?

Biden Plans Shadow Coronavirus Briefings (Pol.)

Joe Biden is planning a regular shadow briefing on coronavirus to start as early as Monday to show how he would handle the crisis and address what he calls the lies and failures of President Trump. Biden gave a preview of what’s to come in a conference call with reporters Friday, where he listed a litany of false and misleading statements from Trump, who has been holding regular White House press conferences concerning coronavirus preparedness and response that have been broadcast live on all major networks. “President Trump stop saying false things, will ya?” Biden said. “People are worried they are really frightened, when these things don’t come through. He just exacerbates their concern. Stop saying false things you think make you sound like a hero and start putting the full weight of the federal government behind finding fast, safe and effective treatments.”

Biden made his comments from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he has been holed up for more than a week in adherence with Centers for Disease Control guidelines that urge people to practice social distancing. Immediately after the initial onset of the crisis, Biden also held his fire against the president out of concern it would look too political — an accusation leveled at him anyway by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, who said that “Biden will take attention from real updates Americans should know just to score political points.” Ever since his commanding victories Tuesday against Bernie Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, Biden has made no public appearances or statements. Instead, he said, he has been spending time privately talking to health officials, businesses, governors and members of Congress.

Now, he said, his house is being outfitted with equipment that would enable him to livestream events, have interactive tele-press conferences and broadcast interviews with network television.

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I’m suspicious of any cure or treatment announced, but I’m also curious to see how much coverage the US MSM will give to Cuba potentially saving American lives.

Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B, Successful in Treating COVID-19 (TeleSur)

For 40 years, Cuba has been using a molecule named Interferon Alpha 2B , which has successfully been used to combat the new Coonavirus in China and elsewhere. “The world has an opportunity to understand that health is not a commercial asset but a basic right,” Cuban doctor Luis Herrera, the creator of the Interferon Alfa 2-B medication, one of the most successful medications in the fight against COVID-19 told teleSUR Tuesday. Interferon has been known for more than 40 years: first, it was produced from original sources in local sites, then nationally and later in the United States and even Finland. “At the beginning of the 80s, an important professor from Houston came to Cuba and advised our President Fidel Castro than the Interferon we had here was a very interesting molecule for a different purpose,” Herrera told teleSUR.

“Then a group of people went to Finland to get training in the production of interferon,” while people were also producing Interferon from recombined sources using genetic engineering. The first one was Beta Interferon in Japan, and the second one was the family of Alpha Interferon by Genetec in California, according to the Cuban doctor. “One year later in Cuba, we cloned different genes of Interferon from local sites, and we started to produce Interferon in 1981 and 1982, which we used in the outbreak of dengue fever, and we presented the results in the United States in California.” One of the ways the virus can multiply inside the cells is by decreasing the levels of Interferon naturally produced in human cells. The molecule thus, through a different metabolic way, can create conditions to limit the replication of the virus.

During the MERS-CoV epidemic three years ago – another type of coronavirus – people realized that Interferon was decreased during the replication of the virus, highlighted Herrera. In China, practically a few weeks after the beginning of the outbreak, people started to use Interferon in a way to avoid complications in people infected with the virus. According to Herrera, this molecule has “some side effects but not too critical.” “The main idea of Interferon is just to avoid complications,” he told teleSUR. “Young people and people with a good immuno-response perhaps don’t need the medicine or people who won’t have complications and respond to the virus-like any other flu, but old people or people susceptible to have a bad immuno-response will have better chances of avoiding complications by using Interferon.”

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The good doctor can’t keep himself from taking a jab at Trump. Pity. Nothing much else to say that we didn’t already know.

And as the graph shows, the mass testing that for instance South Korea is supposed to have done is not quite what it’s made out to be. 0.6% of the population is not that.

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming (Wired)

Larry Brilliant says he doesn’t have a crystal ball. But 14 years ago, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick,” he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.”

Now the unthinkable is here, and Brilliant, the Chairman of the board of Ending Pandemics, is sharing expertise with those on the front lines. We are a long way from 100 million deaths due to the novel coronavirus, but it has turned our world upside down. Brilliant is trying not to say “I told you so” too often. But he did tell us so, not only in talks and writings, but as the senior technical advisor for the pandemic horror film Contagion, now a top streaming selection for the homebound. Besides working with the World Health Organization in the effort to end smallpox, Brilliant, who is now 75, has fought flu, polio, and blindness; once led Google’s nonprofit wing, Google.org; co-founded the conferencing system the Well; and has traveled with the Grateful Dead.

[..] When will we be able to leave the house and go back to work? I have a very good retrospect-oscope, but what’s needed right now as a prospecto-scope. If this were a tennis match, I would say advantage virus right now. But there’s really good news from South Korea—they had less than 100 cases today. China had more cases imported than it had from continuous transmission from Wuhan today. The Chinese model will be very hard for us to follow. We’re not going to be locking people up in their apartments, boarding them up. But the South Korea model is one that we could follow. Unfortunately, it requires doing the proportionate number of tests that they did—they did well over a quarter of a million tests. In fact, by the time South Korea had done 200,000 tests, we had probably done less than 1,000.

Now that we’ve missed the opportunity for early testing, is it too late for testing to make a difference? Absolutely not. Tests would make a measurable difference. We should be doing a stochastic process random probability sample of the country to find out where the hell the virus really is. Because we don’t know. Maybe Mississippi is reporting no cases because it’s not looking. How would they know? Zimbabwe reports zero cases because they don’t have testing capability, not because they don’t have the virus. We need something that looks like a home pregnancy test, that you can do at home.

Read more …

The neocons are not amused.

Pentagon Sends 2,600 Europe-based Personnel Into Quarantine (RT)

Thousands of US troops and military staff based in Europe have been ordered into self-isolation after at least 35 of them tested positive for Covid-19, further complicating Washington’s power projection across the Atlantic.
Some 2,600 European Command (EUCOM) troops and personnel were isolated on Friday in an effort to stem the spread of the lethal virus, following nearly three dozen positive test results. The Defense Department noted that the troops quarantined were not ill, but were isolated as a precaution due to recent travel, among other reasons. “These individuals are not necessarily sick, but may have been exposed and are doing their due diligence following health preventative measures,” the Pentagon said in a statement.


EUCOM commander, US Air Force General Tod Wolters, told reporters earlier about the positive tests, adding that all 72,000 of his troops were taking measures to avoid further exposure to the illness. “We’re preparing for worst-case scenarios with respect to the potential spread,” Wolters said in a teleconference from EUCOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. “For months, we have embraced precautionary measures.” The Pentagon did not clarify how it planned to isolate the 2,600 personnel, however. The quarantine comes as several branches of the US armed services struggle to contain the coronavirus, especially on board the crowded Navy vessels. The USS ‘Boxer’ became the first ship to confirm more than one infected sailor earlier this week, prompting the crew to adopt what it called an “aggressive mitigation strategy.”

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The CEO delays receiving many millions so the company will receive many billions, which will then be used to pay the CEO additional many millions. File under Business Model.

Boeing Suspends Dividend, Halts Buybacks, Stops Paying CEO And Chairman (Y!)

Boeing says its CEO and its chairman will forgo all pay until the end of the year — and that’s just one of the steps the company is taking to ensure that it weathers the financial effects of the coronavirus epidemic. CEO David Calhoun and Board Chairman Larry Kellner were named to their current positions last December, as part of a corporate house-cleaning related to the past year’s 737 MAX crisis. Calhoun was due to receive a base annual salary of $1.4 million and was eligible for millions more in performance-based payments and stock options. Kellner was getting an annual cash retainer of $250,000 and was eligible for other compensation.


Boeing said it was also suspending its dividend and extending its current pause on stock buybacks until further notice. “Boeing is drawing on all of its resources to sustain operations, support its workforce and customers, and maintain supply chain continuity through the COVID-19 crisis and for the long term,” the company said in a statement. The move came after former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said she was resigning from Boeing’s board of directors to protest the company’s request for at least $60 billion in federal support. The company’s shares have plunged from a 52-week high of $398.66 to today’s closing value of $95.01, primarily due to the virus outbreak. This week, President Donald Trump told reporters that “we have to protect Boeing” but also voiced his disdain of stock buybacks.

Read more …

What are words worth?

National Guard Chief Denies Rumors Of Martial Law Response To Virus (Solomon)

The National Guard has deployed a few thousand troops to help states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, but it wants Americans to know that rumors of impending martial law are blatantly false. One of the Guard’s top generals tweeted out that assurance Friday as officials blamed misinformation and propaganda campaigns for the false rumor. “I hear unfounded rumors about #NationalGuard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine,” wrote Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion.” From New York to Wisconsin, National Guard troops have been deployed to several states to provide assistance that ranges from sterilizing public areas to delivering needed supplies. Those missions are likely to continue for some time.

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“Sovereign immunity”, no less. Carte blanche for any and all surveillance, on peers, journalists, lawyers? Does that sound okay to anyone at all, other than Schiff?

Schiff Claims ‘Immunity’ To Keep Impeachment Phone Subpoenas Secret (JTN)

The House Intelligence Committee and its chairman Adam Schiff invoked “sovereign immunity” in a motion to dismiss a Judicial Watch lawsuit seeking to obtain controversial phone records subpoenas issued during the Trump impeachment inquiry. The committee’s subpoenas of phone records ultimately led to the publication of multiple Americans’ phone records, including those of reporter John Solomon, California Rep. Devin Nunes, the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others. In the motion, lawyers from the Office of General Counsel for the House of Representatives assert four reasons for dismissing the case, including protection under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

“First, the doctrine of sovereign immunity deprives the Court of jurisdiction over the House Defendants, and no express and unequivocal waiver exists,” the argument says. “Second, given that the records sought by Plaintiff involve matters pursued and obtained by the House Defendants as part of the House-authorized impeachment inquiry, they are absolutely protected by the Speech or Debate Clause.”

“Third, Plaintiff fails to state a claim because Congress has created a comprehensive scheme for the review of government records—the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)—that preempts the common law right sought to be vindicated by this litigation,” the lawyers write. “Finally, under governing case law, the records Plaintiff seeks to review are not ‘public records’ and, therefore, are not subject to the common law right of public access. And even if the records are ‘public records,’ Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the House Defendants’ interest in non-disclosure.”

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“His role was not the good father, it was the half-crazy old uncle in the attic..”

Strength and Weakness (Kunstler)

Yes, he is peculiar-looking: the strange blond helmet, the orange face. Note, back in one of America’s earlier hard times, a lot people thought Mr. Lincoln looked like a great ape, and had much sport with that image of him in the newspapers. It’s also a fact that the decisions he made led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of mostly young men in the bloodiest slaughters then imaginable. Yet those young men going to their deaths called him Father Abraham in their songs around the campfire. I’m not saying that Donald Trump is another Lincoln — certainly not in sheer rhetoric — but I am saying we don’t know yet what his mettle will show in this crisis, and where it might take us. One thing for sure: he’s been subjected to more political abuse than any character on-the-scene in my lifetime, and it’s amazing that he didn’t fold or quit or lose his shit as it went on and on and on.

And so, you now have the strange and ironic spectacle of his organized opposition, the Democrats, hoisting up onto their pinnacle of leadership absolutely the weakest candidate possible to oppose Mr. Trump in the election: Joe Biden. There was something certainly supernatural about his ascent in the recent cluster of primaries, as if some gang of someones worked strenuously behind the scenes to make it happen. If Mr. Biden ever had any charisma even in his prime as a young senator, there was no sign of that now, either in his own bumbling behavior or in the sparse crowds that were flushed out of the DNC’s voter registration thickets to show up at his rallies. In fact, he emanated the exact opposite of charisma, a faltering flop-sweat odor of weakness, and of every kind of weakness: physical, mental, and ethical.

His role was not the good father, it was the half-crazy old uncle in the attic — the kind who puts on his threadbare best suit every day to go down to a corner bar and sip beers until it’s time to stagger back home, where a dutiful niece-in-law might give him supper, if he could manage to ask for it politely. The kind who, until his forced retirement due to incompetence and blundering, had worked as an errand boy for the local mob, picking up receipts from the numbers racket, and was then cast off like a banana peel in a drainage ditch when his usefulness ended.

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CoronaBonds are one way, sure. But if you take the salary pressure away from companies by having the government pay 50-70% of them, would you still need to bailout companies, or would you be only subsidizing zombies?

CoronaBonds To Hold The Payments System Together (Steve Keen)

The coronavirus could cause the financial system to collapse unless something is done to enable basic payments to continue during the fight against it. While some businesses are doing very well out of it—toilet paper and hand sanitizer produces come to mind—many, if not most, could collapse as their sales collapse and/or their workers become unable to turn up to work. Workers—especially those in the jovially-named “gig economy”—will be unable to pay their rents and mortgages. If we insist on these payments being honoured, mass bankruptcy could result that could take viable companies down with it—even toilet roll producers. So what to do? The answer is fundamentally simple: the Treasury issues “Coronabonds” that raise a substantial sum—enough to cover say 3 months of standard mortgage, rent and food payments for an average family.


These Coronabonds could be priced at zero percent yield: interest rates are at that level anyway, and given the current stockmarket carnage, financial corporations would jump at the opportunity to park their money in an asset that won’t fall in value. Using the US Economy as our template, let’s say that $1 trillion of these bonds were issued. They would then be bought by the financial sector—raising $1 trillion to be spend by the government on tenants, mortgagees and firms. The cost to the Treasury would be zero because that would be the yield of the bonds. The public debt would rise, but it would be debt carrying no servicing costs.

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Good friend Steve Keen “escaped” to Thailand.

Personal Coronavirus Update 02 March 21st 2019 (Steve Keen)

As I noted in my first update, I had decided that for both medical and visa reasons, the best place to be during the Coronavirus crisis was Thailand. Outside of China (the epicentre of this crisis), the world’s governments have been dominated by the Neoliberal emphasis upon efficiency, with a total ignorance of the need for resilience as well in a complex system. I didn’t expect any of them to be able to respond effectively as this exponential crisis exploded, so the safest thing was to go for the highest level of social isolation possible—and southern Thailand, below the major tourist spots, made sense on that ground alone. There was also nascent research implying that heat and humidity slow the spread of the virus. This is from the abstract for the paper: “One degree Celsius increase in temperature and one percent increase in relative humidity lower R by 0.0383 and 0.0224, respectively.”

I had already started to make this inference from the statistics from the John Hopkins University site. Thailand began with the second highest number of cases to China, but the number of cases rose far more slowly than in the rest of the world. On January 31st, Thailand had 19 cases, while Australia had 9, the Netherlands zero, and the UK 2. The Netherlands recorded its first cases on February 27th, finishing the day with 2 cases; by this stage, Australia had 23 cases, the UK 15 and Thailand was still far higher at 40 cases. However, as of March 19th, Australia had about 700 cases, The Netherlands and the UK about 2500 each, and Thailand had under 250. This time series plot from my soon-to-be-released program Ravel illustrates the divergence of Thai data from the rest of the world—or rather the three other countries where I could have considered living

during this crisis.

[..] My partner and I arrived in Bangkok on Thursday March 19th, one day before Thailand started closing its border to non-nationals (my partner is a Thai citizen, though she hasn’t lived here for over 25 years). One day later, and I would have had to continue on my own to Australia, which is mishandling this crisis as impressively as any other Western government. Even Thai tourists are thin on the ground now, as Thailand has wisely cancelled its annual Thai New Year holiday and festival. We went to a popular beach yesterday looking for potential places to stay for a year, and it was almost empty. We’re now looking for a house to rent here, for the year that I think it will take before there’s any prospect of a post-Covid-19 “normal” developing.

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Feb 032020
 


Harris&Ewing “Slaves reunion DC. Lewis Martin, age 100; Martha Elizabeth Banks, age 104; Amy Ware, age 103; Rev. Simon P. Drew, born free.” c1916

 

China Censors Top Media Outlet That Says It Underreports Cases, Deaths (ZH)
Virus Worries Wipe $420 Billion Off China’s Stock Market (R.)
Chinese Shares Drop 9% (G.)
China’s Sinopec Cuts Feb Daily Refinery Output By 12% As Virus Hits (R.)
Huawei, Chinese Chip Makers Keep Factories Humming Despite Coronavirus (R.)
China’s Reaction To The Coronavirus Outbreak Violates Human Rights (G.)
The Democrats’ New Online Troll Fighters Make 2020 Debut In Iowa (CNN)
Democrats Need to Break Their Cold War–Addled Impeachment Fever (Maté)
The Real John Bolton (CP)
Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Early Spring (Slate)

 

As the US and China accuse each other of, respectively, not accepting help and not offering it, numbers continue to rise. Just like doubts about the accuracy of the official numbers from Beijing do. Here are the official numbers:

• 17,480 cases (+2930 from yesterday’s 14,550)

• 362 deaths (+57 from yesterday’s 305)

• 11 U.S. confirmed infected

 

 

Also, the Lancet paper I’ve been citing a lot lately by Gabriel Leung and his team says “We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.”

That would mean another 3 months. Mobility is a factor, mind you, as the graph shows, though a minor one. But imagine the Chinese economy being on lockdown for another 3 months. Where will OPEC sell their oil? Where will WalMart buy its supply? What will happen to the Chinese confined to their homes and/or cities? Will there be a global economy left?

 


Epidemic forecasts for Wuhan and five other Chinese cities under different scenarios of reduction in transmissibility and inter-city mobility

 

 

 

This is why I wrote yesterday’s The Party and the Virus. Question is when will the rest of the world increase pressure on China for real numbers? Will that first take multiple deaths in Europe or the US?

China Censors Top Media Outlet That Says It Underreports Cases, Deaths (ZH)

Let’s be honest, do you think China is reporting the actual coronavirus cases and deaths? After all, Beijing has been the master of falsifying its economic growth figures for years, what makes you think they’ll change in the reporting of the deadly virus outbreak? Balaji S. Srinivasan, angel investor and entrepreneur, also former CTO of Coinbase, tweeted Saturday that a top news organization in China, Caijing, had one of their articles banned by Beijing after it noted Chinese officials were significantly underreporting coronavirus confirmed cases and deaths, especially among the elderly. Srinivasan said, “If half the claims in this article are true, #nCoV2019 seems to have completely overloaded Wuhan’s healthcare system. It appears particularly deadly for the elderly. But this 45-year-old had to be anesthetized and intubated in order to breathe.”

“In the past two days, he had seen a 45-year-old patient, a family of five, his parents had died of the new coronavirus pneumonia, and his son was infected. The patient’s condition was very serious. She used high-flow oxygen inhalation and non-invasive mask ventilation, but her blood oxygen saturation was only 50%. Finally, she had to be anesthetized and intubated with ECMO. “Before intubation and anesthesia, she watched us prepare, tears kept flowing down, and that fear made people feel very distressed,” said Shen Jun. There are still many cases like this, “Our doctors have made a decision Determined to do everything possible to treat all patients,” Caijing wrote.

Srinivasan points out that the Chinese newspaper found hospitals in Wuhan and elsewhere were intentionally recording coronavirus deaths as “general pneumonia” to keep the death count low. The article also notes test kits for the virus were in low supply, which allowed those who were infected, to continue their daily lives during a 7-10-day incubation period, enabling the virus to spread even more. The healthcare system was so overloaded in Wuhan, which forced hospital officials to send the dying home; hospitals didn’t have enough beds to house the sick. “Caijing understands that at least five suspected deaths at the hospital have not been diagnosed, so it does not count towards the confirmed deaths. This means that the number of confirmed and fatal cases that people can see at present does not fully reflect the full picture of the epidemic,” the article noted.

And then there’s this, from SixthTone’s David Paulk: “The 8 people detained in Wuhan for “spreading rumors” — who we wrote about in a Jan. 2 article that was censored — were doctors trying to raise the alarm about a new SARS-like virus.” We leave the last word to Zeng Guang, the chief scientist of epidemiology at China’s CDC, who, on Jan. 29 made a rare candid admission about why Chinese officials cannot tell people the truth in an interview with the state-run tabloid Global Times: “The officials need to think about the political angle and social stability in order to keep their positions,” which is all one needs to know about any “facts” coming out of China.

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“More than 2,500 stocks fell by the daily limit of 10%.”

Virus Worries Wipe $420 Billion Off China’s Stock Market (R.)

Investors erased $420 billion from China’s benchmark stock index on Monday, sold the yuan and dumped commodities as fears about the spreading coronavirus and its economic impact drove selling on the first day of trade in China since the Lunar New Year. The market slide came even as the central bank poured cash in to the financial system – a show of support for the economy -and despite apparent regulatory moves to curb selling. The total number of deaths in China from the coronavirus rose to 361 as of Sunday. It had stood at 17 when Chinese markets last traded on Jan. 23. By lunchtime, the benchmark Shanghai Composite index sat 8% lower near an almost one-year trough and poised to post its worst day in more than four years.


The yuan opened at its weakest level in 2020 and slid almost 1.2%, past the symbolic 7-per-dollar level CNY=, as the falls soured the mood in markets throughout Asia. Shanghai-traded oil, iron ore, copper and soft commodities contracts all posted sharp drops, catching up with sliding global prices. The new virus has created alarm because it is spreading quickly, much about it is unknown, and authorities’ drastic response is likely to drag on economic growth. “This will last for some time,” said Iris Pang, Greater China economist at ING. “It’s uncertain whether factory workers, or how many of them, will return to their factories,” she said. “We haven’t yet seen corporate earnings since the (spread of the) coronavirus. Restaurants and retailers may have very little sales.” More than 2,500 stocks fell by the daily limit of 10%.

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Fluid, but 9% seems right.

Chinese Shares Drop 9% (G.)

Stock markets in China have seen the biggest daily fall for five years as traders rushed to sell amid continued fears about the impact on the global economy of the coronavirus epidemic. The benchmark Shanghai composite index fell 8.7% on Monday on a wave of negative sentiment that has built up for 10 days during the long market shutdown for the lunar new year. The Shenzhen composite was off 9.1% and dangerously close to the daily maximum permitted fall of 10% after which trading is suspended. The yuan fell through the seven-to-the-US-dollar mark for the first time since December. The losses were the worst on the Chinese markets since 2015 although they pared back slightly later in the day to 7.7%. [..]

Chinese authorities have reeled off a series of measures to tackle the market panic. On Sunday they announced they flood the financial system with 1.2 trillion yuan (US$170bn) in extra liquidity, a measure designed to buy up securities from investors seeking to sell. On Monday the People’s Bank of China – the country’s central bank – lowered the interest rate it charges banks for short-term funding upon which many banks rely to remain trading. Capital Economics said that while the move might take some pressure off the banks the rate cut was not enough to offset the drag on economic activity from the coronavirus outbreak and that more rate cuts were therefore on the way.

The growing fears about the Chinese economy also prompted the finance ministry to subsidies on interest payments for some companies hit by the coronavirus outbreak, state-run newspaper Guangming Daily said. [..] Many economists are predicting that the coronavirus will have a significant impact on the Chinese economy. Many businesses have been shut as part of the lockdown to contain the virus while most overseas airlines have suspended flights to the country and Chinese people are now banned from travelling overseas. Goldman Sachs has forecast that the virus could knock Chinese growth down to 5.5% for the year, from 6.1% in 2019, with knockon effects for the rest of the world economy. Economists at Citigroup said the steps taken by Chinese authorities were “unlikely” to be enough to prevent a sharp downturn in the first quarter.

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Bloomberg claims Chinese oil demand is down 20%.

China’s Sinopec Cuts Feb Daily Refinery Output By 12% As Virus Hits (R.)

China’s Sinopec Corp, Asia’s largest refiner, is cutting throughput this month by around 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) as the rapidly spreading coronavirus hits fuel demand, four people with knowledge of the matter said on Monday. The cut is equivalent to roughly 12% of the state refiner’s average daily throughput last year. Sinopec asked refineries last Friday to cut production and gave plants different reduction targets based on local fuel demand and logistics, the sources told Reuters. They declined to be named as they are not authorized to speak to media. Sinopec is closely monitoring the changing market situations and stands ready to ensure supplies, the refiner said in an email to Reuters.


“Company is closely monitoring the changing market situations, and will optimize operation rates and product mix based on market demand,” the company said, without commenting directly on the throughput cut rates. The four sources estimated cuts of about 2.5 million tonnes in total, equal to about 600,000 bpd on average, for February. One plant in eastern Jiangsu province is lowering runs by 10%, while a plant in Tianjin, near Beijing, is cutting throughput by 20%, two people with direct knowledge of the plants’ operations said. A plant manager with a central-China based Sinopec refinery said his plant has since Friday lowered processing rates to 60% of capacity. He said his plant was operating at near full rates before the cut.

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Total lockdown, except for…

Huawei, Chinese Chip Makers Keep Factories Humming Despite Coronavirus (R.)

