Jun 112020
 


Banksy Bataclan emergency door 2018 (was stolen in 2019, recovered yesterday)

 

Pelosi Urges Confederate Statues Be Removed From Capitol (AP)
Statues of Christopher Columbus Toppled Across The US (CNN)
Walmart To Stop Keeping ‘Multicutural’ Beauty Products In Locked Displays (R.)
Latin America Hits 70,000 Pandemic Deaths, Daily Record In Mexico (R.)
BHP To Destroy At Least 40 Aboriginal Sites, Up To 15,000 Years Old (G.)
Rio Tinto Destroys 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site: ‘Misunderstanding’ (G.)
Arrival Of Million By Sea Adds To UK Quarantine Doubts (Times)
UK Economy Likely To Suffer Worst COVID19 Damage – OECD (G.)
Fed Vows To Support US Economy’s ‘Long Road’ To Recovery After Dire 2020 (R.)
US Housing ‘Apocalypse’ Coming As Coronavirus Protections Expire (CNBC)
Amazon Bans Police Use Of Facial Recognition Tech – For A Year (BBC)
The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work (KHN)
Lilly COVID19 Treatment Could Be Authorized For Use As Soon As September (R.)
Germany Takes In Another 249 Refugee Children From Greece (K.)
FBI Knew Steele Dossier Linked To Clinton, Dems From The Start (JTN)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 134,705. A new record.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is about + 138,341 cases.

New deaths also rose from + 5,032 to + 5,165 (my count + 5,348)

US passed 2,000,000 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,852
• Brazil + 33,100
• Russia + 8,779
• India + 12,375
• Pakistan + 5,834
• Chile + 5,737

 

 

Cases 7,482,561 (+ 138,341 from yesterday’s 7,344,220)

Deaths 419,488 (+ 5,348 from yesterday’s 414,140)

 

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Pelosi’s Box. She has no idea. She’s only focused on beating Trump.

Pelosi Urges Confederate Statues Be Removed From Capitol (AP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding that [11] statues of Confederate figures such as Jefferson Davis be removed from the U.S. Capitol. In a letter, Pelosi told a House-Senate committee with jurisdiction over the controversial topic that Confederate statues “pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.” The California Democrat made the announcement on the very day President Donald Trump vowed on Twitter that he would not rename military bases honoring Confederate generals. Only a short time before Pelosi’s statement, NASCAR announced it would ban displays of the Confederate flag at its races. Confederate monuments have reemerged as a national flash point since the death of George Floyd [..]

Protesters decrying racism have targeted Confederate monuments in multiple cities, and some state officials are considering taking them down. Pelosi lacks the authority to order the removal of the 11 Capitol statues honoring Confederates but is urging the little-noticed Joint Committee on the Library to vote to remove them. Senate Republicans share jurisdiction. “The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation,” Pelosi wrote. “Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals.” The presence of statues of generals and other figures of the Confederacy in Capitol locations such as Statuary Hall — the original House chamber — has been offensive to African American lawmakers for many years.

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., was known to give tours pointing out the numerous statues. But it’s up to the states to determine which of their historical figures to display. Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi who was president of the Confederate States of America, is represented by one of two statues from that state. Pelosi noted that Davis and Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, whose statue comes from Georgia, “were charged with treason against the United States.” “Several states have moved toward replacing statues and others appear headed in the same direction. This process is ongoing and encouraging,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the Library Committee. “As Speaker Pelosi is undoubtedly aware, the law does not permit the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a statue from the Capitol once it has been received.”

Read more …

Well, let’s see…who’s uncomfortably like Columbus?

Statues of Christopher Columbus Toppled Across The US (CNN)

As racial reckoning occurs across the country following the death of George Floyd, many Confederate statues — which some consider racist symbols of America’s dark legacy of slavery — have been removed. Now, statues of Christopher Columbus, another controversial figure in US history, are also being taken down. There have been three reports of Christopher Columbus statues being tampered with — one thrown into a lake, one beheaded, and another pulled to the ground. Columbus has long been a contentious figure in history for his treatment of the Indigenous communities he encountered and for his role in the violent colonization at their expense. In recent years, many cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in recognition of the pain and terror caused by Columbus and other European explorers.

