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.”

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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?

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

“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.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Sep 082018
 


Charles Burchfield Bluebird and Cottonwoods (The Birches) 1917

 

 

My Australian friend Wayne Hall, who‘s lived in Athens for many many years, is doing a video project on fellow Aussie Julian Assange. This is an interview with me, recorded 3 weeks or so ago, that’s part of the project. I would have done 1000 things differently, but it’s not my baby, it’s Wayne’s world. At least some snippets of information come through.

Note: it was 100º, and it shows. Very sweaty, very uncomfortable. Still, while I’m not wild about doing videos -we had Nicole for that, right?!- maybe I should be doing more of this. Not that I watched this one, mind you. But you can.

 

 

 

 

Wayne Hall: Good afternoon Raúl Ilargi Meijer. You have a blog called “Automatic Earth” and you are very active with it. Can you say something about “Automatic Earth”? When was it founded? What is its aim?

Ilargi: It was founded almost eleven years ago. Nicole Foss and I founded it because we wanted to write about finance whereas the people we were writing for before that, “The Oil Drum”, didn’t want us to do that and we thought it was too important not to.

WH: And what are you doing here in Athens?

Ilargi: I’m supporting a group of people who feed the homeless and refugees. I’ve written a bunch of articles at “Automatic Earth” about that.

WH: Now even though you have written articles that show clearly how important you think it is to try to defend Julian Assange (I read one that you published today [17/8/2018] that was very much on that subject and it was a powerful article), you really don’t agree with Julian Assange on the importance of defending the European integration project or citizens’ Europe.

Ilargi: I have no idea what either of these things are.

(Note Ilargi: here Wayne leaves several lines untranslated. I said again that I don’t know what the European integration project or citizens’ Europe are. And of course I can’t disagree with Assange, or anyone else, on things I don’t even know exist.)

WH: Well, let’s move on. In an article entitled “I am Julian Assange” on 16th May 2018, you wrote: “Julian Assange appears to be painfully close to being unceremoniously thrown out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. If that happens, the consequences for journalism, for freedom of speech and for press freedom, will resound around the world for a very long time”. Would you like to say more about that?

Ilargi: I think there are not nearly enough people who realize what the consequences are going to be of Assange being thrown to the wolves.

WH: What will they be?

Ilargi: He stands for every journalist but he also stands for every citizen. He is the man who offered his freedom to give everybody else freedom..

WH: You say that he has the credibility he has because he has never published anything that is not 100% verifiable and true.

Ilargi: That is the basis of Wikileaks: it’s truth, honesty. Nobody would ever give him another document if they were in doubt that he would preserve secrecy, he would protect their identity or he would treat the documents in the best way possible.

WH: You also wrote: “People like Chelsea Manning, Kim Dotcom, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are among the smartest people our world has to offer. We should be cherishing the combination of intelligence, courage and integrity they display at their own risk and peril, but instead we allow them to be harassed by our governments because they unveil inconvenient truths about them. And pretty soon there will be nobody left to tell these truths, or any truth at all.” That’s a very pessimistic assessment. Would you like to believe that it is too pessimistic?

Ilargi: Isn’t it more like realistic? How many people like Assange and Snowden or Chelsea Manning are there? We don’t have a never-ending supply of them.

WH: In your article “Julian Assange and the Dying of the Light” you wrote: “The ideal situation would be if Australia would offer Julian Assange safe passage back home. Assange has never been charged with anything, other than the UK’s bail-skipping change.” He has been charged with other things, but the charges have been withdrawn.

Ilargi: He has been charged with what?

WH: Wasn’t he charged with rape or something, in Sweden?

Ilargi: No, no..

WH: What was it? What happened there then if it was not a charge?

Ilargi: They said they wanted to talk to him. That was very strange. From what I know of the story the prosecutor let him go. Told him he was free to go to Britain and then – I don’t know if it was the same prosecutor, Marianne Ny, but anyway the Swedish justice system did a 180 and as soon as he got to London they said that he had to go back because they wanted to talk to him again.

WH: Merry-go-round.

