May 132019
 


James Ensor Demons tormenting me 1888

 

Sweden Reopens Rape Case Against Julian Assange (G.)
Ecuador To Give US All Documents & Devices Assange Left In London Embassy (RT)
Chelsea Manning Again Won’t Testify On WikiLeaks, Risking Return To Jail (AFP)
State Department Under Pressure Over Christopher Steele Contacts (DC)
Russiagate Is Eating America’s National Security (Stephen Cohen)
Schiff: Biden Ukraine Scandal Should Be Off Limits (ZH)
China ‘Won’t Swallow Bitter Fruit’ In US Trade War (R.)
Uber, the Worst Performing IPO in US Stock Market History (GizM)
Pakistan Agrees Another Multi-Billion IMF Bailout (R.)
Saudi Ship Blocked From Loading Arms In France Arrives At Spanish Port (R.)
Starving Gray Whales Wash Up Dead In Large Numbers From Mexico To Alaska (SFC)
Why Rapid Extinction Of Plant, Animal Species Matters (TO)

 

 

There never was a rape case vs Assange. So it cannot be reopened. There were never any charges at all. They refused to talk to Assange for 6 years. The British told them not to close the acse. It is obvious what the intention is: get him to Sweden which will extradite him to the US. Who cares about laws?

Read Assange’s November 2016 statement to Swedish prosecutors , six months before Sweden closed the “preliminary investigation”, in May 2017.

Sweden Reopens Rape Case Against Julian Assange (G.)

Swedish prosecutors have announced they are reopening an investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange. Prosecutors dropped the investigation in 2017 because they were unable to proceed while Assange remained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. They said at the time that the investigation could be reopened if the situation changed. Assange, 47, was removed from the embassy last month after seven years inside, after the Ecuadorian government abruptly withdrew his asylum. He was arrested for breach of bail. A lawyer for one of the women involved in the Swedish allegations subsequently asked for the investigation to be resumed. Assange had also faced investigation for a second sex-related allegation, which was dropped in 2015 because time had run out. He denied both allegations.

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Nobody cares about any law anymore. That is our new world order.

Ecuador To Give US All Documents & Devices Assange Left In London Embassy (RT)

Ecuador’s Attorney General has informed a Julian Assange lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder’s files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search at the London embassy and sent to the US. After an unsuccessful attempt by WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson to retrieve Assange’s personal belongings from Ecuador’s UK embassy, where Assange had been holed up for almost 7 years before his arrest and incarceration last month, the Ecuadorian government reportedly greenlighted the US request to provide it access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April, 11.

The searches inside the embassy quarters formerly occupied by Assange are set to be conducted by police on May 20, El Pais reported, citing a notice sent to Assange’s Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda. Assange’s personal files, his computer, mobile phones, memory sticks, CDs and any other electronic devices uncovered during the searches will then be seized and sent to the US as a part of Ecuador’s response to the Department of Justice’s judicial request. The US is currently building a case to extradite on hacking charges. The files contain troves of sensitive information, include Assange’s communication with his lawyers and other legal documents – which, the lawyers argue, deprive him of the right to proper defense.


Having this data will potentially allow the US to “build and create new charges” to extradite Assange in violation of Ecuador’s own asylum policies. The news of the looming handover came as a bolt out of the blue for Assange’s defense team, Poveda told RT Spanish, adding that it’s impossible to be sure his things in the embassy haven’t been tampered with already. “Since Mr. Assange left the embassy, we cannot know for sure what has been happening inside these rooms.” The lawyers have requested CCTV records for the period since Assange’s arrest, Poveda said.

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Brian Stelter appears halfway normal. Chelsea appears very brave and very bright.

Chelsea Manning Again Won’t Testify On WikiLeaks, Risking Return To Jail (AFP)

Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning said Sunday she again plans to refuse to testify before a grand jury about her leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks – even if it means returning to jail. Manning, who served seven years in prison over her transfer of secret diplomatic and military documents, recently spent another two months in lock-up for contempt of court after refusing to answer the grand jury’s questions. Federal prosecutors have for years been investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and they apparently want Manning to testify about her dealings with him.


Her release last week came on a technicality – that grand jury’s term was expiring. But a new grand jury has been convened and called on her to appear this week. “They’ve already stipulated they want to ask the same questions,” Manning told CNN. “I am going to refuse,” she added. “I have nothing new to provide.” Manning admitted that while she and her legal team do not know if she will be jailed again, she believes she has a “much stronger case in terms of the legal objections.” “We’re certainly going to raise every single legal challenge that we have,” said Manning…

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And who TF pops up in this? Victoria Nuland. Always there where the stench is worst.

State Department Under Pressure Over Christopher Steele Contacts (DC)

The State Department has largely avoided scrutiny from GOP-led investigations of the Steele dossier, but that changed this week with the release of notes that a State Department official took during an October 2016 meeting with dossier author Christopher Steele. In letters this week to Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina pressed Pompeo for details about the Oct. 11, 2016 meeting, which was held at Foggy Bottom between Steele and Kathleen Kavalec, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Steele, a former British spy, was investigating President Donald Trump and his campaign on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC.

Kavalec’s notes from the meeting, which were released this week, show that Steele told her about contacts he had with the media, including The New York Times and Washington Post. They also showed that Steele said that his client for his anti-Trump research campaign (which he did not identify at the time) was “keen” to see information on Trump released prior to the Nov. 8, 2016 election. Steele also made dubious or inaccurate claims to Kavalec, including that Russia had planted a mole within the DNC and that the Russian government had a consulate in Miami. The trio of Republicans say that the notes contradict some of the claims that the FBI made in applications for surveillance warrants against Carter Page, the former Trump campaign adviser.

The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s unverified dossier to obtain the spy warrants. In a letter sent to Pompeo on Thursday, Grassley and Johnson, who chair the Senate Banking and Senate Homeland Security Committees, respectively, asserted that any contacts that Steele had with the media would contradict what the FBI claimed the Carter Page warrants. “If true, that would contradict the Carter Page FISA application where the FBI repeatedly represented to the court that Steele did not have unauthorized contacts with the press prior to October 2016,” they wrote. “Based on the publicly-released version of the typed notes of the meeting, it appears Steele’s intent of the meeting with the State Department was to maximize the impact of the unverified information that he had acquired in an effort to undermine the Trump campaign,” they added.

[..] In a letter sent Friday to Pompeo, Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sought communications between Steele and State Department employees, as well as between State employees and the Justice Department regarding Steele. He is also asking Pompeo to make Kavalec available for a transcribed interview. Victoria Nuland, who served as Kavalec’s boss at the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, was the government official who approved an FBI agent in Rome meeting Steele in early July 2016.

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It’s been doing that for 3 years now.

Russiagate Is Eating America’s National Security (Stephen Cohen)

Now in its third year, Russiagate is the worst, most corrosive, and most fraudulent political scandal in modern American history. It rests on two related core allegations: that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “attack on American democracy” during the 2016 presidential campaign in order to put Donald Trump in the White House, and that Trump and his associates willfully colluded, or conspired, in this Kremlin “attack.” As I have argued from the outset—see my regular commentaries posted at TheNation.com and my recent book War With Russia?—and as recently confirmed, explicitly and tacitly, by special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report, there is no factual evidence for either allegation.

Nonetheless, these Russiagate allegations, not “Putin’s Russia,” continue to inflict grave damage on fundamental institutions of American democracy. They impugn the integrity of the presidency and now the office of the attorney general. They degrade the many Democratic members of Congress who persist in clinging to the allegations and thus the Democratic Party and Congress. And they have enticed mainstream media into one of the worst episodes of journalistic malpractice in modern times. But equally alarming, Russiagate continues to endanger American national security by depriving a US president, for the first time in the nuclear age, of the diplomatic flexibility to deal with a Kremlin leader in times of crisis.