[..] Elsewhere in the US, about 1,000 people gathered at Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia on Tuesday, according to CNN affiliate WTVR. The Richmond Indigenous Society said in a tweet ahead of the rally that “we are gathering at Byrd Park to protest yet another racist monument. Christopher Columbus was a murderer of Indigenous people, mainstreaming the genocidal culture against Indigenous people that we still see today. Bring your sage, drum, jingle dress, and mask!”

[..] in Boston, officials removed the Columbus statue located in the city’s North End after it was beheaded Tuesday evening. The statue, which was erected in 1979, had been previously vandalized in 2015, when it was doused in red paint and the words “Black Lives Matter” were spray-painted on the back, CNN affiliate WBZ reported “This particular statue has been subject to repeated vandalism here in Boston, and given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of this action,” Mayor Marty Walsh said, according to WBZ.

Read more …

Oh, the webs we weave: “Many companies have issued statements in support of the black community..”

Walmart To Stop Keeping ‘Multicutural’ Beauty Products In Locked Displays (R.)

Walmart Inc will stop keeping personal care products designed for people of color in locked display cases, the retailer said, after the practice drew flak online with many saying it suggested customers for these products cannot be trusted. “We have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products in locked cases,” the company said in an email statement on Wednesday. Walmart said the practice was in place in about a dozen of its 4,700 stores in the United States and the cases were in place to deter shoplifters from products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products.


[..] The change in Walmart’s policy was prompted by a June 8 CBS News report cbsloc.al/37iJZxv that a Walmart customer had complained of the practice being discriminatory against people of color, while visiting a store in the city of Denver. “The multi-cultural hair care is all locked behind the glass. That’s so ridiculous,” Lauren Epps, a black woman was quoted as saying in the report. Many companies have issued statements in support of the black community, in addition to setting up funds to fight systematic racism. Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon has said the company, along with Walmart Foundation, will commit $100 million to create a new center on racial equity.

Read more …

Columbus opened the doors for the conquistadores. 500+ years later, the population still lives that.

Latin America Hits 70,000 Pandemic Deaths, Daily Record In Mexico (R.)

Latin America’s coronavirus crisis reached a grim new milestone on Wednesday with total deaths exceeding 70,000, according to a Reuters count, as Mexico hit a daily record for confirmed infections. Brazil, with the largest economy in the region, remains Latin America’s most affected country as total fatalities are just shy of 40,000, the world’s third highest death toll after the United States and Britain. In the region’s second biggest country Mexico, a new daily record of 4,883 confirmed cases was reported by the health ministry, along with 708 additional fatalities.


The daily totals bring Mexico’s overall official count to 129,184 infections and 15,357 deaths. The World Health Organization has determined that Latin America is the new hotspot for the pandemic, which began around the beginning of the year in China and quickly spread to Europe and beyond. Governments across the globe acknowledge that the real number of infected people is significantly higher than the official counts. Latin American fatalities attributed to the highly-contagious Covid-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus stand at 70,972, while total infections are at 1.45 million.

Read more …

And talking about slavery and the mistreatment of indigenous people…

BHP To Destroy At Least 40 Aboriginal Sites, Up To 15,000 Years Old (G.)

Mining giant BHP Billiton is poised to destroy at least 40 – and possibly as many as 86 – significant Aboriginal sites in the central Pilbara to expand its $4.5bn South Flank iron ore mining operation, even though its own reports show it is aware that the traditional owners are deeply opposed to the move. In documents seen by Guardian Australia, a BHP archaeological survey identified rock shelters that were occupied between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago and noted that evidence in the broader area showed “occupation of the surrounding landscape has been ongoing for approximately 40,000 years”. BHP’s report in September 2019 identified 22 sites of artefacts scatters, culturally modified trees, rock shelters with painted rock art, stone arrangements, and 40 “built structures … believed to be potential archaeological sites”.