Ilargi: But neither of the two women involved ever filed any charges against him, or any complaint. They even went out of their way, albeit far too late, to say “He didn’t rape me. It never happened.” It seems .. That was a smear thing. And it’s been very successful..

WH: It seems so. Talking about Australia again, and safe passage back home, it’s true that years ago the Australian government acknowledged that it had responsibilities to help and protect Australian citizen Julian Assange. For example in 2001 Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said:


“We are supporting Julian Assange the same way that we would support any Australian citizen who got into a legal difficulty overseas.”

But for years after that, these responsibilities seem to have been forgotten. Even supporters of Julian Assange seem to assume that it is OK for the Australian government to allow Ecuador, a weaker, poorer and more vulnerable country than Australia to take responsibilities that the Australian government had said that it was taking but it seems simply was not. .

Ilargi: Who wrote that?

WH: Do you mean this comment about Australia and Ecuador? I wrote it.

Ilargi: OK. OK.

WH: Don’t you agree with it?

Ilargi: The Australian government has a very strange role in this. There is an older speech by the later PM Malcolm Turnbull that is being tossed around on Twitter in which he is very supportive of Assange.

WH: Is this a recent speech?

Ilargi: I think that was also from 2011 too. Apparently he no longer is.

WH: Next subject. Would you like to comment on the controversy Seth Rich versus the hacker Guccifer 2.0.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and disagreement about this. I think a lot of people wouldn’t even know who Seth Rich was. Would you like to enlighten the people who don’t know?

Ilargi: From what I know Seth Rich worked for the Democratic National Committee. He was found murdered in Washington, not far from the White House. He is rumoured to be the guy who gave the DNC e-mails to Assange, to Wikileaks.

WH: This is something that Kim Dotcom apparently also says.

Ilargi: Yes. I don’t know enough about that but it seems obvious that the whole Guccifer 2.0 story is a fabrication. The US really really wants to make a link between Assange and Russia because it smears both. If they can make a connection between the two they will both look a lot worse.

WH: They’re trying hard.

Ilargi: And since neither can really defend themselves this narrative can be built and built. .

WH: Yes, that’s right. If you are dead or you re prevented from speaking, you can’t defend yourself.

Ilargi: No..

 

WH: At the moment I and a few other people are discussing two ideas in relation to Julian Assange. One of them is purely symbolic and it’s aimed at counteracting the media bias against Assange. That is the declaration of a Julian Assange Day. The day we propose is 26th January. We heard a few words from the mayor about the significance of January 26th in Greece in the context of Greece’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire.

But January 26th is also an important day in Australia. It is the national day. But many people are saying today that Australia s national day should be moved to another date, more inclusive of the many Australians who don’t feel that 26th January is suitable for the country’s national day. Let’s see what Amanda Stone has to say. In 2017 she was the mayor of the City of Yarra in Melbourne.

Amanda Stone: We ve been talking to the aboriginal community in Yarra for some time about the meaning of January 26th for them and we’ve heard from them that it is not a day of celebration. It is a day of sadness and loss for them. We ve been considering how we might address that to reflect those views. In February this year (2017) the Council resolved to ask the officers to consult with the aboriginal community about the future of January 26th, and that was also in the context of a growing momentum more broadly around the Change the Date campaign.

So we felt that it was an action whose time has come, that there would be broader support for it. And when the officers presented the results of the consultation with aboriginal people on Tuesday, that’s how we voted. But we’re not telling anyone what to do. We’re not changing the date of Australia Day as it is at the moment. We are not instructing people on how to spend January 26th. It will continue to be a public holiday, 26th January. People will still enjoy their barbecues and picnics and get-togethers in parks and gardens.

Lamourette Folly: Why is it important from your perspective as a mayor to change the date?

Amanda Stone: For me as mayor of the City of Yarra it is important that we are inclusive in what we do as a council. By holding celebratory events on January 26th we are actively excluding an important part of our community, the aboriginal community, who do not find it an occasion for celebration, who have told us so for many years, and are thoroughly supportive of the action we have taken. We want to be inclusive. We don’t want to exclude anybody.We want everyone to be able to celebrate our national identity and we need to find a date that we can do that on.