We were given a vivid example in July 2018, when Trump held a summit with the current Kremlin occupant, as every president had done since Dwight Eisenhower. For that conventional, even necessary, act of diplomacy, Trump was widely accused of treasonous behavior, a charge that persists. Now we have another alarming example of this reckless disregard for US national security on the part of Russiagate zealots. On May 3, Trump called Putin. They discussed various issues, including the Mueller report. (As before, Putin had to know if Trump was free to implement any acts of security cooperation they might agree on. Indeed, the Russian policy elite openly debates this question, many of its members having decided that Trump cannot cooperate with Russia no matter his intentions.)

A major subject of the conversation was unavoidably the growing conflict over Venezuela, where Washington and Moscow have long-standing economic and political interests. Trump administration spokespeople have warned Moscow against interfering in America’s neighborhood, ignoring, of course, Washington’s deep involvement for years in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia. Kremlin representatives, on the other hand, have warned Washington against violating Venezuela’s sovereignty. Increasingly, there is talk, at least in Moscow policy circles, of a Cuban Missile–like crisis, the closest the United States and Russia (then Soviet Russia) ever came to nuclear war.

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In the same way Russiagate and the Steele dossier should have been off limits? Or is that different somehow?

Schiff: Biden Ukraine Scandal Should Be Off Limits (ZH)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said on Sunday that Joe Biden’s Ukraine corruption scandal should be off limits as the 2020 US election approaches, and that President Trump shouldn’t be allowed to investigate – or encourage Ukraine to investigate. Biden has come under fire for a March, 2016 incident in Kiev in which he threatened to withhold $1 billion in US loan guarantees to Ukraine unless President Petro Poroshenko fired his head prosecutor, General Viktor Shokin, who was leading a wide-ranging corruption investigation into natural gas firm Burisma Holdings. As it so happens, Joe’s son Hunter Biden sat on Burisma’s board, and waas indirectly paid as much as $50,000 per month.

‘I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” bragged Biden, recalling the conversation with Poroshenko. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Biden gloated. Biden claims he didn’t know Hunter was on the Burisma board for an entire two years (Hunter reportedly joined in April 2014, two years before Biden’s threat), and that the effort to remove Shokin had nothing to do with [this]. “Shokin was fired because he attacked the reformers within the prosecutor general’s office,” And this should be completely off limits to Trump, according to Adam Schiff

Schiff told ‘This Week’ that Congress should take up legislation banning political campaigns from working with foreign governments in an effort to influence US elections, responding to news that Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had planned to travel to Ukraine to encourage them to further investigate the Biden matter. Giuliani has since canceled the trip. In March, The Hill’s John Solomon revealed that Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

[..] To recap; Biden didn’t know his son Hunter was on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas firm for a full two years, before threatening to withhold $1 billion in US loan guarantees if the President of Ukraine didn’t fire the guy investigating the Biden-linked Burisma, and Adam Schiff thinks that should be off limits to investigate, or for voters to consider, going into the 2020 election.

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What is this, a poetry contest?

China ‘Won’t Swallow Bitter Fruit’ In US Trade War (R.)

China will never surrender to external pressure, the government said on Monday, though stopped short of announcing how Beijing will hit back after Washington renewed its threat to impose tariffs on all Chinese imports in an escalating trade dispute. The trade war between the world’s top two economies jumped up a gear on Friday, with the United States hiking tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods after President Donald Trump said Beijing “broke the deal” by reneging on earlier commitments made during months of negotiations. Trump also ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin imposing tariffs on all remaining imports from China, a move that would affect about an additional $300 billion worth of goods.


Beijing has vowed to respond to the latest U.S. tariffs, but has announced no details yet. “As for the details, please continue to pay attention. Copying a U.S. expression – wait and see,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing. “We have said many times that adding tariffs won’t resolve any problem. China will never surrender to external pressure. We have the confidence and the ability to protect our lawful and legitimate rights,” Geng added, responding to a question on Trump’s threat of putting duties on all Chinese imports. [..] “At no time will China forfeit the country’s respect, and no one should expect China to swallow bitter fruit that harms its core interests,” China’s top newspaper, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in a commentary.

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If it quacks like a scam….

Uber, the Worst Performing IPO in US Stock Market History (GizM)

Rideshare unicorn Uber doesn’t do anything small. When it was in the game of raising money, it raised close to $25 billion. When it loses that money—and it does every single quarter—it loses it at astronomical burn rates. It finally debuted on the New York Stock Exchange today, in the middle of international trade uncertainty and following a massive, international strike by its own drivers, how’d it do? According to University of Florida professor Jay Ritter, Uber’s 7.62 percent decline since hitting the NYSE makes it “bigger than first day dollar losses of any prior IPO in the U.S.” In terms of percentage losses, Uber’s dip doesn’t even scratch the surface of the worst IPOs.


But the staggering valuation of the company makes it, in raw scale, “among the top 10 IPOs ever” including companies outside the U.S., Ritter told Gizmodo in a phone interview. That single digit decline resulted in an estimated $617 million paper losses. Consider also that Uber’s debut valuation of $76.5 billion was a considerable drop from the between $90 billion and $120 billion the company had been worth in some analysts estimation just a month earlier—one meant to stanch the forthcoming bleeding that had begun with competitor Lyft’s bellyflop IPO. This defensive position did little to keep Uber or its investors from taking on water within a single day of trading.

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And at the same time names an IMF guy its central bank governor. Lock stock and barrel.

Pakistan Agrees Another Multi-Billion IMF Bailout (R.)

Pakistan has reached an accord with the International Monetary Fund for a three-year, $6 billion bailout package aimed at shoring up fragile public finances and strengthening a slowing economy, officials said on Sunday. The deal, which still needs approval by the IMF board in Washington, would be the 13th such bailout since the late 1980s Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told PTV television he hoped it would be Pakistan’s last. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government came to power last year determined to avoid another bailout and initially sought billions of dollars in funding from friendly countries including China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


But with inflation climbing to over 8 percent, the rupee losing a third of its value over the past year, and foreign exchange reserves barely enough to cover two months of exports, it was forced to turn to the IMF. “Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment, with lackluster growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position,” the IMF said in a statement outlining the framework deal. The IMF forecasts Pakistan’s economic growth slowing to 2.9% this fiscal year from 5.2% in 2018, while the central bank has cut its estimate to between 3.5-4%. As the bailout talks neared culmination, Khan shook up his top economic team, replacing Asad Umar with Hafeez Shaikh as finance minister and making IMF economist Reza Baqir central bank governor instead of Tariq Bajwa.

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“Macron defended the arms shipment to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying Riyadh had assured him the weapons would not be used against civilians.”

Saudi Ship Blocked From Loading Arms In France Arrives At Spanish Port (R.)

A Saudi ship, prevented by rights groups from loading an arms cargo at the French port of Le Havre on Friday, arrived at the Spanish port of Santander early on Monday. It was not clear what the Saudi ship was doing in Santander or how long it would stay docked there. Spain’s interior ministry said they had no information regarding the ship. The defense and foreign ministries were not immediately available for comment. French rights group ACAT argued in a legal challenge on Thursday that the arms consignment contravened a U.N. treaty because the weapons might be used against civilians in Yemen, though the case was thrown out by a French judge.


A classified report written by France’s DRM military intelligence agency and published by investigative website Disclose in April showed French arms were being used against civilians in the civil war in Yemen. The Saudi vessel Bahri-Yanbu set course for Santander shortly after the ruling but without the weapons it was charged with collecting. In Yemen, with fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels backed by Iran, tens of thousands of people have been killed and fighting has spawned what the UN calls the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis. France’s President Emmanuel Macron defended the arms shipment to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying Riyadh had assured him the weapons would not be used against civilians.

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The system is disintegrating

Starving Gray Whales Wash Up Dead In Large Numbers From Mexico To Alaska (SFC)

Exhausted, emaciated gray whales are going belly up along the coast of San Francisco this year at a rate seen only once — during a two-year period 20 years ago — since whaling was banned and the leviathans were pulled from the brink of extinction. The death toll, part of a disturbing mass die-off from Mexico to Alaska, is happening largely because there is too little food in the ecosystem to sustain the behemoths on one of the world’s longest migrations, experts say. The hulking carcasses of nine gray whales, several of them starving, have been found since March in San Francisco Bay and along the coast from Pacifica to Point Reyes. That’s an unusually large number for the region.