Under section 18 of the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act, the traditional owners – in this case the Banjima people – are unable to lodge objections or to prevent their sacred sites from being damaged. They are also unable to raise concerns publicly about the expansion, having signed comprehensive agreements with BHP as part of a native title settlement. BHP agreed to financial and other benefits for the Banjima people, while the Banjima made commitments to support the South Flank project. But the Banjima native title holders told the WA government in April they did not want any of the 86 archaeological sites within the project area to be damaged, saying the “impending harm” to the area “is a further significant cumulative loss to the cultural values of the Banjima people”.

Read more …

Autralia is built on its own unique legacy of destruction.

Rio Tinto Destroys 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site: ‘Misunderstanding’ (G.)

The head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore division said he has “taken accountability” for the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site but refused to give a direct answer when asked if the company knew traditional owners did not want the rock shelter destroyed, saying: “clearly, there was a misunderstanding”. In an interview on Radio National on Friday, the chief executive of Rio Tinto iron ore, Chris Salisbury, said it it had “taken accountability” for the destruction of the site, which was one of two destroyed in a blast to expand the Brockman 4 iron ore mine last month. The two sites were located in Juukan Gorge in the Hamersley Ranges, about 300km inland from Karratha in Western Australia’s iron ore rich Pilbara region.


Traditional owners the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people only learned of the planned detonation on 15 May, nine days before it took place. They said the loss was “soul destroying”. Salisbury said the company “regrettably … thought we had a shared understanding with the PKKP about the future of the sites” and would conduct a review to learn “how did this go wrong from our point of view”. He also refused to provide a direct answer when asked if a statement released by the company last week, which suggested the PKKP had only “recently expressed concerns” about the site, was incorrect. It released another statement apologising “for the distress we caused” but not the destruction, on Sunday.

Read more …

No testing, no quarantines. More people than this arrived by air. No testing. Now that they’ve all landed and had the chance to infect Britons, there’s a quarentine.

Arrival Of Million By Sea Adds To UK Quarantine Doubts (Times)

More than 1.1 million people have arrived in the UK by sea since the start of the year without being forced to self-isolate as concerns mount over the government’s quarantine policy. Official figures show that there were 346,000 arrivals in the UK in March and April alone despite concerns over the transmission of coronavirus, casting further doubt over the government’s quarantine policy which was introduced for arrivals this week. The figures include HGV drivers, who are exempt from the quarantine measures, although it is not known how many fell into the category. Since Monday, anyone arriving in the UK by air, sea and through the Channel Tunnel rail link has been forced to spend two weeks in isolation. This includes Britons returning from abroad. The scheme does not apply to people from Ireland.


The quarantine is part of measures aimed at avoiding a second outbreak of Covid-19 but critics have questioned its value months after such curbs were introduced elsewhere. Giving evidence to MPs yesterday, Sir David Skeggs, 72, emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, told the home affairs committee: “These border measures would be most effective if they were done very early.” Scientists also told MPs that summer holidays abroad risked a fresh wave of coronavirus infections across Europe. Gabriel Leung, 47, a dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said it would be safest if mass-market tourism was discouraged. “I can’t imagine anybody going on holiday in any kind of destination where you go to enjoy the sun and actually doing very good hand hygiene and putting on a mask,” he said.

Read more …

Forget these predictions. Nobody has a single clue.

UK Economy Likely To Suffer Worst COVID19 Damage – OECD (G.)

Britain’s economy is likely to suffer the worst damage from the Covid-19 crisis of any country in the developed world, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. A slump in the UK’s national income of 11.5% during 2020 will outstrip the falls in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US, the Paris-based thinktank said. Germany’s decline in GDP is forecast to be 6.6% this year while Spain’s GDP will fall by 11.1%, Italy’s by 11.3 and France’s by 11.4%. The US, the world’s largest economy, is expected to take a hit of 7.3%. Highlighting the task awaiting the UK government as it seeks to ease the lockdown, the OECD warned that countries forced to impose the most draconian restrictions faced a long haul back to previous levels of activity.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, blamed the “deeply worrying” OECD forecast on the government’s “failure to get on top of the health crisis, delay going into lockdown and chaotic mismanagement of the exit from lockdown”, which she argued made the economic impact of the crisis worse. Responding to the report, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the UK was suffering “in common with many other economies around the world” and the priority was to “support people, jobs and businesses through this crisis – and this is what we’ve done”.