Some Chinese technology firms are continuing to manufacture parts and products despite government calls across various cities and provinces for work to be halted as Being seeks to stop the spread of the coronavirus ravaging the country. Chinese telecom giant Huawei said on Monday it had resumed production of goods including consumer devices and carrier equipment, and operations are running normally. The company restarted manufacturing in line with a special exemption that allows certain critical industries to remain in operation, despite Beijing’s call to halt all work in some cities and provinces. The spokesman said most of the production was in Dongguan, a city in the southern Guangdong province.


Other companies have also kept production running, in some cases even through Chinese New Year, in a sign of the critical importance Beijing places on its domestic tech supply chain, a subject of friction with the United States Yangtze Memory Technologies, a state-backed maker of flash memory chips based in Wuhan – the city where the virus outbreak originated – confirmed on Monday that it has not yet ceased production. “At present, production and operations at YMTC are proceeding normally and in an orderly manner,” a company spokesman wrote in a statement on Monday. The spokesman added that no factory employees have been confirmed as infection cases, and that the company has enacted certain isolation measures and partitions to ensure the safety of employees. State media reported that the chip maker did not cease operations over the Lunar New Year holiday.

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Are we going to argue that keeping borders open does not violate human rights?

China’s Reaction To The Coronavirus Outbreak Violates Human Rights (G.)

When the World Health Organization declared the 2019nCoV coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, it effusively praised China’s response to the outbreak. The WHO issued a statement welcoming the government’s “commitment to transparency”, and the WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted: “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.” The WHO is ignoring Chinese government suppression of human rights regarding the outbreak, including severe restrictions on freedom of expression. In turn, Chinese state media are citing the WHO to defend its policies and try to silence criticism of its response to the outbreak, which has included rights violations that could make the situation worse.

China’s response to the outbreak included a month-long government cover-up in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, that led to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Local authorities publicly announced that no new cases had been detected between 3-16 January in the lead up to a major Communist party meeting, likely to suppress “bad news”. Despite early evidence of human-to-human transmission when medical staff became infected, this information was not relayed to the public for weeks. Hardly a “commitment to transparency”. Chinese police punished frontline doctors for “spreading rumours” for trying to warn the public in late December. Police are still engaged in a campaign to detain Chinese netizens for spreading so-called “rumours”.

Rumours included reports of potential cases, including people turned away from hospitals or dying without ever being tested and quickly cremated, criticism of the government, the distribution of masks, or the criticism of the discrimination of people from Wuhan or others who may be infected. Activists have been threatened with jail if they share foreign news articles or post on social media about the coronavirus outbreak. That the Chinese government can lock millions of people into cities with almost no advance notice should not be considered anything other than terrifying. The residents of Wuhan had no time to buy food, medicine, or other essentials. Authorities hastily announced the lockdown in the middle of the night with an eight-hour gap before it went into effect, giving people time to flee and thus raising questions on the rationale for such extreme measures.

[..] The international community should support all efforts to end this outbreak, but human rights should not be a casualty to the coronavirus crisis. The WHO declares that core principles of human rights and health includes accountability, equality and non-discrimination and participation. It even acknowledges that “participation is important to accountability as it provides … checks and balances which do not allow unitary leadership to exercise power in an arbitrary manner”. The WHO’s admiration for the unitary actions of the Chinese dictator Xi Jinping exercising power in an arbitrary manner is a direct contradiction of its own human rights principles.

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DNC and CNN are even regurgitating Mueller.

Twitter comment: “Brace yourself, the DNC is launching its troll army (branded as “troll fighters”) headed by a former Hillary staffer to counter “disinformation”. If you use the word “rigged”, they will come after you. Get ready to be called a Russian all over again.”

The Democrats’ New Online Troll Fighters Make 2020 Debut In Iowa (CNN)

Days after the 2016 Iowa caucuses, the instructions were clear. “[U]se any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),” they read. The guidance had been circulated among a group of Russians who were covertly running a vast network of social media accounts seeking to divide Democrats and push the candidacy of Donald Trump. (The instructions were later found during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.) Four years later, unhappy with Silicon Valley’s efforts to curb the manipulation of its platforms, the Democratic Party has developed capabilities of its own to monitor and tackle online disinformation.

The first-in-the-nation caucuses here Monday will be the Democrats’ first 2020 test of its new team on a day when voters have their say. The effort reflects Democrats’ growing discontent with Silicon Valley executives like Mark Zuckerberg and highlights concerns that viral disinformation could have an impact on this year’s election. “It’s like algorithmic wars here, it’s kind of crazy,” a Democratic National Committee staffer who works on the Democrats’ new counter disinformation team said on Saturday as preparations were underway in Des Moines. The staffer asked not to be identified due to the nature of their work and possibly being subjected to online harassment themselves.

“Both Republicans and foreign actors, like Russia, have an incentive to divide the American electorate and may try to use the Iowa Caucus to further that goal,” the DNC wrote in a “counter disinformation update” sent to campaigns on Thursday. Among the new weapons in the Democrats’ online arsenal is a monitoring tool called “Trendolizer.” When stories from websites known to peddle misinformation mention candidates and begin getting shares on social media, Trendolizer detects it and an alert is sent to the relevant campaigns. Another tool built in-house at the DNC monitors Twitter traffic. On Monday, it’ll watch for misinformation about how and where to caucus. Variations of the word “rigged” had been loaded into system when CNN was shown it Saturday — attempts to undermine legitimate vote results using disinformation is something Democrats are watching out for.

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Today is closing argumants in the Senate “trial”. One more chance for Schiff to take revenge on the entire world, including Jerry Nadler, and repeat the same old points another 20 times. And announce a “surprise” subpoena for John Bolton in the House.

Democrats Need to Break Their Cold War–Addled Impeachment Fever (Maté)

Sondland, according to Schiff’s account, told Yermak, “You ain’t getting the money until you do the investigations.” But both Sondland and Yermak offer a radically different account. According to Sondland, he told Yermak in “a very, very brief pull-aside conversation,” that he “didn’t know exactly why” the military funding was held up, and that its linkage to opening an investigation was only his “personal presumption” in the absence of an explanation from Trump. Yermak does not even recall the issue of the frozen aid being mentioned. To overcome that, Schiff has gone to the extraordinary step of arguing that it’s not just Sondland who is lying but the Ukrainians as well. “Like they’re going to admit they were being shaken down by the president of the United States,” Schiff told the proceedings.

Sure, that’s one possibility, but it is also wildly speculative. Ukrainian officials say they did not learn about the weapons freeze until it was publicly reported more than one month after the Trump-Zelensky call. And even after they did find out, and even voiced concerns to their US counterparts, there is no record of any complaints about the alleged linkage. As Democratic Senator Chris Murphy recalled of a meeting with Zelensky in early September—after the funding freeze became known—the Ukrainian president “did not make any connection between the aid that had been cut off and the requests that he was getting from [Trump attorney Rudy] Giuliani.”

House impeachment managers have not overcome this evidentiary flaw. They have tried to claim that the White House effectively admitted to their allegation in an October 2019 news conference by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. But as I detailed back when Mulvaney’s comments initially caused a stir, Democrats and media outlets pundits rendered them as damning by isolating one fragment and ignoring the bulk of what Mulvaney said.

The absence of concrete evidence explains the last-minute excitement over compelling the potential testimony of another Trump administration official, former national security adviser John Bolton. A New York Times report about Bolton’s forthcoming memoir led to declarations that Bolton confirmed the quid pro quo allegation at the heart of the impeachment trial. As in other cases, that is based on a mistaken and maximalist interpretation of the available facts. The Times did not quote from Bolton’s manuscript. In its characterization of what Bolton wrote, the Times reports that Bolton said Trump “preferred sending no assistance to Ukraine until officials had turned over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine”.

If this account is accurate, then Bolton is not confirming that Trump conditioned military assistance to Ukraine’s announcement of an investigation into Joe Biden and his son. Instead, Bolton is relaying that Trump “preferred” that Ukraine assist efforts to uncover the extent of Ukrainian meddling to hurt Trump’s campaign and help Democrats in 2016—meddling that did in fact happen. Recall that Trump is not on trial for preferring that Ukraine hand “over all materials they had about the Russia investigation,” but for pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation of Trump’s political rival.

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Dems’ new favorite boy.

The Real John Bolton (CP)

It isn’t enough for the corporate media to praise John Bolton for his timely manuscript that confirms Donald Trump’s explicit linkage between military aid to Ukraine and investigations into his political foe Joe Biden. As a result, the media have made John Bolton a “man of principle,” according to the Washington Post, and a fearless infighter for the “sovereignty of the United States.” Writing in the Post, Kathleen Parker notes that Bolton isn’t motivated by the money he will earn from his book (in the neighborhood of $2 million), but that he is far more interested in “saving his legacy.” Perhaps this is a good time to examine that legacy. Bolton, who used student deferments and service in the Maryland National Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam, is a classic Chicken Hawk.

He supported the Vietnam War and continues to support the war in Iraq. Bolton endorsed preemptive military strikes in North Korea and Iran in recent years, and lobbied for regime change in Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. When George W. Bush declared an “axis of evil” in 2002 consisting of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, Bolton added an equally bizarre axis of Cuba, Libya, and Syria. When Bolton occupied official positions at the Department of State and the United Nations, he regularly ignored assessments of the intelligence community in order to make false arguments regarding weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Cuba and Syria in order to promote the use of force.

When serving as President Bush’s Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Disarmament, Bolton ran his own intelligence program, issuing white papers on WMD that lacked support within the intelligence community. He used his own reports to testify to congressional committees in 2002 in effort to justify the use of military force against Iraq. Bolton presented misinformation to the Congress on a Cuban biological weapons program. When the CIA challenged the accuracy of Bolton’s information in 2003, he was forced to cancel a similar briefing on Syria. In a briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2005, the former chief of intelligence at the Department of State, Carl Ford, referred to Bolton as a “serial abuser” in his efforts to pressure intelligence analysts. Ford testified that he had “never seen anybody quite like Secretary Bolton…in terms of the way he abuses his power and authority with little people.”

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Luckily there’s still important news going on.

Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Early Spring (Slate)

Across much of the United States, many have been enjoying a mild winter. And if the world’s most famous groundhog is to be believed, the trend will continue and there will be an early spring. In fact, on Sunday morning, Punxsutawney Phil declared that early spring “is a certainty.” Well, obviously the groundhog didn’t actually declare anything but that didn’t matter to the thousands of people who gathered at sunrise on Sunday to watch as Phil emerged from his den in Punxsutawney, Pa. The groundhog allegedly did not see his shadow, according to members of his “inner circle,” meaning there will be an early spring. According to legend, if he had seen his shadow it would have signified six more weeks of winter.


[..] Since Phil’s weather-predicting career began in 1887, he has seen his shadow 104 times and has failed to see it on a mere 20 instances (a few years are missing from the official record). That makes this year’s prediction relatively rare and marks the first time Phil hasn’t seen his shadow two years in a row. Phil’s forecast “seems fitting considering the lack of winter weather this winter so far,” notes the Washington Post. But truth be told, Phil doesn’t have the best track record. From 2010-2019, Phil predicted a longer winter seven times and an early spring three times. He was right only 40 percent of the time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He has been on a particularly poor streak lately as Phil got it wrong the past three years.

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Feb 012020
 


Russell Lee Street scene. Spencer, Iowa 1936

 

Coronavirus “HIV Insertions”: Fears Over Artificially Created Bioweapon (ZH)
Chinese Furious At Officials Who Lied About Human Transmission (ZH)
China Voices Anger At US Travel Ban (G.)
Australia Bars Entry To Foreign Nationals Traveling From Mainland China (R.)
What Trump Acquittal Would Mean For 2020 Election (BBC)
Is Bernie’s Hour of Power at Hand? (Buchanan)
Hillary Clinton Blames Bernie Sanders For Disunity In Democratic Party (WE)
DNC Members Discuss Rules Change To Stop Sanders At Convention (Pol.)
Democrats Announce New Debate Rules Likely To Allow Bloomberg To Join (R.)
The FBI Has Been Lying About Seth Rich (Craig Murray)
Flynn Prosecution Exposed As Massive FBI and DOJ Abuse Of Power (NYP)
Soros: Facebook, Zuckerberg In Cahoots With Trump To Win 2020 Election (USAT)
Zuckerberg: Facebook’s New Approach ‘Is Going To Piss Off A Lot Of People’ (CNN)
Tales From the Crypt (Jim Kunstler)

 

Apparently because of an article it wrote Wednesday about Chinese virologist Peng Zhou, which was noted by someone at BuzzFeed, a site without an identity, read exclusively be people who have none either, Twitter banned the Zero Hedge site that @Jack follows:

Long live the thought police. Tyler suspects this has something to do with publishing Peng Zhou’s phone# and email, but also points out these are freely available on his employer’s website.

 

Today’s 2019nCoV numbers may show a little leveling off, but there’s no way we can be sure.

• Confirmed cases: 11,821 in China, 124 abroad. Total 11,945 (yesterday: 9.821)

• Deaths: 259 (up 46 from yesterday)

• Discharged from hospitals on the Chinese mainland: 243

• Hubei province: 1347 new cases and 45 deaths on Jan 31 compared with 2102 new cases and 46 deaths nationwide.

What I found interesting to see is this: “Xinyu, a city in Jiangxi province – adjacent to Hubei – said 17 new cases had been confirmed in the city, and that 15 of the afflicted patients were infected by a single person.” That may say something else -again- about the R-naught (R0) infection rate. About which -just like the mortality rate- there are a lot of different ideas still.

 

 

From a new study by Gabriel Leung et al, published by the Lancet, comes this graphic:

 

 

Make from it what you want. Looks scary. Majority of Wuhan infections are now without a link to the fish/meat market.

Coronavirus “HIV Insertions”: Fears Over Artificially Created Bioweapon (ZH)

Over the past few days, the mainstream press has vigorously pushed back against a theory about the origins of the coronavirus that has now infected as many as 70,000+ people in Wuhan alone (depending on whom you believe). The theory is that China obtained the coronavirus via a Canadian research program, and started molding it into a bioweapon at the Institute of Virology in Wuhan. Politifact pointed the finger at Zero Hedge, in particular, though the story was widely shared across independent-leaning media. The theory is that the virus, which was developed by infectious disease experts may have originated in the Wuhan-based lab of Dr. Peng Zhou, China’s preeminent researcher of bat immune systems, specifically in how their immune systems adapt to the presence of viruses like coronavirus and other destructive viruses.


Somehow, the virus escaped from the lab, and the Hunan fish market where the virus supposedly originated is merely a ruse. Now, a respected epidemiologist who recently caught flack for claiming in a twitter thread that the virus appeared to be much more contagious than initially believed is pointing out irregularities in the virus’s genome that suggests it might have been genetically engineered for the purposes of a weapon, and not just any weapon but the deadliest one of all. In “Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag”, Indian researchers are baffled by segments of the virus’s RNA that have no relation to other coronaviruses like SARS, and instead appear to be closer to HIV. The virus even responds to treatment by HIV medications.

“3D modelling of the protein structure displayed that these insertions are present at the binding site of 2019-nCoV. Due to the presence of gp120 motifs in 2019-nCoV spike glycoprotein at its binding domain, we propose that these motif insertions could have provided an enhanced affinity towards host cell receptors. Further, this structural change might have also increased the range of host cells that 2019-nCoV can infect. To the best of our knowledge, the function of these motifs is still not clear in HIV and need to be explored. The exchange of genetic material among the viruses is well known and such critical exchange highlights the risk and the need to investigate the relations between seemingly unrelated virus families.”

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Xi is being praised now, but Beijing sat on his hands for a full month in December.

Chinese Furious At Officials Who Lied About Human Transmission (ZH)

For reasons that haven’t been shared with the public, the WHO has chosen to lavish praise on Beijing, insisting that travel to China isn’t dangerous even as more governments impose restrictions, and claiming that Beijing has been completely transparent and a ‘model’ for how countries should handle outbreaks like this. When pressed by a reporter, Dr. Tedros, the director general of the WHO, replied that local authorities in Wuhan had been “very transparent” with the Chinese people by publishing up-to-date notices about new cases and deaths. First of all, many suspect that Beijing hasn’t been entirely truthful as far as these tallies are concerned.

Second, it’s not so much about what Beijing told the Chinese people. Everybody knows the government censors anything that might reflect badly upon the Communist Party. So to claim that the government has been completely transparent with the people is almost disingenuous. Of course that’s not true. But the real issue is what they did and didn’t tell the international news media, and their international partners. Now, a new study has exposed the Communist Party’s lies. The research has once again moved back the timeline of when senior Chinese leaders knew about the outbreak in Wuhan, suggesting that they waited longer to act, and longer to inform the international community, than they had led the world to believe. The claim appeared in a top American medical journal. From Nikkei Asian Review:

“The deadly new coronavirus from Wuhan was spreading from person to person as early as mid-December, weeks before China officially confirmed such transmission, government-funded Chinese researchers report in a top American medical journal. The paper in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzes data on the first 425 confirmed cases in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated. “On the basis of this information, there is evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts since the middle of December 2019,” it reads. The paper notes that seven health care workers contracted the virus between Jan. 1 and Jan. 11 – significant evidence of human-to-human transmission. The findings sharply contrast with the accounts of Wuhan health authorities who had maintained until mid-January that there was “no clear evidence” that the virus could be passed among humans. Officials also claimed Jan. 11 that no health care workers had been infected.”

But…but…but…the local authorities in Wuhan said they didn’t have evidence of person to person transmission until mid-January! That’s increasingly difficult to believe, seeing as the signs were clearly there after the first wave of patients was diagnosed and examined and interrogated. Research suggests fewer than 60% of the early virus-carriers had been directly linked to the seafood market. The rest were associates, friends and relatives of the people who had. That, right there, is evidence of human-to-human transmission – and this was known as early as mid-December.

Some frustrated Chinese have chosen to defy censors and lash out on Chinese social media networks like Weibo. “Many of the paper’s authors work for the Chinese Center for Disease Control and local counterparts. Many were among the first batch of medical experts to have entered Wuhan for on-the-ground inspections, developing “a tailored surveillance protocol to identify potential cases” on Jan. 3. “They all knew,” a user on the Weibo microblogging platform said. “They just didn’t say, but lied to us.” “If only they could have told people earlier, we could have taken better preventive measures, and the virus would not have spread this fast,” another wrote.”

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China know very well there is no other solution than isloation.

China Voices Anger At US Travel Ban (G.)

China has reacted angrily to a US entry ban on foreign nationals who have visited the country in the past two weeks, as countries around the world raced to contain the coronavirus outbreak amid a rising death toll. The US administration on Friday declared the virus a public health emergency, although it insisted the risk to Americans remained low. Foreign nationals who have recently been to China, where the death toll from the virus rose by 46 overnight to 259, will be barred from entering the US from Sunday. American citizens who have travelled within the past two weeks to Hubei province – where the outbreak is thought to have begun – will be placed in quarantine for 14 days, the longest incubation period for the virus. Those who visited other parts of mainland China will undergo health checks and 14 days of “monitored self-quarantine”.


The Chinese government criticised the measures, saying it contradicted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) appeal to avoid travel bans and implied that Beijing was not doing enough to contain the virus’s spread beyond China’s borders. “Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed in the opposite direction,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “[It is] certainly not a gesture of goodwill.” The row came as another airline, Qantas, suspend direct flights to China and the organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were forced to respond to unfounded online rumours that the Games had been cancelled due to the outbreak. They insisted they were “not considering” cancelling the Olympics and Paralympics. “We will work closely with the IOC and other concerned bodies to draw any countermeasures whenever necessary,” they said.

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Et tu, Qantas?

Australia Bars Entry To Foreign Nationals Traveling From Mainland China (R.)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia will deny entry to all foreign nationals traveling from mainland China from Saturday due to the increasing threat from the coronavirus epidemic. Morrison also announced that Australia was raising its travel guidance for China to the highest level, advising people against visiting the country at all. “We’re in fact operating with an abundance of caution in these circumstances,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney. “So Australians can go about their daily lives with confidence.” The new incoming travel ban includes anybody who has been in China from Feb. 1, whether they have traveled directly from the country or through another port.


It extends an existing ban on travel from the province of Hubei, the center of the epidemic, to the entire country. Australian citizens and permanent residents returning home are exempt from the ban but are required to isolate themselves for 14 days after their arrival. Australian authorities have identified 10 coronavirus cases in Australia, but no deaths. The Australian travel restrictions came just hours after the United States announced border curbs on foreign nationals who have been in China amid fears that the virus could spread further overseas. Around two dozen countries have reported confirmed cases of the virus, but the vast majority of those infected remain in China, where the number of deaths stood at 259 on Saturday.

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Hunter Biden was kicked out of the Navy on Feb 14 2014. Burisma hired him, with his lack of skills in oil and Ukraine and all, at $85k a month in April 2014. Not suspect at all.

Still would like to know who debunked the theory though.

And some proof that Trump is “scared to death” Biden will be the nominee. I still see no reason he would be.

What Trump Acquittal Would Mean For 2020 Election (BBC)

Barring an unforeseen and unexpected blockbuster development, a largely party-line vote will acquit him of the two charges brought by the House of Representatives, which itself approved those articles of impeachment on a nearly party-line vote. Both sides will soon be left to sift through the political rubble just nine months before a national election that has the entire House, more than a third of the Senate and the presidency itself on the ballot. According to polls, the nation’s political disposition is much as it was before the impeachment process began. The US is sharply divided along partisan lines. The president’s approval ratings hover in the low to mid-40s, roughly where they’ve been the entirety of his term in office. His re-election chances are dicey but far from slim.

The decision not to seek witnesses – which polls show Americans overwhelming wanted – may be forgotten before long. After all, Democrats and Republicans had very different views about what “witnesses” means. The former wanted to hear from Trump administration officials like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who they think could corroborate the charges against the president. The latter sought to call Joe Biden’s son Hunter, head impeachment manager Adam Schiff and the whistleblower – and will be just as happy to see the whole matter put to rest. Impeachment didn’t change the existing political disposition in the US; instead, it was subsumed by it.

[..] There is no evidence indicating that Biden engaged in any kind of misconduct in Ukraine, but in politics such technicalities don’t always matter. True or not, if hurts, it hurts. And during the opening arguments for the president’s defence team, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi did her best to make it hurt. In her remarks, she sounded more like a prosecutor – laying out what she saw as the case against Hunter Biden and, by connection, his father, former Vice-President Joe Biden. She said the Ukrainian energy company Burisma gave a board position to the Biden son in to attempt to influence US policy.

She questioned whether Joe Biden did anything as point-man for the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy that may have helped protect his son from investigation. That suspicion alone, she continued, should justify the president’s decision to ask the Ukrainian government to look into the Bidens. “All we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue, and that is enough,” she said. [..] Biden has tried to turn Republican interest in damaging his political prospects into a strength, tweeting last week that [Iowa Republican Senator Jodi]Ernst and Trump are “scared to death I’ll be the nominee”. An October poll, however, showed that 40% of Democrats and majorities of Republicans and independents think Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings are a valid campaign issue.

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Bernie gets attacked from the right, not just his own party. Pat Buchanan legitimizes his candidacy.

Is Bernie’s Hour of Power at Hand? (Buchanan)

Can a septuagenarian socialist who just survived a heart attack and would be 80 years old in his first year in office be elected president of the United States? It’s hard to believe but not impossible. As of today, Bernie Sanders looks like one of the better, if not best, bets for the nomination. Polls have him running first or second in the first three contests: Iowa on Monday, and then New Hampshire and Nevada. If Bernie can best main rival Joe Biden in Iowa, he will likely thump Joe in New Hampshire. Biden’s campaign, built around “electability,” could suffer a credibility collapse before he reaches South Carolina, where Joe is banking on his African American base to rescue him if necessary and give him a send-off victory straight into Super Tuesday.

If Sanders can beat Biden two or three times in the first four primaries in February, the last remaining roadblock on Sanders’ path to the nomination could be Mike Bloomberg’s billions. Hillary Clinton may sneer, “Nobody likes him,” but Bernie has a large, dedicated, loyal following, especially among millennials, and tens of thousands more small-dollar donors than any other Democratic candidate. He is flush with cash. He has a radical agenda that appeals to the ideological left and the idealistic young. The rising star of the party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is campaigning alongside him. And, say what you will, Sanders is no trimmer or time-server. He has consistently voted his values and views. He voted no to Bush 41’s Gulf War, no to Bush 43’s Iraq War, no to NAFTA, no to GATT.

In the ’80s, when President Reagan battled the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Sanders was on the other side. But what makes Sanders an appealing candidate for the Democratic nomination may prove poisonous to him as a party nominee in the fall.

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The Democratic Patry’s wrecking ball strikes again. Hillary won’t share that title with Schiff.