“It’s definitely not normal,” said Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, which has for decades been monitoring the spectacular whale migrations along the San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma county coasts. The desperately hungry grays are taking dangerous detours into San Francisco Bay to look for food, a treat for whale watchers who have been seeing the gargantuan beasts in the estuary since February — but not such a good sign for those who care about their survival. “They are attempting to forage in the bay’s ‘dire straits’ with their ship-strike risk, unknown toxins in the bay mud, and other threats,” Schramm said. “Some cannot make it any farther and are simply giving up the ghost.”

The strandings are happening along the entire coast of California, where 31 dead gray whales have been found this year, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. In all, 48 gray whales have been found dead along the coasts of California, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, fisheries service officials said. That’s not as bad as 1999, when 91 dead grays were recovered, or 2000, when 131 were found dead. But that die-off came in the wake of an unusually strong El Niño weather pattern that spread warm water along the entire West Coast and disrupted the food web. There is a mild El Niño this year, and water temperatures are higher than normal, but marine biologists say the balmy conditions locally do not fully explain the increased death toll, which also rose the previous two years.

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View from Singapore. If the only way people can look at extinction is from a point of view of how man could have profited, forget about it. Nature has its own value, independent of us, independent of monetary value.

Why Rapid Extinction Of Plant, Animal Species Matters (TO)

Human activities are putting a million species worldwide at risk of extinction, threatening ecosystems that people around the world depend on for survival, a United Nations (UN) assessment has found. [..] Global plant and animal species’ extinction is now “10 to hundreds of times” higher compared to that over the last 10 million years. Many of these extinctions will happen within decades, and that rate is set to climb, the report said. At least 680 vertebrate species have already been driven to extinction by human action in the last 500 years. The loss of habitats, overconsumption and pollution will result in countless more facing a similar fate. The extensive report illuminates the interconnectedness of nature with the economy, food security and health, said Nature Society Singapore’s president Shawn Lum.

[..] academic reports have revealed that Somali piracy has largely been driven by a lack of economic opportunities for local fishermen due to illegal fishing by foreign vessels depleting the fish population. Many organisms like fungi, maggots and houseflies also play an important role in the ecosystem to break down waste and dead creatures so that nutrients return to the system. While “hardly the face of conservation”, these species are crucial to every ecosystem. The loss of these species would have vast implications on plants and animals higher up the food chain, a group of environmental studies undergraduates at the National University of Singapore (NUS) explained. The UN report pointed out that 70 per cent of the world’s cancer drugs are natural and synthetic products inspired by nature.


An argument for conservation is that the loss of biodiversity could also result in undiscovered species which could potentially have served an important role in medicine. Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency Louis Ng noted that the extinction of species on such a wide scale has severe implications on human beings. However, he believes that people should also consider the “intrinsic value” that these species play, and to conserve them simply to retain their existence. Said Mr Ng, who is also founder and chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society: “Human beings need animals for our survival, but the animals don’t need us.”


Hawksbill turtles, a critically endangered species, in the Indian Ocean coral reef, Maldives. Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock.com

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Apr 192019
 
 April 19, 2019  Posted by at 1:18 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Rembrandt van Rijn A woman bathing in a stream 1654

 

A dear friend the other day accused me of defending Trump. I don’t, and never have, but it made me think that if she says it, probably others say and think the same; I’ve written a lot about him. So let me explain once again. Though I think perhaps this has reached a “you’re either with us or against us’ level.

What I noticed, and have written a lot about, during and since the 2016 US presidential campaign, is that the media, both in the US and abroad, started making up accusations against Trump from scratch. This included the collusion with Russia accusation that led to the Mueller probe.

There was never any proof of the accusation, which is why the conclusion of the probe was No Collusion. I started writing this yesterday while awaiting the presentation of the Mueller report, but it wouldn’t have mattered one way or the other: the accusation was clear, and so was the conclusion.

Even if some proof were found though other means going forward, it would still make no difference: US media published over half a million articles on the topic, and not one of them was based on any proof. If that proof had existed, Mueller would have found and used it.

And sure, Trump may not be a straight shooter, there may be all kinds of illegal activity going on in his organization, but that doesn’t justify using the collusion accusation for a 2-year long probe. If Trump is guilty of criminal acts, he should be investigated for that, not for some made-up narrative. It’s dangerous.

 

Axios report[ed] that since May 2017, exactly 533,074 web articles have been published about Russia and Trump-Mueller, which in turn have generated “245 million interactions – including likes, comments and shares – on Twitter and Facebook.” “From January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day) through March 21, 2019 (the last night before special counsel Robert Mueller sent his report to the attorney general), the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts produced a combined 2,284 minutes of ‘collusion’ coverage, most of it (1,909 minutes) following Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017,” MRC reports

What the Mueller report says is that 500,000 articles about collusion, and 245 million social media interactions in their wake, were written without any proof whatsoever (or Mueller would have used that proof). That doesn’t mean they may not have been true, or that they can’t be found to be true in the future, it means there was no proof when they were published. They Were All Lying.

The same goes for the Steele dossier. It holds zero proof of collusion between Trump’s team and Russia. Or Mueller would have used that proof. New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, CNN: they all had zero proof when they published, not a thing. Or Mueller would have used that proof. Rachel Maddow’s near nightly collusion rants: no proof. Or Mueller would have used that proof.

That there is no proof also means there has never been any proof. Why that is important, and how important it is, is something we’re very clearly seeing in the case concerning Julian Assange. That, too, is based on made-up stories.

I suggested a few days ago in the Automatic Earth comment section that the advent of the internet, and social media in particular, has greatly facilitated the power of repetition: say something often enough and few people will be able to resist the idea that it must be true. Or at least some of it.

If you look at the amount of time people spend in ‘their’ Facebook, the power of repetition becomes obvious. 245 million social media interactions. On top of half a million articles. How were people supposed to believe, in the face of such a barrage, that there never was any collusion?

Or that Assange is squeaky clean, both in person and in his alleged involvement in the collusion? There is only one way to counter all this: for people like me to keep pointing it out, and to hope that at least a few people pick it up.

That has nothing to do with defending Trump. It has to do with defending my own sanity and that of my readers. Of course it would have been easier, and undoubtedly more profitable, to go with the flow and load on more suspicions, allegations and accusations.

All those media made a mint doing it, and the Automatic Earth might have too. But that is not why we are here.

 

The Democrats, and the media sympathetic to them, now have seamlessly shifted their attention from Collusion to Obstruction. Which leads to a bit of both interesting and humorous logic: No Collusion? No Obstruction.

The Mueller probe would never have happened if it had been clear there was no collusion. But everyone and their pet hamster were saying there was. And there was the Steele dossier, heavily promoted by John McCain and John Brennan. Neither of whom had any proof of collusion.

The obstruction the anti-Trumpers are now aiming their arrows at consists of Trump allegedly wanting to fire Mueller and/or stopping an investigation that should never have been instigated into a collusion that never existed and was based on a smear campaign.

And now they want to impeach him for that? For attempting to stop the country wasting its resources and halt an investigation into nothing at all?

Know what I hope? That they’ll call on Mueller to testify in a joint session of Senate and Congress and that Rand Paul gets to ask him to address this tweet of his:

“Rand Paul: BREAKING: A high-level source tells me it was Brennan who insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier be included in the Intelligence Report… Brennan should be asked to testify under oath in Congress ASAP.”

And why Mueller refused to go talk to Assange, who offered actual evidence that no Russians were involved. Or how about these stonkers:

“Undoubtedly there is collusion,” Adam Schiff said. “We will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues. That is, is the president or people around him compromised? … It doesn’t appear that was any part of Mueller’s report.”


Preet Bharara: “It’s clear that Bob Mueller found substantial evidence of obstruction.”

There’ll never be such a joint session, the Democrats want to play a home game in Congress. So there will have to be a separate session in the Senate. No doubt that will happen. Trump was right about one thing (well, two): 1) A special Counsel fcuks up a presidency, and 2) this should never happen to another president again.

