Sep 282019
 
 September 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Harbour scene, Dieppe 1883

 

New Docs Contradict Biden Claim That Fired Ukrainian Prosecutor Was Corrupt (ZH)
Adam Schiff Epitomizes the Total Collapse of Democratic Party Integrity (PCR)
10 Reasons Democrats’ Impeachment Argument Is Falling Apart (Grabien)
Intel Community Secretly Nixed Whistleblower Demand of First-Hand Info (Fed.)
Pompeo Subpoenaed By House Democrats In Trump Impeachment Inquiry (BBC)
Everything the Press Gets Wrong about the Ukraine Call (Scott Adams)
A Dumpster Fire on a Garbage Barge (Kunstler)
Joseph Wilson, US Envoy Who Defied Bush Over Iraq, Dies Aged 69 (BBC)
White House Deliberates Block On All US Investments In China (CNBC)
Western Dominance Is On The Wane – Lavrov at UNGA (RT)
Establishment & Media Sympathize With Greta. So How Is That A Protest? (RT)
Assange Behind Bars (Felicity Ruby)

 

 

As I wrote yesterday: “John Solomon’s account is really important in the impeachment hearings.. And everything he says is documented.”

Solomon is the key figure here.

New Docs Contradict Biden Claim That Fired Ukrainian Prosecutor Was Corrupt (ZH)

Appearing on “Hannity” Thursday night, Solomon explained “These documents show, as I report tonight for the first time, that the very day that Joe Biden managed to get that Ukraine prosecutor fired, that very day his son’s company’s lawyers, the American company lawyers helping Burisma trying to fight this investigation were trying to urgently reach the new prosecutor, the replacement prosecutor.” “In that meeting, according to the official record from the prosecutor, the lawyers for Hunter Biden’s company stated to the replacement prosecutor, we know that the information calling Mr. Shokin was corrupt and was ‘False information distributed by U.S. Government officials and other figures. We would like to make this up to you by bringing you to Washington, you are not corrupt and you instigated numerous reforms.’ That is the official record of the meeting. Ukrainian prosecutors kept.” (via the Daily Caller). According to Solomon, the memos raise troubling questions (via The Hill):


1) If the Ukraine prosecutor’s firing involved only his alleged corruption and ineptitude, why did Burisma’s American legal team refer to those allegations as “false information?” 2) If the firing had nothing to do with the Burisma case, as Biden has adamantly claimed, why would Burisma’s American lawyers contact the replacement prosecutor within hours of the termination and urgently seek a meeting in Ukraine to discuss the case? What’s more, Ukrainian prosecutors attempted to get this information to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) since last summer – first unsuccessfully engaging a US attorney in New York who they say showed no interest, and then reaching out to Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s attorney.

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Schiff was a disgrace in the House- again.

Adam Schiff Epitomizes the Total Collapse of Democratic Party Integrity (PCR)

US Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had no qualms about lying through his teeth in his opening statement prior to the testimony of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Everyone present had read the transcript of the telephone conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, and everyone knew that what Schiff, who said he was reading from the transcript of the telephone call, was saying was not in the transcript. How can it be that the chairman of a House committee in a room full of newspersons and TV cameras has no qualms about intentionally misrepresenting the written record in order to make it conform to the lies the Democrats and their stable of corrupt presstitutes have spread about a telephone call revealed by an alleged whistleblower, a likely Democrat operative, who claimed to have heard it second hand.

When I was a member of the Congressional staff, any Representative who so dishonored a committee of the House and the House itself as Schiff has done would have been reprimanded, brought before the Ethics Committee, and forced to resign. But the Democrats have ground integrity under their heel in their fanatical determination to prevent Trump’s reelection. In his opening statement Adam Schiff further showed his total lack of integrity in his assault on the integrity and character of Joseph Maguire and made wild and irresponsible charges probably never witnessed previously in the halls of Congress.

The transcript of the telephone call shows that what the alleged whistleblower said is false. Yet in the face of the evidence Adam Schiff speaks as if the evidence does not exist and that the alleged whistleblower’s second hand statement is true. Once again we hear the Democratic Party say, “Evidence? We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence.” They don’t need evidence because the presstitutes support their lies and control the explanations given to Americans. The Democrats are betting their future on their lies being shielded by their media whores and that the insouciant American people will hear nothing but false allegations against Trump repeated endlessly, as was the case with Russiagate. If the people realize that the “impeachment investigation” is another hoax like Russiagate, Schiff will have destroyed the Democrats’ chances in the next election.

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Key feature: “..the Ukrainian delegation hadn’t even been made aware aid was held up until a month after the Trump call…”

10 Reasons Democrats’ Impeachment Argument Is Falling Apart (Grabien)

1. No quid pro quo. Despite Democrats’ initial claim, there was no quid pro quo. The call transcript shows the topic of aid only came up in reference to how well the U.S. treats Ukraine, particularly as compared to Euro nations, most specifically Germany. At no point does Trump threaten to withhold anything, as even some of Trump’s media critics conceded.

2. Ukrainians weren’t pressured. Democrats and the media have repeatedly insisted President Trump “acted like a mob boss” in applying pressure on President Volodymyr Zelensky. He, however, defended Trump, saying he felt no pressure. “ I think you read everything,” he told reporters in New York this week. “So I think you read text. I’m … I am sorry but I don’t want to be involved to democratic open, uh, hum… [..] .. elections of U.S.A. You’ve heard we had, um, I think good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things and I thought so. And I think and you read it that nobody push it, pushed me.”

3. Timeline. Politico’s Ken Vogel reported that the Ukrainian delegation hadn’t even been made aware aid was held up until a month after the Trump call. It’s hard to see they could feel they’re being “extorted,” as Democrats keep saying, if they weren’t even aware of the pressure supposedly being applied.

4. No Illicit Favors. When the White House released the call transcript, readers noticed that after some initial mutual flattery, Zeleznsky brings up buying more Javelin missiles; President Trump then asks for a favor and requests additional information into 2016 election meddling. Rep. Adam Schiff suggested Trump’s request for a “favor” actually referenced wanting dirt on Joe Biden, but Biden only comes up later in the conversation, and in a separate context. Nonetheless, the major media almost uniformly reported the “favor” line from Trump’s call in the same inaccurate fashion.

5. Whistleblower Complaint Lacks Credibility. This complaint, which Democrats for some reason insisted was more important than the call transcript itself, was basically a version of that original call that had been run through a game of telephone. The report had the basic story reasonably accurate, but then supplemented that synopsis with additional accumulated gossip. At least three key details in the complaint have since been shown to be false. As the document is itself a product of hearsay — the self-described whistleblower admits at the beginning of his report that he never witnessed anything — and the fact it contains demonstrable inaccuracies, its importance should certainly be subjugated to the call transcript itself. [..]

9. Rudy. It’s widely reported Rudy Giuliani was Trump’s go-to guy for actually carrying out this conspiracy. On his call, Trump told the Ukraine president to speak with Rudy (as well as AG Barr), about the investigation into an oil company on whose board sat Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son. But Giuliani first communicated with his Ukrainian counterparts more than a year before Biden entered the race. Yes, it’s possible they anticipated Biden eventually entering the race; but it’s also possible Trump actually thought there might be legitimate corruption worthy of investigating. Giuliani tries to prove this point by noting the State Dept. was helping coordinate his communications.

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This is too much.

Intel Community Secretly Nixed Whistleblower Demand of First-Hand Info (Fed.)

Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. This raises questions about the intelligence community’s behavior regarding the August submission of a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump. The new complaint document no longer requires potential whistleblowers who wish to have their concerns expedited to Congress to have direct, first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing that they are reporting.

The brand new version of the whistleblower complaint form, which was not made public until after the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the complaint addressed to Congress were made public, eliminates the first-hand knowledge requirement and allows employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they have zero direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.” The internal properties of the newly revised “Disclosure of Urgent Concern” form, which the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) requires to be submitted under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA), show that the document was uploaded on September 24, 2019, at 4:25 p.m., just days before the anti-Trump complaint was declassified and released to the public.

The markings on the document state that it was revised in August 2019, but no specific date of revision is disclosed. The complaint alleges that President Donald Trump broke the law during a phone call with the Ukrainian president. In his complaint, which was dated August 12, 2019, the complainant acknowledged he was “not a direct witness” to the wrongdoing he claims Trump committed. A previous version of the whistleblower complaint document, which the ICIG and DNI until recently provided to potential whistleblowers, declared that any complaint must contain only first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoing and that complaints that provide only hearsay, rumor, or gossip would be rejected.

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You start to feel pity for them.

Pompeo Subpoenaed By House Democrats In Trump Impeachment Inquiry (BBC)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been ordered by Democrats to turn over documents relating to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine. In a letter, the heads of three House committees subpoenaed Mr Pompeo to produce the documents within a week. It is the latest move in rapidly escalating impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. He is being scrutinised for allegedly pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden. In a separate development on Friday, the US special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, resigned, US media reported.


Mr Trump has denied putting any pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call in July, when Mr Biden was leading polls to win the Democratic nomination for the White House race in 2020. Mr Trump has alleged that Mr Biden pressed for the sacking of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016 to protect a business that employed his son, Hunter Biden. Mr Biden did call for the sacking of Mr Shokin, even threatening to withhold $1bn (£813m) in aid to Ukraine.

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Everyone understands why the US president needs the room to move, and they’ll grant it to every single one. Except for Trump.

Everything the Press Gets Wrong about the Ukraine Call (Scott Adams)

We give our presidents a lot of flexibility in dealing with foreign affairs because it works better to have one “boss” in these situations. Had Trump permanently withheld funds approved by Congress, that would be a system problem on our end. But temporarily putting a hold on those funds before speaking leader-to-leader is just smart presidenting. It creates the impression that the president is the only American the foreign leader needs to deal with. That’s “setting the table.” Does it matter exactly what Trump was going to discuss, negotiate, or request? Nope. If the only thing Trump did on the phone call was congratulate President Zelensky on his election victory, it would still be smart to hold the funds until then.

We want our president to go into every conversation with foreign leaders fully armed, persuasion-wise. When Trump brings the full weight of the office with him, it sets the table for the current conversations, and every one after that. When Trump withholds funds, pulls out of a deal, or otherwise transfers power from Congress to himself, it makes him a more effective negotiator. It puts him in charge. It is a strong psychological advantage. Compare that approach to sending a president out weak, dependent on Congress to wipe his nose. Those are not similar table settings. Trump knows the difference. So does everyone who read his book, The Art of the The Deal.

We’ve heard Trump say he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine, and that was why he put a hold on the funds. I’m sure that was at least a part of his concern. Probably every American has that same concern about foreign aid in general. But as I said, it doesn’t matter what reason he gives the American public. Regardless of corruption in Ukraine, it was still smart to withhold funds until after the leaders spoke, because it made Trump the only person Zelensky needs to satisfy. That’s what we want from our presidents. We want them going in strong, with the full weight of their office and influence, to every interaction with foreign leaders, every time.

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“Their ongoing campaign to undo the 2016 election is igniting a civil war.”

A Dumpster Fire on a Garbage Barge (Kunstler)

Others have pointed out that the whistleblower’s complaint was composed as a legal brief, leading to the inference that it was constructed by lawyers and perhaps a team of lawyers. The whistleblower’s lawyer is Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA employee who got his start interning for Senator Chuck Schumer and then Hillary Clinton. The Washingtonian said Bakaj “actually wrote the CIA’s internal rules on whistleblowing.” Is that so? Did he write Form 401 then? His client’s complaint states: “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described. However, I found my colleagues’ accounts of these events to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another.” In other words, second-hand information. Dismissed.