Hillary Clinton Blames Bernie Sanders For Disunity In Democratic Party (WE)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Sen. Bernie Sanders and his support network of being responsible for disunity within the Democratic Party. In a Friday podcast, Clinton called the behavior of Sanders supporters “distressing,” assigning blame to them for the outcome of the 2016 election. Clinton beat Sanders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, but not after a bitter primary contest in which the Vermont independent ran a surprisingly competitive campaign. “All the way up until the end, a lot of people highly identified with his campaign were urging people to vote third-party, urging people not to vote,” Clinton, 72, told Emily Tisch Sussman on her podcast Your Primary Playlist. “It had an impact.”


Clinton lauded former President Barack Obama’s behavior during the 2008 election, when he defeated her for the party’s nomination, claiming he helped unify the Democratic Party in a way Sanders did not eight years later. “That cannot happen again,” she said, alluding to the 2020 election. “I don’t care who the nominee is. I don’t care. As long as it’s somebody who can win, and as long as it’s somebody who understands politics is the art of addition, not subtraction.”

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The DNC aims to make sure the Dems have no chance in the election. For their track record, see 2016.

DNC Members Discuss Rules Change To Stop Sanders At Convention (Pol.)

A small group of Democratic National Committee members has privately begun gauging support for a plan to potentially weaken Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and head off a brokered convention. In conversations on the sidelines of a DNC executive committee meeting and in telephone calls and texts in recent days, about a half-dozen members have discussed the possibility of a policy reversal to ensure that so-called superdelegates can vote on the first ballot at the party’s national convention. Such a move would increase the influence of DNC members, members of Congress and other top party officials, who now must wait until the second ballot to have their say if the convention is contested.

“I do believe we should re-open the rules. I hear it from others as well,” one DNC member said in a text message last week to William Owen, a DNC member from Tennessee who does not support re-opening the rules. Owen, who declined to identify the member, said the member added in a text that “It would be hard though. We could force a meeting or on the floor.” Even proponents of the change acknowledge it is all but certain not to gain enough support to move past these initial conversations. But the talks reveal the extent of angst that many establishment Democrats are feeling on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.

Sanders is surging and Joe Biden has maintained his lead nationally, but at least three other candidates are widely seen as viable. The cluster raises the specter of a convention requiring a second ballot. If Sanders wins the Iowa caucuses on Monday and continues to gain momentum, it is possible he could arrive at the convention with the most delegates — but without enough to win the nomination on the first ballot. It is also possible that he and Elizabeth Warren, a fellow progressive, could arrive at the convention in second and third place, but with more delegates combined than the frontrunner.

https://twitter.com/TulsiGabbard/status/1223356793805398018

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Little Mike to save the nation. Not tainted by failed impeachment: ideal.

Democrats Announce New Debate Rules Likely To Allow Bloomberg To Join (R.)

The Democratic Party on Friday announced new rules around how presidential hopefuls can qualify to take part in debates, changes likely to allow billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg to join the stage in February. Starting with the debate on Feb. 19 in Nevada, candidates who want to participate will no longer have to demonstrate grassroots support by collecting donations from thousands of donors, according to a press release from the party. Bloomberg is funding his campaign entirely with his own money, estimated at $60 billion, meaning that while he has climbed in the polls, he could not qualify for debates under the old rules.


“We are thrilled that voters could soon have the chance to see Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage, hear his vision for the country, and see why he is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country together,” Bloomberg campaign Manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement. A late entry to the competition to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November, Bloomberg contributed more than $200 million from his own fortune to his bid as of the end of 2019, according to disclosures his campaign filed on Friday with the Federal Election Commission. [..] “To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong. That’s the definition of a rigged system,” Jeff Weaver, a senior advisor for Sanders’ campaign, said in an emailed statement.

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Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Sound familiar?

The FBI Has Been Lying About Seth Rich (Craig Murray)

A persistent American lawyer has uncovered the undeniable fact that the FBI has been continuously lying, including giving false testimony in court, in response to Freedom of Information requests for its records on Seth Rich. The FBI has previously given affidavits that it has no records regarding Seth Rich. A Freedom of Information request to the FBI which did not mention Seth Rich, but asked for all email correspondence between FBI Head of Counterterrorism Peter Strzok, who headed the investigation into the DNC leaks and Wikileaks, and FBI attorney Lisa Page, has revealed two pages of emails which do not merely mention Seth Rich but have “Seth Rich” as their heading. The emails were provided in, to say the least, heavily redacted form.

The major point is that the FBI claimed it had no records mentioning Seth Rich, and these have come to light in response to a different FOIA request that was not about him. What other falsely denied documents does the FBI hold about Rich, that were not fortuitously picked up by a search for correspondence between two named individuals? To look at the documents themselves, they have to be read from the bottom up, and they consist of a series of emails between members of the Washington Field Office of the FBI (WF in the telegrams) into which Strzok was copied in, and which he ultimately forwarded on to the lawyer Lisa Page.


The opening email, at the bottom, dated 10 August 2016 at 10.32am, precisely just one month after the murder of Seth Rich, is from the media handling department of the Washington Field Office. It references Wikileaks’ offer of a reward for information on the murder of Seth Rich, and that Assange seemed to imply Rich was the source of the DNC leaks. The media handlers are asking the operations side of the FBI field office for any information on the case. The unredacted part of the reply fits with the official narrative. The redacted individual officer is “not aware of any specific involvement” by the FBI in the Seth Rich case. But his next sentence is completely redacted. Why?

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Wait, what did I just say: “Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Sound familiar?”

Flynn Prosecution Exposed As Massive FBI and DOJ Abuse Of Power (NYP)

Here’s another black eye for the Justice Department’s Obama-era leadership: The case against Gen. Michael Flynn is in full collapse. Federal prosecutors just backed down from their demand that Flynn — President Trump’s first, short-lived national security adviser — serve jail time for lying to FBI investigators, telling a court Wednesday that probation would be a “reasonable” sentence. In fact, Justice had long wanted leniency, since Flynn cooperated fully with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations. But last month it started seeking up to six months of confinement — mainly because he’s no longer taking responsibility for his crime.

“I am innocent,” he writes in a new filing, explaining that he pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI because he felt helpless to fight the charges: He’d already had to sell his home to pay legal costs and was told his son could be indicted, too. The “crime” came days after the inauguration, when FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka questioned Flynn at the White House about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Yet the FBI had already reviewed transcripts of the calls and found nothing illicit. The visit was a fishing expedition: The agents even skipped the customary heads-up to the president’s Office of Legal Counsel — aiming to avoid having a lawyer present for the talk.

Even so, Strzok and Pientka wound up finding “no indication” that Flynn had lied to them. But then FBI lawyer Lisa Page (Strzok’s mistress at the time) instructed them to alter their official writeup of the conversation to say otherwise. And that’s the entire basis of the charges against him.

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George is 89 and afraid global dominance will escape him.

Soros: Facebook, Zuckerberg In Cahoots With Trump To Win 2020 Election (USAT)

George Soros blasted Facebook at Davos, accusing the company of conspiring to help President Trump win re-election. “I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” Soros said at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. “Facebook will work together to reelect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned for 2020.” The liberal billionaire did not offer any proof, and Facebook denied it, but Soros doubled down on his anti-Facebook talk Friday in an opinion piece published in The New York Times.

“I believe that Mr. Trump and Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, realize that their interests are aligned – the president’s in winning elections, Mr. Zuckerberg’s in making money,” Soros wrote. Soros also said neither Zuckerberg nor Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, should be left in charge of Facebook. “They follow only one guiding principle: maximize profits irrespective of the consequences,” Soros wrote. Facebook pushed back in a statement. “While we respect Mr. Soros’ right to voice his opinion, he’s wrong. The notion that we are aligned with any one political figure or party runs counter to our values and the facts.” Last week in Davos Trump was asked about Zuckerberg. “I heard he’s gonna run for president,” Trump told CNBC’s Squawk Box. “That wouldn’t be too frightening I don’t think.”

There’s no evidence that Zuckerberg and Trump have any kind of pact. But it’s true that Facebook gave Trump a big boost in 2016. Just ask Facebook. In January, a leaked internal post from longtime Facebook executive Andrew “Boz” Bosworth credited Trump’s 2016 win to the president’s digital advertising campaign. In 2020, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale is focused again on Facebook. “Was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected?” Bosworth wrote in the Dec. 30 post. “I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks. He didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”

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Posing as controversial. Most people will buy it too.

Zuckerberg: Facebook’s New Approach ‘Is Going To Piss Off A Lot Of People’ (CNN)

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will stand up for principles like free expression and encryption, even if it means facing a backlash. “This is the new approach, and I think it’s going to piss off a lot of people. But frankly, the old approach was pissing off a lot of people too, so let’s try something different,” Zuckerberg said at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Utah on Friday. The Facebook (FB) cofounder and CEO said his company’s aim for a long time was to not do anything that would be deemed as “too offensive,” but he is now changing that approach in the face of what he deems as excessive censorship.

“Increasingly we’re getting called to censor a lot of different kinds of content that makes me really uncomfortable,” Zuckerberg said, while acknowledging Facebook’s responsibility to purge its platforms of content related to terrorism, child exploitation and incitement to violence. “We’re going to take down the content that’s really harmful, but the line needs to be held at some point,” he added. Zuckerberg also said Facebook would continue to fight for encryption, another stance that has sparked controversy in recent months. The company has come under fire for allowing politicians to lie in ads, at a time when Twitter has decided to ban political advertising altogether.

Zuckerberg has been increasingly vocal about Facebook’s determination to stick to its positions even when they prove unpopular. His comments in Utah came days after he said on the company’s latest earnings call that his goal for the next decade “isn’t to be liked, but to be understood.” The 35-year-old tech billionaire reiterated that sentiment on Friday. “If you’re not out there standing for things that people care about then it’s not possible for people to feel that strongly about what you’re doing,” he said.

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“It’s hard to think of a more loathsome figure in US political history than Adam Schiff.”

Tales From the Crypt (Jim Kunstler)

What a fatal mistake, allowing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to make himself the face of the Democratic Party. They would have been better off with another scion of Hollywood: the Phantom of the Opera. This grubby seditionist has marched the party into a wilderness of deceit and knavery that taints them all, and when this grotesque impeachment episode is over, a new chapter of consequences will open that should leave the party for dead. It’s hard to think of a more loathsome figure in US political history than Adam Schiff.

[..] The impeachment he led was crippled from the start with violations of process and errors of logic of exactly the kind that drives his party’s Woke hysteria with its assaults on free speech, its vicious “cancel” culture, its reckless race-hatred, its depraved Transsexual Reading Hours, and its neurotic obsession with Russian phantoms — a matrix of beliefs that would embarrass a conclave of medieval necromancers. Of course, the impeachment was just the latest sortie in a three-year campaign to confound and conceal the arrant misdeeds of a network of government employees in the Departments of State and Justice, the FBI, the CIA, and the remnants of Barack Obama’s White House, who are all connected and all liable for prosecution, not to mention characters in congress such as the co-seditionist Mark Warner (D-VA), who trafficked the Steele dossier around official Washington.

The “Whistleblower” in the current impeachment fiasco was a CIA agent and John Brennan protégé who had worked for Joe Biden both in the US and on trips to Ukraine when he was detailed to the Obama White House. Hunter Biden was known to be a dangerous abscess of grift years before Mr. Trump ever rode down that fabled golden escalator, and the “WB” was present for White House meetings with Ukrainian officials when embarrassing questions about Burisma and the Bidens came up. His supposed right to anonymity is fairytale and the time is not far off when he’ll have to answer for his deeds, whether it’s in a Senate committee or a grand jury.

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 January 31, 2020  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  37 Responses »


Walker Evans Waterfront in New Orleans. French market sidewalk scene 1935

 

WHO Declares International Health Emergency Over Coronavirus Outbreak (RT)
Spate Of Anti-Chinese Incidents In Italy As Two Cases Of Virus Confirmed (G.)
Hillary Clinton Refuses To Be Served Tulsi Gabbard’s Defamation Lawsuit (NYP)
Major Blow For Democrats At Trump Trial (BBC)
Warren Questions Roberts ‘Legitimacy’ Without Trial Witnesses (Fox)
Was The Bolton Leak Too Perfect? (Turley)
Simon & Schuster Won’t Back Down On John Bolton’s Memoir (NYP)
Steele Trump-Russia Dossier Was “Completely Fabricated” (SHTF)
UK Brings Down Curtain On EU Membership After 47 Years (Ind.)
Ambassador Warns That Trump Will Put US Firms First In UK Trade Talks (G.)
Welcome To The Trump Recession (Ind.)
Justice Department Drops Demand For Jail For Flynn (Turley)
Government and Media Are Prepping America for a Failed 2020 Election (Webb)
Greece Plans To Build Sea Barrier Off Lesbos To Deter Migrants (G.)

 

• 2019nCoV death toll rose from 170 to 213 today. (deaths over past seven days: 15, 15, 25, 25, 26, 38, 43)

• 9,821 confirmed cases worldwide, 98 abroad, the rest in China

• 25,060 probable cases

• 15,238 new suspected cases

• 102,427 Chinese under observation

• Recovered: 171

 

 

Jim Bianco posted these graphs tracking mortality and infections, respectively:

 

 

WHO is as late as China and the US. Maybe that’s why they’re complementing China: that way their own failure gets obscured.

WHO Declares International Health Emergency Over Coronavirus Outbreak (RT)

The World Health Organization has declared a “public health emergency of international concern” over the outbreak of the 2019nCoV, or the Wuhan coronavirus. The international body didn’t recommend travel and trade restrictions. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the coronavirus “a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak” at a press conference on Thursday, but said the WHO was not recommending restrictions of trade or travel with China, where the virus originated. Tedros pointed out that the declaration was “not a vote of no confidence in China,” but made out of concern for other countries, with “weaker” healthcare systems.


China’s response to the outbreak has been “very impressive,” the WHO chief added. “So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries.” China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. While the majority of coronavirus cases have been registered in China, the WHO confirmed there were 98 confirmed cases elsewhere in the world – including eight cases of direct transmission in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the US. The “vast majority” of cases outside of China have either traveled to Wuhan or been in contact with someone who has, the WHO officials noted. “The only way we will defeat this outbreak is for all countries to work together in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation,” Tedros said. “We are all in this together, and we can only stop it together.”

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Inevitable. Wait till the first people start dying in countries such as Italy.

Spate Of Anti-Chinese Incidents In Italy As Two Cases Of Virus Confirmed (G.)

Chinese people in Italy have been the target of racist abuse as paranoia mounts over the spread of the deadly coronavirus, as the first two cases of the virus were reported in Rome. Two Chinese tourists tested positive for the virus and are being treated at Rome’s Lazzari Spallanzani national institute for infectious diseases. The couple are reported to be from Wuhan and arrived in Milan on 23 January. The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said on Thursday night that there was “no reason for panic or alarm”. He added that close checks were being carried out trace the tourists’ movements in Italy in order “to absolutely avoid any additional risk”.

Flights between China and Italy have been stopped, Conte said. There have been several incidents of xenophobia and calls to avoid Chinese restaurants and shops amid the coronavirus outbreak. Roberto Giuliani, the director of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, one of the oldest music institutes in the world, was criticised by colleagues on Wednesday after telling students from China, Japan and South Korea not to come to class until after a doctor visits their homes to ensure they have not contracted the virus. Similarly, another music institute in Como told students returning from China after the lunar new year to stay at home for 14 days.


Fears over coronavirus have affected Chinese populations in other countries too. On Wednesday the mayor of Toronto condemned racism against Chinese Canadians. There have also been reports of anti-Asian racism in the UK. In France, Chinese residents have been sharing their experiences using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I am not a virus). Other episodes reported in Italian media include two Chinese tourists being spat at by a group of children in Venice, and three Chinese tourists being insulted in a restaurant in Turin.

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Not unexpected. If Hillary would sue Tulsi, would her Secret Service detail do the same?

Hillary Clinton Refuses To Be Served Tulsi Gabbard’s Defamation Lawsuit (NYP)

Hillary Clinton has now twice snubbed a process server attempting to deliver the defamation lawsuit filed against her by Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, according to Gabbard’s attorney. “I find it rather unbelievable that Hillary Clinton is so intimidated by Tulsi Gabbard that she won’t accept service of process,” the congresswoman’s attorney, Brian Dunne, told The Post. “But I guess here we are.” Dunne said their process server first attempted to effect service at Clinton’s house in Chappaqua on Tuesday afternoon — but was turned away by Secret Service agents.


The agents directed the server to Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, who on Wednesday claimed at his Washington, DC, firm, Williams & Connolly, that he was unable to accept service on Clinton’s behalf, said Dunne. Gabbard sued the former secretary of state for $50 million last week for calling her a “Russian asset.” Clinton has refused to retract the statement. Dunne said his team was weighing next steps.

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Schiff will carry this straight into the election. But they have to find a viable candidate. Schiff, Hillary, Bloomberg?

Major Blow For Democrats At Trump Trial (BBC)

US Democrats have been dealt a major blow in their efforts to call witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial. They needed four Republicans to vote with them to allow witness testimony, but one of the few wavering senators said he would not support the measure. Lamar Alexander said the Democrats had proved Mr Trump acted inappropriately but it was not an impeachable offence. The announcement paves the way for the possible acquittal of the president by the Senate as early as Friday. The Democrats had especially wanted to call former National Security Adviser John Bolton who reportedly said Mr Trump told him directly that he was withholding US military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate his rival, Joe Biden.

In a statement late on Thursday after a long question-and-answer session at the Senate, Mr Alexander, who represents Tennessee, said the Democrats had proven that Mr Trump’s actions were “inappropriate”. But the 79-year-old said: “There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offence.” He added: “The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.”


[..] Each side is expected to present closing arguments in Friday’s session, before the Senate votes on hearing witnesses. If the vote were to end in a tie, it would mean that the motion had failed unless US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, decided to break it, which is unlikely.

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A pivotal moment yesterday for me: Roberts reads question that says some claim Trump didn’t pay Giuliani, so who did? Schiff comes on, says he doesn’t know, but still takes the full 5(?) minutes to repeat for the 1000th time his schtick about Ukraine.

Warren Questions Roberts ‘Legitimacy’ Without Trial Witnesses (Fox)

Chief Justice John Roberts seemed visibly irritated when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., formally asked a question during President Trump’s impeachment trial Thursday that referenced him and questioned the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and Constitution in relation to the proceedings. In accordance with Senate rules, the chief justice of the United States must read aloud the questions posed by senators to the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel. Roberts formally recognized Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, who then submitted her written question to a clerk. Roberts read her question from the card — which referenced him.

“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?” Roberts read from the card handed to him by the clerk. When he finished reading the question — explicitly posed to the House Impeachment managers — Roberts pursed his lips and shot a chagrined look.


After a moment, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead impeachment manager, appeared at the dais to answer the question — standing mere feet in front of Roberts. Schiff appeared to try to distance himself from Warren’s question, offering a short answer to the question before speaking at length about a tangential exchange. “I would not say that it leads to a loss of confidence in the chief justice,” Schiff said, adding that Roberts has thus far “presided admirably.”

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Nice take: ” It felt like the sudden discovery of a gun near the victim at the scene of a police shooting.”

Was The Bolton Leak Too Perfect? (Turley)

It was the seeming Perry Mason moment of President Trump’s impeachment trial. Just after the White House team presented its defense denying any quid pro quo over Ukrainian aid, former national security adviser John Bolton jumped up from the gallery to scream, “He did it!” Not really, but close. A few hours after the start of the president’s defense, details from Bolton’s forthcoming book leaked, including his account of Trump asserting that $391 million in military aid would be withheld until Ukraine announced investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens. If that seems a tad contrived for either an episode or an impeachment, that is because it is.

In responding to a defense built around Trump’s insistence that his call was “perfect,” this leak was perfect to a fault. Perfect timing. Perfect content. It was so perfect that there is little doubt that the Senate is being played. The leak happened at the exact time that it would inflict the most damage on the defense and throw the trial into disarray. It occurred hours after the White House team gave opening statements that seriously undermined critical points made by the House managers, including the assertions that Trump never previously raised corruption in other countries or that this type of hold on aid was uncommon. It felt like the sudden discovery of a gun near the victim at the scene of a police shooting.

That does not mean the leak will not succeed. The disclosure about Bolton’s book could well make the difference in securing the four Republican votes needed to obtain witnesses. But it could also succeed too well if it leads senators to plunge into the unknown of calling witnesses such as former vice president Joe Biden or his son Hunter. There are already indications that the leak may have secured the four votes for witnesses, while even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has said the Senate may need to subpoena the book draft itself.

[..] Trump has never denied asking for the investigations, but insisted that they were meant to deal with his concerns over ongoing corruption in Ukraine. Moreover, the first of the two investigations could not be a basis for impeachment. Trump asked for assistance in investigating allegations into the 2016 election — matters that were currently being investigated by U.S. Attorney John Durham. It is the Biden investigation that raises legitimate questions, but it comes down again to a question of intent. Finally, the leak refers to the freeze on the funds but does not indicate that Trump was prepared to hold the aid past the deadline at the end of September. (It was released on September 11th.).

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It has lost all relevance though. Good luck.

Simon & Schuster Won’t Back Down On John Bolton’s Memoir (NYP)

Despite the uproar surrounding John Bolton’s new memoir, publisher Simon & Schuster is standing firm on its intended March 17 publication date. An S&S spokesman declined to make an official statement amid blowback from President Donald Trump, saying only that there is “no change” in the publication date for “The Room Where it Happened.” Trump has called for his former national security adviser’s memoir to be blocked, claiming that it contains classified material.


The yet-to-be-published manuscript played a central role in Senate impeachment discussions this week after the New York Times late Sunday reported that Bolton’s claims that Trump told him in August 2019 that he was withholding $391 million in aid to Ukraine until he had a promise that the powers that be there would launch investigations into Joe Biden, whose son had ties to Ukraine. Trump on Monday denied he said it. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” he said. Bolton lawyer Charles Cooper said he does not believe “The Room Where It Happened” contains classified material but is pushing for an expeditious decision from the National Security Council on its content — even as it remains possible for Bolton to be called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

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I forgot to include this in earlier Debt Rattles, but it should be read. We must wonder, and investigate, how the dossier became the pillar on which Russiagate rested when it was such obvious nonsense.

“Some of the most glaring mistakes were those such as treating one particular source as an expert in three entirely different fields or making up the existence of the Russian consulate in Miami, Florida. The source in question starts out as a middle-manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, but is later described as an expert on cyber warfare, and later yet as an expert on money-laundering by Russian immigrants in the US, West explained.”

Steele Trump-Russia Dossier Was “Completely Fabricated” (SHTF)

In some not so surprising news, a spy expert has come out saying what most of us already knew: the Steele dossier was completely “fabricated.” Nigel West, one of Britain’s leading experts on espionage, was hired to examine the dossier written by his friend Christopher Steele. He concluded it was all manufactured falsehoods. West, hired to examine the dossier back in 2017, quickly concluded that “there is… a strong possibility that all Steele’s material has been fabricated,” according to the Sunday Times. “Steele’s scandalous document, which claimed extensive ties between the then-US President-elect Donald Trump and the Kremlin, was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017 and quickly became the cornerstone of “Russiagate.” Media talking heads insisted that much of it had been corroborated. In fact, nothing was.” –RT

It took West a long time to come out with the information that the dossier was an utter fabrication. It isn’t clear why he waited so long to reveal what most already knew anyway. Even the FBI director at the time, James Comey, described the dossier as“salacious and unverified” in testimony to Congress. But the fact that this dossier was “unverified” did not stop Comey from signing an application for a FISA warrant that the Bureau used to spy on the Trump campaign via one of its advisers, Carter Page. Steele himself was paid purely above-board, of course: by Fusion GPS, which was a client of the law firm Perkins Coie LLP, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, at the direction of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.


West told RT that he was surprised Steele made such obvious errors in the dossier. Some of the most glaring mistakes were those such as treating one particular source as an expert in three entirely different fields or making up the existence of the Russian consulate in Miami, Florida. The source in question starts out as a middle-manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, but is later described as an expert on cyber warfare, and later yet as an expert on money-laundering by Russian immigrants in the US, West explained. “On the face of it, it looked inherently improbable that this single source was as proclaimed.”

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Hardly any celebrations. What happened?

“A light display beamed onto the frontage of No 10 will be visible only to a few journalists and security staff inside the black gates of Downing Street. And a pre-recorded video message risked going unseen by TV viewers, due to a spat with broadcasters”

UK Brings Down Curtain On EU Membership After 47 Years (Ind.)

Britain brings down the curtain on 47 years of European Union membership on Friday with little in the way of official ceremony to mark the historic moment. Some 1,317 days after the 2016 referendum vote to Leave, the formal departure from the 28-nation bloc will take place at 11pm UK time – midnight in Brussels. Boris Johnson, who served as the figurehead of the Vote Leave campaign and last Friday signed the withdrawal treaty after its passage through parliament, said the day would signal “the dawn of a new era”. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the country stood at “a crossroads” with many of the most important decisions about its future relations with the EU and the wider world yet to be made.

And Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, is expected to say that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against the wishes of the “overwhelming majority” of its people, in a speech setting out the next steps in her battle for an independence referendum. Downing Street made clear the prime minister will not be making any public appearance to celebrate the moment of withdrawal. After chairing cabinet in Sunderland – the city whose vote for Brexit was the first sign of Leave’s victory on referendum night – the prime minister will return to London to attend an evening reception with staff behind closed doors. A light display beamed onto the frontage of No 10 will be visible only to a few journalists and security staff inside the black gates of Downing Street.


And a pre-recorded video message risked going unseen by TV viewers, due to a spat with broadcasters who objected to No 10’s insistence of filming the footage itself rather than following the normal practice of inviting in a pool camera from one of the television companies.

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Who could have predicted that?

Ambassador Warns That Trump Will Put US Firms First In UK Trade Talks (G.)

Donald Trump will put the interests of corporate America first and demand that the NHS pays higher prices for US drugs in a free-trade deal with the UK, the outgoing British ambassador to Washington has told the Guardian. Kim Darroch, in his first interview since his resignation from his post in July, from where he spearheaded attempts to grow trade with the US, insisted that Trump would reward his backers in drug firms and farming communities by opening up British markets, while questioning where the UK’s gains would be found. The former British envoy, who left Washington after a leak of his confidential cables to London, said it was doubtful whether the UK had the resources for parallel negotiations with the US and the EU, a strategy championed by Downing Street as a way to give British negotiators leverage in Brussels.


Darroch, who said that similar warnings on the US’s trade demands had been made to No 10 during his tenure in Washington DC, also said it was “impossible” for a deal to get through Congress by the end of 2020 and that it appeared to be “a narrow and rocky path to get to where they [the UK government] want to be”. He said: “I know what the US will be pitching for when they negotiate a free-trade deal with us. They will pitch for massively greater access for agricultural products. People talk about chlorinated chicken – it is a lot more than that. Farmers in America vote for Trump, pretty much all of them vote for Trump … “They also want us to pay the same for American pharmaceuticals as they pay in their own market. Do they want us to pay more for their pharmaceuticals? Do the pharmaceutical companies want to use this leverage? Of course they do.”

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Dems’ final weapon? For now the article feels contrived.

Welcome To The Trump Recession (Ind.)

Donald Trump won’t have to run his re-election campaign amid a 2020 recession — but numbers now emerging are bad enough, and their shape is bad enough, to show he won’t be running a Morning in America campaign either. New government data Thursday showed the economy’s GDP grew at a 2.1 per cent annual rate in the fourth quarter — the second straight quarter at that tepid number, closing out the weakest year of Trump’s presidency. Worse, the slowdown is aimed straight at Trump’s base, including a decent-sized manufacturing recession. It’s based directly on the failure of Trump’s policies. And the details belie the idea, popular in Washington, that consumer confidence is high and that such confidence begets confidence in the president.

Let’s walk through this fairly complicated argument one step at a time. First, the economy really didn’t do well in the last nine months of 2019, even if the stock market thinks it did. Thursday’s report marks the third straight quarter where the economy grew at 2.1 per cent or less, since the second quarter of the year saw only 2.0 per cent growth. Forecasts for the first half of 2020 are a little worse: Consulting firm IHS Markit expects first-quarter growth at a 2 per cent annual rate, and High Frequency Economics thinks it could go as low as 1.2 per cent as Boeing attempts to solve its 737 Max safety issues. “Welcome to 2016, when it was one quarter after another of roughly 2 per cent growth,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.


“We have had three consecutive quarters right about that level. And sifting through the data, there is no reason to think that will change significantly in one direction or the other.’’ The details, though, are nastier than headline numbers. Consumer spending grew only 1.8 per cent annualized, down from 3.2 per cent in the third quarter — which Naroff attributes to slowing income gains. Private investment — investment was supposed to surge because of a 2017 tax cut focused on corporations and small business owners — was down 6.1 per cent. Imports were way down — which propped up short-term growth, given the technical details of how economists measure growth. But exports of manufactured goods were also down.

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They got scared. Time for Sidney Powell to go into full attack mode. Go after Comey, McCabe, Strzok.

Justice Department Drops Demand For Jail For Flynn (Turley)

The Department of Justice has dropped its demand for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to serve time under his plea agreement. Flynn was attempting to withdraw his plea after the Justice Department set out in what was an overtly vindictive campaign against him in court. The Flynn case remains a troubling matter for those who have followed the Russian investigation. He pleaded guilty to a false statement that seems relatively minor in comparison to false statements made by Justice officials like Andrew McCabe or leaks by figures like James Comey. Only a few weeks ago, the Justice Department was demanding up to six weeks of jail time. Some of us have questioned the case for years. Prosecutors threatened to go after Flynn’s son and to bankrupt him if he continuing to assert his innocence. Flynn broke with his prior lawyers and accused them of giving him poor advice.


He now maintains that he did not lie to two FBI agents in 2017. His recent filings slam the process and the charges. He wrote “One of the ways a person becomes a 3-star general is by being a good soldier, taking orders, being part of a team, and trusting the people who provide information and support. Lori and I trusted Mr. Kelner and Mr. Anthony to guide us through the most stressful experience in our lives, in a completely incomprehensible situation. I have never felt more powerless.” The position of the Justice Department seemed wholly at odds with other cases, including the light sentences received by individuals sentenced as part of the Russian investigation. He was also the subject of a bizarre hearing with Judge Emmet Sullivan where he was accused of things outside of his charges or the record. He is due to be sentenced on Feb. 27.

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US intelligence has taken over, writes Whitney Webb.

Government and Media Are Prepping America for a Failed 2020 Election (Webb)

[..] what is particularly odd about this narrative surrounding imminent “chaos” and meddling in the upcoming 2020 election is the fact that, not only have the instruments of said meddling been named and described in detail, but their use in the election was recently simulated by a company with deep ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. That simulation, organized and run by the Israeli-American company Cybereason, ended with scores of Americans dead, the cancellation of the 2020 election, the imposition of martial law and a spike in fear among the American populace.

Many of the technologies used to create that chaotic and horrific scenario in the Cybereason simulation are the very same technologies that U.S. federal officials and corporate media outlets have promoted as the core of the very toolkit that they claim will be used to undermine the coming election, such as deep fakes and hacks of critical infrastructure, consumer devices and even vehicles.


While the narrative in place has already laid the blame at the feet of U.S. rival states China, Russia and Iran, these very technologies are instead dominated by companies that are tied to the very same intelligence agencies as Cybereason, specifically Israeli military intelligence. With intelligence agencies in the U.S. and Israel not only crafting the narrative about 2020 foreign meddling, but also dominating these technologies and simulating their use to upend the coming election, it becomes crucial to consider the motivations behind this narrative and if these intelligence agencies have ulterior motives in promoting and simulating such outcomes that would effectively end American democracy and hand almost total power to the national security state.

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They’ll simply use another route, another island.

Greece Plans To Build Sea Barrier Off Lesbos To Deter Migrants (G.)

The Greek government has been criticised after announcing it will build a floating barrier to deter thousands of people from making often perilous sea journeys from Turkey to Aegean islands on Europe’s periphery. The centre-right administration unveiled the measure on Thursday, following its pledge to take a tougher stance on undocumented migrants accessing the country. The 2.7km-long netted barrier will be erected off Lesbos, the island that shot to prominence at the height of the Syrian civil war when close to a million Europe-bound refugees landed on its beaches. The bulwark will rise from pylons 50 metres above water and will be equipped with flashing lights to demarcate Greece’s sea borders.

Greece’s defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, told Skai radio: “In Evros, natural barriers had relative [good] results in containing flows,” referring to the barbed-wire topped fence that Greece built along its northern land border with Turkey in 2012 to deter asylum seekers. “We believe a similar result can be had with these floating barriers. We are trying to find solutions to reduce flows.” Amnesty International slammed the plan, warning it would enhance the dangers asylum-seekers and refugees encountered as they attempted to seek safety.


“This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum-seekers and refugees to arrive on its shores,” said Massimo Moratti, the group’s Research Director for Europe.“The plan raises serious issues about rescuers’ ability to continue providing life-saving assistance to people attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Lesbos. The government must urgently clarify the operational details and necessary safeguards to ensure that this system does not cost further lives.”

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 302020
 


Ben Shahn “Just one more bolt of cloth”, county fair, central Ohio 1938

 

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)
New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)
WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)
Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)
The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)
GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)
White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)
‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)
Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)
Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)
Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)
US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)
France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)
Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

 

 

It’s no time to put the 2019-nCoV coronavirus on the backburner. The numbers out today are shocking.

• Deaths +29% (from 132 to 170)
• Confirmed cases +29% (6062 to 7814)
• Suspected cases +32% (from: 9239 to 12167)
• Severe cases +10% (from 1239 to 1370)
• Discharged from hospitals in mainland China: 124

 

A new sequence popped up -not sure from where- to accompany our familiar Fibonacci sequence. This new one is less “extreme”, but still says 1 million deaths 3 weeks from now:

 

 


Fibonacci

 

And there is ever more talk of infection and fatalities numbers being hidden and/or lowered:

[..] as research published in the Lancet claims the true mortality rate is actually close to 11% (the official rate is 2%-3%). That is a big one!

 

I like this map:

 

 

 

Given that we have known forever and a day that the next pandemic would come, see my article yesterday, 2019-nCoV, all these reactions and measures should come out of a playbook. They do not, it’s improv theater.

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)

China reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as countries struggled to evacuate citizens still trapped in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began. The death toll rose to 170 on Thursday – up from 132 reported on Wednesday, a rise of 29%. The number of confirmed cases in China now stands at 7,711, up from 5,974 a day earlier. It is understood that 162 of the deaths – or 95% – are in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province and one in the south-western province of Sichuan.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which initially downplayed the severity of the disease, has warned all governments to be “on alert”, with the UN agency’s emergency committee due to meet later on Thursday to decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency. The WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr Michael Ryan, said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China – in Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam – were of “great concern”. The US and Japan have started evacuating citizens, and other countries are poised to send chartered flights to the city, amid reports that some evacuations had been held up by delays in obtaining permission from the Chinese authorities.

A British flight to bring about 200 nationals back to the UK was unable to take off as planned on Thursday. The Foreign Office said it was “working urgently” to organise a flight to the UK “as soon as possible”. Australia is yet to gain permission from the Chinese government to evacuate hundreds of its citizens, and New Zealand has launched a separate rescue mission from its neighbour, though a timeline is still unclear. France, South Korea and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so. About 250 French citizens and 100 other Europeans will be flown out of Wuhan on board two French planes this week.

Businesses are beginning to feel the impact of the outbreak. Several airlines, including British Airways, have suspended services to China, while Toyota, Ikea, Foxconn, Starbucks, Tesla and McDonald’s were among major companies to temporarily freeze production or close large numbers of outlets in China. [..] Almost 200 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Wednesday are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

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2019-nCoV moves slower than Spanish flu, giving it more time to infect more people.

New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)

Chinese scientists racing to keep up with the spread of a novel coronavirus have declared the widespread outbreak an epidemic, revealing that in its early days at least, the disease’s reach doubled every week. By plotting the curve of that exponential growth and running it in reverse, researchers reckoned that the microbe sickening people across the globe has probably been passing from person to person since mid-December 2019. Scientists in China are also closing in on the source of the aggressive new germ — bats. The furry flying mammals may have been the original host of the coronavirus now crisscrossing the world, says one of three scientific studies released on Wednesday. But it may be another wild animal sold in Wuhan City’s Huanan Seafood Market that served up the virus to humans, who quickly began passing it to others through close contact.

[..] All three of the new studies — two published by the British journal Lancet and a third in the New England Journal of Medicine — were conducted by scientists working in China. And all focused on some of the first patients seen with a pneumonia caused by 2019-nCoV. One of the studies published in Lancet probed the genetic connections among viral samples drawn from nine infected patients, eight of whom had visited the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. The second study in Lancet culled data on the disease progression and outcomes of 99 infected patients who were admitted to Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan with symptoms of pneumonia.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, performed by researchers at China’s leading public health agency, mapped the early spread of pneumonia cases caused by the virus and used the results to create a transmission timeline. That accounting offered the most authoritative gauge to date of the emerging epidemic’s rate of growth. The new findings underscore the fact that it may take stern domestic measures to bring the fast-moving virus under control in China. One of the research teams calculated that in its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days. That measure, called the epidemic’s “serial interval,” reflects the average span of time that elapses from the appearance of symptoms in one infected person to the appearance of symptoms in the people he will go on to infect.

In the early stages of the outbreak, each infected person who became ill is estimated to have infected 2.2 others, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. That makes the new coronavirus roughly as communicable as was the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million and became the deadliest pandemic in recorded history. The new epidemic, however, is moving more slowly than the Spanish flu. That’s because 2019-nCoV takes longer to induce coughing, fever and breathing difficulties in a newly infected victim. “It’s concerning that case reports are increasing, and increasing in a way that’s consistent with pretty efficient human-to-human transmission,” said Derek Cummings, a University of Florida expert in the spread of infectious diseases.

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WHO also too slow.

WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)

The spread of a fast-moving virus outside of China is of “grave concern” and has prompted the World Health Organization to reconvene an emergency meeting this week to decide whether it’s become a global health emergency, WHO officials said Wednesday. The coronavirus has spread to a handful of people through human-to-human contact outside of China, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a news conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters Wednesday. “These developments in terms of the evolution of the outbreak and further development of transmission, these are of grave concern and has spurred countries into action,” Ryan said, adding that he just returned from China on Wednesday.


“What we know at this stage, this is still obviously a very active outbreak and information is being updated and changing by the hour.” The coronavirus outbreak has killed 132 people in China and sickened more than 6,150 across more than a dozen countries across the globe. Ryan said there are currently 71 cases outside of China in 15 other countries. The WHO declined at two emergency meetings last week to declare the virus a global health emergency. Since the first patient was identified in Wuhan on Dec. 31, the number of coronavirus cases has mushroomed to 6,061 in mainland China as of Wednesday morning, exceeding the total number of SARS cases in that country during the 2003 epidemic.

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“Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan [..] during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province..”

People need a new mask every 4 hours. Most workers in mask -making factories are on holiday.

Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)

There’s currently a severe shortage of medical supplies, not just in Wuhan but in surrounding cities as well, the governor of Hubei Province, Wang Xiaodong said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The first thing I want to do when I wake up every morning is to figure out how to get disposable protective clothing,” people in a hospital procurement department in Huanggang, a city lying 76 kilometers away from Wuhan and where over 1,000 suspected cases of the new coronavirus, told Yicai. “Medical supplies in our hospital can only support one day work, we cannot receive patients without masks and protective clothing,” he added, “It’s almost out of stock, and we have nowhere to buy.”

Some of our medical staff wear raincoats and disposable garbage bags as shoes covers to protect themselves. In the isolation ward of a county-level hospital in Huanggang City, doctors said they usually stay there for hours without coming out, because they have to save supplies. Wang stressed at the press conference the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Huanggang City, and vowed to prevent it from becoming the second Wuhan. Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province, during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province, according to migration data released by Baidu Map. Huanggang city and Xiaogan city, both about two-hour drive from the Wuhan city, are the top two infected areas.

[..] On Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) responded to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – the anti-graft body of the Communist Party of China – about the mask shortage, as well as the supply and production concerns. For now, the mask shortage has become a country-wide problem since the new coronavirus outbreak spread domestically. Everyone who goes outside is suggested to wear mask. But the problem is it’s hard to get one. Besides experts suggested the use of normal surgical masks, people have to replace it every four hours. Facing such a huge demand, the whole country is expected to have a supply shortage at least in the short term, especially in the period when the majority of workers are on holiday during the Spring Festival.

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Solomon is methodical as usual.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.


Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal.

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One of the questions yesterday in the Senate (paraphrased): who decided, and when, that the Hunter and Joe Biden thing was a debunked ‘Conspiracy Theory’?

Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)

Former top prosecutor of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, has filed a criminal complaint with the state authorities, claiming former US Vice President Joe Biden strong-armed Kiev into firing him in order to stop the Burisma investigation. In the complaint Shokin sent to the Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) on Tuesday, the former prosecutor requests that Biden be charged with “interference with the activities of a law enforcement officer.” The document was obtained by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. Shokin urged the SBI to kick-start a pre-trial investigation into the alleged crime committed by Biden, who he claims was illegally pressuring Ukrainian officials into ousting him from office while using a $1 billion loan guarantee as a leverage.

Noting that Biden, in his official capacity as the second-in-command in the US political hierarchy, repeatedly visited Ukraine in late 2015 and early 2016 to persuade high-ranking officials to remove him, Shokin argued that “as a result, he curtailed an objective investigation criminal proceedings on the facts of unlawful activities of persons associated with the company Burisma Holdings Limited (Cyprus), including the son of the specified high-ranking official [Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019].” Shokin specifically refers to the recently released documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts,’ by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, which challenges the Western media claims that the corruption investigation into Burisma was “dormant” at the time Biden was lobbying for Shokin’s dismissal.

Berruyer, founder of the popular anti-corruption blog Les Crises, said that he collected documents that show that the investigation into the gas company was in full swing at the time. Shokin’s own words to that effect have receive only a passing mention, or no mention at all in the mainstream US media outlets, however. In a recent interview with ABC News, Shokin said that his office was handling six investigation into Burisma at the time of his resignation.

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“One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.”

The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)

While I disagreed with Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz on this theory of impeachment, I recently praised his presentation in the Senate as a cogent and well-constructed case for the defense. Clearly, his colleague Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe does not share my view. He denounced Dershowitz’s argument as “remarkably absurd and extreme and dangerous.” In this presentation, Dershowitz defended his own switch on the issue of the prerequisite of criminality for impeachment by noting that Tribe had also switched his view. Tribe went further to declare that the choice was now between witnesses and “dictatorship.” Even as someone who favors witnesses, I fail to see the imminent danger of dictatorship on the issue. Indeed, I understand the reluctance over witnesses aside from any desire to protect Trump.

I believe senators have a legitimate interest in not creating precedent allowing the House to impeachment on such a slipshod and incomplete record. That is why I proposed an alternative solution. On MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” Tribe that, if the President succeeds in blocking witnesses, “You will harm not only the country today but you will leave a lesson for future presidents that will be terrible to the Republic. It will not be a constitutional democracy but it will be a dictatorship.” The use of O’Donnell’s show to warn of authoritarianism was curious since the host recently declared that his show would not invite Trump defenders because they are all “liars.”

Tribe however had particularly caustic remarks for Dershowitz as advancing an “absurd” argument that “it doesn’t matter if a president uses the vast powers of his office to shake down an ally and help an adversary in order to get dirt on an enemy and corrupt an election.” He spoke directly to Senators and added “So I implore you, if you are inclined to vote to acquit this president, don’t do it on the ridiculous basis that abuse of power, because it’s not a statutory crime and is rather open-ended, is not a basis to remove.” One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.” I have previously discussed my disagreement with Dershowitz’s theory, including what I believe is a misreading of the trial of Andrew Johnson and defense of Justice Benjamin Curtis. This however is a good-faith academic dispute and I felt that Dershowitz raised some interesting point. While I was not persuaded, it is unfair to characterize them as “absurd.”

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However this turns, more ugliness is ensured.

GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)

Hours after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Hunter Biden would be a “relevant witness” in President Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate Republicans seem to think there aren’t enough votes to call witnesses following a morning meeting between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) which lasted approximately 30 minutes. According to The Hill, the meeting “was seen as a sign by several senators that Democrats will fail to convince four Republicans to join them in calling for witnesses. Without a vote to hear from witnesses, the trial could end as soon as Friday.” Murkowski, one of a handful of Senate Republicans thought to be leaning towards witnesses, appears to have changed her mind.


“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) following a Senate GOP lunch meeting on Wednesday which was held after McConnell and Murkowski spoke. “I think I can say the mood is good,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), adding “If I had to guess, no witnesses.” “We’ll be in a place where I think everyone is going to have their mind made up and I believe that we’ll be able to move to a verdict and the witness question will be clear at that point,” Braun added. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) – who has forcefully advocated for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton after a leaked manuscript from his upcoming book claims President Trump directly tied Ukraine aid to investigations into the Bidens – said nothing after the lunch, which Murkowski did not attend.

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Letter sent 3 days before NYT article. So when Bolton was told the info was secret, he decided to leak it?!

White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)

The White House told former national security adviser John Bolton that his tell-all book contains “significant amounts of classified information,” including some which is “TOP SECRET” and could harm national security. “Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed, as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter continues. Notably, the letter, sent from the National Security Counsel to Bolton’s attorneys, was sent three days before the manuscript mysteriously leaked to the New York Times on the eve of the Senate impeachment proceedings – sparking a debate over calling Bolton as a witness in the trial.


As we noted on Tuesday, the identical twin brother of Democratic impeachment witness Alexander Vindman, Yevgeny Vindman, is reportedly in charge of reviewing all publications by current and former officials at the National Security Council (NSC), according to Breitbart News – which would ostensibly include Bolton’s manuscript. Meanwhile, House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff insisted on Wednesday that Trump’s impeachment trial won’t be fair unless Bolton testifies. Where have we seen this before?

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Not looking good. “..but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke..”

‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)

A string of newly resurfaced video clips of former national security adviser John Bolton spurred President Trump and his supporters Wednesday to highlight what they described as serious credibility questions – raised by both Democrats and Republicans — amid the Senate impeachment trial, as the president tweeted, “GAME OVER!” In his tweet, Trump linked to an interview of Bolton in August 2019 where he discusses Ukraine policy. In the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interview clip, Bolton made no mention of any illicit quid pro quo, and acknowledged, as Republicans have claimed, that combating “corruption” in Ukraine was a “high priority” for the Trump administration.

Bolton also called Trump’s communications with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “warm and cordial,” without mentioning any misconduct. It seemingly contradicted reported assertions in Bolton’s forthcoming book that Trump explicitly told him he wanted to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. (Zelensky has said his communications with Trump involved no pressure for any investigation.) Separately, Fox News has identified clips of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., now the lead House impeachment manager, in which he says Bolton had a distinct “lack of credibility” and was prone to “conspiracy theories.” This week, Schiff said Bolton needed to testify in the impeachment trial as an important and believable witness.


“This is someone who’s likely to exaggerate the dangerous impulses of the president toward belligerence, his proclivity to act without thinking, and his love of conspiracy theories,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on March 22, 2018, when Trump named Bolton national security adviser. “And I’ll, you know, just add one data point to what you were talking about earlier, John Bolton once suggested on Fox News that the Russian hack of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] was a false flag operation that had been conducted by the Obama administration,” he said. “So, you add that kind of thinking to [former U.S. attorney] Joe diGenova and you have another big dose of unreality in the White House.”

[..] speaking to CNN on Monday, Schiff took a different approach – calling Bolton essential to the “search for truth.” “I think for the senators, and I’m just not talking about the four that have been so much the focus of attention, for every senator, Democrat and Republican, I don’t know how you can explain that you wanted a search for the truth in this trial and say you don’t want to hear from a witness who had a direct conversation about the central allegation in the articles of impeachment,” Schiff said on CNN’s “New Day.” Seemingly responding to charges of hypocrisy, Schiff remarked on the Senate floor late Wednesday: “I’m no fan of John Bolton, but I like him a little more now than I used to.”


[..] “Democrats are currently begging Mitt Romney to agree with them that John Bolton should swoop to the impeachment trial and save the day, but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke,” mused journalist Michael Tracey.

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The legacy of Obama, Hillary, John McCain and Victoria Nuland. Who’s in court for this?

Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)

Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau has opened a probe against former president, Petro Poroshenko, who is suspected of abuse of power, embezzlement “on a grand scale” and allegedly stealing US aid funds. The case against the ex-president was opened following a complaint by a group of Ukrainian MPs and the nation’s High Anti-Corruption Court demanding the authorities investigate embezzlement and misappropriation of the foreign financial aid at the time of Poroshenko’s term in office, a Ukrainian MP Renat Kuzmin said in a Facebook post.

Kuzmin, a member of the Opposition Platform – For Live party, also published the anti-corruption bureau’s documents, confirming that the case against Poroshenko had been launched. The papers state that the former president and some “unknown people” from his administration are suspected of embezzling “on a grand scale,” subsequent legalization of criminally obtained funds, and abuse of power. The MP himself said that the investigation would look into the misappropriation of funds provided to Ukraine in the form of international aid, including by the administration of the former US President Barack Obama.

Poroshenko did not react directly to the accusations against him. Instead, his lawyer told the media that the ex-president plans to file as many as 14 lawsuits seeking moral compensation from Ukraine’s National Bureau of Investigations, the anti-corruption bureau and the police. His lawyer also denounced the investigation against his client as political persecution instigated by the administration of the current president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The news comes just months after Poroshenko’s ally, Kiev mayor and three-time world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was also accused of embezzlement and even treason by the anti-corruption bureau.