Not that I have any faith in Capitol Hill, mind you. Because they will agree, and they will agree on one thing only, as Philip Giraldi stipulates once more:

Rumors of War – Washington Is Looking for a Fight

[..] even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people. A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189.


It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.”

And that brings us back to Robert Mueller’s investigation into hot air, which, while it entirely eviscerates even the notion of collusion, still contains accusations against Julian Assange and ‘the Russians’.

Why does he leave those in, when there was no collusion? It’s dead simple. Because unlike accusations against Trump, he doesn’t have to prove them. Which is why I will not stop saying, as I first did some 10 weeks ago, that Robert Mueller Is A Coward And A Liar.

Again, this has nothing to do with defending Trump, it’s about defending and maintaining my own sanity and yours, and the rule of law.

As I said back then about Mueller refusing to talk to Assange, and James Comey in 2017 making sure the DOJ didn’t either :

Every single American should be alarmed by this perversion of justice. Nothing to do with what you think of Trump, or of Assange. The very principles of the system are being perverted, including, but certainly not limited to, its deepest core, that of every individual’s right to defend themselves. Just so Robert Mueller can continue his already failed investigation into collusion that has shown no such thing, and which wouldn’t have been started 20 months ago if we knew then what we know now.

Get off your Trump collusion hobby-horse, that quest has already died regardless, and start defending the legal system and the Constitution. Because if you don’t, what’s to keep the next Robert Mueller from going after you, or someone you like or love? It’s in everyone’s interest to demand that these proceedings – like all legal proceedings- are conducted according to the law, but in Mueller’s hands, they are not.

And that should be a much bigger worry than whether or not you like or dislike a former game-show host.

I’ve said this before as well: I’ll always defend Julian Assange, but I won’t defend Donald Trump. Is that clear now?

 

 

Mar 202019
 
 March 20, 2019  Posted by at 9:27 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Birth of liquid desires 1932

 

Monsanto’s Roundup Substantial Factor In Man’s Cancer, Jury Finds (G.)
Miami Bans The Use Of Glyphosate In A Step To Improve Water Quality (NoC)
Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed 737 From Nosedive Day Before Deadly Crash (ZH)
Most People Want Higher Taxes On Rich To Support Poor – OECD (G.)
Shifting Hopes As Republicans, Democrats Wait For Mueller (AP)
Schiff: Real Question Is If Trump Is Under Influence Of A Foreign Power (NBC)
Mueller Suspected Cohen May Have Been Acting As Foreign Agent In 2017 (G.)
EU’s Barnier: UK Can’t Delay Brexit Without Clear Plan Of Action (Ind.)
Theresa May Asks Eu For Brexit Delay With Cabinet In Deadlock (G.)
Theresa May Will Not Ask EU For Long Brexit Extension (BBC)
Tory MPs Vow To Quit Party If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader (G.)
Chinese Companies Default On Their Debts At An ‘Unprecedented’ Level (CNBC)
Foreigners Buy Up Athens Real Estate For Short-Term Rentals (K.)

 

 

Underlying lesson: stop poisoning your food and the soil it grows in.

But don’t count out Monsanto’s legal department.

Monsanto’s Roundup Substantial Factor In Man’s Cancer, Jury Finds (G.)

A federal jury in San Francisco found Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in causing the cancer of a California man, in a landmark verdict that could affect hundreds of other cases. Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal trial and alleged that his exposure to Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system. In the next phase of the case, the jury will weigh liability and damages, and Hardeman’s lawyers will present arguments about Monsanto’s influence on government regulators and cancer research.

During the trial, the 70-year-old Santa Rosa man testified that he had sprayed the herbicide for nearly three decades and at one time got it on his skin before he was diagnosed with cancer. He used the chemical to control weeds and poison oak on his properties, starting in 1986. Hardeman’s case is considered a “bellwether” trial for hundreds of other plaintiffs in the US with similar claims, which means the verdict could affect future litigation and other cancer patients and families. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US.

The unanimous ruling on Tuesday follows a historic verdict last August in which a California jury in state court ruled that Roundup caused the terminal cancer of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. That jury said Monsanto failed to warn Johnson of Roundup’s health hazards and “acted with malice or oppression”, awarding Johnson $289m in damages. Hardeman’s trial has been more limited in scope. While Johnson’s attorneys argued that Monsanto had “bullied” scientists and fought to suppress negative studies about its product, the federal judge barred Hardeman’s lawyers from discussing Monsanto’s alleged influence on research and regulations during the hearings.

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2 weeks old, but highly relevant.

Miami Bans The Use Of Glyphosate In A Step To Improve Water Quality (NoC)

Miami, Florida voted unanimously to ban the use of glyphosate by city departments and contractors. The controversial herbicide is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s – now Bayer after an acquisition took place over a year ago – popular weed-killer, Roundup. But concerns surrounding the safety and proliferation of glyphosate continue to grow and the city of Miami took it upon themselves to effectively enact the resolution right after passage, The Miami Times reported. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell started the investigation into the city’s use of glyphosate after officials believed the runoff from the herbicide “might have contributed to the recent blue-green algae bloom and red tide that impacted the state last year,” EcoWatch reported.

“Water quality issues are so important to the city of Miami, and we can be one of the worst polluters as a municipality,” Russell told The Miami New Times. “We ask for residents to make a change in their habits and that they be conscious of what they put in their gardens, but when I realized the totality of what the city uses at any given time, we had to change our habits.” Miami Director of Resiliency and Public Works Alan Dodd determined that Miami was responsible for using 4,800 gallons of glyphosate a year on the streets and sidewalks to kill weeds. While Dodd stopped the use of the herbicide, Russell took it a step further and sponsored a city-wide ban on glyphosate to make sure it was no longer used by any departments.

According to Waterkeeper: “herbicides and fertilizers are often applied in excess to lawns and landscapes and can be lost to the environment in stormwater runoff and can degrade the water quality of streams, rivers, canals, lakes, and coastal waters. They can also contribute to the creation of harmful algal blooms and the destruction of critically important habitats like sea grass beds and coral reefs.”

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One of the big selling points for the 737MAX was that airlines didn’t have to spend a fortune to re-train their pilots. Even though the MCAS system that caused the crashes was brand new.

Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed 737 From Nosedive Day Before Deadly Crash (ZH)

An off-duty pilot hitching a ride in the cockpit jumpseat of a doomed 737 Max 8 last October reportedly saved the plane just one day before it crashed off the coast of Indonesia while being operated by a different crew, killing 189 onboard. According to Bloomberg, the ‘dead-head’ pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta was able to explain to the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system by cutting power to a motor driving the nose of the plane down. The previously undisclosed detail supports the suggestion that a lack of training is may be at least partially to blame in the March 10 crash of another 727 Max 8.

“The previously undisclosed detail on the earlier Lion Air flight represents a new clue in the mystery of how some 737 Max pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while the others lost control of their planes and crashed. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn’t contained in Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee’s Nov. 28 report on the crash and hasn’t previously been reported.” -Bloomberg As we noted last week, several pilots had repeatedly warned federal authorities of the Max 8’s shortcomings, with one pilot describing the plane’s flight manual as “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”

“The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone — even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know?” wrote the captain. “After the Lion Air crash, two U.S. pilots’ unions said the potential risks of the system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, hadn’t been sufficiently spelled out in their manuals or training. None of the documentation for the Max aircraft included an explanation, the union leaders said.” -Bloomberg

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Curious coming from the OECD.

Most People Want Higher Taxes On Rich To Support Poor – OECD (G.)

A majority of people living in developed countries want their government to increase taxes on the rich in order to help the poorest in society, according to a major global study. In all 21 countries included in the OECD study, more than half of those polled said they were in favour when asked: “Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?” The OECD said the survey of 22,000 people was “deeply troubling” and revealed that nearly 60% of respondents do not think they are getting their “fair share” back for the taxes they pay.