Everyone and his uncle remembers the infamous threat issued to Mr. Trump by Senator Schumer during the transition period in January, 2017: “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Perhaps Senator Schumer should have kept his pie-hole shut on that. He made it official that the Intel Community would act as an adversary and antagonist to the President, and that appears to be exactly what has happened. One suspects that this rogue agency has captured The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and several TV cable news networks as well. And now they are metamorphosing into an enemy of the people.

The moment approaches when Mr. Trump will have to carry out a severe housecleaning of the CIA and perhaps many other agencies under the executive branch of the government. Their ongoing campaign to undo the 2016 election is igniting a civil war. Clearly a part of the whistleblower gambit was an attempt to discredit Attorney General William Barr and set up a device that would force him to recuse himself from any further inquiry into shenanigans carried out in and around Ukraine since 2014, when the CIA and the Obama State Department overthrew the government of Viktor Yanukovych. Mr. Barr is a sturdy fellow. He may have seven ways from Sunday for countering their seditious monkeyshines. Wait for it.

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Literally lives destroyed by the Deep State.

Joseph Wilson, US Envoy Who Defied Bush Over Iraq, Dies Aged 69 (BBC)

The US diplomat Joseph Wilson, who defied President George W Bush over the decision to go to war with Iraq, has died aged 69. In 2003, Mr Wilson disproved allegations used by the Bush administration as grounds for invasion that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had bought uranium in Niger. Days later, his then-wife Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA agent, in what some saw as an act of political revenge. He and Ms Plame divorced in 2017. Ms Plame told the Washington Post that er ex-husband had died of organ failure in a hospice in New Mexico, where they both lived. In a career spanning three decades, Mr Wilson held numerous postings, mainly in Africa. As acting ambassador to Iraq in the run-up to the First Gulf War in 1991, he was the last US diplomat to meet Saddam Hussein.


In 2002, by then a private citizen, Mr Wilson was sent by the CIA on a fact-finding mission to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq had bought a nuclear material – uranium yellowcake. Mr Wilson concluded that the reports were false, but 11 months later they reappeared in Mr Bush’s State of the Union address. They were used as evidence that Iraq was obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and justification for the 2003 war. In July of that year, the former diplomat wrote in the New York Times: “I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

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May not be all that practical. How about existing investments?

White House Deliberates Block On All US Investments In China (CNBC)

The White House is weighing some curbs on U.S. investments in China, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC. This discussion includes possibly blocking all U.S. financial investments in Chinese companies, the source said. It’s in the preliminary stages and nothing has been decided, the source said. There’s also no time frame for their implementation, the source added. Restricting financial investments in Chinese entities would be meant to protect U.S. investors from excessive risk due to lack of regulatory supervision, the source said. The deliberations come as the U.S. looks for additional levers of influence in trade talks, which resume on Oct. 10 in Washington.


Both countries slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods. The discussions also come as the Chinese government is taking steps to increase foreign access to its markets. Bloomberg News first reported earlier on Friday that Trump administration officials are considering ways to limit U.S. investors’ portfolio flows into China, including delisting Chinese companies from American stock exchanges and preventing U.S. government pension funds from investing in the Chinese market. Shares of Alibaba, Baidu and other Chinese companies plunged following the news. China’s yuan weakened to 7.15 against the dollar on the report.

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‘We’re liberals hence anything is permitted to us’”

Western Dominance Is On The Wane – Lavrov at UNGA (RT)

The West ignores reality by trying to prevent the formation of a multi-polar world by imposing its narrow “liberal” rules on others, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told the UN General Assembly. Lavrov’s speech on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York focused on global challenges but, unlike some of the speakers, he didn’t mince words, proceeding into a full-on rebuke of the Western ideal of world order. New centers of economic growth and political influence are emerging internationally, he said, but the US and its allies are trying to impede the rise of the multi-polar world. In order to achieve this, they “impose the standards of conduct based on narrow Western interpretation of liberalism on others. In short, ‘We’re liberals hence anything is permitted to us’” was how he characterized this attitude.

“It’s hard for the West to accept that its centuries-long domination is diminishing.” “The West has been increasingly forgetting about international law and more often dwell on rules-based order.”

As opposed to this counterproductive approach, lasting solutions to global challenges should be founded “on the basis of the UN Charter, through the balance of interests of all states,” the Russian FM recommended. The top Russian diplomat also expressed hope that Moscow and Washington would agree on an extension of the New Strategic Arms Treaty (New START), which is set to expire in February 2021. All the suggestions that Russia has made to establish additional communication channels to work on the issue are still “on the table,” Lavrov said, as is Moscow’s most recent proposal for NATO to impose a mutual moratorium on the deployment of short- and mid-range missiles in Europe.

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Oh, jeez…: “The Guardian comparing her speech on Monday to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for its historical significance, and New York Magazine calling her “the Joan of Arc of climate change.”

Establishment & Media Sympathize With Greta. So How Is That A Protest? (RT)

As hundreds of thousands of people – many of them schoolchildren – take to the streets in another demonstration over climate change, one must wonder: at what point does protest become the status quo? Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s solo school walkout last August was little more than a sideshow to newspaper editors and TV crews. But the teenage crusader’s ‘school strike’ snowballed, and the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement grew. Now, after an emotional speech by Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday, hundreds of thousands of climate strikers worldwide are packing the streets on Friday, demanding their governments declare a state of emergency, slash carbon emissions, penalize meat-eating and kill the car, to pick but a few of their proposals.

But these radicals – as they would have been called not so long ago – aren’t being met by the batons, tear gas and rubber bullets the state usually deploys to quash dissent (not that any peaceful demonstrations should be). Media outlets aren’t smearing those within their ranks as racists and downplaying attendance numbers, and the crowds occupying city streets aren’t risking injury and mutilation to do so. The very idea of ‘protest’ implies some resistance, some injustice of state to be overcome. Climate protesters would argue that not enough is being done to heal our heating earth – and that’s a debate beyond the scope of this article – but government, media, and the world’s power brokers have aided Thunberg and co’s protest movement at every step of the way.

France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ protests began in opposition to a fossil fuel tax hike, and were met with all of the violence described above on a weekly basis. Thunberg, in contrast, was invited to address the French parliament in July. Likewise with her appearances at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, her speeches before British parliament and the US Congress, and her most recent UN appearance. On every occasion, the world’s political leaders rolled out the red carpet and held the door open for her to lecture them. Media coverage of Thunberg and the climate protests has been overwhelmingly favorable – with The Guardian comparing her speech on Monday to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for its historical significance, and New York Magazine calling her “the Joan of Arc of climate change.” The Yellow Vests, to continue the comparison, were described as a rabble of anti-semites and “notorious Holocaust deniers,” based on the actions of a tiny minority of protesters.

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A visit to Belmarsh maximum-security prison. Hard to get through.

Assange Behind Bars (Felicity Ruby)

I have only ever known Julian Assange in detention. For nine years now, I have visited him in England bearing Australian news and solidarity. To Ellingham Hall I brought music and chocolate, to the Ecuadorian embassy I brought flannel shirts, Rake, Wizz Fizz and eucalyptus leaves, but to Belmarsh prison you can bring nothing—not a gift, not a book, not a piece of paper. Then I returned to Australia, a country so far away that has abandoned him in almost every respect.

Over the years I have learned to not ask, ‘How are you?’, because it’s bloody obvious how he is: detained, smeared, maligned, unfree, stuck—in ever-narrower, colder, darker and damper tunnels—pursued and punished for publishing. Over the years I’ve learned to not complain of the rain or remark on what a beautiful day it is, because he’s been inside for so long that a blizzard would be a blessing. I’ve also learned that it is not comforting but cruel to speak of sunsets, kookaburras, road trips; it’s not helpful to assure him that, like me and my dog, he will find animal tracks in the bush when he comes home, even though I think it almost every day.

It is the prolonged and intensifying nature of his confinement that hits me as I wait in the first line outside the front door of the brown-brick jail. At the visitor centre opposite I’ve been fingerprinted after showing two forms of proof of address and my passport. Sure to remove absolutely everything from my pockets, I’ve locked my bags, keeping only £20 to spend on chocolate and sandwiches. Despite the security theatre that follows, the money gets nicked at some point through no fewer than four passageways that are sealed from behind before the next door opens, a metal detector, being patted down and having my mouth and ears inspected. After putting our shoes back on, we visitors cross an outdoor area and are faced with the reality of the cage: grey steel-mesh fencing with razor wire that is about 4 metres high all around. I hurry into the next building before going into a room where thirty small tables are fixed to the floor, with one blue plastic chair facing three green plastic chairs at each.

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Sep 212019
 
 September 21, 2019  Posted by at 2:12 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Salvador Dali Punta es Baluard de la Riba d’en Pitxot 1918-19

 

US Democrats and MSM are running down a blind alley, telling themselves there’s light at the end. It has become a mass delusion. For the largest part, it has been for some four years now. You would think they’d learn something along the way, but there are very few if any signs of that.

Someone comes up with a rumor, a snippet of something, and the entire crowd jumps and runs away with it. This happens a few times a week. Four years is 200 weeks. Granted, it was worse when they still had the idea they could keep Trump from the presidency, but now that idea has morphed into impeachment, and they just keep at it.

I’ve said it before, but I still don’t quite understand why so little attention is paid to their own credibility. That they continue to reside inside an echo chamber undoubtedly goes a long way towards explaining, but they must be aware that with only the echo chamber, they have no chance of winning in 2020.

Earlier this week the New York Times ran a new anti-Kavanaugh article, and apologized for it shortly afterwards because it was baseless: the woman quoted as accusing him didn’t even remember. By then, though, 100,000 other articles on the topic had been written and broadcast.

Perhaps to paper that over, though they might not care anymore after the first million nonsense stories, there’s a new tale in town: Trump and Ukraine. Do all the news outlets ‘reporting’ on it even realize how dangerous that issue is for ‘their own’ Joe Biden? Shouldn’t they be holding back? Or are they trying to cleverly sabotage Sloppy Joe’s campaign?

The Guardian provides a good example of how the ‘reporting’ goes. Get a catchy headline, create an atmosphere, throw in plenty innuendo, and hark back to some past rumors that are irrelevant today but linger in people’s minds. And…you can’t mention Mueller enough.

 

Ukraine Imbroglio Confirms Giuliani As Trump’s Most Off-Kilter Advocate

Cuomo: “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “No. Actually I didn’t.” Crystal clear. Except that 83 words and about 30 seconds later, Cuomo asked the question again. Cuomo: “So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “Of course I did.” That Giuliani was prepared so blatantly to contradict himself on live TV in the service of the president perfectly encapsulates his transformation. “America’s Mayor”, the hero of 9/11, has metamorphosed into what the New Yorker dubbed “Trump’s clown”.


This is not the first time Giuliani has incurred ridicule and rebuke in the cause of protecting his longtime friend – no, client. In the final days of the 2016 election the lawyer was almost the only person willing to speak in favor of Trump after the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was aired. As the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in that election reached its climax, Giuliani threw lawyerly restraint to the winds and repeatedly denounced the inquiry as a witch-hunt.

That’s quite the portrait. Guess they may have thought people forgot about Rudy.

[..] But of all the scraps in which Giuliani has engaged in recent months, of all the obfuscations and verbal sleights of hand, this week’s performance could prove the most damaging, both for him and for his White House buddy. America’s Mayor has tied himself in ever-tighter knots over claims that at Trump’s behest he improperly sought to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden in the hope of dredging up damaging information.