Lamourette Folly: That’s great. Do you have any date in mind?

Amanda Stone: No. I think it is something that needs to come out of a conversation. And I think lots of people have lots of ideas. And if we are going to be really inclusive we need to discuss it with everybody, not impose another date that might be contentious for another part of the people.

WH: If Julian Assange is freed it could very well be changed subsequently to Media Integrity Day, or something along those lines.

 

The second proposal is more concrete. It was initiated by the following posting by someone who calls himself “Realist” in the discussion that was started by Ray McGovern. What he said was this:

“If the American government thinks better of it and decides not to prosecute Mr. Assange (or perhaps offers him a plea bargain counting his time cloistered in the embassy against a short sentence), I wonder where he will choose and/or be allowed to live. Australia has abandoned him, and now Ecuador has betrayed him. He can’t trust any American vassal state in the EU, NATO or the “Five Eyes” (basically the Anglosphere). Would Putin allow him to run Wikileaks out of Russia? I suspect not. No free press throughout the Middle East, most of Africa and the “–stans” of Central Asia.

China is not looking to harbor a gadfly of the West. Latin America is spotty, though Glenn Greenwald makes his home base in Brazil despite the de facto coup against the Left there. How well are human rights protected in places like India or Malaysia? Singapore, Burma and Thailand are too authoritarian. Arthur C. Clarke decamped in Sri Lanka. Are there any truly sovereign nations in the Indian or Pacific oceans? Too bad New Gingrich didn’t get to establish his proposed Moon base. Julian might have managed Wikileaks from there, beyond the jurisdiction of any nation state on Earth.”

I said in response: “Realist’s” comments on Julian finding asylum on the Moon is frivolous, and if frivolous comments are permitted, why not outrageous comments? Are there Jewish people who would be outrageous enough to begin to lobby for Julian Assange to be given political asylum in Israel? Would he accept such an idea? Just the discussion of such an idea might be helpful in clearing some mental blocks.” ”

“Realist” replied: “Assange finding asylum on the Moon might be a frivolous comment but it underscores the paucity of venues that could pay the price to shield him against American wrath. In response to your invitation to discuss Israel as a plausible safe harbor for Assange, I should think his morals would preclude that possibility, even as a last resort. It would be repudiating everything he has stood for. As they say “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

 

Ilargi: That’s a very long way of saying “there are no options”. You don’t have to go through all the options to arrive at the conclusion that there are no options.

WH: So in other words…

Ilargi: A new country that is brought to the front in the past few days is Mexico. .

WH: Mexico.

Ilargi: Yes. People think that Lopez Obrador might be the guy to turn to. I suggested Iceland.

WH: I remember that. . .

Ilargi: They are independent enough to pull off something like that. Though I have no idea what the Icelandic government feels or thinks about Assange. But they’re independent. They’re the only country that locked up a bunch of bankers and told the creditors to go take a hike.

WH: I think what “Realist” would say is that these countries are not strong enough to protect Assange and that the CIA, or whoever is after him, would get at him.

Ilargi: Iceland has got a big moat. That is natural protection. .

WH: A big moat!

Ilargi: Yes. Of course there is no country that could give 100% protection to someone like Assange.

WH: There was a similar discussion in response to an article by Caitlin Johnstone.” “As long as Assange is silenced, claims against him are illegitimate”.

In any case, a campaign is under way. The ideas we are discussing here are not part of the campaign and I don’t want to impose them. The campaign is following its own logic.

Ilargi: There are no ideas. There is just a long list of “no options”.

WH: Yes, as you said. Right. This is continuing the discussion we had with the mayor.

Ilargi: I would like to add what we were saying before we started. The news about Assange’s health is not good. He has severe toothaches. His legs are swelling and his bone density is falling fast because of the lack of exposure to sunlight. So in the end, what it comes down to: Ecuador doesn’t even have to kick him out. They’re counting on the fact that he’ll have to walk out. .

WH: Yes, if he can. .

Ilargi: Or be carried out, on a stretcher. Or in a coffin. .