Only one in five people thought that they would easily be able to access state benefits in the event of a crisis, with many raising concerns about healthcare. Almost six in 10 said their government ignored their views and concerns. “This is a wake-up call for policy makers,” Ángel Gurría, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development secretary-general, said. “Too many people feel they cannot count fully on their government when they need help. “A better understanding of the factors driving this perception and why people feel they are struggling is essential to making social protection more effective and efficient. We must restore trust and confidence in government and promote equality of opportunity.”

The survey comes as politicians and campaigners across the world call for higher taxes on the super-rich to fund essential services for the poor. Several of the Democratic candidates for US president in the 2020 election, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have proposed new taxes on the super-rich to address inequality. The gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protesters in France have also demanded the wealthy shoulder a larger share of the tax burden. Almost 80% of people in Portugal and Greece said they wanted their governments to impose higher taxes on the wealthy. In the US more than half of those surveyed supported extra taxes on the wealthy. The OECD did not set an income level for what constituents wealthy.

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The end of one probe will give birth to many others.

Shifting Hopes As Republicans, Democrats Wait For Mueller (AP)

It’s a witch hunt, a vendetta, the worst presidential harassment in history. That’s what President Donald Trump has shouted for two years about the special counsel’s Russia probe. Now, barring an eleventh-hour surprise, Trump and his allies are starting to see it as something potentially very different: a political opportunity. With Robert Mueller’s findings expected any day, the president has grown increasingly confident the report will produce what he insisted all along — no clear evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and his 2016 campaign. And Trump and his advisers are considering how to weaponize those possible findings for the 2020 race, according to current and former White House officials and presidential confidants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

A change is underway as well among congressional Democrats, who have long believed the report would offer damning evidence against the president. The Democrats are busy building new avenues for evidence to come out, opening a broad array of investigations of Trump’s White House and businesses that go far beyond Mueller’s focus on Russian interference to help Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. It’s a striking role reversal. No one knows exactly what Mueller will say, but Trump, his allies and members of Congress are trying to map out the post-probe political dynamics.

[..] If the report proves anticlimactic, says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a strong Trump ally, “there would no longer be any justification for what the House Dems want to do. They have their report, they had the guy they wanted writing it, and he had the full power of the federal government behind him and they still didn’t get the president. “Trump can say: Here is the report. I didn’t fire Mueller, I didn’t interfere with him. If you want to keep investigating me, it just shows that it is purely partisan.”

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What then is the real question about Adam Schiff?

Schiff: Real Question Is If Trump Is Under Influence Of A Foreign Power (NBC)

Nearly two years into his investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller has not accused any member of the Trump campaign of conspiring with the 2016 election interference effort — and it’s not clear whether he will. But legal experts, along with the congressman leading the House Russia investigation, tell NBC News that the most important question investigators must answer is one that may never have been suitable for the criminal courts: Whether President Trump or anyone around him is under the influence of a foreign government. “It’s more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016,” said Martin Lederman, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration.

“It’s more important to know whether he has been compromised as president than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime.” Whether Mueller will answer that question in the absence of criminal charges is unclear. But in an interview with NBC News, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he is steering his investigation in a new direction to focus on it — and he will demand any relevant evidence compiled by the FBI or Mueller’s team. The California Democrat also expressed concern that Mueller hasn’t fully investigated Trump’s possible financial history with Russia. “From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it’s very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at,” Schiff told NBC News.

Schiff said the public testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that in 2016 Trump stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a secret Moscow real estate project is a staggering conflict of interest that must be fully explored. “I certainly agree that the counterintelligence investigation may be more important than the criminal investigation because it goes to a present threat to our national security — whether the president and anybody around him are compromised by a foreign power,” Schiff said. “That’s not necessarily an issue that can be covered in indictments.”

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Sore losers all around.

Mueller Suspected Cohen May Have Been Acting As Foreign Agent In 2017 (G.)

Robert Mueller persuaded a judge within weeks of being made special counsel in 2017 that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s legal fixer, may have been secretly working for a foreign government. Legal filings unsealed on Tuesday said investigators working for Mueller were granted access to Cohen’s personal email account on 18 July 2017 on the basis that he may have broken several laws, including those on unregistered foreign agents. Cohen’s suspected efforts were not detailed in the documents. Cohen, one of Trump’s closest advisers for a decade, was known to have been paid in 2017 for consulting work by a state-controlled South Korean aviation company and a bank in Kazakhstan.

The filings said Mueller’s investigators were looking in Cohen’s Gmail account for records on any “funds or benefits” he received from foreign governments or companies, as well as any files revealing efforts by Cohen to work on their behalf. The court documents were released by a federal judge in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance and personal financial crimes. They were originally filed by investigators in April last year to obtain additional search warrants. It was not previously known that Cohen was suspected of crimes relating to representing foreigners without registering with US authorities, and no such charges were brought against him. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and is due to be jailed in May.

The filings released on Tuesday ran to hundreds of pages. More than 19 pages, apparently relating to the campaign finance scheme, were entirely blacked out, indicating that it remains under investigation. Cohen directly implicated Trump in the scheme, which involved hush-money payments to women who alleged during the 2016 campaign that they had affairs with Trump. Some legal analysts have said Trump could be vulnerable to prosecution for the scheme once he leaves office. He denies breaking any laws.

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9 days and it gets serious.

EU’s Barnier: UK Can’t Delay Brexit Without Clear Plan Of Action (Ind.)

The EU has said Britain cannot delay Brexit without a clear plan for what happens next, indicating only an election, a new referendum or major compromise on Theresa May’s red lines will suffice. In an ultimatum, Michel Barnier said there would need to be a “new event or new political process” to secure an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period. Brussels’ intervention represents yet another blow for the prime minister, who planned to ask for a delay at this week’s European Council meeting as part of a drive to finally push through her twice-defeated Brexit deal. She is already having to grapple with the new obstacle thrown in front of her by Commons speaker John Bercow who has tried to block her from putting the deal in front of MPs for a third time.

Any move to secure a long delay to Brexit is likely to infuriate Leave-backing Tory MPs and could even lead to cabinet resignations. A meeting of her top ministers on Tuesday ended with Brexiteer ministers making grave warnings about the collapse of their party if it fails to deliver Britain’s departure. Theresa May is set to write to European Council president Donald Tusk, laying out her proposal to delay Brexit beyond March 29 – something that requires the approval of all 27 remaining member states at the summit on Thursday. The Independent understands that one approach being considered is to ask for a lengthy extension to the Article 50 period, with the option of an early break if Ms May can get her deal through parliament.

But Mr Barnier poured cold water on the idea, telling a reporter who asked him about it: “You said both short and long – well, it’s either one or the other, isn’t it?” He added: “My feeling is … a longer extension needs to be linked to something new. There needs to be a new event or a new political process.” Mr Barnier told a news conference in Brussels: “It is our duty to ask whether this extension would be useful because an extension will be something which would extend uncertainty, and uncertainty costs.” He again warned that the UK would need to propose “something new” to justify a lengthy extension. A “new event” can only really mean giving the British public a Final Say referendum or an election, while a new process is likely to refer to a push to rewrite Ms May’s strategy to include a closer relationship with the EU, possibly a permanent customs union.

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What I liked about this when I read it yesterday was May refusing to say how long an extension she was asking for.

Theresa May Asks Eu For Brexit Delay With Cabinet In Deadlock (G.)

Theresa May will be forced to write to EU leaders on Wednesday and beg them to delay Brexit, with her cabinet deadlocked over the best way out of what Downing Street now concedes is a “crisis”. The government had maintained until the last possible moment that Brexit could go ahead as planned on 29 March or after a brief “technical extension”. But after the Speaker, John Bercow, ruled the prime minister could not put her deal to parliament unchanged for a third “meaningful vote,” her spokesman conceded it was now too late to leave with a deal.

He said May would write to the European council president, Donald Tusk, to ask for an extension to article 50, before EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday. He declined to say how long a delay she would request, or for what purpose, simply insisting: “You’re going to have to wait for that letter to be published.” Asked whether May agreed with the solicitor general, Robert Buckland, who described the situation after Bercow’s ruling on Monday as a “constitutional crisis”, her spokesman said: “If you were to look back at the speech the prime minister gave, just before meaningful vote two, she said that if MPs did not support meaningful vote two we would be in a crisis. Events yesterday tell you that that situation has come to pass.”