No fewer than three House committees this week launched investigations into the Trump-Giuliani efforts in Ukraine. Though not yet on the scale of Mueller’s inquiry into whether Trump colluded with Russia, the new uproar bears chilling echoes of it.

Lovely. That’s how it’s done. Except that Giuliani did not “improperly seek to coerce Ukraine”, as we will see. Never mind, the neverending echoes still say Trump is Bad so Rudy is Bad. As for bringing up the Mueller inquiry, do they remember how that ended? Are they already fearing this narrative may end the same way?

[..] On Friday, the Wall Street Journal disclosed devastating new details of a phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky on 25 July. The paper reported that Trump pressed “about eight times” for his opposite number to look into work in the country by Biden’s son Hunter. And, the Journal wrote, Trump explicitly urged Zelensky to work with one person in forwarding the mission: Rudy Giuliani.


That Trump would be willing to attract further legal scrutiny just months after Mueller wrapped up his work, by inviting yet another foreign government to assist him in a presidential election campaign, is profoundly puzzling. After all, he partly brought the Mueller inquiry down upon his own head by inviting Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails in July 2016.

I think they’re insinuating that Trump’s campaign joke -partly- started the Muller inquiry. Wow. And to link that to an anonymous source telling someone something we don’t know because it’s been kept secret..wow again. They’re starting to sound needy.

[..] Giuliani began thumping the Ukraine theme in April, when he laid out his theory – some would say, conspiracy theory – on Fox News. He accused the former vice-president of using bribery to shield his son from legal peril relating to business activities in the eastern European country. Specifically, Giuliani alleged that Biden leant on a former Ukraine president to fire a top prosecutor who had been investigating corruption within a gas company on whose board Hunter Biden then served.

We know Biden did that. There’s video of him bragging about it. Right here:

 

 

[..] Perhaps most incendiary of all are suggestions Trump and Giuliani may have tried to encourage the Ukraine government to play ball by invoking US aid to the country. “The potentially most explosive issue here is whether the president essentially offered Ukraine a quid pro quo,” said Richard Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University.

Trump did not offer Zelensky a quid pro quo. The WaPo said so yesterday. We have proof of Biden demanding quid pro quo, we have none of Trump even asking for it.

Anyway, some bits from the BBC:

 

Trump Dismisses ‘Ridiculous Story’ About Alleged Promise To Foreign Leader

President Donald Trump has dismissed a whistleblower allegation that he made a promise to a foreign leader – believed to be Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky – calling it a “ridiculous story”. He said his talks with leaders were always “totally appropriate”. Reports say Mr Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son – who was on a Ukrainian gas company board – in return for more US military support.

“If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country,” Mr Biden wrote in a statement. In its report on the complaint by the whistleblower, the Washington Post said the intelligence official had found Mr Trump’s comment to the foreign leader “so troubling” that they went to the department’s inspector general.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quoted sources as saying Mr Trump had urged Mr Zelensky about eight times to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on an investigation into Mr Biden’s son, but had not offered anything in return. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that reports of the complaint raised “grave, urgent concerns” for US national security. Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky spoke by phone on 25 July. The whistleblower’s complaint is dated 12 August.

A: again, no quid pro quo, no nothing ‘in return for more US military support.’

B: Biden has guts accusing Trump of what he himself has been found guilty of. Attack is the best defense? Talk about abasing your country.

[Trump] described the complaint as “just another political hack job”. “It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower. He shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate,” he said [..] On Thursday, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he knew all his phone calls to foreign leaders were listened to by US agencies.

Earlier this month, before the whistleblower’s complaint came to light, House Democrats launched an investigation into Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine.

Three Democratic panel heads – Eliot Engel (foreign affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (oversight) – said Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani had attempted “to manipulate the Ukrainian justice system to benefit the president’s re-election campaign and target a possible political opponent”. They allege that Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.

Wait. Why were all those investigations launched? Phishing, are we?

Here’s the no quid pro quo again, as per Tyler Durden:

 

WaPo Reports No “Quid Pro Quo” Offered During Phone Call

[..] the Washington Post quietly reported on Friday evening that a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not contain an explicit quid pro quo if Ukraine launched an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son as initially reported. [..] “Trump did not raise the issue of American military and intelligence aid that had been pledged to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo in that call.”

[..] “The revelation that Trump pushed Zelensky to pursue the Biden probe, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, represents the most detailed account so far of the president’s conduct that prompted a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower action against the president.” -Washington Post

So – the current US president asked Ukraine to conduct a legal investigation into the former US Vice President, who openly bragged about withholding $1 billion in US loan guarantees unless they fired the guy investigating his son and his son’s company – and there was no quid pro quo offered in exchange for that investigation – at least not on that phone call.

The Daily Beast found a real-life Ukraine official (or so they say). Did they slip something into the guy’s drink? He makes some strange claims.

Trump wants to take revenge for Manafort? Because of Biden? What did/does Biden have to do with Manafort? Makes little sense.

Look, Trump wouldn’t mind getting a more solid take behind the Biden video, that’s why he asked Zelensky to investigate. After already being informed that Ukraine sought contact with his government because of it (see below).

But that doesn’t mean Trump fears Biden and seeks to discredit him for that. That video is out there for everyone to see and Biden looks like he’s selling out the US. Make what you want from that.

 

Trump Urged Ukraine President 8 Times During Call To Investigate Biden’s Son

The Journal’s new report came as a top Ukraine official reportedly said that Trump “is looking” for Ukraine officials to investigate business dealings of Biden’s son in that country in an effort “to discredit” Biden as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. The official, Anton Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast that Ukraine is ready to investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with the Ukraine gas company “as soon as there is an official request.”


But, he added, “Currently there is no open investigation.” Geraschenko is a senior advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister, who would be in charge of any investigation of Hunter Biden. “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison,” Geraschenko told The Daily Beast.

And don’t think we’re done yet. John Solomon has a lot more. Turns out, Ukraine has been contacting the US, not the other way around, about handing over evidence.

 

Missing Piece To The Ukraine Puzzle: State Department’s Overture To Rudy Giuliani

The coverage suggests Giuliani reached out to new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s team this summer solely because he wanted to get dirt on possible Trump 2020 challenger Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in that country. Politics or law could have been part of Giuliani’s motive, and neither would be illegal. But there is a missing part of the story that the American public needs in order to assess what really happened:

Giuliani’s contact with Zelensky adviser and attorney Andrei Yermak this summer was encouraged and facilitated by the U.S. State Department. Giuliani didn’t initiate it. A senior U.S. diplomat contacted him in July and asked for permission to connect Yermak with him. [..] When asked on Friday, Giuliani confirmed to me that the State Department asked him to take the Yermak meeting and that he did, in fact, apprise U.S. officials every step of the way.

[..] Why would Ukraine want to talk to Giuliani, and why would the State Department be involved in facilitating it? According to interviews with more than a dozen Ukrainian and U.S. officials, Ukraine’s government under recently departed President Petro Poroshenko and, now, Zelensky has been trying since summer 2018 to hand over evidence about the conduct of Americans they believe might be involved in violations of U.S. law during the Obama years .

The Ukrainians say their efforts to get their allegations to U.S. authorities were thwarted first by the U.S. embassy in Kiev, which failed to issue timely visas allowing them to visit America.

Then the Ukrainians hired a former U.S. attorney — not Giuliani — to hand-deliver the evidence of wrongdoing to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, but the federal prosecutors never responded.

The U.S. attorney, a respected American, confirmed the Ukrainians’ story to me. The allegations that Ukrainian officials wanted to pass on involved both efforts by the Democratic National Committee to pressure Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election as well as Joe Biden’s son’s effort to make money in Ukraine while the former vice president managed U.S.-Ukraine relations, the retired U.S. attorney told me.

Eventually, Giuliani in November 2018 got wind of the Ukrainian allegations and started to investigate. [..] Ukrainian officials also are discussing privately the possibility of creating a parliamentary committee to assemble the evidence and formally send it to the U.S. Congress, after failed attempts to get the Department of Justice’s attention, my sources say.

And just like that we have an entirely different story. But everyone in the media and the Democratic party will either ignore Solomon or try to discredit him. Until their Trump-Ukraine tale fizzles out and there’s no more readerships or ads to sell on it. By then, they reckon someone will come up with the next empty shell.

I’ll keep on wondering why they always go with these false claims. Is there really nothing actually true that they can find? It is sheer laziness, are they all not all that smart, or are they secretly on Trump’s payroll?

Me, I’ll condemn Trump for what he allows to happen to Julian Assange, and Chelsea and Snowden. But I’m not going to make up narratives for that, or play along with others who do.

 

 

 

 

Aug 312019
 


Salvador Dali Cabaret scene 1922

 

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)
Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)
China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)
Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)
UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)
Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)
Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)
Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)
Fish Fry (Kunstler)
WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

 

 

Inevitable.

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)

Protesters in Hong Kong have occupied major roads in several districts on Saturday (Aug 31) amid tighter security as authorities prepare for possible violence after demonstrations have gone ahead despite a ban. As demonstrators flooded roads in the popular Causeway Bay shopping district, the civic district in Admiralty, Wan Chai and the Central business district – a nearly 3km stretch – police issued several warnings for the crowd to disperse. Armed with umbrellas in muggy rainy weather, tens of thousands marched on the roads shouting slogans including “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”.

Security in the city has been ramped up this weekend, with huge water-filled barricades set up around the buildings next to Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Ying Pun – a previous target of some hardcore protesters. Roads in the area have been blocked to cut off access to the office. The police’s new anti-riot water cannons, which were deployed for the first time in Tsuen Wan last Sunday, were also spotted in the area. [..] In an alert to residents in the city, police on Saturday morning warned the public of “severe disruptions” ahead of a “public event this afternoon”.


Fresh calls on Saturday morning circulating via messaging app Telegram urged netizens to assemble in Causeway Bay at 2pm. This follows calls circulated on social media on Friday for people to join a Christian gathering at Wan Chai and to march to Central and Upper Albert Road. By 1pm, thousands have gathered at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai chanting “Hong Kong, gah yau”, or “Hong Kong, keep it up”, as they started marching despite police warnings against unauthorised protests.

Read more …

Encrypted spying.

Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)

Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, will allow users to cloak their telephone numbers to safeguard Hong Kong protesters against monitoring by authorities, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. The update to Telegram, planned for release over the next few days, will allow protesters to prevent mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities from discovering their identities in the app’s large group chats. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau told Reuters it has “been acting responsibly to deal with the current difficult time with a view to restoring the public order”. It declined to comment about whether it had tried to identify protesters by using the Telegram app.

[..] Thousands of Hong Kong protesters take their cues from more than 100 groups on Telegram, according to protest organizers and supporters. Protesters use encrypted apps like Telegram to mobilize swiftly through multiple group chats, with less risk of police infiltration, an in-depth report published by Reuters earlier this month said. The groups are used to post everything from news on upcoming protests to tips on dousing tear gas canisters fired by the police to the identities of suspected undercover police and the access codes to buildings in Hong Kong where protesters can hide.


Some protesters express concern that authorities could use the movement’s reliance on Telegram to monitor and arrest organizers. Telegram chat groups used to organize public protests are often accessible to anyone and participants use pseudonyms. Telegram allows users to search for other users by uploading phone numbers. This function allows a new user to quickly learn whether those in a phone’s contact book are already using the app, the group said. Some protesters say they believe Chinese or Hong Kong security officials have exploited the function by uploading large quantities of phone numbers.

Read more …

“Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August..”