 

 

Julian Assange: (Trafalgar Square, London – 8th October 2011)

When we understand that wars come about as a result of lies peddled to the British public and the American public and the publics all over Europe and other countries, then who are the war criminals? It is not just leaders. It is not just soldiers. It is journalists. Journalists are war criminals. … If wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth.

 

 

Aug 032018
 
 August 3, 2018  Posted by at 7:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Ivan Aivazovsky The Galata tower by moonlight 1845

 

The Trump Administration Is Headed For A Gigantic Debt Headache (CNBC)
The First Company To Reach $1 Trillion In Market Value Was In China (CNBC)
Apple Becomes World’s First Trillion-Dollar Company (G.)
Ban Share Buybacks (Week)
Where Are the 17,000 Model 3 Cars Tesla “Produced” But Didn’t “Deliver”? (WS)
Middle-Class Americans Still Haven’t Recovered From Housing Bust (MW)
China Loses Spot As World’s No. 2 Stock Market to Japan (AFP)
Judge Rejects Suit Against Fox News Brought By Parents Of Seth Rich (NBC)
Saudi Arabia Planned To Invade Qatar Last Summer. Tillerson Intervened (IC)
Food Banks Appeal For Donations To Feed Children During School Holidays (G.)
Britain Heading Back To Pre-Victorian Days (G.)

 

 

Nobody seems to care much.

The Trump Administration Is Headed For A Gigantic Debt Headache (CNBC)

Swelling government debt levels are shaping up to be the biggest economic challenge for President Donald Trump, a problem that could spill into the stock market. This week’s Treasury Department announcement that it would have to increase the amount of bond auctions over the next three months was a low-key reminder that the government IOU is only getting bigger and will start influencing interest rates sooner rather than later. As more product comes to market, investors could be expected to demand higher yields to snap up all the supply. And those higher yields mean higher costs at a time when taxpayers already have shelled out nearly half a trillion dollars this year in debt service.

Put it all together and it raises questions about how long the spurt in economic growth will continue, what will happen the next time the economy falls into recession and what impact it all will have on financial markets. “We’re applauding strong growth — yet have no choice but to borrow the largest amount of money since the financial crisis a decade ago,” Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at The Economic Outlook Group, said in a note. “And that’s just the start, the US will [be] running trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.” The total U.S. debt just passed the $21.3 trillion mark, of which $15.6 trillion is owed by the public.

The Treasury announced Wednesday that it will be adding $1 billion each to auctions of 2-, 3- and 5-year debt over the next three months, and $1 billion each for 7- and 10-year note and 30-year bond auctions in August. In addition, the department is issuing a new two-month note to help assure liquidity in the fixed income market. The changes will add $30 billion to the debt issuance for the quarter. On the overall, the Treasury said it expects to borrow $769 billion in the second half of the year, a projected 63% increase from 2017.

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So much for Apple then.

The First Company To Reach $1 Trillion In Market Value Was In China (CNBC)

Before Apple hit $1 trillion in market value Thursday, there was Chinese oil giant PetroChina, which reached the milestone more than a decade ago. It did not fare too well after that. PetroChina’s market cap hit $1 trillion in 2007 following a successful debut on the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Nov. 5 of that year. The company’s Shanghai-listed shares nearly tripled at the open that day, with its Hong Kong-listed shares following them higher. (It had debuted on the Hong Kong exchange years earlier.) The rise gave the company a market cap of $1.1 trillion on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

According to Reuters, PetroChina’s opening price in Shanghai valued the company at 60 times analysts’ forecasts for its 2007 earnings per share, above the global average of 18 times for oil companys at the time. It was all downhill from there, however. PetroChina’s market value plummeted to less than $260 billion by the end of 2008, representing the largest destruction of shareholder wealth in world history, according to Bloomberg. Blame the financial crisis and a collapse in oil prices. When PetroChina made its debut in 2007 brent crude prices were at one point, above $140 a barrel. Today they are about half that.

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This piece cites PetroChina, but says not enough shares were outstanding. But Apple’s outstanding shares shrank a lot as well, because of buybacks.