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It doesn’t matter what she asks for, but what they are willing to give.

Theresa May Will Not Ask EU For Long Brexit Extension (BBC)

Theresa May will not be asking the EU for a long delay when she formally requests that Brexit is postponed. Number 10 said the PM shared the public’s “frustration” at Parliament’s “failure to take a decision”. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU will not grant a delay without a “concrete plan” from the UK about what they would do with it. Under current law, the UK will leave the EU – with or without a deal – in nine days. BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said the delay would not be beyond the end of June. Any delay will have to be agreed by all 27 EU member states and Mrs May is heading to Brussels on Thursday to discuss the matter with fellow leaders.

Explaining that Mrs May “won’t be asking for a long extension” when she writes to the EU, Number 10 said: “There is a case for giving Parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward, but the people of this country have been waiting nearly three years now. “They are fed up with Parliament’s failure to take a decision and the PM shares their frustration.” It comes after MPs rejected the withdrawal deal Mrs May has negotiated with the EU for a second time last week by 149 votes. They also voted in favour of ruling out leaving the EU without a deal, and in favour of extending the Brexit process.

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All these people love the sound of their own voices.

Tory MPs Vow To Quit Party If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader (G.)

Conservative MPs are orchestrating against a potential leadership campaign by Boris Johnson, with several talking of resigning the whip if he were to become party leader. With Tories convinced that Theresa May’s days in No 10 are numbered, MPs are feverishly discussing who will seek to replace her, how organised the teams are and whether a general election would be necessary. Johnson is the current favourite of Brexit-backing Tory activists, who will pick the leader out of a final two candidates. However, the former London mayor would first have to clear the hurdle of convincing Conservative MPs to put him on the final list of two.

One minister said she would leave the party if Johnson and his supporters, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, took over the Conservatives. Another minister said he knew of five or six Conservatives who were openly saying they were so opposed to a Johnson premiership that they could not stay in the party run by him and a group of “Brexit ultras”. Anna Soubry, the former Tory minister who quit to join the new Independent Group, said she believed “people will leave” if Johnson were to become prime minister. [..] Backers of Johnson believe MPs could swing behind him if they believe an election is not far away, because he is already a household name to put up against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

“Who outside Westminster has heard of Dominic Raab?” asked one Brexit supporting MP who wants Johnson to deliver May a message that she must stand down soon regardless of whether her Brexit deal passes. “Boris still has the star quality that we would need with the electorate to beat Corbyn if there is going to be an election soon. And there is going to be an election in 2019 if you look at parliament.”

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Something’s brewing.

Chinese Companies Default On Their Debts At An ‘Unprecedented’ Level (CNBC)

An economic slowdown and extremely tight credit conditions pushed corporate debt to a record high in China last year, according to experts. Defaults for Chinese corporate bonds — issued in both U.S. dollars and the Chinese yuan — soared last year, according to numbers from two banks. Japanese bank Nomura’s estimates, provided to CNBC, were even higher, putting the size of defaults in onshore bonds — or yuan-denominated bonds — at 159.6 billion yuan ($23.8 billion) last year. That number is roughly four times more than its 2017 estimate. Offshore corporate dollar bonds, or U.S. dollar-denominated debt issued by Chinese companies, followed the same trend.

Nomura said the amount of such debt rose to $7 billion in 2018, from none the year before. “China witnessed an unprecedented wave of corporate bond defaults last year, in a fresh sign of wobbles hitting financial markets as slowdown deepens,” said DBS analysts in the report. According to DBS, the energy sector bailed on 46.4 billion yuan of payments in 2018 — making up almost 40 percent of all defaults in yuan-denominated debt. Consumer companies were the next worst hit, according to the bank’s report. “The default wave is extending into 2019 … Given the reduced risk appetite and huge maturing volume, the outlook is poor,” DBS said, adding that there are 3.5 trillion yuan in corporate bonds due this year.

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I got back to Athens a few days ago, and this is the talk of the town. Greeks being evicted from their apartments because some Chinese ‘investor’ is Airbnb-ing entire buildings. Soon there’ll be hardly any Greeks left in the city core, and it’ll turn into Disneyland.

Foreigners Buy Up Athens Real Estate For Short-Term Rentals (K.)

The Greek property market appears to have emerged from its decade-long hibernation: Bank of Greece figures showed that 1.35 billion euros flowed into the country last year for property purchases (mainly houses) by foreign investors. That figure constitutes a 172 percent annual increase, after an 86.5 percent rise in 2017, when inflows had amounted to 500 million euros. House prices increased 1.5 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, when there had been a 1 percent yearly decline. Realty professionals say that investments by foreign individuals and medium-sized investors in the local housing market peaked in 2018, with a focus on flats in the center of Athens, apartments in the southern suburbs of Attica and luxury holiday homes.

This huge rise was fed by the prospects for the utilization of apartments through short-term leasing platforms such as Airbnb, Booking and HomeAway, by the appeal of the Golden Visa program, which grants five-year residence permits to foreign nationals who invest at least 250,000 euros in Greek realty, and by the continued increase in tourism, which has raised demand for holiday homes. Data from the land registry of Athens concerning the first eight months of 2018 showed a 60 percent annual increase in transactions.

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Feb 252019
 


M. C. Escher Reptiles 1943

 

EU Explores Plans To Delay Brexit Until 2021 (G.)
May Delays ‘Meaningful’ Parliament Vote On Brexit Till March 12 (BBC)
Schiff Threatens To Call Mueller To Testify If Report Not Made Public (AP)
Trump To Delay China Tariff Hike After Trade Talks ‘Progress’ (AFP)
Global LNG Trade To Rise 11% This Year – Shell (R.)
Spain Surpasses Italy To Become “World’s Healthiest Country” (ZH)
African Union Seeks To Kill EU Plan To Process Migrants In Africa (G.)
One Million Tonnes Of Sludge To Be Dumped In Great Barrier Reef (BBC)
Concrete: The Most Destructive Material On Earth (G.)
Dearth Of Worms Blamed For Dramatic Decline In UK Songbird Population (Ind.)
Poachers Kill Elephant In Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary (AFP)
Dozens Of Dead Elephants Discovered In Poaching Hot Spots In Botswana (BBC)

 

 

May is likely to ask for a few months’ delay, but Brussels won’t have that.

EU Explores Plans To Delay Brexit Until 2021 (G.)

Brexit could be delayed until 2021 under plans being explored by the EU’s most senior officials, at a time of growing exasperation over Theresa May’s handling of the talks, the Guardian can reveal. A lengthy extension of the negotiating period is gaining traction as the EU’s default position should the Commons continue to reject May’s deal, and a request emerge. Replacing the 21-month transition period with extra time as a member state would allow the UK and the EU to develop their plans for the future relationship with the aim of making the contentious Irish backstop redundant. Brussels is determined to avoid offering a short extension only to have to revisit the issue in the summer when the government again fails to win round parliament.

“If leaders see any purpose in extending, which is not a certainty given the situation in the UK, they will not do a rolling cliff-edge but go long to ensure a decent period to solve the outstanding issues or batten down the hatches,” one EU diplomat said. “A 21-month extension makes sense as it would cover the multi-financial framework [the EU’s budget period] and make things easier. Provided leaders are not completely down with Brexit fatigue, and a three-month technical extension won’t cut it, I would expect a 21-month kick [of the can]. It is doing the rounds in Brussels corridors. Martin Selmayr [the European commission’s secretary-general], among others, also fond of the idea.”

Exasperation with May’s handling of Brexit is growing in Brussels as senior insiders put the chance of the UK crashing out without a deal at “more than 50%”. Informed sources say there is dismay that senior government figures are focused on seeking domestic political advantage and appear wilfully blind to the opposition to reopening the withdrawal agreement. [..] There is also bewilderment that the recent flurry of meetings in Brussels involving May’s Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, are being characterised in London as “negotiations” when the reality is the EU is still waiting for the prime minister to show them the alternative arrangements for the Irish backstop for which she claims to have a majority in support.