China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)

Factory activity in China shrank in August for the fourth month in a row as the United States ramped up trade pressure and domestic demand remained sluggish, pointing to a further slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. Persistent weakness in China’s vast manufacturing sector could fuel expectations that Beijing needs to roll out stimulus more quickly, and more aggressively, to weather the biggest downturn in decades. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 in August, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, versus 49.7 in July, below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.


The official factory gauge showed growing trade frictions with the United States and cooling global demand continued to wreak havoc on China’s exporters. Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August, although at a slower pace, with the sub-index picking up to 47.2 from July’s 46.9. Total new orders – from home and abroad – also continued to fall, indicating domestic demand remains soft, despite a flurry of growth-boosting measures over the past year. Manufacturers in consumption-oriented industries such as the auto sector have been especially vulnerable. Carmakers such as Geely and Great Wall have slashed expectations for sales and profits. The data showed activity at medium and small-sized firms contracted, even as large manufacturers, many backed by the government, managed to expand in August.

Read more …

Links tariffs to Hong Kong.

Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)

US President Donald Trump confirmed Friday that steep new tariffs on Chinese goods will kick in on Sunday and said that his economic pressure is forcing Beijing to take a more moderate line in Hong Kong. “They’re on,” Trump told reporters, two days before the levies on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports are set to rise in the latest escalation of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Trump also said that US economic pressure on China was responsible for preventing the authorities from carrying out a harsher crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. “Because of what I’m doing with trade that’s really keeping down the temperature,” he said at the White House.

Trump’s tough line — and his claim that events in Hong Kong are linked to the trade war — follows his insistence over the last week that Chinese negotiators are keener than ever to strike a deal. However, despite repeated hints that high-level communications have been reopened on the standoff, White House officials have sparked skepticism by failing to provide details of those reported talks. His confirmation that the new tariffs will go ahead underlines the reality that the two sides remain at loggerheads.


[..] His comments on Hong Kong could touch political nerves in China, which bristles at anything it sees as outside interference in the restive city. Asked if he saw a connection between the way the Chinese respond to the unrest and the difficulties their economy faces under US pressure, Trump said: “I do, I do.” “If it weren’t for the trade talks Hong Kong would be in much more trouble,” he said, reiterating a call for Beijing to “handle it in a humane fashion.”

Read more …

“..up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais..”

UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)

Government officials this week warned food industry leaders that supplies of liquid egg could run out if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a Brexit deal in October. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week publicly dismissed warnings that there would be food shortages, telling Sky News that it is “highly unlikely” that food stocks would dry up. However, officials in the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs privately warned industry leaders that delays at the border risked causing a shortage of liquid egg, much of which is imported from the EU to make a large variety of food products in the UK.


Liquid egg is egg removed from its shell before being sold to manufacturers, which use it as an ingredient in a range of goods, including cakes, pastries, and sauces. When transported in bulk and sold to the food industry, it has a shelf life of two to three days, according to the European Food Safety Authority. [..] Industry figures were told that in a no-deal Brexit scenario, the government expected that up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais, with some lorries potentially having to wait up to two days before crossing the Channel. This in turn would disrupt the flow of liquid egg, plus other foods like soft fruit and vegetables, reaching the UK.

Read more …

Encryption? What encryptioin?

Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)

The potential impact of the latest attack on iPhones is massive, not to mention hugely concerning for every user of Apple’s famous smartphone. That simply visiting a website can lead to your iPhone being hacked silently by some unknown party is worrying enough. But given that, according to Google researchers, it’s possible for the hackers to access encrypted messages on WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram and others, the attacks undermine the security promised by those apps. It’s a stark reminder that should Apple’s iOS be compromised by hidden malware, encryption can be entirely undone. Own the operating system, own everything inside.

Among the trove of data released by Google researcher Ian Beer on the attacks was detail on the “monitoring implant” hackers installed on the iPhone. He noted that it had access to all the database files on the victim’s phone used by those end-to-end encrypted apps. Those databases “contain the unencrypted, plain-text of the messages sent and received using the apps.” The implant would also enable hackers to snoop on Gmail and Google Hangouts, contacts and photos. The hackers could also watch where users were going with a live GPS location tracker. And the malware stole the “keychain” where passwords, such as those for all remembered Wi-Fi points, are stored.


Shockingly, according to Beer, the hackers didn’t even bother encrypting the data they were stealing, making a further mockery of encrypted apps. “Everything is in the clear. If you’re connected to an unencrypted Wi-Fi network, this information is being broadcast to everyone around you, to your network operator and any intermediate network hops to the command and control server,” the Google researcher wrote. “This means that not only is the end-point of the end-to-end encryption offered by messaging apps compromised; the attackers then send all the contents of the end-to-end encrypted messages in plain text over the network to their server.” Beer’s ultimate assessment is sobering: “The implant has access to almost all of the personal information available on the device, which it is able to upload, unencrypted, to the attacker’s server.”

Read more …

Slow.

Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)

This certainly doesn’t inspire confidence. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey experienced a major security breach affecting his Twitter account on Friday before the Labor Day weekend. At about 3:45 p.m. ET, Dorsey’s Twitter account began broadcasting several vulgar tweets including those that contained ethnic slurs such as the N-word, as well as the suggestion a bomb had been placed at Twitter headquarters, and used the hashtag ChucklingSquad. In a statement, Twitter said that it is “aware that Jack was compromised and investigating what happened.” It’s not that unusual for someone’s Twitter account to get hacked. In June 2016, the company famously experienced a major security breach that involving hackers taking over accounts of many of its top users such as Katy Perry, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kylie Jenner.


But what’s most surprising about this latest hack is that the tweets, most of which were crafted specifically to be offensive or alarming, remained on the network for a whole 18 minutes after they were initially tweeted. Jack Dorsey’s unauthorized tweets were broadcast to more than 4 million users and sent Twitter into a frenzy, with many actively tagging Twitter Security and Twitter Communications, hoping to alert them to the problem. It’s unclear how the account was hacked, but the unauthorized tweets were apparently sent from Cloudhopper, a service that Twitter bought in 2010 to improve SMS service. Whether this service is at fault remains to be determined.

Read more …

John Solomon is angry.

Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)

A major headline from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) latest inspector general report is that fired FBI Director James Comey mishandled classified information. But you’d never know it from most of the day-after media reporting on the historic findings. The internal DOJ watchdog documented, irrefutably, that Comey leaked the contents of a classified memo to his legal team, first orally and then by providing a copy of the document. Some of the memo’s content was then leaked to a media organization by one of his lawyers. I first reported this when sources contacted me in late July and told me the inspector general (IG) had referred Comey to the Justice Department for possible prosecution for mishandling classified information.

Attorney General William Barr’s team declined to bring charges. My reporting was directly confirmed when the IG released its final report Thursday. The information I laid out in my July 31 column was laid bare in the IG report’s official timeline. IG Michael Horowitz declared Comey’s conduct so egregious that it created a “dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.” For some reason, not one but two Washington Post columns have emerged, suggesting I misled readers. Media critic Erik Wemple suggested I had “slimed” Comey. Another columnist, Aaron Blake, suggested my reporting led to a misleading narrative on Fox News.


When confronted like this, a professional journalist has an obligation: Either retract and correct what you got wrong, or show the public the facts that affirm the reporting. I will do the latter.

Read more …

“I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump..”

Fish Fry (Kunstler)

[..] certain remorseless legal machinery has been set in motion now that could send a whole boardroom of former Obama administration higher-ups into disgrace, infamy, and possibly the federal slammer. Think: former CIA Director John Brennan in his future role as ping-pong round-robin manager at the Allenwood, PA, penitentiary; Loretta Lynch paring turnips at Camp Alderson, WV; James Clapper trying to catch a little tan in the ‘yard’ at Lompoc…. Somewhere along the line, someone is going to point a finger at Mr. Obama and those who were around him in the dear dead days of 2016.

There’s no precedent for this, of course, not even the case of ole Tricky Dick Nixon, who never had to take a witness chair in the Watergate matter and received a pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, which made the whole tiresome business go away pronto. Wouldn’t it be a kind of poetic justice if Mr. Trump had to do the same for Mr. Obama? The New York Times would surely find a way to spin that as “racist.” CNN would declare war on FlyoverLand and send Don Lemon to Kentucky in a Lincoln Navigator with a light-saber to subdue the Ku Klux Klan and the satanic hosts of White Supremacy. Well, you see how easily this country could lose its shit.

In the meantime, cries of consternation rise from Right at the DOJ’s demurral to actually indict Mr. Comey on any of the charges listed rather explicitly in the new report. The explanation goes something like this: Comey gave an official FBI memo of his own composition to pal (and attorney) Daniel Richman, and instructed him to leak the contents (though not the memo itself) to a New York Times reporter. The memo involved recollections of a one-to-one meeting with Mr. Trump in which the case of General Flynn came up, with Mr. Trump making the case that there was nothing illegal about the National Security Advisor speaking with the Russian ambassador — since, after all, that is precisely what ambassadors from foreign lands are in Washington to do.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump — before the president grokked that he was being personally set-up for an obstruction-of-justice rap and issued Mr. Comey a pink slip. In sum, this particular matter amounted to a rinky-dink charge, where Mr. Barr’s prosecutors are concerned, compared to the greater and darker matter of Mr. Comey’s role in defrauding the FISA judges to get warrants to spy on US citizens. That will likely be Mr. Comey’s true Waterloo. So, he greeted this week’s IG report with a smarmy Twitter tweet celebrating his imagined “exoneration.” Imagine instead what his cortisol level will be in the months ahead as he awaits further moves by Messrs Barr, Durham, and IG Horowitz.

Read more …

Insulting millions of people who died in the war.

WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

Having US and former Axis leaders attend the 80th anniversary of WWII, but not inviting Russia, shows the event in Poland has nothing to do with paying respects to history, and everything to do with present-day politics. The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 is universally considered as the start of the Second World War. To mark 80 years since that fateful date, the Polish authorities have chosen to invite “present allies and partners in NATO and the EU” to a commemoration that has been moved to Warsaw for the occasion. This means US Vice President Mike Pence will be at the ceremony, alongside the leaders of many countries that were members of the Axis during the war – from Germany and Italy to Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania. Yet Russia will not be welcome.


For the past week the media in both Poland and the West have harped on about the non-aggression pact signed by the USSR and Germany on August 23, 1939 and known as Molotov-Ribbentrop, after their respective foreign ministers. The pact “doomed half of Europe to decades of misery,” argued the governments of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania this week, pointing out that its anniversary has since been declared the “European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes,” by which they mean “Nazism and Stalinism.” It’s a bit baffling the Latvians are complaining about Nazism, actually, since they keep celebrating their participation in the Waffen-SS. As for the Romanians, would those “victims” include their 3rd and 4th Armies that got crushed at Stalingrad? Which, for the geographically challenged, is about 1,500 kilometers east of the Romanian border…

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 092018
 


René Magritte The evening gown 1954

 

Julian Assange has received an letter from the US Senate asking him to testify in front of them. What to make of that is not entirely clear. Far as I know, Assange offered such testimony multiple times, under the ‘right standards’. The Senate ostensibly wants this to take place behind closed doors, and it’s hard to see how that would fit Assange’s standards. But who knows?

What struck me was that the letter was signed by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA). and especially the latter runs like a red thread through everything that has to do with Assange and the US. It reminded me of what John Solomon said in his June 25 piece ‘How Comey Intervened To Kill Wikileaks’ Immunity Deal’ about Assange lawyer Adam Waldman, who according to Solomon has a ‘Forrest Gump-like penchant for showing up in major cases of intrigue’.