Apple Becomes World’s First Trillion-Dollar Company (G.)

Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar public company on Thursday, as a rise in its share price pushed it past the landmark valuation. The iMac to iPhone company, co-founded to sell personal computers by the late Steve Jobs in 1976, reached the historic milestone as its shares hit $207.05, the day after it posted strong financial results. Apple’s share price has grown 2,000% since Tim Cook replaced Jobs as chief executive in 2011. The company hit a $1tn market capitalisation 42 years after Apple was founded and 117 years after US Steel became the first company to be valued at $1bn in 1901. It means Apple’s stock market value is more than a third the size of the UK economy and larger than the economies of Turkey and Switzerland.

While energy company PetroChina was cited as the world’s first trillion-dollar company after its 2007 flotation, the valuation is considered unreliable because only 2% of the company was released for public trading. Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Saudi Aramco could be worth up to $2tn upon its planned stock market float but the value is yet to be tested. This week’s rise in Apple’s share price was powered by quarterly financial results released on Tuesday that were better than Wall Street had expected. The tech giant racked up profits of $11.5bn in three months on the back of record sales that hit $53.3bn, pushing shares of the iPhone giant higher and easing the value of the company up from $935bn towards $1tn (£770bn).

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Ryan Cooper focuses on lower wages as a result of buybacks. I would go for the death of price discovery. Apple may be ‘worth’ one trillion, but it has a $100 billion buybacks war chest. That’s 10%. So what is it really worth.

Ban Share Buybacks (Week)

American corporations are simply raking in profits. Some are so bloated and cash-rich they literally can’t figure out what to do with it all. Apple, for instance, is sitting on nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars — and that’s down a bit from earlier this year. Microsoft and Google, meanwhile, were sitting on “only” $132 billion and $63 billion respectively (as of March this year). However, American corporations in general are taking those profits and kicking them out to shareholders, mainly in the form of share buybacks. These are when a corporation uses profits, cash, or borrowed money to buy its own stock, thus increasing its price and the wealth of its shareholders. (Big Tech is doing this as well, just not fast enough to draw down their dragon hoards.)

As a new joint report from the Roosevelt Institute and the National Employment Law Project by Katy Milani and Irene Tung shows, from 2015 to 2017 corporations spent nearly 60% of their net profits on buybacks. This practice should be banned immediately, as it was before the Reagan administration. The most immediately objectionable consequence of share buybacks is they come at the expense of wages. Milani and Tung calculate that if buybacks spending had been funneled into wage increases, McDonald’s employees could get a raise of $4,000; those at Starbucks could get $8,000; and those at Lowes, Home Depot, and CVS could get an eye-popping $18,000.

Some economists are skeptical of this reasoning, arguing that wages are set according to labor market conditions. But if you set aside free market dogmatism, it is beyond obvious that this sort of behavior is coming at workers’ expense. Wall Street bloodsuckers are not at all subtle about it, screaming bloody murder and tanking stocks every time a public company proposes paying workers instead of shareholders. Indeed, it provides a highly convincing explanation for something that has been puzzling analysts for months: the situation of wages continuing to stagnate or decline while unemployment is at 4%. The answer is that wages are low in large part because the American corporate structure has been rigged in favor of shareholders and executives.

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And Tesla was up 16% yesterday?!

Where Are the 17,000 Model 3 Cars Tesla “Produced” But Didn’t “Deliver”? (WS)

Tesla never ceases to astound with its hype and promises and with its results that are just mindboggling, including today when it reported its Q2 “earnings” – meaning a net loss of $718 million, its largest net loss ever in its loss-drenched history spanning over a decade. It was more than double its record loss a year ago: The small solitary green bump in Q3 2016 wasn’t actually some kind of operational genius that suddenly set in for a brief period. No, Tesla sold $139 million in taxpayer-funded pollution credits to other companies, which allowed it to show a profit of $22 million. Tesla adheres strictly to a business model that is much appreciated by the stock market: The more it sells, the more money it loses.