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Why is May not in London, but in Egypt with the EU she wants to leave in a month and change? Arms deals?

May Delays ‘Meaningful’ Parliament Vote On Brexit Till March 12 (BBC)

MPs will be able to have a fresh vote on the Brexit deal by 12 March, Prime Minister Theresa May has said. Speaking as she travelled to an EU-Arab League summit in Egypt, Mrs May ruled out holding another so-called “meaningful vote” this week. But she said “positive” talks with the EU were “still ongoing” and leaving on 29 March was “within our grasp”. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the prime minister of “recklessly running down the clock”. In a tweet, he said the move was intended to “force MPs to choose between her bad deal and a disastrous no deal”.

Labour, he said, would “work with MPs across the Commons to prevent no deal, break the deadlock and build support for our alternative plan”. On the plane to Sharm el-Sheikh for a summit between EU and Arab league leaders, Mrs May said her team would be returning to the Belgian capital on Tuesday for further talks. “As a result of that, we won’t bring a meaningful vote to Parliament this week, but we will ensure that that happens by 12 March,” she added.

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He wants No Collusion fully documented. Oh, wait, no, he wants to see if there are any scraps left that can serve to divert attention from the fact that there’s No Collusion.

Schiff Threatens To Call Mueller To Testify If Report Not Made Public (AP)

A top Democrat threatened on Sunday to call special counsel Robert Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill, subpoena documents and take the Trump administration to court if necessary, if the full report on the Russia investigation is not made public. House intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff told ABC’s This Week his committee will be watching Attorney General William Barr to see if he were “to try to bury any part of this report”. There will be intense scrutiny and pressure on Barr, he said, to fully release the report. “We will take it to court if necessary,” Schiff said. “If he were to try to withhold, to try to bury any part of this report, that will be his legacy and it will be a tarnished legacy.

So I think there’ll be immense pressure not only on the department, but on the attorney general to be forthcoming.” Schiff is not alone in calling for the report to be made public, or in promising aggressive investigations by Democrat-controlled committees. He himself has made such calls. But the pressure is mounting as Mueller is showing signs of wrapping up his nearly two-year-old investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election. Barr, who oversees the investigation, has said he wants to release as much information as he can. But during his confirmation hearing last month, he also made clear that he ultimately will decide what the public sees and that any report will be in his words, not Mueller’s.

On Sunday, Schiff suggested that anything short of Mueller’s full report will not be enough to satisfy Democrats. He pointed to a public interest in seeing some of the underlying evidence, such as information gathered from searches conducted on longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman. Schiff has said his committee planned to expand its own investigations by examining, for instance, whether foreign governments have leverage over Trump, his relatives or associates.

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From negotiations to dancing.

Trump To Delay China Tariff Hike After Trade Talks ‘Progress’ (AFP)

US President Donald Trump has vowed to delay a planned tariff increase on Chinese exports after both sides hailed “substantial progress” in trade talks, raising the prospect of a summit with President Xi Jinping to seal the deal. Trump said Sunday there could be “very big news” in the next two weeks, and he planned to meet with Xi at the US leader’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida if more progress is made. Top negotiators met in Washington for four days of talks that ended on Sunday in an effort to resolve a months-long trade war that analysts feared could torpedo the global economy.

The United States had been due to increase tariffs on more than $200 billion in Chinese goods on March 1, but Trump said he would now delay the punitive duties following the “very productive talks”. “I am pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues,” Trump wrote on Twitter. The official Xinhua news agency used almost the exact same language, reporting “substantial progress” on those thorny issues in the talks led by Xi’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He.

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Warning: someone will try to sell this to you as a positive for green.

Global LNG Trade To Rise 11% This Year – Shell (R.)

Global liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade will rise 11 percent to 354 million tonnes this year as new facilities increase supplies to Europe and Asia, Royal Dutch Shell said in an annual LNG report on Monday. Shell, the largest buyer and seller of LNG in the world, said trade rose by 27 million tonnes last year, with Chinese demand growth accounting for 16 million tonnes of those volumes. Shell’s forecasts, which see LNG demand climbing to 384 million tonnes next year, reflect a burgeoning industry with new production facilities opening in Australia, the United States and Russia and more countries becoming importers by constructing receiving terminals. Asia dominates the market with Japan remaining the top buyer.

China became the second largest in 2017 as demand soared due to a government-mandated push for power stations to switch from coal to cleaner-burning gas to help reduce pollution. Due to the uneven progress of developing liquefaction-export facilities on the one hand and regasification-import terminals on the other, many analysts see the global market becoming oversupplied if not this year then next year. But most also see a supply crunch around the mid-2020s because, at the moment, there are not enough liquefaction facilities being planned, financed and built. Such projects are underpinned by long-term supply contracts struck years in advance by their operators. Between 2014 and 2017 buyers were signing shorter-duration contracts for smaller volumes, making financing difficult to complete.

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Actually, it’s perhaps mostly about primary care.

Spain Surpasses Italy To Become “World’s Healthiest Country” (ZH)

As the US struggles with declining life expectancy (as deaths from suicides, drug overdoses and other “deaths of despair” climb), rising infant mortality and ballooning health-care costs that preclude access to preventative care for millions of Americans – not to mention the attendant ills of rampant obesity and tobacco use), America has seen its position among the world’s healthiest nations deteriorate, while, across the Atlantic, more European nations are claiming spots in the highest echelons of the global rankings. According to Bloomberg’s 2019 World Health Rankings, Spain has supplanted Italy as the world’s healthiest country. In the most ranking, published in 2017, Spain had placed sixth.

Four other European nations ranked among the top 10 in 2019: Iceland (third place), Switzerland (fifth), Sweden (sixth) and Norway (ninth). Japan was the healthiest Asian nation, climbing three ranks to place fourth overall, and supplanting Singapore, which dropped to eighth. Rounding out the top ten were Australia and Israel, which ranked seventh and 10th, respectively. Variables including life expectancy are used to rank countries, while factors like tobacco use and obesity work against the overall ranking. Environmental factors like access to clean water and sanitation are also taken into consideration. Spain has the highest life expectancy at birth among EU nations. Out of all 169 nations that BBG tracks, only Japan and Switzerland rank higher. By 2040, Spain is forecast to have the highest lifespan, at roughly 86 years, followed by Japan, Singapore and Switzerland.

The reason? Access to primary care. “Primary care is essentially provided by public providers, specialized family doctors and staff nurses, who provide preventive services to children, women and elderly patients, and acute and chronic care,” according to the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies 2018 review of Spain. Over the past decade, this has helped bring about a decline in deaths from heart disease and cancer. While China ranked 52nd overall, it’s on track to surpass the US by 2040, according to the Institute for health metrics and evaluation.

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“When the EU wants something, it usually gets it..”

African Union Seeks To Kill EU Plan To Process Migrants In Africa (G.)

The African Union is seeking to kill off the EU’s latest blueprint for stemming migration, claiming that it would breach international law by establishing “de facto detention centres” on African soil, trampling over the rights of those being held. A “common African position paper” leaked to the Guardian reveals the determination of the 55-member state body, currently headed by Egypt, to dissuade any of its coastal states from cooperating with Brussels on the plan. The EU set plans for “regional disembarkation platforms” in motion last summer to allow migrants found in European waters to have their asylum requests processed on African soil.

Brussels has a similar arrangement in place with Libya, where there are 800,000 migrants, 20,000 of whom are being held in government detention centres. The Libyan authorities have been accused of multiple and grave human rights abuses. A UN report recently stated that migrants in the country faced “unimaginable horrors”. Some northern states, including Morocco, have already rejected the EU’s proposal over the new “platforms”, but there are concerns within the African Union (AU) that other member governments could be persuaded by the offer of development funds.

Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini has called for the centres to be based around the Sahel region, in Niger, Chad, Mali and Sudan. An inaugural summit between the EU and the League of Arab States is being held in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt on Sunday and Monday, and migration is expected to be discussed. “When the EU wants something, it usually gets it,” said a senior AU official. “African capitals worry that this plan will see the establishment of something like modern-day slave markets, with the ‘best’ Africans being allowed into Europe and the rest tossed back – and it is not far from the truth.”

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I’m sure this means Australia is going for some kind of award. Just don’t know which one.

One Million Tonnes Of Sludge To Be Dumped In Great Barrier Reef (BBC)

Australia plans to dump one million tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef. Despite strict laws on dumping waste, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) gave the go-ahead. A loophole was found – the laws don’t apply to materials generated from port maintenance work. It comes one week after flood water from Queensland spread into the reef, which scientists say will “smother” the coral. The industrial residue is dredged from the bottom of the sea floor near Hay Point Port – one of the world’s largest coal exports and a substantial economic source for the country. Larissa Waters, senator for Queensland and co-deputy leader of the Greens Party, called for the license to be revoked.

“The last thing the reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently,” she told the Guardian. “One million tonnes of dumping dredged sludge into world heritage waters treats our reef like a rubbish tip.” It’s just “another nail in the coffin” for the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, which is already under stress due to climate change, according to Dr Simon Boxall from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. “If they are dumping it over the coral reef itself, it will have quite a devastating effect. The sludge is basically blanketing over the coral. “The coral relies on the algae, that’s what give them their colour and what helps them feed – without this partnership the coral will suffer dramatically.”

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“..we may have already passed the point where concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet. ”

Concrete: The Most Destructive Material On Earth (G.)

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, the global building industry will have poured more than 19,000 bathtubs of concrete. By the time you are halfway through this article, the volume would fill the Albert Hall and spill out into Hyde Park. In a day it would be almost the size of China’s Three Gorges Dam. In a single year, there is enough to patio over every hill, dale, nook and cranny in England. After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on Earth. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world with around 2.8bn tonnes, surpassed only by China and the US.

The material is the foundation of modern development, putting roofs over the heads of billions, fortifying our defences against natural disaster and providing a structure for healthcare, education, transport, energy and industry. Concrete is how we try to tame nature. Our slabs protect us from the elements. They keep the rain from our heads, the cold from our bones and the mud from our feet. But they also entomb vast tracts of fertile soil, constipate rivers, choke habitats and – acting as a rock-hard second skin – desensitise us from what is happening outside our urban fortresses. Our blue and green world is becoming greyer by the second. By one calculation, we may have already passed the point where concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet.

Our built environment is, in these terms, outgrowing the natural one. Unlike the natural world, however, it does not actually grow. Instead, its chief quality is to harden and then degrade, extremely slowly. All the plastic produced over the past 60 years amounts to 8bn tonnes. The concrete industry pumps out more than that every two years. But though the problem is bigger than plastic, it is generally seen as less severe. Concrete is not derived from fossil fuels. It is not being found in the stomachs of whales and seagulls. Doctors aren’t discovering traces of it in our blood. Nor do we see it tangled in oak trees or contributing to subterranean fatbergs. We know where we are with concrete. Or to be more precise, we know where it is going: nowhere. Which is exactly why we have come to rely on it.

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For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Dearth Of Worms Blamed For Dramatic Decline In UK Songbird Population (Ind.)

Britain’s first farmland worm survey has revealed that nearly half of English fields lack key types of earthworm and may help explain the alarming decline of one of the country’s most loved songbirds. The citizen science project, in which farmers dug for worms in their own fields, has prompted 57 per cent of them to pledge to change their soil management practices – a move that may benefit the song thrush, for whom worms are a vital food source. The English population of the song thrush, popular for both its voice and its habit of using stones as an “anvil” to smash the shells of its other favourite food – snails – declined by more than 50 per cent between 1970 and 1995, leading to it being listed as a species of conservation concern.

The #60minworms survey, led by Dr Jackie Stroud, a Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) soil security fellow at the Rothamsted Research centre, adds to the evidence that the song thrush is being affected by a reduction in farmland earthworm populations, along with the loss of hedgerow nesting sites. In a statement about the survey, Rothamsted Research said: “The results indicate widespread, historical over-cultivation, and may explain observed declines in other wildlife, such as the song thrush, that feed on these worms.” Stressing the importance of earthworms, Dr Stroud added: “Earthworms play vital roles in plant productivity and are great bird food as well. They are really important in our soil systems. “They influence carbon cycling, water infiltration, pesticide movement, greenhouse gas emissions, plant productivity, the breeding success of birds and even the susceptibility of plants to insect attack.

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Stop any and all trade with any and all countries where animal parts are traded.

Poachers Kill Elephant In Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary (AFP)

An elephant has been found dead with its tusks and tail sliced off in a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia, where wild elephant numbers have dwindled to just a few hundred due to poaching and deforestation. The Southeast Asian nation has emerged in recent years as a key transit hub for the multi-billion dollar illicit wildlife trade, with demand for products made from tusks, pangolin scales and rhino horns high in China and neighbouring Vietnam. According to the Mondulkiri Project, an animal rescue NGO, there are about 400 elephants in the wild in Cambodia, and about 50 held in captivity.

The body of the male Asian elephant was found on Sunday in a wildlife sanctuary in northeastern Mondulkiri province, said Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra. “The elephant’s tusks were missing and its tail was also cut off,” he told AFP on Monday, adding the animal was killed about 10 days ago. “There was a wound from a gunshot under its right eye,” Neth Pheaktra said, adding authorities are still hunting for the poachers. A baby elephant was found dead last year in the same sanctuary when it was caught in a trap set by poachers, he said. The Asian elephant is hunted for its precious tusks, while its tail hair is considered lucky and embedded in rings and bracelets.


The body of a male Asian elephant was found in a wildlife sanctuary in northeastern Cambodia on Sunday (AFP Photo/Handout)

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“..Tanzania lost 60% of its elephant population in five years..”

Dozens Of Dead Elephants Discovered In Poaching Hot Spots In Botswana (BBC)

One of the last elephant sanctuaries in Africa has “a significant elephant-poaching problem”, according to the final results of an aerial wildlife survey in Botswana seen by the BBC. Elephants Without Borders, which conducted the four-yearly survey with the government, said there was a six-fold increase in the number of “fresh” or “recent” elephant carcasses in northern Botswana amid “obvious signs” of poaching. Mike Chase, the scientist who carried out the survey, sparked a fierce debate in the country when he went public half-way through his study in August last year with accusations there was a poaching problem and alleging the authorities were ignoring him. He told the BBC at the time that while flying over northern Botswana, he had discovered 87 recently killed elephants in one “hotspot” area – a number now revised to 88 – and 128 overall.

The government called his figures “false and misleading” and criticised “unsubstantiated and sensational media reports”. He received death threats and has since had one of his two research licences suspended by the government. President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the time described the allegations as the “biggest hoax of the 21st Century” and denied there had been a spike in poaching in the country. But the final report identifies four poaching hotspots, provides photographic evidence from ground surveys and has been peer-reviewed by nine international elephant experts. “The response from… various people was to try and deny or whitewash – label me a traitor and a liar – without having actually verified the evidence we bore witness to,” said Mr Chase.

Botswana is home to 130,000 elephants – a third of the total number in Africa – and it is an obvious target for poachers. Even when extrapolating poaching figures from the sample found in the survey, the numbers killed will not have a major impact on such a large population. “If we are talking about a number of carcasses that have accumulated over a period of two years, given the population of elephants in Botswana it doesn’t really raise eyebrows,” said national parks director Mr Tiroyamodimo. This was not satisfactory for Mr Chase. “At what point do we say we have a problem?” he asked.

“Is it at 10? 50? 100? 150? 1,000? Lessons have taught us – when we look at Tanzania that lost 60% of its elephant population in five years – that’s how quickly poaching can settle into a population. “We saw with our own eyes 157 confirmed poached elephants. We estimate that the total poached in the last year is at least 385 and probably far more because that is based on what we actually saw and have not had time or finances to visit all carcasses on the ground.”

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