Mark Warner has that, too. What made me return to this is that in his piece yesterday on the Senate request, Tyler Durden, referring to Solomon’s article, wrote: After Assange’s request was run up the flag pole, Senator Warner was issued a “stand-down” order by Comey.. And I thought: I’m not sure that’s entirely correct, and not only because Comey cannot ‘order’ a US Senator to do anything.

The stand down order was not for Warner, he just passed it on to Waldman and his counterpart acting for the DOJ, David Laufman, head of Justice’s counterintelligence and export controls section. NOTE: we don’t even know if the stand down didn’t really come from Warner, or Comey AND Warner, or someone else altogether.

What we do know is that it was a very peculiar order at a very peculiar moment in time, because the intelligence community could have gotten something tangible and valuable out of the negotiations. Solomon: “..officials “understood any visibility into his thinking, any opportunity to negotiate any redactions, was in the national security interest and worth taking,” says a senior official involved at the time.

They were well on their way to -at least potentially- save the lives of CIA operatives and assets. Negotiations had been going on for at least 2 months, and probably more like three. But then Assange offered to provide evidence that he didn’t get the DNC files from Russia. And that seems to have changed the atmosphere. Tyler has some more about this, outside of the Solomon piece:

‘Last August, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher travelled to London with journalist Charles Johnson for a meeting with Assange, after which Rohrabacher said the WikiLeaks founder offered “firsthand” information proving that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia, and which would refute the Russian hacking theory.’ After Trump denied knowledge of the potential deal, Rohrabacher raged at Trump’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, for constructing a “wall” around President Trump by “people who do not want to expose this fraud.”

NOTE: that meeting took place 4-5 months AFTER the Comey (et al?) stand down order. So Assange was still reaching out and offering to spare individual CIA assets. He has released a lot of the CIA Vault 7 files, but not all. To my knowledge he has held back on that to this day.

 

I don’t know how much you still follow from the pro-Russiagate press, which is about the entire US MSM, but Rohrabacher is habitually called a traitor, a Putin puppet and worse for talking to Russians, just like he is for going to see Assange. Once you start trying to find a way out of the ever tighter woven Russia Russia web, you’re fair game. Even if that’s simply your job as a Congressman, or at least your interpretation of what the job entails.

Back to Solomon for a bit. What he describes is not some amnesty deal, but a “Queen for a Day” proffer. Which in this case was essentially a safe passage guarantee for Assange to leave the Ecuador embassy only to go talk to US government people. We don’t know all the prospective topics of the talks, and they don’t seem to have agreed on a location (London, Washington?!) before the Comey order. Solomon:

Not included in the written proffer was an additional offer from Assange: He was willing to discuss technical evidence ruling out certain parties in the controversial leak of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election. The U.S. government believes those emails were hacked by Russia; Assange insists they did not come from Moscow.

“Mr. Assange offered to provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases,” Waldman told me. “Finally, he offered his technical expertise to the U.S. government to help address what he perceived as clear flaws in security systems that led to the loss of the U.S. cyber weapons program.”

That is just funny: Assange offered to help the CIA on its security systems. That must have pissed them off mightily, because it can only mean they really needed to strengthen security (or he wouldn’t have brought it up). But then Waldman reaches out to Warner, in what may well have been a fatal mistake. The talks with the DOJ were going well, and might have been enough. Getting politics involved in it was one took over the line:

[..] Just a few days after the negotiations opened in mid-February, Waldman reached out to Sen. Warner; the lawyer wanted to see if Senate Intelligence Committee staff wanted any contact with Assange, to ask about Russia or other issues. Warner engaged with Waldman over encrypted text messages, then reached out to Comey. A few days later, Warner contacted Waldman with an unexpected plea.

“He told me he had just talked with Comey and that, while the government was appreciative of my efforts, my instructions were to stand down, to end the discussions with Assange,” Waldman told me. Waldman offered contemporaneous documents to show he memorialized Warner’s exact words.

Waldman couldn’t believe a U.S. senator and the FBI chief were sending a different signal, so he went back to Laufman, who assured him the negotiations were still on. “What Laufman said to me after he heard I was told to ‘stand down’ by Warner and Comey was, ‘That’s bullshit. You are not standing down and neither am I,’” Waldman recalled.

A source familiar with Warner’s interactions says the senator’s contact on the Assange matter was limited and was shared with Senate Intelligence chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). But the source acknowledges that Warner consulted Comey and passed along the “stand down” instructions to Waldman: “That did happen.”

Okay, so we have Warner very much in the thick of the DOJ negotiations with Assange. Fast forward to late June 2018, when his name pops up again in a list of 10 Democratic Senators who asked Vice President Mike Pence to, on a visit to Ecuador, ask new president Lenin Moreno, to revoke Assange’s asylum on the London embassy.

 

 

Warner is there, along with such fine human beings as Dianne Feinstein, and the two Dicks Durbin and Blumenthal. Wikileaks, which posted the list, suggested: “Remember them”. Looks like an idea. Why would the Democratic party want Assange delivered to the lions? Oh, right, Russia Russia, the entirely unproven allegations which they are so desperate to tie Assange into.

They can’t prove any of the many allegations of Russian meddling, let alone their role in Hillary’s election loss, and they can’t prove any allegation against Julian Assange, at least none that he could be charged for/with, but tie Russia and WikiLeaks together and they feel they no longer have to prove anything at all, that mere allegations are strong enough.

If there is no crime Assange can be accused of, you just label him a terrorist, and all your legal problems disappear. Because terrorism can be anything, and because of national security reasons, any evidence, whether it exists or not, must be treated in secret. What reason, what grounds, do these Senators have to ask Ecuador to revoke Assange’s asylum? What legal grounds could possibly exist? We have no way of knowing, and because they label Julian a terrorist, we have no right to, either. Or so they claim.

This is called abomination of justice. In the same way that America and Britain’s treatment of him is called torture. And no, that is not too strong a term. A man who has never been charged with a crime by anyone, in any country, is being tortured. Julian has severe, painful, dental problems, he has developed a condition that makes his legs swell, and his bone density is dropping fast due to extended lack of sunlight.

These people have simply decided to wait it out, so they don’t have to go through elaborate legal procedures that they may well lose, to wait until Assange has no choice but to walk out of the embassy, or be carried out on a stretcher or in a coffin. It’s not even possible to list all the British, American, Ecuadorian and international laws his treatment violates.

Someone should give it a try, though. Just like someone should investigate Mark Warner’s role in all of this. Warner was pivotal in killing off the Assange legal teams’ talks with the DOJ, he asked Ecuador to stop Assange’s asylum (which is so illegal you don’t even want to go there), and now he requests for Assange to appear before the US Senate.

Someone investigate that guy. If I can say one last thing, it would be that Warner exemplifies all that is wrong with the US Democratic Party. He’s the Forrest Gump of all their future election losses. The Democrats should be standing up to protect people like Assange, but instead they follow the example of Hillary, who said about Assange “can’t we drone this guy?”.

Yeah, the very guy who’s never been charged with a single crime. She undoubtedly said it in the same tone of voice as her insane cackle of “We came, we saw, he died” about Gaddafi. Looked at Libya lately?

The essence of this is that we will be better people, and better societies, with Julian Assange around to help us be better. Without him, things look a whole lot darker. We need to be able to hold politicians, corporations and secret services to account. And the more they resist this, often in illegal ways, the more we must insist.

The idea was never that we must answer to them. They must answer to us, and we must be able to throw them out when they cross legal and moral lines. It’s beyond the pale that that has to be explained once again. And trying to explain that, with examples, is all that Julian Assange has ever done.

 

 

Jul 242018
 
 July 24, 2018  Posted by at 12:25 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Jacques-Louis David Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antiochus’ Disease 1774

 

One thing that’s not receiving enough attention in the respective Assange and Russia coverage is to what extent both protagonists are needed in each other’s narratives to keep each of these alive. Without explicitly linking Assange to Russia, allegations against him lose a lot, if not most, of their credibility. Likewise, if Assange is not put straight in the middle of the Russia story, it too loses much. Linking them is the gift that keeps on giving for the US intelligence community and the Democratic party.

In that light, as the shameful/shameless treatment of Julian Assange continues and is on the verge of even worse developments, I was wondering about some dates and timelines in the whole sordid affair. And about how crucial it is for those wanting to ‘capture’ him, to tie him to Russia in any form and shape they can come up with and make halfway credible.

10 days ago in The True Meaning of ‘Collusion’ I mentioned how Robert Mueller in his indictment of 12 Russians -but not Assange-, released on the eve of the Trump-Putin summit, strongly insinuated that WikiLeaks had actively sought information from Russians posing as Guccifer 2.0, that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton. I also said that Assange was an easy target because, being closed off from all communication, he cannot defend himself. From the indictment:

 

a. On or about June 22, 2016, Organization 1 sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to “[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” On or about July 6, 2016, Organization 1 added, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Conspirators responded, “ok . . . i see.” Organization 1 explained, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary . . . so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”

 

Now, the indictment itself has been blown to shreds by Adam Carter, while the narrative that the Russians hacked DNC servers and provided what they stole to WikiLeaks, has always categorically been denied by Assange, while the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and others have concluded that the speed at which the info was downloaded from the servers means it couldn’t have been a hack.

Oh, and Carter left little standing of Mueller et al’s portrait of Guccifer 2.0 as being of Russian origin. Plus, as several voices have pointed out, Assange had said on British TV on June 12 2016, ten days before the date the indictment indicates, that WikiLeaks was sitting on a batch of material pertaining to Hillary Clinton. An indictment full of allegations, not evidence, that in the end reads like Swiss cheese.

But it does serve to keep alive, and blow new fire into, the “The Russians Did It” narrative. And obviously, it also rekindles the allegation that Assange was working with the Russians to make Trump win and Hillary lose. Allegations, not evidence, against which neither Assange nor “the Russians” are in a position to defend themselves. Very convenient.

 

In his June 25 article How Comey Intervened To Kill Wikileaks’ Immunity Deal, The Hill’s John Solomon details how negotiations in early 2017 between legal representatives for Julian Assange and the US Justice Department were suddenly halted when James Comey, then FBI director, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) suddenly and entirely unexpectedly told Adam Waldman, Assange’s attorney, and David Laufman, then head of Justice’s counterintelligence and export controls section, who had been picked to lead the talks, to stand down.

This happened when Waldman reached out to Warner, who informed Comey, among other things, about Assange’s offer to provide evidence that he did not get the DNC files from the Russians. That would have dealt a huge blow to the Russia-Did-It allegation, and it would also have destroyed the narrative of Assange working with Russia. And lest we forget: it would have made Mueller’s indictment worth less than the paper it’s written on.

That Comey’s order for Waldman and Laufman to stand down risked the lives and safety of CIA operatives receives surprisingly(?) little attention, but apparently it was worth it for Comey to keep the narrative(s) alive. What do the operatives themselves think about it, though?

It’s not fully clear from Solomon’s article when exactly the stand down order was given, and/or when the talks broke down entirely. Going through the dates, we know it’s sometime between March 28 2017, when we know talks were still ongoing, and April 7 2017, when Assange “released documents with the specifics of some of the CIA malware used for cyber attacks.” After that, then CIA director Mike Pompeo labeld WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.”

Why is the date interesting? For one thing because present Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno was elected to his job on April 2 2017 (he took office on May 24). And it’s Moreno who now holds Assange’s fate in his hands. It was Moreno, also, who cut off Assange completely from the outside world last March.

Moreno’s about-face since becoming president is something to behold. He had been vice-president, trustee and friend to his predecessor Rafael Correa from 2007 to 2013. Moreno, who’s wheelchair bound after being shot in a burglary in 1998, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts for the disabled in Ecuador.