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At what point will Sidney Powell subpoena Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Laufman et al?

Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn filed a supplemental motion to withdraw his guilty plea Wednesday citing failure by his previous counsel to advise him of the firm’s ‘conflict of interest in his case’ regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act form it filed on his behalf, and by doing so “betrayed Mr. Flynn,” stated Sidney Powell, in a defense motion to the court. Flynn’s case is now in its final phase and his sentencing date, which was scheduled for Jan. 28, in a D.C. federal court before Judge Emmet Sullivan was changed to Feb. 27. The change came after Powell filed the motion to withdraw his plea just days after the prosecutors made a major reversal asking for up to six months jail time.

The best case scenario for Flynn, is that Judge Sullivan allows him to withdraw his guilty plea, the sentencing date is thrown-out and then his case would more than likely would head to trial. Powell alleged in a motion in December, 2019 that Flynn was strong-armed by the prosecution into pleading guilty to one count of lying to FBI investigators regarding his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Others, close to Flynn, have corroborated the accounts suggesting prosecutors threatened to drag Flynn’s son into the investigation, who also worked with his father at Flynn Intel Group, a security company established by Flynn.

In the recent motion Flynn denounced his admission of guilt in a declaration, “I am innocent of this crime, and I request to withdraw my guilty plea. After I signed the plea, the attorneys returned to the room and confirmed that the [special counsel’s office] would no longer be pursuing my son.” He denied that he lied to the FBI during the White House meeting with then FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka. The meeting was set up by now fired FBI Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was also fired for lying to Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigators. Strzok was fired by the FBI for his actions during the Russia investigation.

[..] Powell noted in Wednesday’s motion that Flynn’s former defense team at Covington & Burling, a well known Washington D.C. law firm, failed to inform Flynn that their lawyers had made “some initial errors or statements that were misunderstood in the FARA registration process and filings.” She also reaffirmed her position in the motion that government prosecutors are continuing to withhold exculpatory information that would benefit Flynn.

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High time for someone to investigate what being in the European Banking Union will cost banks from other countries in order to save Deutsche.

Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)

Deutsche Bank posted a 1.6 billion euro loss in the fourth quarter of 2019, bringing the total loss for the year to 5.7 billion euros as the bank undergoes a costly overhaul, the lender said on Thursday. It was the third consecutive quarterly loss and fifth annual loss in a row for Germany’s top bank. The results were worse than expected. Analysts on average forecast Deutsche would lose 1 billion euros in the quarter and 5 billion euros for the full year. The figures conclude a turbulent decade for Deutsche, which lost a cumulative 15 billion euros over the last five years, more than wiping out the 9 billion euros in profit during the previous five years. The share price fell 82% during the course of the decade.

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Call Putin.

US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)

Less than a week after millions of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the U.S. military leave for good, the United States announced that is planning to build three new military bases in Iraq, according to military news service Breaking Defense. The three sites chosen – Erbin, Sulimania and Halabja – are all extremely close to Iran, with Halabja (the site of the 1988 chemical weapons attack) just eight miles from the border. The news will come as a shock to the Iraqi parliament, who earlier this month voted overwhelmingly (with some abstentions) to expel American forces from the country.

But the U.S. government has flatly refused to leave. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, adding, “We strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries… We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together.” Earlier this month the U.S. decided to send an extra 3,000 troops to the region.

President Trump responded by threatening sweeping mass punishments against the Iraqi people. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it…If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” he said. U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s are thought to have killed over one million people, including over half a million young children. Successive U.N. diplomats in charge of Iraq during the sanctions denounced them as genocide against its people. Trump said his sanctions would make the ones on Iran look tame by comparison.

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Time for Trump to nip this in the bud. There is no other choice.

France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)

Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has welcomed a decision by France to dispatch war frigates to the eastern Mediterranean as a standoff with Turkey over regional energy reserves intensifies. With tensions between Athens and Ankara causing growing international alarm, Mitsotakis described the vessels as “guarantors of peace”. “The only way to end differences in the eastern Mediterranean is through international justice,” he told reporters after holding talks in Paris with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. “Greece and France are pursuing a new framework of strategic defence.”

Mitsotakis was in the French capital on a visit aimed at rallying EU support at a time when hostile relations with Turkey have eclipsed all other issues on the agenda of his near seven-month-old government. Macron pledged France would step up its strategic bond with Greece, accusing Turkey of not only exacerbating regional tensions but failing to stick to its promised course of action in war-torn Libya. “I want to express my concerns with regard to the behaviour of Turkey at the moment … we have seen during these last days Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed [at last week’s peace conference] in Berlin. It’s a broken promise.”

[..] Greece’s defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, recently went as far as to warn that armed forces were “examining all scenarios, even that of military engagement” in the face of heightened aggression from Ankara. Rejecting Turkish demands that Greece demilitarise 16 Aegean islands, he accused Turkey of displaying unusually provocative behaviour. The demand, made by his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, follows a dramatic surge in recent months in the number of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets. “Greece does not provoke, does not violate the sovereign rights of others, but it doesn’t like to see its own rights violated,” said Panagiotopoulos.

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When will we see the studies reporting on the effects of phones on people’s lives? If not now, it’ll likely be too late for many.

Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

More than half of children say they sleep with their mobile phone beside their bed, according to an annual survey of young people’s use of media. The Childwise report found children getting mobiles at an earlier age, with most now having their own phone by the age of seven. The average time spent on mobiles by seven to 16-year-olds is three hours and 20 minutes per day. Researcher Simon Leggett says mobiles can “dominate children’s lives”. When phones are always so close at hand, as a “private and personal technology”, Mr Leggett says it can be tough for parents to put limits on how children use them.

The survey, based on interviews with 2,200 children in the UK aged five to 16, shows the pivotal place of the mobile phone in young lives. There are 57% who always have the phone beside their bed and 44% who feel “uncomfortable” if they are ever without a phone signal. There are 42% who say they keep their phone on them at all times and never turn it off. Even though the average age of owning a phone is becoming younger, the step up to secondary school at the age of 11 is still the point at which many children get a phone and ownership becomes “almost universal”.

[..] YouTube, a veteran by online standards, remains dominant, used by 61% of children every day, mostly on mobile phones. It is the favourite app and website of this age group, used as the most typical starting point for videos, particularly “funny” clips, listening to music, “how to” tutorials or watching programmes. This is followed by Snapchat, Instagram and this year’s fast-riser, Tik Tok, with WhatsApp also among the most regularly used. Showing the speed of change, Facebook is not even in the top 10 of favourites.

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2020 so far…

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 262020
 
 January 26, 2020  Posted by at 10:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


Jack Delano Long stairway in mill district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1941

 

Chinese Virus Deaths Rise To 56, 2,000 Infected & More Cases Abroad (RT)
Coronavirus Contagion Rate Makes It Hard To Control (R.)
No Link With Seafood Market In First Case Of China Coronavirus (SCMP)
China Stole Coronavirus From Canada And Weaponized It (GGI)
US Economic Confidence at Highest Point Since 2000 (Gallup)
Stock Market A ‘Ponzi Scheme’ That Eventually Must Collapse – Guggenheim (RT)
Neither Side Is Really Trying To Win This Trump Impeachment Trial (Turley)
Trump Defense Team Signals Focus On Schiff (Hill)
Adam Schiff Is a Dangerous Warmonger (Jacobin)
Joe Biden Lied About His Record On Social Security (IC)
VP Pence Appears To Suggest Americans, Nor Russians, Liberated Auschwitz (RT)

 

 

People’s Daily: “Chinese health authorities announced Sunday that 1,975 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), including 324 in critical conditions and 56 deaths, had been reported in the country by the end of Saturday.”

We’re nicely in line with the Fibonacci sequence, with Hubei infections rising from 1,400 to 2,000. 3,300 tomorrow? Note that “official” updates are provided once a day, apparently first thing in the morning. Curious that deaths the previous day rose from 26 to 41, and today to 56, i.e. by 15 in both cases. The updates are heavily controlled.

Incubation time is now estimated as up to 2 weeks, so think back at least those 14 days and think back to how safety measures were back then. Questions also arise about the origin of the virus. A dead bat, a bioweapon lab, or both? Many animals are now -officially- off the menu.


Fibonacci

Chinese Virus Deaths Rise To 56, 2,000 Infected & More Cases Abroad (RT)

The death toll from the 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak in China has reached 56, with hundreds of new infections detected nationwide, despite all containment efforts. A handful of news cases have also been reported outside China. The first death was reported in Shanghai, and another one in Henan Province, while 13 more people died in Hubei Province – the epicenter of the outbreak – where nearly 130 people were reportedly in serious or critical condition as of Sunday morning. In addition to hundreds of known and confirmed cases, some 7,000 people there remain under increased medical supervision due to their potentially dangerous “close contacts.”

Meanwhile, the number of those who have beaten the virus and were discharged from hospitals has increased to at least 85, according to authorities. = China is facing a “grave situation” as the new coronavirus is “accelerating its spread,” President Xi Jinping warned earlier. He added, however, that given the immense efforts to contain the outbreak, China “will definitely be able to win the battle.” Around 450 Chinese military medics, many with experience in combating SARS or Ebola, were deployed in the region to help the overworked and exhausted hospital staff, who had been on around-the-clock shifts in recent weeks. Meanwhile, local authorities are rushing to construct a new 1,000-bed facility specifically to treat victims of the deadly virus.

Chinese authorities have also imposed strict travel restrictions in the outbreak epicenter of Wuhan, as well as nearly 20 cities in Hubei Province, with nearly 50 million people virtually quarantined in the middle of the holiday season. With many mass public events canceled, additional limitations have been imposed on intercity bus routes starting Sunday. Medical staff have been tasked with checking travelers’ temperatures for any signs of fever – the most apparent symptom of coronavirus, which is followed by a dry cough and leads to shortness of breath.

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R0 rate appears to have been lowered to 2.5, from 3.8. Don’t get all happy.

Coronavirus Contagion Rate Makes It Hard To Control (R.)

Each person infected with coronavirus is passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at current transmission rates, according to two separate scientific analyses of the epidemic. Whether the outbreak will continue to spread at this rate depends on the effectiveness of control measures, the scientists who conducted the studies said. But to be able to contain the epidemic and turn the tide of infections, control measures would have to halt transmission in at least 60% of cases. The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 41 on Saturday, with more than 1,400 people infected worldwide – the vast majority in China.

“It is unclear at the current time whether this outbreak can be contained within China,” said Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease specialist at Imperial College London who co-led one of the studies. Ferguson’s team suggest as many as 4,000 people in Wuhan were already infected by Jan. 18 and that on average each case was infecting two or three others. A second study by researchers at Britain’s Lancaster University also calculated the contagion rate at 2.5 new people on average being infected by each person already infected. “Should the epidemic continue unabated in Wuhan, we predict (it) will be substantially larger by Feb. 4,” the scientists wrote. “Should the epidemic continue unabated in Wuhan, we predict (it) will be substantially larger by Feb. 4,” the scientists wrote.

They estimated that the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the outbreak began in December will alone have around 190,000 cases of infection by Feb. 4., and that “infection will be established in other Chinese cities, and importations to other countries will be more frequent.”

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This kind of uncertainty doesn’t help.

No Link With Seafood Market In First Case Of China Coronavirus (SCMP)

The first person known to have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus had never visited the city’s seafood market – regarded as the epicentre of the outbreak – according to Chinese researchers, who also called for extra precautions against airborne transmission of the disease between humans. The researchers, seven of whom work at Wuhan’s Jinyintan hospital, designated for patients with the illness, revealed on Friday in The Lancet medical journal that symptoms of the new disease were first reported on December 1 – much earlier than the Wuhan government’s initial announcement on December 31 of 27 cases of the pneumonia-like infection.

According to the report, the first patient had no exposure to the Huanan seafood market which was shut down on January 1 over fears – later confirmed – that the new virus was linked to its trade in wild animals. The researchers added that none of the patient’s family had developed fever or any respiratory symptoms. There was also no epidemiological link between the first patient and the later cases, they found. The researchers analysed data from 41 patients with confirmed infections who had showed an onset of symptoms up to January 2. Six of those patients died, putting the fatality rate of the group at 15 per cent. The researchers noted that clinical presentations of the patients greatly resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The first patient to die from the new coronavirus had continuous exposure to the market before he was admitted to hospital with a seven-day history of fever, cough and breathing difficulties, according to their report. Five days after the onset of symptoms, his wife, a 53-year-old woman with no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalised in the isolation ward, they said. The absence of a link to the seafood market is one of the indicators for human-to-human transmission of the virus and the researchers identified another 13 patients who also had no direct exposure to the market.

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Lots of background. Viruses are potent weapons.

China Stole Coronavirus From Canada And Weaponized It (GGI)

Last year a mysterious shipment was caught smuggling Coronavirus from Canada. It was traced to Chinese agents working at a Canadian lab. Subsequent investigation by GreatGameIndia linked the agents to Chinese Biological Warfare Program from where the virus is suspected to have leaked causing the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak. On June 13, 2012 a 60-year-old Saudi man was admitted to a private hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a 7-day history of fever, cough, expectoration, and shortness of breath. He had no history of cardiopulmonary or renal disease, was receiving no long-term medications, and did not smoke. Egyptian virologist Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki isolated and identified a previously unknown coronavirus from his lungs.

After routine diagnostics failed to identify the causative agent, Zaki contacted Ron Fouchier, a leading virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center (EMC) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for advice. Fouchier sequenced the virus from a sample sent by Zaki. Fouchier used a broad-spectrum “pan-coronavirus” real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method to test for distinguishing features of a number of known coronaviruses known to infect humans. This Coronavirus sample was acquired by Scientific Director Dr. Frank Plummer of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg directly from Fouchier, who received it from Zaki. This virus was reportedly stolen from the Canadian lab by Chinese agents.

Coronavirus arrived at Canada’s NML Winnipeg facility on May 4, 2013 from the Dutch lab. The Canadian lab grew up stocks of the virus and used it to assess diagnostic tests being used in Canada. Winnipeg scientists worked to see which animal species can be infected with the new virus. Research was done in conjunction with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s national lab, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Diseases which is housed in the same complex as the National Microbiology Laboratory.

In March 2019, in mysterious event a shipment of exceptionally virulent viruses from Canada’s NML ended up in China. The event caused a major scandal with Bio-warfare experts questioning why Canada was sending lethal viruses to China. Scientists from NML said the highly lethal viruses were a potential bio-weapon. Following investigation, the incident was traced to Chinese agents working at NML. Four months later in July 2019, a group of Chinese virologists were forcibly dispatched from the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory (NML). The NML is Canada’s only level-4 facility and one of only a few in North America equipped to handle the world’s deadliest diseases, including Ebola, SARS, Coronavirus, etc.

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Elections in 9-10 months.

US Economic Confidence at Highest Point Since 2000 (Gallup)

Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy is higher than at any point in about two decades. The latest figure from Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is +40, the highest reading recorded since +44 in October 2000. Americans’ buoyant confidence in the economy in Gallup’s latest poll, conducted Jan. 2-15, likely reflects the U.S. unemployment rate’s continued stay at a 50-year low. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to reach record highs — and flirts with reaching the 30,000 marker. Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is the average of two components: Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions and their views on whether the economy is getting better or getting worse.


The index has a theoretical maximum of +100, achieved if all Americans believe the economy is excellent or good and getting better. The theoretical minimum is -100, if all Americans say the economy is poor and getting worse. The current conditions component score of +54 is the result of 62% of Americans saying the economy is “excellent” or “good” and 8% describing it as “poor.” Meanwhile, the economic outlook component score of +26 is the result of 59% saying the economy is “getting better” and 33% saying it is “getting worse.” Gallup’s tracking of economic confidence over the past 28 years has recorded index readings at or above the +40 mark in just nine other measurements, all between 1998 and 2000 — with the highest level recorded in January 2000, at +56, after a then-record high for the Dow. The latest reading of +40 is the only time the index has reached that level since 2000.

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Nothing I haven’t already said 1000 times.

Stock Market A ‘Ponzi Scheme’ That Eventually Must Collapse – Guggenheim (RT)

The rallying markets aren’t as good as they seem, says Guggenheim Partners chief Scott Minerd. He likened inflation of asset prices caused by loose money policies of central banks to a ponzi scheme that eventually must collapse. “We will reach a tipping point when investors will awake to the rising tide of defaults and downgrades,” Minerd wrote in a letter from the World Economic Forum meeting. “The timing is hard to predict, but this reminds me a lot of the lead-up to the 2001 and 2002 recession.” He cited rising defaults despite a rally in riskier assets, and reiterated a warning that BBB-rated bonds risk further downgrades.


The chief executive said that the type of debt is at a greater risk of deterioration than it was in 2007. Guggenheim Partners, which operates in the global investment and advisory space, manages more than $275 billion in assets as of September last year. The company’s fixed-income chief Anne Walsh told Yahoo Finance that 15 percent of the US economy is already in recession. According to her, the Federal Reserve’s efforts to pump liquidity into markets has created “zombie companies” that may see an outflow of capital as the utility of that money continues to diminish. The longer that this market runs, the harder the fall will be when it ends, she said.

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Don’t attack a jury.

Neither Side Is Really Trying To Win This Trump Impeachment Trial (Turley)

It is the one unbreakable rule in litigation. You can insult the defendant or the opposing attorney and, on occasion, you might even insult the judge. But the one thing you can never do is insult the jury. That is only if you want to win a jury verdict, and that may be why both legal teams in the impeachment trial of President Trump seem more eager to get the goats of Senate jurors rather than their votes. Both sides seem to be striving for the constitutional equivalent of a hung jury, not enough votes for either a bipartisan acquittal or conviction, simply the status quo. What is different is that you usually do not actually hang the jury in a hung jury strategy.

The most riveting example this week was the argument of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who stood in the well of the Senate and appeared to accuse Republican senators of a conspiracy to “cover up” the wrongdoing of the president. It was a moment that produced an audible gasp from the room, along with a note from Senator Susan Collins complaining to Chief Justice John Roberts, who then promptly declared that “those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.” The aspersions from Nadler alienated at least two of the four Republican senators that House impeachment managers are struggling to win over in their fight to call witnesses.

In addition to Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski was irate and denounced the comments by Nadler as soon as she walked off the floor. Murkowski later expressed skepticism about helping House managers to call witnesses they did not seek to compel during their own investigations. That is what happens when a prosecutor incorporates the jury into the list of accomplices in an ongoing conspiracy during trial. House manager Adam Schiff produced further gasps when he repeated reports that the senators were warned that if they vote against Trump their heads “will be on a pike.” Collins and Murkowski were among those angrily responding to the “unnecessary” remarks. Other senators have had their own awkward moments.

The House managers played a clip of Senator Lindsay Graham from the Clinton impeachment trial declaring, “What is a high crime? It does not even have to be a crime. It is just when you start using your office and you are acting in a way that hurts people, you have committed a high crime.” That statement of a hurtful standard for impeachment was meant to embarrass Graham. It certainly worked. For its part, the White House could not get enough of old clips of Senator Charles Schumer promising to vote for acquittal before the Clinton trial was even scheduled. Schumer also opposed any witnesses or a full trial in the Clinton impeachment.

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He’s the face after all. They get bonus points for limiting it to 2 hours. And they seemed to do well.

Trump Defense Team Signals Focus On Schiff (Hill)

At several points during their opening argument, President Trump’s defense team trained their fire on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), removing any doubt about their intent to make the House manager’s credibility an issue at the impeachment trial. Addressing the Senate on Saturday, Trump’s lawyers accused Schiff of repeatedly stretching the truth and creating false impressions amid his pursuit to take down the president. “Chairman Schiff has made so much of the House’s case about the credibility of interpretations that the House managers want to place on — not hard evidence — but on inferences,” said Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to Trump.

“It is very relevant to know whether assessments of evidence he’s presented in the past are accurate,” Philbin said of Schiff. “And we would submit they have not been, and that that is relevant for your consideration.” The defense team portrayed Schiff as having first launched his overreaching efforts against Trump during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and continuing through Trump’s impeachment trial. The attacks on Schiff were perhaps unsurprising, as the House Intelligence Committee chairman has emerged as the lead prosecutor among House managers pressing the case against Trump in the Senate.

In fact, Schiff anticipated the offensive and delivered a warning to senators last night that spelled out specific attacks he expected to be lodged against him, some of which materialized Saturday. “I think the second thing you’ll hear from the president’s team is, attack the managers. Those managers are just awful. They’re terrible people,” Schiff said. “Especially that Schiff guy. He’s the worst. He’s the worst.” [..] Trump’s team today called into question whether Schiff can be trusted as an honest broker. At one point, Trump’s defense team played video of Schiff on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying that he had seen “evidence that is not circumstantial” that the Trump campaign had colluded in Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Trump’s lawyers contrasted Schiff’s claim with Mueller’s conclusion that his nearly two-year probe had established no coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The defense team also accused Schiff and his staff of coaching the whistleblower, who raised a red flag over Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president that set in motion the impeachment. They paired the allegation with a clip of Schiff asserting on national television that “we have not spoken directly with the whistleblower,” a claim which fact-checkers found was false.

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The war party.

Adam Schiff Is a Dangerous Warmonger (Jacobin)

Assuring us that he is aware, actually, of what century this is, Schiff said in 2015, “Now, we’re not seeing the same bipolar world we had between communism and capitalism.” (Phew!) He then added, “But we are seeing a new bipolar world, I think, where you have democracy versus authoritarianism.” Schiff has not viewed this as a mere contest of ideas: he constantly advocated for Obama to impose tougher sanctions on Russia and give more weapons to Ukraine.

Although delicately opposed to violence in some contexts — he’s a vegan! — this isn’t the only war Schiff has championed. He supported the Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya wars, greater US intervention in Syria, as well as the Saudi war with Yemen (although he has, in the past year, turned against the latter adventure, seeming to draw the line at sawing up journalists with bonesaws — he is a moderate after all, plus very popular with the media), and he has voted for nearly every possible increase in the defense budget.

As Jacobin’s own Branko Marcetic observed two years ago, Schiff’s bellicosity is extensively funded by arms manufacturers and military contractors. A Ukrainian arms dealer named Igor Pasternak held a $2,500 per head fundraiser for Schiff in 2013, as the late Justin Raimondo reported in a terrific analysis on Antiwar.com in 2017, at a time when Ukraine was desperately trying to counter the Obama administration’s disinterest in funding its war with Russia. Despite that disinterest, the State Department approved some very profitable dealings for Pasternak in Ukraine after that fundraiser.

And that’s only one example. In the current cycle, donations from the war industry have continued to flood his coffers. Many come from employees of firms with extensive Department of Defense contracts, including Radiance Technologies and Raytheon. PACs representing the defense industry also make a robust showing among Schiff’s contributors, according to data on Open Secrets.org; companies funneling money to Schiff — sorry, contributing to those PACs — include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Radiance, and others, including L3Harris Technologies (which got in big trouble with the State Department in September and had to pay $13 million in penalties for illegal arms dealing).

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Why is everyone still talking about Biden? He’s out.

Joe Biden Lied About His Record On Social Security (IC)

Over the past few weeks, former Vice President Joe Biden has been making an effort to recast his record on Social Security as one of a champion who defended the program from assaults, rather than one who consistently argued that it ought to be cut. The value of such a revision is clear: Austerity is no longer a politically viable platform for Democrats to take in the primary. His defense of his record has included multiple television interviews, public comments, and even an ad attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders for “dishonest smears” challenging him on Social Security. In the ad, Biden makes a sweeping claim: “I’ve been fighting to protect — and expand — Social Security for my whole career. Any suggestion otherwise is just flat-out wrong.”

At Vice’s Black and Brown Forum in Iowa this week, when pressed on his proposal to freeze Social Security payments by moderator Antonia Hylton, he simply lied: “I didn’t propose a freeze.” In fact, Biden has argued for cuts or freezes to Social Security throughout much of his career. Earlier in January, The Intercept wrote about several instances in which Biden advocated for cutting Social Security over the course of his career. Biden, when he acknowledges his past support for cuts, portrays the advocacy as deep in the past. But a close inspection finds reams of more recent evidence of Biden’s support for cuts — including in Biden’s recent recounting of a conversation he had with China’s president, Xi Jinping, and in his choice of Bruce Reed, a longtime deficit hawk, as a senior policy adviser in his current presidential campaign.

Reed, a longtime Biden aide, played a central role in advocating cuts to the New Deal-era program as a co-founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, as the top staffer for a controversial commission dedicated to slashing the deficit, and then as Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration. In Washington, D.C., he would be the last high-level staffer a campaign would bring aboard if it was genuinely intent on expanding, not cutting, Social Security.