Total revenues – automotive and energy combined – rose 43% year-over-year to $4.0 billion in Q2. This increase in revenues was bought with a 113% surge in net losses. When losses surge over twice as fast as revenues, it’s not the light at the end of the tunnel you’re seeing. In between the lines of its earnings report, Tesla also confirmed the veracity of the many videos and pictures circulating on the internet that show huge parking lots filled with thousands of brand-new, Model 3 vehicles, unsold, undelivered, perhaps unfinished, waiting for some sort of miracle, perhaps needing more work, more parts, or additional testing before they can be sold, if they can be sold.

But these thousands of vehicles were nevertheless “factory gated,” as Tesla said, to hit the 5,000 a week production goal. And so they’re unfinished and cannot be delivered but are outside the factory gate, and Tesla didn’t totally lie about its “production” numbers. Now it put a number on these “produced” but undelivered vehicles: 12,571 in Q2 on top of the 4,497 in Q1, for a total of 17,000 vehicles sitting in parking lots.

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Wealth transfer.

Middle-Class Americans Still Haven’t Recovered From Housing Bust (MW)

A new study by the Opportunity and Growth Institute at the Minneapolis Fed found that the housing boom and bust made middle-class Americans poorer but boosted wealth for the richest 10%, widening the income and wealth gap substantially. Authors of the paper examined the relationship between incomes and asset prices over the past 70 years, concluding that rising and falling housing and stock markets have been the main drivers of wealth inequality. In the simplest model, the authors wrote, how fast wealth accumulates should be a function of how fast incomes rise. But incomes played only a minor role in wealth distributions in postwar America. Instead, wealth accumulation for most Americans was driven by booming home prices over the past several decade until 2007.

[..] ..real incomes of middle-class Americans rose by a third between 1970 and 2007, or less than 1% a year, while incomes of the bottom half have been largely stagnant since about 1970. Incomes for the top 10%, meanwhile, have doubled over the same period. Incomes for the bottom 90% have stagnant over the past 10 years. On the wealth distribution side, however, the poor became poorer, while the rich became richer after the financial crisis. Up until 2007, middle class Americans saw their wealth increase at the same rate as their wealthy counterparts, rising 140% over 40 years. Incomes for households in the bottom half doubled from 1971 until 2007—all thanks to booming house prices.

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Perspective: “Chinese stocks were worth $6.09 trillion, compared with $6.17 trillion in Japan. The US market is worth $31 trillion.”

China Loses Spot As World’s No. 2 Stock Market to Japan (AFP)

China’s stock market has been overtaken as the world’s second-biggest by Japan’s, having been swiped this year by the threat of a trade war with the United States and slowing economic growth. Data from Bloomberg News in intra-day trade on Friday showed the value of equities on the mainland had slipped behind those in their neighbouring country for the first time since taking the number-two spot in 2014. The figures showed Chinese stocks were worth $6.09 trillion, compared with $6.17 trillion in Japan. The US market is worth $31 trillion. While global markets have been broadly hit by fears of a trade war between the world’s top two economies, Chinese equities are among the worst performers this year, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slumping more than 16% since the start of January.

The pressure was ratcheted up this week when the White House said it was considering more than doubling threatened tariffs on a range of Chinese imports worth $200 billion. Washington has already imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of goods and is considering hitting another $16 billion in the coming weeks. “Losing the ranking to Japan is the damage caused by the trade war,” Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Investment in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News. “The Japan equity gauge is relatively more stable around the current level but China’s market cap has slumped from its peak this year.”

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But what really happened? Julian Assange knows. Kim Dotcom knows.

Judge Rejects Suit Against Fox News Brought By Parents Of Seth Rich (NBC)

A New York judge has rejected a lawsuit brought against Fox News by the parents of a Democratic National Committee employee killed in 2016. In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels said he understood Joel and Mary Rich might feel that the tragic death of their son was exploited for political purposes, but that the lawsuit lacked specific instances of wrongdoing necessary to proceed to trial. In the March lawsuit, the parents said that Fox News turned the death of their son, Seth Rich, into a “political football” by claiming he had leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks during the presidential campaign. The 27-year-old Rich was killed in what Washington police believe was a random robbery attempt. The judge also dismissed a related suit by a private investigator.