What made him turn? Or should we perhaps ask: when did the Americans get to him? And what do they have on him? Is it bribe or blackmail? There’s talk of new and generous IMF loans as we speak. What’s clear is that Moreno is in London this week, and it’s unlikely that Assange’s situation doesn’t come up in talks at all, even if that’s what Moreno’s people want to make us believe. It’s way more likely that discussions are happening about how to put Assange out on to the street and then in a British or even US jail.

 

But Assange’s case may not be as hopeless as we think. First, all the British have on him is a charge of jumping bail. That carries three months and a fine. It’s not labeled a serious charge, that goes for offences that carry three years and more. New UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt misspoke seriously when he said Assange faced serious charges. He doesn’t. And Britain still has a court system, and Assange still has lawyers.

More important, perhaps, is that Moreno will come under a lot of pressure, and probably already is, to not hand over Assange. The UN has been very clear about what it thinks about Assange’s treatment. It violates more international laws than we can count. But who cares about the UN anymore these days, right?

Even more outspoken has been the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. I know, I had never heard of them either. But they’re a serious body, most South American nations are members, and many Caribbean ones. Here’s what the court said on July 13:

 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled on Friday the right to seek asylum in embassies and other diplomatic compounds. The ruling includes a mandatory safe process, and the obligation of states to provide safe passage to those granted asylum. Without naming Julian Assange, the ruling was deemed a huge victory for the WikiLeaks founder who has been held up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012.

The court released a public statement, which said that it had “interpreted the reach of the protection given under Article 22 (7) of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article XXVII of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, which recognize the right to seek and receive asylum in a foreign territory.”

“In particular, the Court declared upon the relative issue of whether this human right protects both territorial asylum and diplomatic asylum. Similarly, the Court determined the human rights obligations of the Member States of the Organization of American States regarding the host country and, in this case, for third States, in virtue of the risk that persons seeking international protection could suffer, which was the reason for the principle of non-refoulement.

 

This court is not some hobby club. Wiki: “The Organization of American States established the Court in 1979 to enforce and interpret the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Its two main functions are thus adjudicatory and advisory. Under the former, it hears and rules on the specific cases of human rights violations referred to it. Under the latter, it issues opinions on matters of legal interpretation brought to its attention by other OAS bodies or member states.”

The court is also very clear in its ruling. Note: “the obligation of states to provide safe passage to those granted asylum”. Moreno may want to think twice before he surrenders Assange and goes against the ruling. The consequences could be far-reaching. Nobody wants to start a fight with ALL of their neighbors all at the same time. Violating the ruling would make the court obsolete.

The ideal solution would be if Australia would offer Julian Assange safe passage back home. Another country could do the same. Assange has never been charged with anything, other than the UK’s bail-skipping charge, a minor offence.

Julian Assange is a journalist, and a damn good one at that. The silence in the Anglo -and international- media about his case is shameful and deafening. So is the smear campaign that’s been going on for over a decade. How many women have been turned against the man by the false Swedish rape charges? Condemning someone to isolation without access to daylight or medical care goes way beyond shameful.

It’s time to end this horror show, not prolong or deepen it. But the power of international intelligence services is at stake, and they’re going to go to great lengths to impose that power. The US has already even claimed that freedom of speech, i.e. its entire Constitution, does not apply to non-Americans.

That’s quite the claim when you think about it. That also tells us how much is at stake for ourselves. The mainstream media are already captives to the system, lock, stock and barrel. But if Assange can be silenced this way, what are Jim Kunstler, the Automatic Earth and Zero Hedge going to do? Are we all going to shut up?

 

We need to rage against the dying of the light more than ever. Because the light, indeed, is dying. We should not go gentle into that night without ever being heard from again. We owe that to ourselves, our children, and to Julian. It’s all the same thing. Not standing up for Assange means not standing up for your children. Are you sure you’re okay with that?

 

 

May 072016
 
 May 7, 2016  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


George N. Barnard Federal picket post near Atlanta, Georgia 1864

World Corporate Debt Far Exceeds Pre-Lehman Financial Bubble (IBT)
Warnings Mount On World’s Corporate Debt, China Crisis (AEP)
US Consumer Borrowing Increases at Fastest Pace Since 2001 (BBG)
Trump Dips Toe Into Delicate US Debt Discussion (R.)
China Commodities Selloff Deepens, Steel Has Worst Week Since 2009 (R.)
UK Stores Post Steepest Sales Decline Since Financial Crisis (BBG)
When Wall Street and Washington Got in Bed Together (Arnade)
Central Banking Can Become An Opaque Creator Of Insider Deals (FT)
Why Garbagemen Should Earn More Than Bankers (Evon.)
The Emerging Markets Recovery Looks Fragile (Economist)
Panama Papers Whistleblower Manifesto (John Doe)
Sea-Level Rise Claims Five Islands In Solomons (AFP)
IMF Tells Eurozone To Start Greek Debt Relief Talks (FT)
Turkish Journalists Jailed For 5 Years, Hours After Courthouse Attack (R.)
EU’s Juncker Sees Refugee Crisis At ‘Turning Point’ (R.)

Everyhting around you has been borrowed. You just don’t recognize it.

World Corporate Debt Far Exceeds Pre-Lehman Financial Bubble (IBT)

Corporate debt across the world has reached extreme levels, warned the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a trade group of financial institutions. The global banking watchdog added that it far exceeded the pre-Lehman financial bubble. “As the credit cycle ages, following years of record-setting bond issuance, there are growing concerns about signs of stress in corporate balance sheets,” the IIF said. It said there was a double threat. While emerging markets had seen a five-fold increase in corporate debt to $25tn over the last 10 years, developed markets such as the US and Europe were seeing record junk bond issuance. Referring to the US, the IIF said companies were borrowing as if there was no tomorrow even though their profits began to decline in 2014.

It said the ratio of net debt to earnings (EBITDA) for companies was at 1.4. This had doubled since the 2007 subprime bubble, according to The Telegraph. “For the most part, this very significant amount of debt has been used to pay dividends, buy back shares and fund M&A transactions, rather than financing capital spending, which has been on a declining trend since 2012 (and fell 3.5pc in the first quarter on 2016),” the IIF explained. On junk bonds, a high-yielding high-risk security, typically issued by a company seeking to raise capital quickly, Europe and the US put together are reported to have issued them at double the pace when compared to the pre-Lehman period. “Of particular concern is that since US high-yield companies have increased their debt relative to assets, the recovery rate on defaulted bonds has declined sharply,” the IIF said.

It added that corporate defaults were at the highest levels since the financial crisis and it was “not restricted to the energy sector.” The IIF said the situation was complex as on the one hand there were cash-rich companies, on the other there very many smaller companies which had huge amounts of debt on their books. Cash that large businesses were holding onto was estimated at $1.6tn in the US, $2.2tn in Europe, and $2tn in Japan. The warning coincided with warnings issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the country’s currency board and de facto central bank. It said giving companies access to easy money over years had put the global systems in danger. Howard Lee, the executive director at the board said: “We are far from out of the woods, given new risks and headwinds on multiple fronts. There is the threat of a disorderly pullback in capital out of the region.”

Read more …

The world has but one answer to warnings like this: borrow more.

Warnings Mount On World’s Corporate Debt, China Crisis (AEP)

Corporate debt has reached extreme levels across much of the world and now far exceeds the pre-Lehman financial bubble by a host of measures, the global banking watchdog has warned in a deeply-disturbing report. “As the credit cycle ages, following years of record-setting bond issuance, there are growing concerns about signs of stress in corporate balance sheets,” said the Institute of International Finance in Washington. The body flagged a double threat: a five-fold rise in company debt to $25 trillion in emerging markets over the past decade; and record junk bond issuance in US and Europe, along with shockingly-irresponsible levels of US borrowing to buy back shares and pay dividends. The warning came as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority aired its own grim concerns that the global system is dangerously over-stretched after years of easy money, with Asia’s entire financial edifice potentially in danger.

“We are far from out of the woods, given new risks and headwinds on multiple fronts,” said Howard Lee, the body’s executive director. “There is the threat of a disorderly pullback in capital out of the region.” Mr Lee said the exodus of capital at the beginning of the year – mostly driven by fears of a Chinese devaluation – may be a foretaste of what is to come. “The next episode may be even more damaging given the financial imbalances built up over the past few years,” he told a forum in Hong Kong. “While the region has become a key driver of growth globally, this has come at the price of a pretty dramatic rise in debt fueled by easy global liquidity,” he said. “As we have witnessed in advanced economies, disorderly deleveraging may weigh heavily on the economy and may even risk the financial system.”

The IIF said the ratio of net debt to earnings (EBITDA) for US companies has doubled to 1.4 from 0.7 at the top of the subprime bubble in 2007. Firms continued to borrow as if there were no tomorrow even after their profits began to crumble in 2014. “For the most part, this very significant amount of debt has been used to pay dividends, buy back shares and fund M&A transactions, rather than financing capital spending, which has been on a declining trend since 2012 (and fell 3.5pc in the first quarter on 2016),” it said. Companies on both sides of the Atlantic have issued $1.9 trillion of junk bonds over this cycle, with volumes running at double the pre-Lehman pace. The weakest CCC-rated debt has grown in share and is already under stress, with yields spiking to 20pc in February. “The number of corporate defaults has reached the highest level since the financial crisis. It is not restricted to the energy sector,” said the report.

“Of particular concern is that since US high-yield companies have increased their debt relative to assets, the recovery rate on defaulted bonds has declined sharply,” it said. The recovery value has dropped to 29pc from 44pc two years ago. It is a complex picture because large corporations are also sitting on record levels of cash, estimated at $1.6 trillion in the US, $2.2 trillion in Europe, and $2 trillion in Japan. What emerges is a split market, divided into cash-rich giants and an army of smaller companies up to their necks in debt. Total corporate leverage is 70pc of GDP in the US and 100pc in Europe. Excesses in emerging markets are even greater, concentrated in Turkey, Brazil, Russia, and Indonesia, and above all in China where it has reached 175pc of GDP “This is the highest ratio in the world,” said the IIF.

Read more …

Debt slavery next.

US Consumer Borrowing Increases at Fastest Pace Since 2001 (BBG)

Household borrowing surged in March at the fastest pace since November 2001 as financing for automobiles picked up and Americans’ outstanding credit-card debt soared. The $29.7 billion increase, or an annualized 10%, exceeded the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey and followed a revised $14.1 billion gain the prior month, Federal Reserve figures showed Friday. Revolving credit, which includes credit-card spending, posted the biggest annualized advance since July 2000. With employers still hiring at a decent clip, consumers may be growing more comfortable carrying bigger credit-card balances and taking out car loans.

The pickup in March helped drive up household borrowing in the first quarter to a 6.4 annualized pace, compared with a 6.2% rate in the final three months of 2015. Revolving debt jumped by $11.1 billion in March, or an annualized 14.2%, after a $2.9 billion increase, the Fed’s report showed. Non-revolving debt, which includes loans for education and automobile and mobile home purchases, increased $18.6 billion, the most since September. In the first quarter, student loans outstanding climbed $31.7 billion and lending for auto purchases increased $13.5 billion.

Read more …

What I see when I read this kind of thing is the media creating a story where there is none: “Mr. Trump was clear in saying that he was not going to renegotiate U.S. debt, despite being asked multiple times, and that he would not default on U.S. debt, despite being asked multiple times,” said the adviser.”