This past week, Biden steadily ratcheted up his revision of his record. At Vice News’s Brown and Black Forum in Iowa on Monday, he was pressed on Social Security. “Do you think though that it’s fair for voters to question your commitment to Social Security when in the past you proposed a freeze to it?” he was asked by Vice moderator Hylton. “No, I didn’t propose a freeze,” he said. “You did,” she corrected. On Tuesday, he released an ad attacking Sanders for what he called “dishonest smears.” The hit prompted a response from Sanders, who posted a short ad showing Biden boasting of his willingness to cut Social Security on the Senate floor. The Sanders ad has been viewed some 4 million times, to Biden’s less than a million.

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Does he even know?

VP Pence Appears To Suggest Americans, Nor Russians, Liberated Auschwitz (RT)

US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech on the Holocaust left the impression it was American soldiers who liberated Auschwitz, erased the Soviet Union’s well-documented act, and even used the solemn occasion to lash out at Iran. Speaking at the World Holocaust Forum in Israel on Thursday, Pence said that it was “soldiers” who opened the gates of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. Which soldiers? Pence does not say, whether accidentally or on purpose. Pence’s omission became much more glaring a few moments later, when he honored the memory of “all the Allied forces, including more than two million American soldiers, who left hearth and home, suffered appalling casualties, and freed a continent from the grip of tyranny.”

Listening to Pence’s speech, one might be tempted to conclude that it was these American soldiers who liberated Auschwitz, or bore the brunt of the burden of liberating Europe from the Nazis. Yet if we want to talk about truly “appalling casualties,” how about the nearly 27 million soldiers and civilians of the Soviet Union who perished in that war? What about the Red Army’s 322nd Rifle Division, under General Pyotr Ivanovich Zubov, that actually kicked in the doors of Auschwitz, only to be ‘erased’ from memory by an American vice-president 75 years later? One word – “Soviet” before “soldiers” – would have sufficed to give credit where it’s due. There is nothing wrong with being an American patriot, but this sort of dissembling is at best ignorance, and at worst outright stolen valor, both entirely unbecoming of a statesman.

Pence ended his speech by praising the US alliance with Israel and urging the world to “stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran” as “the one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.” Meanwhile, at the same event, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the use of the Holocaust in present-day political disputes and proposed a summit of the five permanent UN Security Council members – representing the nations principally responsible for defeating Hitler and establishing the post-war world order – to address the challenges of the world today and “demonstrate our common commitment to the spirit of allied relations, historical memory and the lofty ideals and values for which our predecessors, our grandfathers and fathers fought shoulder to shoulder.”

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https://twitter.com/i/status/1221188593290366976

 

 

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Jan 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Happy News Cafe, “restaurant for the unemployed”, Washington, DC 1937

 

China Virus Death Toll Rises To 41, More Than 1,300 Infected Worldwide (R.)
UK Researcher: Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In 10 Days (ZH)
GOP Senators Incensed By Schiff’s ‘Head On A Pike’ Remark (AP)
Adam Schiff’s Very Scary Warmongering Speech (Daniel Lazare)
Adam Schiff Is Turning Into A Tom Clancy Character (Tucker Carlson)
The Big Sleep (Jim Kunstler)
2016 WH Meeting with ‘Whistleblower’ and Ukrainians on Burisma (AG)
No One Has Suggested My Son Did Anything Wrong: Joe Biden Doubles Down (Turley)
Professors Donate To Democrats Over Republicans By A 95:1 Ratio (Turley)
Four Australian MPs Urge Britain To Ban Huawei (SMH)

 

 

Numbers growing by the hour.

China Virus Death Toll Rises To 41, More Than 1,300 Infected Worldwide (R.)

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak jumped on Saturday to 41 from 26 a day earlier as the Lunar New Year got off to a gloomy start, with authorities curbing travel and cancelling public gatherings. More than 1,300 people have been infected globally with a virus traced to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. Health authorities around the world are scrambling to prevent a pandemic. State-run China Global Television Network reported in a tweet on Saturday that a doctor who had been treating patients in Wuhan, 62-year-old Liang Wudong, had died from the virus. It was not immediately clear if his death was already counted in the official toll of 41, of which 39 were in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.

U.S. coffee chain Starbucks said on Saturday that it was closing all its outlets in Hubei province for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, following a similar move by McDonald’s in five Hubei cities. Wuhan, a city of 11 million, has been in virtual lockdown since Thursday, with nearly all flights at the airport canceled and checkpoints blocking the main roads leading out of town. Authorities have since imposed transport restrictions on nearly all of Hubei province, which has a population of 59 million. In Beijing on Saturday, workers in white protective suits checked temperatures of passengers entering the subway at the central railway station, while some train services in eastern China’s Yangtze River Delta region were suspended, the local railway operator said.


The number of confirmed cases in China stands at 1,287, the National Health Commission said on Saturday. The virus has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Malaysia, France, the United States and Australia. Australia on Saturday announced its first case of coronavirus, a Chinese national in his 50s, who had been in Wuhan and arrived from China on Jan. 19 on a flight from Guangzhou. He is in stable condition in a Melbourne hospital.


Fibonacci

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Very informative on contagion. We’ll see in 10 days if he is right.

UK Researcher: Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In 10 Days (ZH)

When it comes to estimating the human capital and potential fallout from a highly contagious epidemic, arguably the most important variable is the R0 (“R-naught”) value of the disease, which represents the average number of secondary cases arising from an average primary case in a entirely susceptible population. That’s the technical definition, a simpler one is that the R0, or basic reproductive number, of a contagious disease is the number of cases that a case of the disease generates over the course of its infectious period in a susceptible population. The higher this number, the more dangerous the disease, the more lethal the outcome.

Some indicative R0s are 0.9 – 2.1 for the common flu while the 1918-1919 pandemic-causing Spanish flu was estimated to have ranged from 1.4 – 2.8, with a mean of 2. Some other notable R0s are shown below, and note that SARS was between 2 and 5:

So what about the R0 of 2019-nCoV, also known as the coronavirus that has claimed over three dozen lives in China and infected (at least) 1,000 people? Naturally, since the disease is most active in China which is notoriously opaque especially when it comes to matters that can cause a mass panic, the best one can do is guess, and that’s what the World Health Organization did yesterday when it issued a statement on the coronavirus epidemic with the following projection:

Human-to-human transmission is occurring and a preliminary R0 estimate of 1.4-2.5 was presented. Amplification has occurred in one health care facility. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear.

Needless to say, while 2.5 is quite high, and in line with that of the Spanish flu epidemic which infected about half a billion people back in 1918, killing as many as 100 million before it eventually fizzled out, the real coronavirus R0 number may end up being far higher. That is the working hypothesis of Jonathan Read, a UK expert on the transmission and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases, who has published a paper with four colleagues that estimates transmission parameters for the Wuhan coronavirus, calculates that the R0 of 2019-nCoV to be between 3.6-4.0 or roughly the same as SARS, and reaches a conclusion about spread of the coronavirus epidemic that is frankly terrifying.

In “Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV: early estimation of epidemiological parameters and epidemic predictions“, Reed et al, write that with an R0 of between 3.6 and 4.0, roughly 72-75% of transmissions “must be prevented by control measures for infections to stop increasing.”

This is a major problem because Reed estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24), “indicating a large number of infections in the community, and also reflecting the difficulty in detecting cases of this new disease.” Furthermore, since all of this is happening in China which is not known for making the most socially-beneficial decisions under pressure, there is an ominous possibility that Reed is actually overly optimistic.

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Sounds desperate. But this is not new for Schiff, making stuff up.

GOP Senators Incensed By Schiff’s ‘Head On A Pike’ Remark (AP)

Senate Republicans said lead impeachment prosecutor Adam Schiff insulted them during the trial by repeating an anonymously sourced report that the White House had threatened to punish Republicans who voted against President Donald Trump. Schiff, who delivered closing arguments for the prosecution, was holding Republican senators rapt as he called for removing Trump from office for abusing his power and obstructing Congress. Doing anything else, he argued, would be to let the president bully Senate Republicans into ignoring his pressure on Ukraine for political help. “CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that key senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’ I don’t know if that’s true,” Schiff said.

After that remark, the generally respectful mood in the Senate immediately changed. Republicans across their side of the chamber groaned, gasped and said, “That’s not true.” One of those key moderate Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, looked directly at Schiff, shook her head and said, “Not true.” “Not only have I never heard the ‘head on the pike’ line,” Collins said in a statement, “but also I know of no Republican senator who has been threatened in any way by anyone in the administration.” [..] “That’s when he lost me,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican moderate, said about Schiff’s remark, according to her spokeswoman. She denied having been told what the network reported about the White House. Schiff’s invocation of it, she added, ”was unnecessary.”

Collins, another moderate who is up for reelection this year, is one of the few Republican senators who has expressed an openness to calling witnesses in the impeachment trial. She had been listening intently to Schiff’s presentation and writing down some of his points. When he made the “pike” comment, she looked directly at Schiff and slowly and repeatedly shook her head back and forth. When he finished his speech and the trial adjourned, GOP Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming made a beeline for her seat. Collins again shook her head and said, “No.”

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Schiff the neocon warmonger. Hard to deny by now.

Adam Schiff’s Very Scary Warmongering Speech (Daniel Lazare)

All the usual suspects are praising Adam Schiff’s marathon two-and-a-half-hour Senate speech on Wednesday to the skies. Neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin calls it “a grand slam” in the Washington Post. Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin describes it as “dazzling” on CNN. New York Times columnist Gail Collins says it was “a great job” and that Schiff is “a rock star” for pulling it off. But in fact it was the opposite – a fear-mongering, sword-rattling harangue that will not only raise tensions with Russia for no good reason, but sends a chilling message to dissidents at home that if they deviate from Russiagate orthodoxy by one iota, they’ll be driven from the fold.

What is that orthodoxy? It’s that Russia invaded poor innocent Ukraine in 2014, that it interfered in the US presidential election in 2016 in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and propel Donald Trump into the White House, and that it’s now trying to smear Joe Biden merely because he had allowed his son to take a high-paying job with a notorious Ukrainian oligarch at a time when he was supposedly heading up the Ukrainian anti-corruption effort.

[..] Schiff’s emergence as leader of the Democratic impeachment drive means that the party is re-grouping along the most retrograde Cold War lines. As reckless and appalling as Trump’s behavior is in the Persian Gulf, the emerging Democratic worldview is shaping up as no less extreme. Because it sees Russia as mounting a multi-pronged offensive, the clear implication is that the US must respond in kind. This means more troops deployments, more forces mobilized to counter Russian threats from Venezuela to the Middle East, more TV talking heads going on and on about this or that Kremlin conspiracy, and more labelling of people like Tulsi Gabbard and Jill Stein as Russian assets.

Remember, this is the Los Angeles neocon who backed the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and Saudi Arabia’s unprovoked war against Yemen, an assault that, since March 2015, has cost 100,000 lives and brought half the country to the brink of starvation. He supported Obama’s war in Libya and called for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria and relies on arms manufacturers and military contractors for major financial support. But while Bernie supporters may have thought that Democrats were edging away from such views, they’re plainly in the wrong. Schiff’s new-found prominence shows that the neocons are back in the saddle. Impeachment advocates should be careful of what they wish for because the anti-Trump forces are turning out to be no less dangerous than those helping him to remain.

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Bob Mueller couldn’t lay Russiagate to rest.

Adam Schiff Is Turning Into A Tom Clancy Character (Tucker Carlson)

Tucker Carlson said the Democrats’ impetus for impeaching President Trump can be distilled to a policy disagreement since the president has inflamed permanent Washington by pledging to execute a foreign policy countering what the government’s “neocons” have done for the past several decades. “By now you may be wondering, ‘How is this the impeachment we were promised? Wasn’t it supposed to be the abuse of power, the contempt of Congress?” the host asked his “Tucker Carlson Tonight” audience. “The genesis of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, it turns out, wasn’t the now-famous Ukraine phone call or even his victory three years ago — It actually began February 13th, 2016. That’s the day that Trump debated Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz [and others] … in South Carolina,” he said.

“Trump said things that, until then, no major Republican candidate had been willing to say out loud – he said America should reach an agreement with Russia rather than fighting proxy wars against them. He called the trillions of dollars we spent in the Middle East a waste. At the time, it seemed like Trump was asked attacking Republican orthodoxy, but now it’s clear, and this impeachment makes it crystal clear, that Trump was attacking the consensus of both parties in Washington. It’s a neoconservative consensus. ” In that way, Trump also politically enraged Schiff, who spent much of this week making his case for removing Trump from office while speaking on the Senate floor.

“[Schiff] went on like this all day long — voice rising, eyes bulging — and over time he began to sound less like a congressman from Burbank and more like a character from a Tom Clancy novel,” Carlson said. “The greatest threat to America, Schiff said, is not Russia’s First Guard’s tank army, it’s the president of United States who quite possibly could be the first nonvoting member of the Politburo.” Carlson recalled that Schiff claimed Friday that Trump had been “manipulated to disbelieve his own intelligence agencies” and “accept the propaganda of the Kremlin” as fact. He warned that Schiff appears to want to continue in what he characterized as the problematic customs of the past — “keep[ing] America overextended abroad, stuck in quagmires across the world that [have killed] our finest young men.”

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“.. to make the forthcoming raft of indictments against RussiaGate coupsters look like a mere act of revenge rather than long-delayed justice..”

The Big Sleep (Jim Kunstler)

The impeachment case against Mr. Trump might mercifully spell the end of the Master Narrative the Democrats have been confabulating since 2016: that Donald Trump invited the wicked Vlad Putin to checkmate Hillary Clinton and thereby crushed the hopes and dreams of those wishing to make Ukraine the 51st state… or something like that. Because according to Mr. Schiff, there is no nation on this planet as dear to the interests of America than darling Ukraine, with its radioactive forests, decrepitating Soviet infrastructure, and dedication to liberty. Those who were only puzzling over Nancy Pelosi’s motives in bringing this case, and assigning it to the two sketchiest characters in her charge, Schiff & Nadler, must finally be convinced that she is no longer sound of mind.

What was she thinking? Did she really want to set up the voters to lose faith in the basic electoral process by preemptively delegitimizing the 2020 election? (“Trump can only win if he cheats!”) Is she that desperate to flip the Senate to prevent anymore judicial appointments? Could be. Or is the impeachment spectacle a different kind of set-up: to make the forthcoming raft of indictments against RussiaGate coupsters look like a mere act of revenge rather than long-delayed justice for a three-year campaign of perfidious sedition by some of the highest officials in the land? Anyway, after another day of this boresome torment, the Senate will get to hear Mr. Trump’s defense in a full-throated way — really for the first time since the whole nasty business began, and in a conspicuous venue where it can’t be ignored anymore.

If nothing else, it will probably be more interesting and certainly more dignified than the idiotic vaudeville put on by Schiff & Nadler. Even if the President’s managers move to dismiss the case out-of-hand for its utter lack of merit and the legal errors in its construction by two House committees, I doubt they will miss the opportunity to use the time allotted to lay out the story of what actually happened the past three years — a crime spree of government against itself. The temptation to call witnesses must be anguishing, though, from a legal standpoint the Houses’s case deserves to be thrown out summarily just to reestablish the principle that impeachment is not a frivolity. But the nation would miss the chance for Mr. Schiff to have to explain exactly what happened around the “whistleblower” episode and, of course, there would be no more possible excuses for producing the “whistleblower” him-or-herself in the witness dock. I think we would discover what an absolutely shady operation that was.

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“Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.”

2016 WH Meeting with ‘Whistleblower’ and Ukrainians on Burisma (AG)

In an exclusive report, Wednesday night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham revealed that the New York Times last May quashed a story about a White House meeting in January of 2016 between Obama administration officials—including the so-called whistleblower—and Ukrainian officials that addressed Hunter Biden’s problematic position at Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings. Ingraham said she obtained a chain of State Department emails between NYT journalist Ken Vogel and State Department official Kate Schilling centering on the reporter’s request for comment on the story. [..] Democrats say the president withheld military aid from Ukraine until he could get a guarantee from the Ukrainian President Zelensky that the Bidens would be investigated.

However, a document unearthed last October shows that Ukrainian officials had actually opened a new probe into Burisma months before President Trump’s July 2019 phone call with the Ukrainian president. Some Republicans have called for Hunter Biden to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. Ken Vogel is the reporter who wrote the oft-cited January 2017 piece in Politico titled: Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire. Subtitled: “Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.” Media reports referring to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election did not become controversial until Biden announced his candidacy for president in April of 2019.

Then, as President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani conducted his very public investigation into the matter throughout 2019, Democrats and their allies in the media started characterizing the claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election as a “conspiracy theory.” In Vogel’s May 1, 2019 email to Schilling about the Obama White House meeting, the reporter reportedly mentioned the name of the CIA analyst widely believed to be the anti-Trump whistleblower, whose complaint against the president sparked the Democrats’ impeachment efforts. Ingraham did not reveal his name because Fox News hosts are banned from doing so until the identity is confirmed, but she was likely was referring to Eric Ciaramella, who has been outed in conservative media as the whistleblower.

In the email, Vogel wrote, “We are going to report that (State Department official) Elizabeth Zentos attended a meeting at the White House on 1/19/2016 with Ukrainian prosecutors and embassy officials as well as … [redacted] from the NSC … the subjects discussed included efforts within the United State government to support prosecutions, in Ukraine and the United Kingdom, of Burisma Holdings … and concerns that Hunter Biden’s position with the company could complicate such efforts.”

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We all know many people have suggested just that. So why repeat that line all the time?

No One Has Suggested My Son Did Anything Wrong: Joe Biden Doubles Down (Turley)

We have previously discussed the denials of former Vice President Joe Biden that his son did anything wrong in Ukraine. As I have written, not only did Hunter Biden clearly enter into a corrupt (but arguably lawful) contract but Joe Biden did not do enough to confirm that his son was not engaging in influence peddling. Nevertheless, this week, Joe Biden continued this indefensible position and declared bizarrely that “no one has suggested my son did anything wrong.” According to the Washington Post, Joe Biden declared on the campaign trail that “There’s nobody that’s indicated there’s a single solitary thing that he did that was inappropriate, wrong … or anything other than the appearance. It looked bad that he was there.”

He then curiously added “He acknowledges that he in fact made a mistake going on the board.” So, in other words, he did nothing wrong but he apologized for it. Joe Biden continues to maintain that “no one” has accused his son of wrongdoing when there is a chorus of such allegations. He seems to be drawing a distinction between what is criminal and what is not — as if the criminal code is the only measure of wrongdoing or unethical conduct. Hunter Biden not only clearly engaged in influence peddling but he is clearly a relevant witness. Ukraine was a virtual gold rush for Washington’s elite and Hunter Biden was one of the first in line to cash in. Biden’s quest for a Ukrainian windfall took him to one of Ukraine’s most controversial and corrupt associates, Mykola Zlochevsky, who leveraged his post as minister of ecology and natural resources to build a fortune.

Before fleeing Ukraine, Zlochevsky paid Hunter Biden and several other Americans to be directors of his energy company, Burisma Holdings. Hunter Biden had no experience in the field — but he did have a notable connection to the vice president, who publicly has bragged about making clear to the Ukrainians that he alone controlled U.S. aid to the country. A stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry also was asked to serve as a director but reportedly declined and warned Hunter Biden not to do it; Biden didn’t listen. He later told The New Yorker that “the decisions that I made were the right decisions for my family and for me.” His decisions certainly were profitable, but they were not “right” as an ethical matter for himself or his father.

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Woke education.

Professors Donate To Democrats Over Republicans By A 95:1 Ratio (Turley)

Diversity in hiring is the top priority of most colleges and universities. However, the effort to hire more women, minorities, and LGBT individuals notably lacks one group: ideological diversity. It is well-known that most faculty are composed of an overwhelming majority of liberal and democratic members. However, this view, while generally accepted, is largely anecdotal. Now a new study by Heterodox Academy Director of Research Sean Stevens and Brooklyn College Professor Mitchell Langbert claims to have put hard numbers on that lack of diversity. In reviewing records with the Federal Election Commission, they say that they found that professors gave to Democrats over Republicans by a 95:1 ratio.


The researchers looked at 2,301 political donations and found that 2,081 went to Democrats while just 22 went to Republicans. Only nine professors gave to both parties. An earlier study found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a 10:4 ratio. Business Management Associate Professor Mitchell Langbert reviewed the party affiliations of 8,688 professors at 51 of the top 60 liberal arts colleges listed in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 rankings. [..] A recent study at Harvard found that only 35 percent of conservative students felt free to share their views on campuses. That chilling effect is the result of not just open hostility to conservative voices on campus but a striking lack of diversity among academics in terms of ideology.

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Ausralia panders to China on just about any other topic.

Four Australian MPs Urge Britain To Ban Huawei (SMH)

Four Australian MPs and chairs of parliamentary committees have launched an unprecedented combined intervention into Britain’s Huawei debate, urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to follow Australia’s ban. But their calls came amid further signs Johnson is likely to rebuff pleas from Australia and the United States and allow the Chinese telecommunications manufacturer to supply some parts of the country’s 5G network. Reuters, citing two sources, reported British officials had given the green light to Huawei involvement – the same position taken when Theresa May was prime minister but failed to resolve the issue after it split her National Security Council (NSC).

The NSC is expected to back Chinese involvement when it meets next week. The council’s decision will be announced in Parliament, prompting the last-ditch intervention from the quartet of Australian MPs. Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie, Tim Wilson, James Paterson and Labor’s Kimberley Kitching all issued statements to The Times of London explaining why Liberal and Labor Australian governments had banned the company from building the national broadband network and supplying the 5G rollout. Hastie, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, said it was about “digital sovereignty” and urged solidarity among the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, comprising Australia, the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

“Our membership of the Five Eyes community is central to our defence and security strategy,” he said. “In a time of growing strategic uncertainty, Australia values that membership more than ever.” Senator James Paterson, who chairs the Joint Corporations and Financial Services Committee, said the ban had been uncontroversial when imposed in Australia. “Successive Australian governments from both sides of politics banned Huawei from our broadband and 5G networks with very little controversy,” he said. “No one in the Australian political system regrets those decisions today.”

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Jan 232020
 
 January 23, 2020  Posted by at 10:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Jack Delano Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad locomotive shops San Bernardino, CA 1943

 

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)
Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)
Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)
UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)
The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)
TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)
Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)
Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

 

 

China Lunar New Year is from Jan 24-30. Hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling.

China Quarantines 11 Million In Wuhan As Virus Kills 17, With 95 Critical (RT)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended China’s swift response to a rapidly moving virus gripping the country, but despite a quick-climbing infection tally, the agency is reluctant to classify it a global health threat. “What they are doing is a very, very strong measure and with full commitment,” WHO director-general Tedros Ahanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, referring to Beijing’s shutdown of all public transportation in and out of the city of Wuhan, the viral epicenter. As of 10am local time, all trains, buses, railways and ferries traveling to and from Wuhan have halted operations until further notice in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, with the government calling on the city’s 11 million residents to refrain from leaving without “special reasons.”

Medical personnel were also posted at toll gates and checkpoints along major roadways to screen commuters for the illness. The comments followed an emergency WHO meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, where the health agency mulled whether to declare the novel coronavirus – now dubbed “2019-nCoV” – a worldwide emergency. Still unsure after a day of deliberation, however, WHO will meet again Thursday, with Tedros saying he took the decision “extremely seriously.” China’s National Health Commission (NHC), meanwhile, has provided the latest figures tracking the impact of the dangerous pathogen, with 131 newly confirmed infections bringing the total to 571 across some 25 Chinese provinces.

Seventeen people have died from the illness thus far, all in central China’s Hubei province, with another 95 in critical condition with severe pneumonia-like symptoms. There are also now 393 suspected infections in China – 257 of them registered on Wednesday alone – with 5,897 additional cases of “close contact,” the NHC said.

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Couldn’t find any relevant write-ups of Schiff’s marathon, so here’s the text -not sure it covers all 3.28 minutes of it. But who cares? He had nothing new and what he had, he repeated 20+ times. Including the very dead: “The United States aids Ukraine and her people so that they can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

The Hunter Biden/Burisma story has not been debunked as Schiff repeats ad nauseum, what has been debunked -by Mueller- is Russiagate. But who cares?

Michael Tracey: “Counted at least 57 references to Russia or Putin in today’s impeachment trial which is why it’s a total fallacy to separate this episode from the Russiagate narrative which has dominated US politics for 3+ years. What’s happening now is just its inevitable culmination..”

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, counsel for the President, and my fellow House managers: “When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”


Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to President George Washington, at the height of the Panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation. Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country, that America, in the face of that crisis, might descend from “a republican form of Government,” plunging instead into “that of a monarchy.” The Framers of our Constitution worried then—as we worry today—that a leader could come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests. They feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain. And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.

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Go Tulsi. Someone has to break the DNC, or the Democrats are finished as a party..

Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is suing Hillary Clinton for defamation over the former secretary of State’s remarks on a podcast characterizing the Democratic presidential candidate as a Russian asset. Gabbard filed the defamation lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Gabbard’s lawyers allege that Clinton’s comments have “smeared” Gabbard’s “political and personal reputation.” “Tulsi Gabbard is a loyal American civil servant who has also dedicated her life to protecting the safety of all Americans,” Gabbard’s lawyer Brian Dunne said in a statement. “Rep. Gabbard’s presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, but she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks.”


Gabbard’s campaign referred all questions on the lawsuit to Dunne. In response to the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said “that’s ridiculous.” [..] The lawsuit claims that Clinton is a “cutthroat politician” and “sought retribution” for Gabbard endorsing Clinton’s 2016 Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Gabbard is now facing Sanders in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary. “Clinton’s false assertions were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi’s presidential campaign,” it says. Gabbard’s lawyers claim Clinton’s “peddling of this theory” has harmed Gabbard, voters and “American democracy.” “Tulsi brings this lawsuit to ensure that the truth prevails and to ensure this country’s political elites are held accountable for intentionally trying to distort the truth in the midst of a critical Presidential election,” the lawsuit says.

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No. 1 for DNC: dump Biden. He’s roadkill.

Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)

A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president — whose support in the state is considered deep — as “a compromise choice.” Dalhi Myers told AP on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders’ strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election. “I looked at that, and I thought, ‘He’s right,’” said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. “He’s unafraid and he’s unapologetic. … I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind.”


Sanders, a Vermont senator, frequently calls out what he sees as Trump’s dishonesty, referring on the campaign trail to the president as a “pathological liar.” Biden, whose relationships in South Carolina go back decades, has led polling in the state, particularly among the black voters who make up most of the state’s Democratic primary electorate. Sanders, whose 47-point loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016 in South Carolina blunted the momentum generated in opening primary contests and exposed his weakness with black voters, has focused on strengthening his ties in the state’s black community. In December, Myers, a corporate lawyer in Columbia, was among more than a dozen South Carolina elected officials to endorse Biden, saying at the time in a release from the Biden campaign that he was “the only candidate with the broad and diverse coalition of support we need to win” against Trump in the general election.

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No, really. Dump Biden.

Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)

Hunter Biden has been ordered to stand in front of an Arkansas judge next Tuedsay to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to produce a laundry list of financial and personal information in his ongoing child support dispute with stripper Lunden Alexis Roberts. Roberts asked the court on Tuesday to hold Biden in contempt for failing to disclose financial information, contact information, and “a list of all companies he currently owns or in which he has an ownership interest,” as well as “all companies in which he has had an ownership interest in the past five years.” Also sought are a copy of Biden’s 2017 and 2018 tax returns, deeds to properties he owns, and an executed copy of a financial records release Biden has been avoiding filing unless the court allows him to do so under seal.


“The defendant continues to act as though he has no respect for this Court, its orders, the legal process in this state, or the needs of his child for support,” reads the filing, which adds “This is but another example of the defendant’s unnecessary actions to frustrate prompt adjudication of this matter and increase the plaintiff’s litigation costs.” Circuit Court Judge Holly Meyer agreed, ordering Biden to appear in person to explain his failure to produce the requested information which was due in August, 2019. In November, a DNA test revealed Hunter to be the father of the unnamed child with Roberts. In order to determine what Biden can cough up, Roberts has sought extensive financial records for periods which include his time on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was the Obama administration’s point-man on Ukraine.

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Still don’t quite get this. Did MbS pose as a Nigerian prince? Will the UN get involved if your phone is hacked? Are the UN and Bezos trying to seek vengeance for Khashoggi in a roundabout way?

UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)

Despite the Saudi Embassy’s denial of the “absurd” claims that MbS hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone, United Nations experts have called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States. Independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a statement Wednesday: “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.” “The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul.”


“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents.” The U.N. experts reviewed a 2019 digital forensic analysis of Bezos’ iPhone, which they said was made available to them as U.N. Special Rapporteurs. The experts said that records showed that within hours of receipt of a video from the crown Pprince’s WhatsApp account, there was “an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior” with enormous amounts of data from the phone being transmitted over the following months.

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Oh cut it out.

Boeing CEO Expects To Resume 737 MAX Production Before Mid-Year (R.)

Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. planemaker expects to resume 737 MAX production months before its forecasted mid-year return to service and said it did not plan to suspend or cut its dividend. The company announced a production halt in December, when the global grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX following two deadly crashes in five months looked set to last into mid-2020 — a timeline pushed back after Boeing endorsed new simulator training for pilots. Calhoun said the company is not considering scrapping the MAX and expects it will continue to fly for a generation.


“I am all in on it and the company is all in on it,” Calhoun said, adding Boeing will not launch a marketing campaign to get customers to get back on 737 MAX planes. The company said on Tuesday it now expects regulators to approve the plane’s return to service in the middle of the year. Calhoun said he did not see recent issues raised about wiring or software as “serious problems.” The production delay threatens to cut U.S. GDP by as much as 0.5 percentage points. President Donald Trump on Wednesday told CNBC Boeing is a “very disappointing company.” United Airlines said Wednesday it does not expect to fly the Boeing 737 MAX this summer.

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Subtitle: US Fracking Gushes Bankruptcies, Defaulted Debt, and Worthless Shares

The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)

Following the sharp re-drop in oil and natural gas prices in late 2018, bankruptcy filings in the US by already weakened exploration and production companies , oilfield services companies, and “midstream” companies (they gather, transport, process, or store oil and natural gas) jumped by 51% in 2019, to 65 filings, according to data compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone. This brought the total of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust since 2015 in these three sectors to 402 bankruptcy filings. The debt involved in these bankruptcies in 2019 doubled from 2018 to $35 billion. This pushed the total debt listed in these bankruptcy filings since 2015 to $207 billion. The chart below shows the cumulative total debt involved in these bankruptcies since 2015.

But this does not include the much larger losses suffered by shareholders that get mostly wiped out in the years before the bankruptcy as the shares descend into worthlessness, and that then may get finished off in bankruptcy court. The banks, which generally had the best collateral, took the smallest losses; bondholders took bigger losses, with unsecured bondholders taking the biggest losses. Some of them lost most of their investment; others got high-and-tight haircuts; others held debt that was converted to equity in the restructured companies, some of which soon became worthless again when the company filed for bankruptcy a second time. The old shareholders took the biggest losses.


The Great American Fracking Bust started in mid-2014, when the price of WTI dropped from over $100 a barrel to below $30 a barrel by early 2016. Then the price began to recover, going over $70 a barrel in September and October 2018. But then it began to re-plunge. By the end of 2018, WTI had dropped to $47 a barrel. [..]

And 2020 is starting out terrible for natural gas producers. The price of natural gas has plunged to $1.90 per million Btu at the moment, a dreadfully low price where no one can make any money. Producers in shale fields that produce mostly gas, such as the Marcellus, are in deeper trouble still, because oil, even at these prices, would be a lot better than just natural gas. Producing areas with constrained takeaway capacity (it takes a lot longer to build pipelines than to ramp up production) are subject to local prices, which can be lower still. In some areas, such as the Permian in Texas and New Mexico, the most prolific oil field in the US, where natural gas is a byproduct of oil production, limited takeaway capacity has caused local prices to collapse, and flaring to surge.

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Sent to WIkiLeaks yet?

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell’s personal emails have been hacked, and damaging information, including the names of individuals linked to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking case, are at risk of being publicly released. The revelation was made in a letter filed by the British socialite’s lawyers in the defamation case brought against her by Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Guiffre, DailyMail.com has learned. The letter was sent by Maxwell’s attorney, Ty Gee, on December 5 to New York federal court Judge Loretta A. Preska but made public last week. The letter addresses the materials that should remain sealed or redacted in the case. It notes ‘the difficulty and complexity’ of the process as there are more than 8,600 pages, adding that it is ‘difficult-to-overstate importance to the lives of Ms. Maxwell and the non-parties’.

Gee’s letter says that the project ‘could not be accomplished by scanning or speed-reading’ as each page had to be carefully analysed to redact, for example, ‘a surname or an email address’. He refers to details that were released in error in the 2,000 pages that were made public in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Those filings revealed allegations that Maxwell procured underage girls for Epstein. She has denied those charges. ‘Despite the Second Circuit’s best efforts, it made serious mistakes. For example, it redacted a non-party’s name in one location but not another; so the media immediately gained access to that name,’ Gee wrote.

‘As another example, it redacted Ms. Maxwell’s email address (which linked to her own domain name) in one location but not another; shortly afterward hackers breached the host computer.’ The hack may have implications for Prince Andrew after it was revealed in December that the Duke of York exchanged emails with Maxwell in 2015 about Giuffre. In that email, revealed on Panorama, Maxwell and the British royal discussed Giuffre – despite denials from Prince Andrew that he had never met the then-teenager and that a photo of them together was a fake. ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts,’ Prince Andrew wrote in an email to Maxwell. She replied: ‘Have some info – call me when you have a moment.’

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Make that 70.

TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has outlined plans for the decommissioning of its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, estimating that the process will take 44 years. Tepco presented the outline of decommissioning plans to the town assembly of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, one of the two host towns of the nuclear plant, on Wednesday. According to the outline, the decommissioning process will have four stages, taking 10 years for the first stage, 12 years for the second stage and 11 years each for the third and fourth stages.


Tepco will survey radioactive contamination at the nuclear plant in the first stage, clear equipment around nuclear reactors in the second, remove the reactors in the third and demolish the reactor buildings in the fourth. Meanwhile, the plant operator will transfer a total of 9,532 spent nuclear fuel units at the plant to a fuel reprocessing company by the end of the decommissioning process, and 544 unused fuel units to a processing firm by the start of the third stage.

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Like it behooves a major charity. When interviewing such a CEO, always ask what their salaries are.

Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)

The Australian Red Cross has admitted it may spend as much as $11 million processing the millions of dollars people from across the globe have donated to its bushfire appeal. However, in the face of public outcry, the charity has been forced to revise an earlier statement that suggested a large proportion of the $95 million raised could be quarantined for future natural disasters. The charity also pledged on Thursday to speed up the rate of its delivery of emergency funds to bushfire ravaged communities. “We’re now paying a million dollars a day and we’re keen to continue to speed that up, we know the assistance is needed now,” Red Cross’s director of emergencies, Noel Clement, told 7 NEWS.


Clement said the charity had already dispensed 700 grants of $10,000 each, totalling $7 million. He conceded however that of the revised total of $115 million donated so far – up from yesterday’s figure of $95 million – as much as $11 million could be spent on administration costs. Such a figure – roughly 10 per cent of total revenue raised – is generally considered to be the uppermost limit of acceptable administrative costs among large charitable organisations.

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1980s: 4.5 million. 2019: 29,000.

Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row, a count by an environmental group released Thursday showed. The count of the orange-and-black insects by the Xerces Society, a not-for-profit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey. That’s not much different than last year’s tally, when an all-time low 27,000 monarchs were counted. “We had hoped that the western monarch population would have rebounded at least modestly, but unfortunately it has not,” said Emma Pelton, a monarch conservation expert with the Xerces Society.


By comparison, about 4.5 million monarch butterflies wintered in forested groves along the California coast in the 1980s. Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western US due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases. Researchers also have noted the effect of climate change. Along with farming, climate change is one of the main drivers of the monarch’s threatened extinction, disrupting an annual 3,000-mile migration synced to springtime and the blossoming of wildflowers.


Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 222020
 


Jack Delano Repair and overhauling in Chicago & North Western Railroad locomotive shops, Chicago 1942

 

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)
Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)
Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)
Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)
Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)
Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)
Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)
You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)
General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)
US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)
People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

 

 

A pretty good description. of the virus. There are 11 million people living in Wuhan. Officials now suggest no-one should leave or enter the city. Cases in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, US.

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)

The coronavirus discovered in Wuhan may share the same bat-related ancestor as Sars, according to the latest study by Chinese scientists, which said the strain was weaker than the devastating 2002-03 Sars outbreak but was still “highly infectious”. The new virus shares a common ancestor with severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), in HKU9-1, a virus found in fruit bats, they found. The connection with wild animals was confirmed on Wednesday by Gao Fu, director general of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Gao, the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 400 people across the country and led to nine deaths, originated from wild animals sold at a seafood market in Wuhan.

Gao warned that a major challenge was that the new strain was adapting and mutating. The scientists’ findings, published on Tuesday, suggested that the danger posed by the pneumonia-like virus may have been underestimated by the research community, and came a day after the Chinese government’s announcement of emergency measures to contain its spread. A joint research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai estimated how the viral strain would interact with cells in the human respiratory system using computer simulation based on released data. “The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats … but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate,” the researchers said in a statement released with the paper.

Previously, most scientists believed the new virus could not cause an epidemic as serious as that of Sars because its genes were quite different. According to their calculations, the binding-free energy between the virus and the protein would be minus 50.6 kcal per mol, five times what was “usually considered significant”. “Although comparably weaker [than Sars], the Wuhan CoV S-protein is regarded to have strong binding affinity to human ACE2,” they wrote in a paper published on China Science Bulletin. What surprised the scientists most, however, was that the virus could maintain the strong binding ability despite its significant structural differences from Sars. Of the virus’ five amino acids that play important roles in the binding process, four are different from those of Sars.

Further examination of the virus’ structure showed that overall its binding protein had a high resemblance to that of Sars. The researchers also traced the evolution of the new virus in a government coronavirus database. On the evolutionary tree, the new virus belonged to Betacoronavirus, on a close but different branch to Sars. The two shared about 70 to 80 per cent of genes, less than the similarity between pigs and humans. Meanwhile, a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was not involved in the new study, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that the new strain was an RNA virus, meaning that its mutation speed was 100 times faster than that of a DNA virus such as smallpox. RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules are simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules.

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Always happy to see my view of Putin shared by others, and certainly when it’s Dmitry. Any major country on the planet could only wish they had Putin to lead it, and serve the best interests of its citizens. Of course we can’t get any real picture of this in the western press, who treat him as the bogey man, along with their governments.

Can you even imagine where the US would be if Putin had been its leader for the past 20 years? Try this stateside: “Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions

Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)

[..] we need to draw a distinction between Putin the man and the system of governance he has built over the past 20 years. There is always plenty to complain about, but overall it has been quite effective. During Putin’s period in power, Russia has solved the problems of separatism and domestic terrorism, reigned in the predatory oligarchy, paid off virtually all of its foreign debts including ones it inherited from the USSR, grew its economy by a factor of six (vs. China’s five and USA’s one), regained Crimea (which had been part of Russia since 1783), rebuilt its armed forces to a point where international security is no longer a major concern, and achieved an overall level of societal well-being that is unparalleled in all of Russian history.

The system of governance he has built has worked well with him as the head of government, but it will require some adjustments in order to work well under future presidents, who may not be equally gifted. Recognizing this fact, on Wednesday Putin has launched a limited overhaul of the Russian Constitution. In addition to an entire raft of minor tweaks that will limit the powers of the President and give more powers to the Parliament, to provide for better checks and balances and a more democratically responsive system, there are a few proposed changes that stand out.

[..] Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions. There are also proposed legislative changes to what’s called “maternal capital” to make having more than two children financially attractive. The demographic situation in Russia is not as dire as it was in the 1990s, and certainly a lot less dire than in Western Europe whose native populations are rapidly going extinct, but the fact remains that to achieve its stated goals Russia is going to need a lot more Russians. The Russian government has the money to spend on these initiatives, and getting the job done is largely a matter of lighting a fire under the federal and regional bureaucracies.

Spelling out the social guarantees right in the Constitution is a good way to make that happen. Putin proposed that the constitutional changes be voted for in a referendum. Beyond the procedural nicety and the legitimizing effect of this exercise, it is sure to stimulate a lot more public interest and civic participation, making it more likely that the ever foot-dragging Russian bureaucrats (in the more remote regions especially) will be prevailed upon to act swiftly to enact the changes.

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And this is just the beginning. God help us. More Adam Schiff show.

Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)

Democratic hopes that a moderate bloc of Senate Republicans would join their demand for witnesses and testimony at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were temporarily disappointed, if not dashed, as arguments on the first proper day of the trial extended past midnight into Wednesday morning. In seven consecutive votes split precisely along party lines, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals to subpoena testimony from four potential witnesses and documents from multiple government agencies. An eighth vote defeated a proposal to prevent the selective admission of evidence. “I know it’s late, but it doesn’t have to be late,” Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment “manager”, or prosecutor in the case, said as the proceedings entered their 12th hour. “We don’t control the schedule. There is a reason why we are still here at five minutes till midnight, and that’s because they don’t want the American people to see what’s going on here.”


Democrats fruitlessly called for testimony and documents from the former national security adviser John Bolton; the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s aide Robert Blair; the budget official Michael Duffey; the White House; the state department; the defense department; and the budget office relevant to an alleged scheme by Trump to twist the powers of the presidency to extract personal political favors from Ukraine. Each of the proposed subpoenas was defeated by a 53-47 vote. Democrats accused Republicans of failing to commit to a fair impeachment trial and of engaging in a “cover-up” of misconduct by the president. “The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” said Representative Val Demings of Florida, one of the impeachment managers .

https://twitter.com/i/status/1219661000556847107

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A bit sensational, but still you want to ask: Why?

Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)

A bombshell new report is derailing the Democrats’ momentum against President Trump on Day One of the Senate impeachment trial. The article — in the left-leaning Politico of all places — on Tuesday night alleges that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff appears to have “mischaracterized” evidence that was used in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation. But Republicans are ridiculing the report as an attempt to “soft-pedal” his actions, insisting that Schiff “fabricated evidence” in a naked attempt to “frame” Trump. Either way, the shocking late-night report has thrown the Democrats’ Senate plan into complete chaos.

The stunning report focuses on a letter that Schiff sent to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) last week that summarizes “a trove of evidence from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani,” Politico reported. “In one section of the letter, Schiff claims that Parnas ‘continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky,’ citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: ‘trying to get us mr Z.’ The remainder of the exchange — which was attached to Schiff’s letter — was redacted.”

Politico added, “But an unredacted version of the exchange shows that several days later, Parnas sent Giuliani a word document that appears to show notes from an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: ‘mr Z answers my brother.’ That suggests Parnas was referring to Zlochevsky not Zelensky.” Democrat officials did not dispute the suggestion that Schiff’s claim was false. [..] one senior GOP aide told Politico: “[..] given the selective redactions and contextual clues, it seems as though Chairman Schiff sought to deliberately portray an innocuous meeting with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky as an insidious one with the President of Ukraine simply because both of their surnames start with the letter Z.”

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As I said yesterday: “This week, Bernie is sexist. Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll find he’s racist too. If his numbers still don’t plummet then, he’ll be an anti-semitic Jew.”

Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)

Nothing the Clintons do is accidental. And so when the news broke less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses that in a forthcoming Hulu documentary, Hillary Clinton badmouths her 2016 rival Bernie Sanders as a “career politician” whom “nobody likes,” it didn’t just call attention to the ill feeling still lingering from that year’s bitter primary campaign. It also signaled that Clinton has thrown her weight behind the nascent “Stop Sanders” movement gaining steam among Democratic power brokers. The question now is whether Democratic voters will follow her lead — and whether Barack Obama himself might come out of semiretirement to join the cause. Asked by the Hollywood Reporter whether she would endorse and campaign for Sanders if he were to win the nomination, Clinton refused to commit. “I’m not going to go there yet,” she said.

Clinton immediately added, however, that her beef is “not only” with Sanders but with “the culture around him” — a culture she considers sexist. “It’s his leadership team,” Clinton said. “It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren].”

Then Clinton twisted the knife: “I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.” Clinton’s timing is conspicuous. Since the start of the 2016 primary, pundits and mainstream Democrats have refused to consider Sanders a serious threat for the nomination. That’s changed in recent weeks as Sanders has surged to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, cementing his status as the nearest competitor to frontrunner Joe Biden while also out-fundraising the entire field. Meanwhile, the headlines about Clinton’s remarks come on the heels of Sanders’s clash with Warren over the same subject: his (and his campaign’s) alleged sexism. In other words, this isn’t coming out of nowhere: Clinton is piggybacking on a fresh controversy at a pivotal moment.

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But of course. It must be perennial.

Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Unlike a typical trial, the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump won’t establish facts or put an end to investigations about the Ukraine scheme at the heart of this case. Given that new allegations and evidence continue to emerge, a new investigation will be necessary. Although we still don’t know exactly what the trial will look like, public statements by senators suggest that we won’t hear from many witnesses—and could hear from none at all. That’s exactly what Trump’s legal team is asking for, which comes as no surprise because lawyers rarely want to prolong trials if they think they’ve already got the jury on their side. As it stands now, there is little doubt that Republicans are prepared to vote against removing Trump from office—which is why Democrats want to shake things up with witnesses they haven’t had the opportunity to interview, like former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

But the fact that months of Congressional inquiry into Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine is almost certain to end in acquittal does not mean that Congress’s work is done. So much of the story of the Ukraine scheme at the heart of Trump’s impeachment still is not public that Congress is obligated to resume its inquiry regardless of the outcome in the Senate. There can be no serious question that Trump held up military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help him politically, but many details of the scheme are still not known. How little we know about the Ukraine scheme headlined by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was underscored by public interviews given last week by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who currently faces a federal indictment in the Southern District of New York.

Parnas made sweeping claims, such as his assertion that Trump was “aware of all of my movements” and that Attorney General Bill Barr was “basically on the team.” These are provocative and damning assertions. But how exactly does Parnas claim to know all of this? [..] Parnas presented evidence that former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance. The American people—and Yovanovitch—deserve to know whether that allegation is true and exactly why Trump’s associates were surveilling our own ambassador. After all, it is possible this scheme constituted a federal crime, such as a conspiracy to threaten or assault a federal official.

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We knew that already. But Biden is sending around a memo denying it.

Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)

The Ukrainian prosecutor who Joe Biden pushed to oust had six cases against Burisma but they fizzled out after he left, a new documentary shows challenging the narrative by the former vice president that the media failed to check. When Joe Biden lobbied Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to replace Viktor Shokin with Yuriy Lutsenko in 2015, his entourage claimed that Shokin had failed to thoroughly investigate corruption, and by pushing for his replacement “saint” Biden even acted against his family’s interests. But the second episode of the documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts’ produced by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, shows information that undermines this narrative.

The American media reported that Shokin’s case against Ukrainian energy company Burisma had gone “dormant,” and that by pressing for Lutsenko’s appointment, Biden was quashing corruption, even if that meant subjecting his own son to investigation in the process. Hunter Biden was on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019. However, documents collected by Berruyer show that Shokin’s Burisma probe was far from “dormant.” Shokin himself even told ABC News that his office had six investigations into Burisma open at the time of his resignation. Lutsenko, he said, “stopped all those cases.”

ABC didn’t air this part of the interview, and the American media – including the Washington Post and the New York Times – continue to label Shokin’s investigation “dormant,” despite a number of publicly available documents showing otherwise and presented in the documentary.

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John Solomon is back.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.

Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal. Here are the facts, with links to public evidence, so you can decide for yourself.

Fact: Joe Biden admitted to forcing Shokin’s firing in March 2016.

Fact: Shokin’s prosecutors were actively investigating Burisma when he was fired.

Fact: Burisma’s lawyers in 2016 were pressing U.S. and Ukrainian authorities to end the corruption investigations.

Fact: There is substantial evidence Joe Biden and his office knew about the Burisma probe and his son’s role as a board member.

Fact: Federal Ethics rules requires government officials to avoid taking policy actions affecting close relatives.

Fact: Multiple State Department officials testified the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Fact: Hunter Biden acknowleged he may have gotten his Burisma job solely because of his last name.

Fact: Ukraine law enforcement reopened the Burisma investigation in early 2019, well before President Trump mentioned the matter to Ukraine’s new president Vlodymyr Zelensky.

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Accused of “..hacking the cellphones of Brazilian prosecutors and public officials..”

Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)

Prosecutors in Brazil charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes on Tuesday for his role in spreading embarrassing text messages that exposed corruption within the Brazilian judicial system, according to the New York Times. In a 91-page criminal complaint made public on Tuesday, Greenwald is accused of participating in a “criminal organization” that spread text messages which called into question the “integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures.” Greenwald – who moved to Brazil in 2005 with his husband David Miranda – now a congressman, went beyond simply receiving the texts and publishing newsworthy information according to prosecutors.

“Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks. Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app”. -New York Times. Greenwald – an attorney, rose to international prominence in 2013 for his role in the release of classified documents revealing America’s extensive NSA surveillance apparatus, after National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to Greenwald, who worked for The Guardian at the time.