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Nice twist.

Saudi Arabia Planned To Invade Qatar Last Summer. Tillerson Intervened (IC)

Thirteen hours before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson learned from the presidential Twitter feed that he was being fired, he did something that President Donald Trump had been unwilling to do. Following a phone call with his British counterpart, Tillerson condemned a deadly nerve agent attack in the U.K., saying that he had “full confidence in the U.K.’s investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had called the attack “reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible,” but stopped short of blaming Russia, leading numerous media outlets to speculate that Tillerson was fired for criticizing Russia.

But in the months that followed his departure, press reports strongly suggested that the countries lobbying hardest for Tillerson’s removal were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which were frustrated by Tillerson’s attempts to mediate and end their blockade of Qatar. One report in the New York Times even suggested that the UAE ambassador to Washington knew that Tillerson would be forced out three months before he was fired in March. The Intercept has learned of a previously unreported episode that stoked the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s anger at Tillerson and that may have played a key role in his removal. In the summer of 2017, several months before the Gulf allies started pushing for his ouster, Tillerson intervened to stop a secret Saudi-led, UAE-backed plan to invade and essentially conquer Qatar, according to one current member of the U.S. intelligence community and two former State Department officials, all of whom declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

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A nation that refuses to feed its children.

Food Banks Appeal For Donations To Feed Children During School Holidays (G.)

Calls have been made for the public to donate to their local food bank during the summer holidays owing to increasing demand from families who rely on free school meals during term time. The Trussell Trust, an anti-poverty charity, said an increase in food bank use over the summer was driven by a rise in demand by children, as it released figures from its network of more than 420 food banks across the country. While the number of adults seeking supplies from food banks during the summer months decreased in 2017, the number of children needing support shot up. During July and August 2017, food banks provided more than 204,525 three-day emergency supplies, 74,011 of which went to children. In the preceding two months, 70,510 supplies went to children. The number of adults seeking help from food banks fell from 131,521 in May and June to 130,514 in July and August.

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“..a billionaire’s flat in Knightsbridge costs just £1,421 a year, while a shop on the floor below can pay £244,000 in business rates.”

Britain Heading Back To Pre-Victorian Days (G.)

Is Northamptonshire Britain’s first banana republic? This once lovely county, much of it now a waste of wind turbines and warehouses, is close to bankruptcy. It must sack staff, freeze pay, close two-thirds of its libraries and stop all bus subsidies. It faces default on its statutory duty to public health, children in care and the elderly. While much of this is due to mismanagement, the National Audit Office says that 15 other counties, believed to include Somerset and Surrey, are in similar straits. Years of austerity are coming home to roost – and where least expected, among the rich shires. What is going on? Local councils cannot do what central government can do, which is tax and borrow to meet need.

Each year Whitehall spends more. It can tip money into the NHS and triple-lock pensions – good causes both – as well as vanity projects such as aircraft carriers, high-speed trains and nuclear power stations. Councils have no such discretion. Since 2010 their spending has shrunk by over a third, with central government grants slashed by as much as NHS spending has risen. 95% of British taxation is controlled by the centre, against 60% in France and 50% in the US. Yet local spending must pick up the casualties of the welfare state – vulnerable children, elderly and infirm people. It must fund the day centres, youth clubs, care homes and visits to problem families. To do so, services that most modern communities expect from government must now be butchered, such as parks, libraries and museums.

Local, not national, austerity is sending Britain back to pre-Victorian days. The solution is swift and easy. The government should uncap local taxes, free local spending, and allow local people to pay for what they want. It was how local government ran, perfectly well, up to the early 1980s. In most other countries it is still regarded as a normal feature of democracy. At present Britain’s meagre local revenue derives from a regressive household tax fixed on 1991 property valuations, which no government (except in Wales) has had the guts to revalue. Thus a billionaire’s flat in Knightsbridge costs just £1,421 a year, while a shop on the floor below can pay £244,000 in business rates. It is no surprise that the former goes to the council, and much of the latter is paid to central government.

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