And there’s something else too: “.. his campaign moves [..] to a general election competition where the media and members of the public expect more policy details from the candidates.” That line contains 2 false claims in one: 1) it paints the media as being on the side of the public, and 2) it denies that the media are part of the political machinery.

Actually, there’s a third implied yet unsubstantiated claim: that the media’s reporters are knowledgable when it comes to finance, economics, debt.

Trump Dips Toe Into Delicate US Debt Discussion (R.)

Would Donald Trump really consider not paying portions of the U.S. debt? The prospect riled economists on Friday as stories in the New York Times and the conservative website The Blaze cast fresh scrutiny on comments Trump made a day earlier. Responding to a question about the national debt, the likely Republican presidential nominee said in an interview on CNBC on Thursday he would “borrow knowing that if the economy crashed you could make a deal.” When asked if that meant he had taken a page from his own playbook as a businessman and try to get U.S. creditors to accept less than the full value of the bonds they hold, he said “No,” but added: “I could see long-term renegotiations where we borrow long-term at very low rates.”

The reaction to his words on Friday offered the first-time political candidate a taste of how delicate the prospect of discussing economic and fiscal policy can be. It also highlighted a danger for Trump as his campaign moves from a crowded, personality-fueled contest for the Republican nomination to a general election competition where the media and members of the public expect more policy details from the candidates. “Such remarks by a major presidential candidate have no modern precedent,” the New York Times wrote in a story saying Trump’s plan implied he would “negotiate a partial repayment” of U.S. debt.

“It’s beyond ludicrous and irresponsible unless you’re, say, an emerging market country,” wrote the U.S. debt analyst David Ader, the head of rates strategy at CRT Capital, in a note to clients early Friday morning. A senior campaign adviser said Trump had not meant to suggest he would demur on any U.S. debt payments. “Mr. Trump was clear in saying that he was not going to renegotiate U.S. debt, despite being asked multiple times, and that he would not default on U.S. debt, despite being asked multiple times,” said the adviser. “All he said is that he believes that long term low interest Treasuries would be a better deal for the U.S. taxpayer.”

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It’s moments like this when one must wonder if Beijing perhaps really doesn’t understand how things work.

China Commodities Selloff Deepens, Steel Has Worst Week Since 2009 (R.)

Chinese commodities prices spiraled lower on Friday, with steel futures suffering their worst week since 2009, as more money flowed out of markets whose surge two weeks ago unnerved global investors and forced regulators to step in to restore calm. Indicating how authorities may now be alarmed after a collapse in volumes and prices, the Dalian Commodity Exchange on Friday said it will cut some trading fees on contracts such as iron ore and coking coal. The commodities slide spilled over into stocks, with the Shanghai Composite Index ending down 2.8%, its worst day since February, as commodity producers fell. Commodities linked to China’s steel sector, which led the mid-April rally, were the hardest hit on Friday, on worries that demand in the world’s biggest steel consumer could soon wane.

The selloff spread to agricultural products including soybeans, eggs and cotton. Some traders were concerned that China’s interest rate easing cycle could be over even as optimism about prospects for the world’s No.2 economy faded. The retreat pulled prices of many of the commodities below levels in mid-April, when a buying frenzy, pinned on retail investors, bloated volumes and drew comparison with the boom-and-bust cycle in China’s stock markets last year. “It’s panic now and capital is flowing out of commodities markets amid a cautious outlook on the economy,” said a trader at a fund in Shanghai. The price declines suggest that Chinese exchanges have more than succeeded in popping the bubble, after commodity platforms in Dalian, Shanghai and Zhengzhou launched measures to curb speculative buying.

Investors have been losing faith in Chinese steel demand for May and June.A tighter steel market following shutdowns of Chinese mills in the past year and a seasonal pickup in demand helped spur prices in the past two months. But producers have since ramped up output and once-shut plants have also resumed production. “The steel mills have started to become cautious towards the market after the really crazy rally. At the same time they don’t think demand will be sustainable,” said Wang Di, an analyst at CRU consultancy in Beijing.

Read more …

Gotta be the (‘Cool spring) weather’…

UK Stores Post Steepest Sales Decline Since Financial Crisis (BBG)

U.K. stores had their steepest sales decline since 2008 last month as British consumers shunned the country’s shopping streets. Like-for-like sales fell 6.1% compared with April last year, business advisory firm BDO said in its monthly report. Fashion retailers were hardest hit, with sales dropping 9.2% as stores ended seasonal discounting toward the end of the month. The figures confirm recent evidence of difficult trading for U.K. retailers. Clothing merchant Next cut its sales forecast for a second time this week, shortly after the collapses of department-store chain BHS and formalwear retailer Austin Reed. Cool spring weather, muted wage gains and uncertainty surrounding the upcoming EU referendum have caused consumers to defer purchases.
“Retailers are concerned that consumers aren’t inclined to spend at the moment because of the overall economy,” Charles Allen, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said by phone.

Read more …

Obviously, the press is in that bed too.

When Wall Street and Washington Got in Bed Together (Arnade)

My first evening of my first Wall Street business trip was spent in a Brazilian brothel. I was with a salesman from my firm who was entertaining his clients. I was brought there unexpectedly, and told to talk about markets when things got slow. Buying women for clients and then expensing it as a 10-bottle dinner wasn’t every salesperson’s thing, but in certain countries, with certain clients, it was pretty common on Wall Street. It also worked; the clients ended up buying a lot of bonds from us. The next morning I expressed my surprise to a senior trader. He laughed, “You think that’s bad? Did you look at the other guys around you? Did you see the Brazilian bankers entertaining politicians? That is the way it works here. Bankers buy the politicians.”

That was in Brazil in the 90s. On Wall Street outright corruption, like buying escorts for politicians, is exceedingly rare. The far more common, lucrative, and nuanced method of influencing politicians is to offer them high-paying jobs -or pay them for speeches. It’s such an ingrained part of the political culture that Hillary Clinton s speeches to banks after leaving the State Department, which earned her $2.9 million, isn’t odd. She did it because everyone in the political establishment does it. She doesn’t see it as wrong, because being part of that political establishment means being supported by, and supporting, the Wall Street establishment. Wall Street has always hired former government officials, mostly Republicans, and mostly for show. The jobs were ceremonial, used to wow clients and provide a firm a sheen of importance.

Bill Clinton’s first administration dramatically changed the practice, when as part of New Democrats rebranding, and to ride the popular support generated by Reagan, he pivoted towards Wall Street, embracing free trades and free markets. Wall Street was being deregulated, and rules of the game being rewritten, and so value of connections became all the higher. With both parties now aligned with bankers, prior checks on the process started dissolving. With both parties behind it, Wall Street fully embraced the political class. The embrace was mutual. Bankers also started going to work in D.C., taking central roles in writing banking regulations. It turned into a personally profitable merging of interest, with D.C. favoring Wall Street, and Wall Street rewarding D.C..

The model for the new “revolving door” was Robert Rubin, the CEO of Goldman Sachs. Determined to show Wall Street that he was a different type of Democrat, Bill Clinton hired Rubin as his second Treasury Secretary. Rubin’s four years in the administration were very good to Wall Street; the regulatory environment, with his support, swung aggressively in their favor, punctuated by the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Rubin left the administration to go back to a booming Wall Street, taking a high paying job at Citigroup, whose expansion to the world’s largest financial company was made possible by the repeal of Glass-Steagall. It was, even by Wall Street’s standards, an audacious move.

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They can be a lot worse than that. We see it on a daily basis.

Central Banking Can Become An Opaque Creator Of Insider Deals (FT)

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? -Juvenal

Financial people are being given more good reasons to wonder, as Juvenal, the Roman poet, put it, who is guarding the guardians? This has not been a good week or two for anyone concerned about the honesty and independence of central bankers. One has to wonder how many times we can blame Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, the US banks, for all the wrongdoing in the financial world while overlooking the regulators and central banks themselves. I have been saving bits of questionable-central-bank-behaviour string over the past couple of months, and it has become a giant ball. Consider the ECB’s report last week on “pre-announcement price drift” for US data releases. In plain language, the ECB pointed to the apparent use of inside information, including Federal Open Market Committee policy announcements, to trade instruments such as stock index futures.

The ECB’s methodology was quite interesting, and well thought out, as far as it went. It did not, of course, go to the measurement of any such “price drift” for its own announcements, or for the data released by any group under its own supervision. Anyone who has contact with the management of the upper reaches of regulated financial institutions will have noticed the increasing level of paranoia among them about the appearance of wrongdoing. Actually, it is not paranoia. If there is not a regulation that can be used to blame them for the next financial crisis, one will be written, retroactively if that is necessary. Who, though, is exempt from the web of capital ratios, counterparty risk controls and compliance officer full-employment requirements? That would be the central banks of the 189 member states of the IMF.

So, for example, there is not much in the way of treaty obligations or shared philosophy to prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from taking closer control over the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey in the coming days. The German government and ECB will not like that, but what are they going to say or do about it? As Robert Klitgaard, one of the founders of the sad discipline of corruption research put it back in 1988, “corruption equals monopoly plus discretion minus accountability”. The wonder is why we have not detected or measured more corruption in central banks than we have.

My own belief is that the natural tendency for administrative institutions to become corrupt was tempered in central banks by the original simplicity of their tasks and the immediate evidence of the results. They used to buy and sell a short list of assets against the short-term trends in the market. Their regulatory role was limited to specifying the assets they would buy, and their risk appetite was, proportionately, the smallest in the financial markets. The functions of “lender of last resort”, ie funder of politicians’ projects, and “cop on the beat” or micromanaging regulator, were not the day-to-day purposes of central banking.

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Always a useful discussion provided people are prepared to prepare.

Why Garbagemen Should Earn More Than Bankers (Evon.)

Thick fog envelops City Hall Park at daybreak on February 2, 1968. Seven thousand New York City sanitation workers stand crowded together, their mood rebellious. Union spokesman John DeLury addresses the multitude from the roof of a truck. When he announces that the mayor has refused further concessions, the crowd’s anger threatens to boil over. As the first rotten eggs sail overhead, DeLury realizes the time for compromise is over. It’s time to take the illegal route, the path prohibited to sanitation workers for the simple reason that the job they do is too important. It’s time to strike. The next day, trash goes uncollected throughout the Big Apple. Nearly all the city’s garbage crews have stayed home. “We’ve never had prestige, and it never bothered me before,” one garbageman is quoted in a local newspaper. “But it does now. People treat us like dirt.”

When the mayor goes out to survey the situation two days later, the city is already knee-deep in refuse, with another 10,000 tons added every day. A rank stench begins to percolate through the city’s streets, and rats have been sighted in even the swankiest parts of town. In the space of just a few days, one of the world’s most iconic cities has started to look like a slum. And for the first time since the polio epidemic of 1931, city authorities declare a state of emergency. Still the mayor refuses to budge. He has the local press on his side, which portrays the strikers as greedy narcissists. It takes a week before the realization begins to kick in: The garbagemen are actually going to win. “New York is helpless before them,” the editors of The New York Times despair. “This greatest of cities must surrender or see itself sink in filth.”

Nine days into the strike, when the trash has piled up to 100,000 tons, the sanitation workers get their way. “The moral of the story,” Time Magazine later reported, “is that it pays to strike.” Perhaps, but not in every profession. Imagine, for instance, that all of Washington’s 100,000 lobbyists were to go on strike tomorrow. Or that every tax accountant in Manhattan decided to stay home. It seems unlikely the mayor would announce a state of emergency. In fact, it’s unlikely that either of these scenarios would do much damage. A strike by, say, social media consultants, telemarketers, or high-frequency traders might never even make the news at all. When it comes to garbage collectors, though, it’s different. Any way you look at it, they do a job we can’t do without. And the harsh truth is that an increasing number of people do jobs that we can do just fine without.