In 2016, Greenwald launched The Intercept Brasil, which began publishing articles based on the leaked text exchanges last June. “The articles raised questions about the integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures. Among the revelations in the articles, for instance, were chats in which Sérgio Moro, a former federal judge who handled the prosecution of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2017, provided strategic guidance to prosecutors, in violation of legal and ethical norms. Mr. Moro is now Brazil’s justice minister. -New York Times.

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Someone lend them the $10 billion.

Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)

The Boeing 737 Max is officially on hold. The assembly line in Renton, Washington, has stopped building Boeing’s bestselling plane, the company confirmed late Monday. Boeing announced plans to temporarily halt production for an undetermined period in December, but it had not previously announced a precise day for the shutdown. Boeing will not furlough or lay off workers because of the shutdown, but pain will ripple through its supply chain and could hurt America’s economic growth. The shutdown will make restarting production and recovering from the crisis more difficult for Boeing once it finally gets permission for the plane to fly again. The 737 Max has been grounded since March..

Although Boeing couldn’t deliver the 737 Max planes to customers, the company continued to build the jets, albeit at a slightly reduced pace of 42 a month. It now has about 400 completed jets parked in Washington and Texas, waiting to be delivered to airlines around the world. But Boeing doesn’t get most of its money from the sale of the jets until they are delivered, and it could not indefinitely continue to incur the costs of building them without being able to deliver them. The company hoped that the plane would fly again before the end of 2019. But in December Stephen Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, announced approval would not come until some time in 2020. Shutdown plans were announced a week later.

Boeing would not release a headcount for people who had been working on the plane. The company said the employees will be reassigned to other duties during the shutdown, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, under federal labor law, Boeing would have to pay them for 60 days following a layoff notice. Since Boeing is still hoping to resume work on the plane soon, it probably would have limited cost savings to go through the process of laying off the workers. And with unemployment in the Seattle metropolitan area at 2.9% – lower than the national unemployment rate that’s at a 50-year low – Boeing can’t risk losing the workers it needs once production resumes.

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All pilots in the US must now do simulator training. The exact issue that made Boeing screw around with the plane to make it appear like it was the same as with the much smaller engine, so no training was needed. Very dumb. When this thing started, there were lerss than a handful simulators available. Have they built a lot more since? I’d like to know. These things don’t come cheap.

You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)

No one knows when the Boeing 737 Max will return to service. But it won’t be any time soon. Boeing eagerly awaits the US FAA’s approval to allow the grounded plane to fly again. But the FAA refuses to provide a specific timeframe, saying only that it will make a decision sometime this year. “We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators to review the proposed changes to the aircraft,” said the FAA’s most recent statement on the plane, issued on January 9. “Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed.” The plane has been grounded since March. Boeing had initially hoped a fix for the safety system, known as MCAS, could be approved in a matter of weeks after the second crash.

But it has missed target date after target date for completion of the process. Aerospace analysts believe regulatory approval could come in the spring. Cai von Rumohr of Cowen now forecasts March. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says he’s thinking April or perhaps May. But they both say that is only their best guess at this point. [..] It’s also unclear whether aviation regulators around the world will follow the FAA’s lead and approve the plane to fly when it is cleared to fly in the United States. More than 80% of the planes are in foreign countries. One of the reasons the FAA has emphasized its work with other regulators is the agency hopes they will quickly follow its lead. But the process of getting that consensus is also causing delays, according to industry experts.

After the 737 Max is approved to return to service, it will be at least weeks, if not months, before any of them are carrying paying passengers once again. Boeing and the FAA have agreed that as part of the return to service 737 Max pilots will first complete simulator training. Pilots were previously permitted to fly the 737 Max without learning the specifics of the aircraft on a simulator. The new trainings won’t start until the certification process is complete. That will slow the time it will take to have the teams of pilots necessary to handle the flights. [..] Southwest and American Airlines have both announced they have canceled flights until early June, at the start of the summer travel season.

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The EU has done it. It’s turned the Greeks against immigrants.

General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)

The Greek government is under growing strain over immigration amid ongoing protests against plans to create at least 10 closed pre-departure centers across the country coupled with a delay in the disbursement of European Union funds for that purpose. Meanwhile tension at existing hotspots is brewing. A 17-year-old Afghan girl was hospitalized in serious condition on Monday after being stabbed by a 20-year-old fellow Afghan at Lesvos’ Moria camp. The attacker was arrested. On Sunday, newly installed Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis was heckled by locals during visits to Lesvos and Samos.

During his trip, Mitarakis stressed that reducing immigration flows is a top priority of the government. However, a general strike is planned on the Aegean islands on Wednesday in response to its perceived failure to do so. Meanwhile, a survey by the diaNEOsis nonprofit think tank shows that most Greeks believe migrants and refugees have a negative impact on the country. The survey found that 85.2 percent of respondents said that the number of immigrants in Greece is “very or too high.” Just 12.1 percent said that the number is “normal.” At the same time, 79 percent disagreed with the statement that migrants are a solution to the country’s demographic problem.

Meanwhile, 56 percent said they believe that migrants have a negative impact on the economy, while 58 percent said that their presence is a “threat to our national identity.” However, 30 percent recognized the cultural enrichment brought by migrants. Asked about crime, 53 percent said they believe that migrants are responsible for soaring crime rates while 44 percent said that Greeks and non-Greeks were as likely to engage in criminal behavior.

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Oh well, overpopulation and things…

US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)

The contamination of U.S. drinking water with man-made “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, said a report on Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group. The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems. The findings here by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.

“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks. Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700 foot (215 m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.

In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals,” Andrews said. In 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS, contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies. The EPA has known since at least 2001 about the problem of PFAS in drinking water but has so far failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit. The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.

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Stop drinking the poison.

People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

Coca-Cola will not ditch single-use plastic bottles because consumers still want them, the firm’s head of sustainability has told the BBC. Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight, said Bea Perez. The firm, which is one of the biggest producers of plastic waste, has pledged to recycle as many plastic bottles as it uses by 2030. But environmental campaigners argue many Coke bottles would still go uncollected and end up in landfill. The drinks giant produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute. In 2019, it was found to be the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste by the charity Break Free from Plastic.


But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ms Perez said the firm recognised it now had to be “part of the solution”. Coke has pledged to use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030. It is also partnering with NGOs around the world to help improve collection. However, Ms Perez said the firm could not ditch plastic outright, as some campaigners wanted, saying this could alienate customers and hit sales. She also said using only aluminium and glass packaging could push up the firm’s carbon footprint. “Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers,” she said. “So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us.”

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I know, it’s corny

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Dec 302019
 
 December 30, 2019  Posted by at 10:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Salvation Army, San Francisco, California. Unemployed young men 1939

 

Firms Must Justify Investment In Fossil Fuels, Warns Mark Carney (G.)
Bank of England Chief Mark Carney Issues Climate Change Warning (BBC)
Security Experts Rip Into OPCW’s ‘Douma Chemical Attack’ Probe (RT)
Pension Funds With $680 Billion Finally Find Their Missing Link (BBG)
Bank of America: Trend For 2020s Will be the “End of Globalization” (PJW)
Britons Paying 40% More For Energy Than In 2015 (G.)
Spain Pulled Into Diplomatic Spat Between Bolivia, Mexico (AP)
Schiff Goes for Total Coup, Now Targeting Pence (WJ)
Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama (Zuesse)
Vladimir Putin Thanks Donald Trump For Tip That Foiled Terror Plot (G.)
After US Strike On Iraqi Forces Its Troops Will -Again- Have To Leave (MoA)

 

 

I must have missed that Carney was named UN special envoy for climate change and finance. Hilarious. Just over 3 years ago, I wrote about his delusional ideas in Heal the Planet for Profit , after Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg published How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change.

Billionaires and their lackeys will not solve climate change. Which is why Carney should not have a UN role, just like Great Thunberg should never have gone to Davos, or get involved with COP25. It’s simply not where things happen. By falling into these traps, she’s failing her own ideals, and those of her followers.

Firms Must Justify Investment In Fossil Fuels, Warns Mark Carney (G.)

The outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said all companies and financial institutions must justify their continued investment in fossil fuels, and warned that assets in the sector could end up “worthless”. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme being broadcast on Monday, Carney said that although the financial sector was starting to cut back on investment in oil and gas companies, the process was not moving quickly enough. Carney, who will focus on his new role as UN special envoy for climate change and finance after he steps down from the governorship in the new year, agreed to appear on the programme for an edition edited by the climate crisis campaigner Greta Thunberg, one of several guest editors on Today over the holiday period.

Carney has been one of the most vocal central bank governors on the need for the financial sector to do more to transition towards a zero-carbon economy. He told the programme that the climate crisis was a “tragedy on the horizon” and that more extreme weather events were inevitable. “By the time that the extreme events become so prevalent and so obvious, it will be too late to do anything about it,” he said. Political leaders had to “start addressing future problems today” On the issue of whether investors should be divesting from companies in the fossil fuel sector, Carney said fund managers would “have to make the judgment and justify to the people whose money it ultimately is”.

When pressed on whether pension funds should divest from oil and gas companies even if the returns were attractive, he replied: “Well that hasn’t been the case but they could make that argument. They need to make the argument, to be clear about why is that going to be the case if a substantial proportion of those assets are going to be worthless.” He warned: “If we were to burn all those oil and gases, there’s no way we would meet carbon budgets. Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, [and] up to half of developed oil reserves. A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer: what’s your plan?

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Carney’s next move will be a $50 trillion fund paid for by taxpayers that will buy turbines and solar from trillion-dollar multinationals.

Bank of England Chief Mark Carney Issues Climate Change Warning (BBC)

The world will face irreversible heating unless firms shift their priorities soon, the outgoing head of the Bank of England has told the BBC. Mark Carney said the financial sector had begun to curb investment in fossil fuels – but far too slowly. He said leading pension fund analysis “is that if you add up the policies of all of companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8C”. Mr Carney made the comments in a pre-recorded BBC Radio 4 Today interview. He added that the rise of almost 4C was “far above the 1.5 degrees that the people say they want and governments are demanding”. Scientists say the risks associated with an increase of 4C include a nine metre rise in sea levels – affecting up to 760 million people – searing heatwaves and droughts, and serious food supply problems.

Mr Carney, who will next year start his new role as United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance, continued: “The concern is whether we will spend another decade doing worthy things but not enough… and we will blow through the 1.5C mark very quickly. As a consequence, the climate will stabilise at the much higher level.” Speaking to the Today programme, he re-iterated his warning that unless firms woke up to what he called the climate crisis, many of their assets would become worthless. “If we were to burn all those oil and gas [reserves], there’s no way we would meet carbon budget,” he said. “Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, [and] up to half of developed oil reserves.

[..] Climate campaigners Extinction Rebellion question whether the capitalist system can halt climate change. Mr Carney said capitalism had a vital role in raising funding for clean technologies. But he added that it had to be tempered by government-imposed incentives, rules and prohibitions of the most damaging activities. Climate change was what he called a “tragedy of the horizon”, because the decision-making time horizon of investment managers is between two and 10 years. “In those horizons there will be more extreme weather events, but by the time that the extreme events become so prevalent and so obvious it’s too late to do anything about it,” he said.

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How far we’ve fallen: OPCW, White Helmets and Bellingcat have all been fully discredited by now (Douma, Skripal, MH17), but the former “all the news that’s fit to print” media completely ignore this. And so we’ll keep hearing more from them.

Security Experts Rip Into OPCW’s ‘Douma Chemical Attack’ Probe (RT)

Documents published by WikiLeaks that suggest a cover-up of inconvenient facts about the Douma, Syria chemical attack investigation raise serious questions about the OPCW, security experts, scholars and diplomats tell RT. The US, UK and France launched missile strikes against Syria in April 2018, after ‘White Helmets’ and jihadist rebels accused the government of a chemical attack in the town of Douma. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons eventually published a report saying its investigators may have found traces of chlorine, which was trumpeted as proof of the accusations in mainstream Western media. Emails published by WikiLeaks on Friday, however, show that a senior OPCW official ordered to “remove all traces” of the engineering assessment questioning the report’s conclusions.

Moreover, the observations by toxicologists who ruled out exposure to chlorine or any other chemical weapon could have caused the symptoms shown on White Helmets videos were likewise buried. “It’s difficult to look at that email exchange without thinking at least there’s a whiff of a coverup,” security analyst Charles Shoebridge told RT, adding that the documents show the OPCW has been “subverted and led astray.” While the experts seem to have done their job honorably and properly, it looks like the OPCW officials twisted and manipulated their work to fit the pre-ordained narrative, on behalf of the countries that carried out the strikes, and have been backing the militants in Syria against the government in Damascus.

The OPCW “right now looks awful,” Max Abrahms, a scholar at the Quincy Institute, told RT. “They have a lot of explaining to do.” US officials seem to have pressured the OPCW to find the Syrian military responsible for the alleged chemical attack “regardless of what the actual scientists on the ground discovered,” according to Abrahms. It is notable that the US, UK and France launched their missile strikes before the OPCW investigators even reached Douma. The final report, published in March 2019, provided an after-the-fact rationalization for the attack. The bigger problem, Machon points out, is that the OPCW suppressing evidence means that the chemical weapons watchdog is no longer credible. If they can’t be trusted about Douma, why should they be trusted about, say, the use of “novichok” in Salisbury just weeks before that incident?

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Oh sure, pension funds will be rescued by a 30-year bond. Everybody rich!

Pension Funds With $680 Billion Finally Find Their Missing Link (BBG)

In Denmark, where institutional investors have been living with negative interest rates longer than anyone else, the authorities just took a big step. Danish pension funds, the world’s best managed along with their Dutch peers, will finally get a 30-year government bond. When it starts trading next year, funds managing a total of $680 billion in assets will get the missing link they’ve long needed: a long-term, AAA-rated asset at a positive yield. That’s quite a novelty these days. The new bond will give the industry a “crucial point on the curve,” said Christian Lage, chief executive officer of PFA Asset Management, which is a unit inside Denmark’s biggest commercial pension fund in Copenhagen. “We’re following it closely,” he said in an interview.

“Not only with regards to what extent we want to invest in it, but also how it’s being priced. It has an impact on a lot of different things when we price long-term exposures.” Denmark’s central bank first cut its benchmark rate below zero in mid-2012. Almost eight years later, the county has had negative rates longer than any other place on Earth. The distortions wrought by a policy intended to keep the krone fixed to the euro are particularly pronounced in the pension industry. The art of generating long-term, stable returns so Danes can retire comfortably has become increasingly difficult. Pretty much everything safe generates a negative yield. Assets that generate positive yields tend to come with a good deal more risk.

The Danish debt office, which is a unit inside the central bank, hasn’t issued a 30-year bond since 2008. That’s forced pension funds to extrapolate a key anchor point in the interest rate curve that helps them determine the value of both assets and liabilities. Not having a real number at the 30-year point was problematic. The calculations used could muddy price-setting, particularly given the uncertainty of how and when central banks might extricate themselves from negative rates. Lage says that “what is a bit hard for the industry is that, if the interest rate curve – the govvie curve – ends at a 20-year point, what is the fair price for a 30-year asset?”

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There’s a lot more profit in selling arms to dozens of different countries than there is in selling them to alliances.

Bank of America: Trend For 2020s Will be the “End of Globalization” (PJW)

Bank of America says that one of the dominant trends for the 2020s will be the “end of globalization” as countries increasingly realize that the phenomenon has brought unsustainable “social disruption.” In a report mapping out what to expect over the next decade, BofA analysts said that largely unchecked globalization, which ran roughly from 1981-2016, “is coming to an end.” This change will take place due to “the widespread recognition that while globalization has meant lower consumer prices, it has also meant slower growth, precarious employment and social disruption.” This massive shift will make commodities like precious metals and real estate safer investment because governments will move to impose protectionist economic policies.


“Countries will develop explicit national industrial policies and boost spending on R&D to foster local innovation, protect nascent industries, and shield national champions from hostile foreign takeovers,” the analysts said. The transhumanist pursuit of “immortality” will also come to the fore in the next decade, as will a new tech arms race between the U.S. and China, dubbed the “Splinternet.” China will eventually win the race, allowing Beijing “to reach national superiority in technology over the long term vis-a-vis Quantum Computing, Big Data, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Electric Vehicles, Robotics, and Cybersecurity.” “Ubiquitous connectivity” will also change the fabric of society, according to the report, with the ‘Internet of things’ embedded into virtually every new physical product, a development that critics argue will create an omnipresent Minority Report-style mass surveillance grid.

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And then voted for the people who made it possible.

Britons Paying 40% More For Energy Than In 2015 (G.)

Energy bills have risen by 40% in five years, taking average UK household costs up to a record of £2,707 a year, research has revealed. Comparethemarket’s study examined the costs of energy, home and motor insurance since 2015, and found that gas and electricity price increases were largely responsible for this year’s changes. The analysis says financial pressures have worsened despite the energy price cap introduced at the beginning of 2019. Dual fuel bills now cost an average of £1,813 a year, a 40% hike from £1,289 in 2015. The cap has led to many providers, particularly the big six – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – raising their prices.


The annual report did not examine the costs of broadband, mobile or TV services, which also involve heavy outlays. Simon McCulloch of comparethemarket.com said: “A lot of attention during the general election was devoted to financial difficulties that many people face around the UK. “These statistics are a stark reminder of not only the high cost of essential services, but of the huge increases that have been seen in the past few years. The average cost of energy, motor and home insurance is now £675 higher than 2015 – far above the rate of inflation.”

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Bolivia shares quite a few similarities with Ukraine.

Spain Pulled Into Diplomatic Spat Between Bolivia, Mexico (AP)

A tense diplomatic feud between Bolivia’s conservative interim government and Mexico expanded to include Spain on Friday when a confrontation broke out as Spanish diplomats visited the Mexican ambassador’s residence in La Paz, where members of the ousted leftist government have taken refuge. Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric complained that Spanish diplomats were accompanied by masked and armed men on a visit to the residence, calling that an abuse of Bolivia’s sovereignty. She said a protest would be lodged with the EU, UN and Organization of American States. Television stations broadcast images of a masked person getting out of a Spanish diplomatic vehicle and exchanging words with local police.

Civilians then approached and began attacking the car, shouting that there could be an attempt to free nine officials sheltered inside. The interim government already has been feuding with Mexico, which not only gave refuge to the nine, but also sheltered ousted leader Evo Morales when he resigned the presidency on Nov. 10 after losing the support of the military and police following days of turbulent protests over alleged fraud in his reelection bid. Bolivian officials accuse several of those inside the embassy of electoral fraud as well as sedition and terrorism for their alleged role in protests that followed Morales’ ouster.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said the incident came as police intercepted Spanish embassy vehicles that were returning to the Mexican mission to pick up the ranking Spanish diplomat, who had made a “courtesy visit” to the Mexican ambassador. It said a Mexican diplomat in the car was also briefly detained but was allowed to pass after showing identification. Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said later it would investigate the incident. Spanish diplomats in their own country are sometime accompanied by bodyguards wearing masks to protect their identities as a security measure, though it wasn’t immediately clear if that was the case here.

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They guy’s a broken record: “..overwhelming and damning evidence..”

Schiff Goes for Total Coup, Now Targeting Pence (WJ)

It’s beginning to look like Rep. Adam Schiff isn’t content with simply ousting the president, instead hinting that he’s going for a total sweep of the White House by involving the vice president as well. The move would seemingly put his ally and fellow California Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in charge of the United States. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee hinted at the bombshell turn in a Dec. 18 talk with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Maddow asked Schiff about his continuing role in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. “You seem to still be pulling on some threads here, including some potentially provocative and consequential ones,” she said. “I’m thinking specifically about a letter that you sent to the vice president’s office this week in which you raise questions as to what the vice president knew about the president’s behavior, the president’s scheme in Ukraine, and thereby essentially his potential involvement in any coverup of that behavior by the president.


“Are you actively looking at Vice President Mike Pence and his role in this scandal, and should we expect further revelations either related to the vice president or related to the other core parts of these allegations that have resulted in this impeachment tonight?” Schiff, in his usual habit of claiming to have overwhelming and damning evidence against his political enemies, said he now has something on Vice President Mike Pence. “We have acquired a piece of evidence,” he said, “a classified submission by [Pence aide] Jennifer Williams, something that she alluded to in her open testimony that, in going back and looking through her records, she found other information that was pertinent to that phone call that we had asked her about and made that submission. … “That submission does shed light on the vice president’s knowledge.”

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A DNC investigation would seem timely.

Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama (Zuesse)

Comey would be expected to have been highly motivated to oppose Mr. Trump, because Trump publicly questioned whether NATO (the main international selling-arm for America’s ‘defense’-contractors) should continue to exist, and also because Comey’s entire career had been in the service of America’s Military-Industrial Complex, which is the reason why Comey’s main lifetime income has been the tens of millions of dollars he has received via the revolving door between his serving the federal Government and his serving firms such as Lockheed Martin. For these people, restoring, and intensifying, and keeping up, the Cold War, is a very profitable business. It’s called by some “the Military-Industrial Complex,” and by others “the Deep State,” but by any name it is simply agents of the billionaires who own and control US-based international corporations, such as General Dynamics and Chevron.

As a governmental official, making decisions that are in the long-term interests of those investors is the likeliest way to become wealthy. Consequently, Comey would have been benefitting himself, and other high officials of the Obama Administration, by sabotaging Trump’s campaign, and by weakening Trump’s Presidency in the event that he would become elected. Plus, of course, Comey would have been benefitting Obama himself. Not only was Trump constantly condemning Obama, but Obama had appointed to lead the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 Presidential primaries, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who as early as 20 February 2007 had endorsed Hillary Clinton for President in the Democratic Party primaries, so that Shultz was one of the earliest supporters of Clinton against even Obama himself.

In other words, Obama had appointed Shultz in order to increase the odds that Clinton — not Sanders— would become the nominee in 2016 to continue on and protect his own Presidential legacy. Furthermore, on 28 July 2016, Schultz became forced to resign from her leadership of the DNC after WikiLeaks released emails indicating that Schultz and other members of the DNC staff had exercised bias against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primaries — which favoritism had been the reason why Obama had appointed Shultz to that post to begin with.

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Five Alarm! He’s talking to his puppet master! Also, what are the odds the CIA has supported these planned terror attacks?

Vladimir Putin Thanks Donald Trump For Tip That Foiled Terror Plot (G.)

Russia said it had thwarted terror attacks reportedly planned in St Petersburg as the result of a tip from Washington, as President Vladimir Putin personally thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump. Russian news agencies cited the Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying that as a result of the information, two Russians had been detained on 27 December on suspicion of plotting attacks during new year festivities in St Petersburg. The Kremlin said Putin passed on his gratitude to Trump for the tip from US special services during a phone call on Sunday. It gave no further details.


Diplomatic ties between Washington and Moscow are fraught over disagreements concerning Ukraine and Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election, but Trump and Putin have kept personal lines of communication open. Two years ago, the Russian leader phoned Trump to thank him for a tip that Russia said had helped prevent a bomb attack on a cathedral in St Petersburg. Russia has repeatedly been the target of attacks by militant groups including Isis. The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Trump had agreed to continue bilateral cooperation to tackle terrorism.

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How Washington celebrates New Year’s.

After US Strike On Iraqi Forces Its Troops Will -Again- Have To Leave (MoA)

Within Syria @WithinSyriaBlog – 17:43 UTC · Dec 29, 2019: “Trump just made the mistake of his presidency.” That may be true or may be not true. Here is what happened. On Friday a volley of some 30 107mm Katyusha rockets hit the K1 base which houses Iraqi and U.S. troops near Kirkuk, Iraq. One U.S. mercenary/contractor died, two Iraqi and four U.S. soldiers were wounded. Instead of finding the real culprits – ISIS remnants, disgruntled locals, Kurds who want to regain control over Kirkuk – the U.S. decided that Kata’ib Hizbullah was the group guilty of the attack.

Kata’ib Hizbullah is a mostly Shia group with some relations to Iran. It is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) which were founded and trained by Iran to stop and defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) when it occupied nearly a third of Iraq and Syria. KH is like all PMU units now under command and control of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. To take revenge for the death of one of its mercenaries the U.S. air force attacked five camps where Kata’ib Hizbullah and other Iraqi forces were stationed:

“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces. The five targets include three KH locations in Iraq and two in Syria. These locations included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that KH uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces.” All of the KH positions that were hit were in the western Anbar desert on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border where KH is engaged in fighting the still active ISIS. The results of the air strikes were devastating:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 6:20 UTC · Dec 30, 2019: “32 killed and 45 wounded the count of #US violent aggression on #Iraq security forces brigades 45 and 46 last night on a military position established to counter-attack and raid #ISIS remnant at al-Qaem, the borders between Iraq and Syria.” The al-Qaem border station is the only open one between Iraq and Syria which is not under U.S. control. The U.S. was furious when the Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi allowed it to be established. It was previously attacked by Israel which had launched its assault from a U.S. air force base in east Syria.

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Branch manager and assistant branch manager

 

 

 

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