Were they to suddenly stop working the world wouldn’t get any poorer, uglier, or in any way worse. Take the slick Wall Street traders who line their pockets at the expense of another retirement fund. Take the shrewd lawyers who can draw a corporate lawsuit out until the end of days. Or take the brilliant ad writer who pens the slogan of the year and puts the competition right out of business. Instead of creating wealth, these jobs mostly just shift it around.

Read more …

I’m tempted to change the title into something that makes actual sense, but I’ll leave it. The Shanghai US dollar manipulation accord (a.k.a. sleight of hand) makes it possible for rags like the Economist to write drivel like this. In reality, the EM ‘recovery’ is entirely fake.

The Emerging Markets Recovery Looks Fragile (Economist)

It is not easy to have faith in the rally in emerging-market currencies that has taken place since February. The ones that have risen most in recent weeks are typically those—the rouble, the real and the rand—that had lost most ground since May 2013, when the emerging-market sell-off began in earnest. What is there to like about Russia, Brazil and South Africa, with their wilting economies and dysfunctional politics? The proximate causes of the rally are clear. One was the fading of fears for China’s economy. At the start of 2016 capital appeared to be fleeing China at a rapid rate, in a vote of no confidence.

The yuan seemed in danger of losing its moorings against the dollar, raising fears of a round of competitive devaluations across Asia and beyond. Views changed around the time of the meeting of the G20, a club of big economies, in Shanghai in February. Informal pledges by the Chinese authorities not to let the economy slide were backed up by stimulus policies, including a big budget deficit and faster credit growth. Tighter capital controls stemmed the outflows from China. Prices of scorned commodities, such as iron ore, surged at the prospect of Chinese construction. Currencies of raw-material exporters rose too. A second trigger was a change of heart by the Federal Reserve. In December it raised its main interest rate for the first time in a decade and suggested four further increases were likely in 2016.

It has since backed away from these hawkish forecasts. Real interest rates, measured by the yield on inflation-proof bonds, have fallen to 0.14%. The dollar has slumped against even rich-world currencies. No wonder the high yields on offer in Brazil, Russia and other emerging markets are so tempting to rich-world investors, says Kit Juckes of Société Générale. The improved conditions for emerging markets may prevail for a while, but not indefinitely. China’s policy of loose credit only adds to its alarming debt pile. The Fed will eventually resume tightening. Even so, there is a bit more to the emerging-market rally than just a favourable backdrop.

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Offering to work with authorities requires that one trust those authorities.

Panama Papers Whistleblower Manifesto (John Doe)

[..] For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and I never have. My viewpoint is entirely my own, as was my decision to share the documents with Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), not for any specific political purpose, but simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale of the injustices they described. The prevailing media narrative thus far has focused on the scandal of what is legal and allowed in this system. What is allowed is indeed scandalous and must be changed. But we must not lose sight of another important fact: the law firm, its founders, and employees actually did knowingly violate myriad laws worldwide, repeatedly.

Publicly they plead ignorance, but the documents show detailed knowledge and deliberate wrongdoing. At the very least we already know that Mossack personally perjured himself before a federal court in Nevada, and we also know that his information technology staff attempted to cover up the underlying lies. They should all be prosecuted accordingly with no special treatment. In the end, thousands of prosecutions could stem from the Panama Papers, if only law enforcement could access and evaluate the actual documents. ICIJ and its partner publications have rightly stated that they will not provide them to law enforcement agencies. I, however, would be willing to cooperate with law enforcement to the extent that I am able.

That being said, I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled due to the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS—and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department. Antoine Deltour is presently on trial for providing journalists with information about how Luxembourg granted secret “sweetheart” tax deals to multi-national corporations, effectively stealing billions in tax revenues from its neighbour countries.

And there are plenty more examples. Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop. Until governments codify legal protections for whistleblowers into law, enforcement agencies will simply have to depend on their own resources or on-going global media coverage for documents.

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Oh well, it’s far away. Who cares?

Sea-Level Rise Claims Five Islands In Solomons (AFP)

Five islands have disappeared in the Pacific’s Solomon Islands due to rising sea levels and coastal erosion, according to an Australian study that could provide valuable insights for future research. A further six reef islands have been severely eroded in the remote area of the Solomons, the study said, with one experiencing some 10 houses being swept into the sea between 2011 and 2014. “At least 11 islands across the northern Solomon Islands have either totally disappeared over recent decades or are currently experiencing severe erosion,” the study published in Environmental Research Letters said. “Shoreline recession at two sites has destroyed villages that have existed since at least 1935, leading to community relocations.”

The scientists said the five that had vanished were all vegetated reef islands up to five hectares (12 acres) that were occasionally used by fishermen but not populated. “They were not just little sand islands,” leader author Simon Albert told AFP. It is feared that the rise in sea levels will cause widespread erosion and inundation of low-lying atolls in the Pacific. Albert, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, said the Solomons was considered a sea-level hotspot because rises there are almost three times higher than the global average. The researchers looked at 33 islands using aerial and satellite imagery from 1947 to 2014, combined with historical insight from local knowledge.

They found that rates of shoreline recession were substantially higher in areas exposed to high wave energy, indicating a “synergistic interaction” between sea-level rise and waves, which Albert said could prove useful for future study. Those islands which were exposed to higher wave energy – in addition to sea-level rise – were found to have a greatly accelerated loss compared with the more sheltered islands. “This provides a bit of an insight into the future,” he said. “There’s these global trends that are happening but the local responses can be very, very localised.”

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I’m not at all sure the EU and IMF are not merely playing theater here.

IMF Tells Eurozone To Start Greek Debt Relief Talks (FT)

The IMF has told eurozone finance ministers they must immediately begin negotiations to grant debt relief for Greece despite German opposition, upending carefully orchestrated negotiations ahead of an emergency meeting on Monday. In a letter to all 19 ministers sent on Thursday night and obtained by the Financial Times, Christine Lagarde, the IMF chief, said stalemated talks with Athens to find €3bn in “contingency” budget cuts, which have gone on for a month, had become fruitless and that debt relief must be put on the table immediately, or risk losing IMF participation in the programme. “We believe that specific [economic reform] measures, debt restructuring, and financing must now be discussed contemporaneously,” Ms Lagarde wrote.

“For us to support Greece with a new IMF arrangement, it is essential that the financing and debt relief from Greece’s European partners are based on fiscal targets that are realistic because they are supported by credible measures to reach them.” The IMF has come under intense criticism in Greece, where senior officials in Alexis Tsipras’s government have blamed Poul Thomsen, the IMF’s European chief, for making excessive austerity demands and holding up an agreement on the €86bn bailout’s first review. But Ms Lagarde’s letter makes clear the IMF wants less austerity, arguing that the budget surplus target agreed last year between the EU and Athens — a primary surplus of 3.5% of GDP target by 2018 — is unrealistic and should be drastically reduced. A primary surplus is a country’s budget surplus when debt payments are not included.

“A clarification is needed to clear unfounded allegations that the IMF is being inflexible, calling for unnecessary new fiscal measures and — as a result — causing a delay in negotiations and the disbursement of urgently needed funds,” Ms Lagarde wrote. [..] In her letter, Ms Lagarde wrote that all sides have nearly agreed on a core set of economic reforms that would cut the Greek budget by 2.5% of GDP by 2018. Some officials believe that list could be finalised at Monday’s eurogroup meeting. But Ms Lagarde stuck by the IMF’s assessment that such reforms would only produce a primary surplus of 1.5% in 2018 — not the 3.5% the EU has mandated. Instead, Ms Lagarde urged the EU to change its target to 1.5%, a sign that she believes Brussels is demanding too much austerity of Athens.

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Food for thought: Erdogan, too, who’s slowly moving Turkey from secularism to ‘islamism’, will be happy with Sadiq Khan’s election as muslim mayor of London. Therefore Khan will need to distance himself from Turkey. And since Turkey is the EU’s new best friend, that would mean distancing himself from the EU. Something he’s not prepared to do. And his party is not prepared to do.

Turkish Journalists Jailed For 5 Years, Hours After Courthouse Attack (R.)

Two prominent Turkish journalists were sentenced to at least five years in jail for revealing state secrets on Friday, just hours after a gunman tried to shoot one of them outside the courthouse in Istanbul. Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, who was unscathed in the shooting, was given five years and 10 months. Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, was sentenced to five years. They were acquitted of some other charges, including trying to topple the government. The case, in which President Tayyip Erdogan was named as a complainant, has brought widespread condemnation from global rights groups and increased fears about freedom of the press in Turkey, a NATO member and EU candidate country.

Hours before the verdict was handed down, an assailant attempted to shoot Dundar. In full public view, before a courthouse, the attack marked an alarming development in a country already grappling with bombings by Kurdish insurgents and spillover of violence from neighboring Syria. The man shouted “traitor” before firing at least two shots in quick succession. A reporter covering the trial appeared to have been wounded. A Reuters witness said the assailant was detained by police. Before the shooting, he had approached reporters, saying he had been waiting since early morning and hoped Dundar would be found guilty. His motives and background were not immediately clear.

“We experienced two assassination attempts in two hours: one by firearms, the other by law,” Dundar told reporters following the trial. “There will always be concerns that the orders of the highest office played a role in this ruling.” The two journalists are free pending appeal. The court also decided to postpone a hearing on separate charges of links to a terrorist group until the outcome of a related case. [..] Dundar and Gul had faced up to life in jail on espionage and other charges for publishing footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency taking weapons into Syria in 2014.

Erdogan has acknowledged that the trucks, which were stopped by gendarmerie and police officers en route to the Syrian border in January 2014, belonged to the National Intelligence Organisation and said they were carrying aid to Turkmen battling both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State. He has accused the journalists of undermining Turkey’s international reputation and vowed Dundar would “pay a heavy price”, raising opposition concerns about the fairness of any trial. “We say the incident we covered was a crime, not our coverage,” Dundar said. “And for that we were confronted by the president. He acted like the prosecutor of this case. He threatened us and made us targets.”

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A deal with a country that jails its journalists is labeled a ‘success’. 2016 European values. In June the British can vote to be part of this. Or not.

EU’s Juncker Sees Refugee Crisis At ‘Turning Point’ (R.)

Europe’s migrant crisis is at a “turning point” thanks to a deal with Turkey to stem the number of new arrivals which is showing its first successes, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in comments published on Saturday. Under an accord struck with the EU, Turkey has agreed to help stop illegal migrants reaching the continent in return for accelerated EU accession talks, visa liberalization, and financial aid. Juncker told the Funke Media Group that the deal, which came into force last month, was already enabling Europe to better manage the flow of migrants. “We at a turning point,” he said. “The deal with Turkey is having an effect and the number of migrants is sinking significantly.”

He added there still needed to be a sustainable drop in the numbers before the “all-clear” could be sounded, but said the deal had given the 28-member bloc room for maneuver to create a fair and efficient asylum system in the medium term. Europe is grappling with its largest migration wave since World War Two, as a traditional flow of migrants from Africa is compounded by refugees fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and South Asia. The deal sealed off the main route by which a million migrants crossed the Aegean into Greece last year, but some believe new routes will develop through Bulgaria or Albania as Mediterranean crossings to Italy from Libya resume. Juncker criticized the decision to build a fence between Greece and Macedonia. “I don’t share the view of some that this fence – or building fences in Europe in general – can contribute anything to the long-term solution of the refugee crisis,” he said.

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