Britain, which is forecast to post an increase in unemployment to around 9%, could make its situation more difficult if it failed to secure a lasting agreement with the EU on trade and access to the single market, the OECD said. “The failure to conclude a trade deal with the European Union by the end of 2020 or put in place alternative arrangements would have a strongly negative effect on trade and jobs,” it said. Adding to pressure on No 10 to agree concessions with Brussels to secure a Brexit deal amid the economic damage caused by the pandemic, the credit ratings agency Moody’s warned that a no-deal Brexit would “significantly damage the UK’s potentially fragile recovery from its deepest recession in almost a century”.

Read more …

The Fed supports only banks. But Powell can still spout this insulting nonsense. No journalist ever openly disagrees.

Fed Vows To Support US Economy’s ‘Long Road’ To Recovery After Dire 2020 (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday signaled it plans years of extraordinary support for an economy facing a torturous slog back from the coronavirus pandemic, with policymakers projecting the economy to shrink 6.5% in 2020 and the unemployment rate to be 9.3% at year’s end. In the first economic projections of the pandemic era, U.S. central bank policymakers put into numbers what has been an emerging narrative: that the shutdowns, restrictions and other measures used to battle a health crisis will echo through the economy for years to come rather than be quickly reversed as commerce reopens.

Some 20 million or more people have been thrown out of work since February, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged it could take years for them to all reacquire jobs – an economic blow that is falling heaviest on minority communities at a time when mass protests over police brutality have thrown a new spotlight on racial inequality in the United States. Powell, acknowledging the nationwide demonstrations in his opening remarks at a news briefing, said it was now the Fed’s single-minded mission to bring the job market back to where it was at the end of last year, with the unemployment rate at a record low 3.5% and wage gains accumulating for some of the very same lower-paid workers in the service sector that have suffered most during the recent collapse.


[..] At the median, officials see the unemployment rate falling to 6.5% at the end of 2021 and 5.5% at the end of 2022 – still a full 2 percentage points above where it was at the end of last year, representing millions of lost years of work and wages. “The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment and inflation in the near term and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term,” the Fed said in its policy statement. The response has been an unparalleled level of unanimity in the outlook for monetary policy. All 17 current Fed policymakers see the key overnight interest rate, or federal funds rate, remaining near zero through next year, and 15 of 17 see no change through 2022.

Read more …

2 million evictions in the pipeline even before COVID19.

US Housing ‘Apocalypse’ Coming As Coronavirus Protections Expire (CNBC)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. was experiencing what housing experts and advocates deemed an eviction crisis. More than 2 million people face eviction each year, far more than the number of people who faced foreclosure at the height of the 2008 mortgage crisis. Experts expect the eviction crisis to get far worse in the coming months. The Covid-19 economic recession has hit renters especially hard. They make up a disproportionate share of service sector jobs, an industry that has been decimated as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns. In fact, between March 25 and April 10 of this year, nearly half of renters aged 18 to 64 reported that they were having trouble paying their rent or utilities, were food insecure or couldn’t afford needed medical care, according to the Urban Institute.

Thousands of tenants have been missing rent payments over the past few months. People of color have fared worse than white renters due to the disproportionate job loss in their communities, the Urban Institute reports. About 25% of black and Latino renters reported not paying or deferring rent in May, compared to 14% of white renters. To keep people in their homes, the federal government banned evictions in federally assisted properties through July 25, and some cities and states, including Massachusetts, New York and Michigan, put their own temporary eviction moratoriums in place. But many of those bans begin expiring this month depending on the state, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which tracks evictions across the country.

Plus, the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits is set to expire at the end of July. That extra money is “what has been allowing many people who have lost their jobs to continue paying rent,” Solomon Greene, a senior fellow in housing policy at the Urban Institute, tells CNBC Make It. Coupled with the end of eviction moratoriums, the U.S. is likely to experience an uptick in evictions nationwide in the coming weeks. Evicting people in the middle of a global health crisis puts them at greater risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19, turning “a catastrophe into an apocalypse,” Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative, tells CNBC Make It. “A lot of people could be on the streets,” says Carr. “Especially in places like New York City that already have a homeless problem, it could turn into a homeless nightmare.”

Read more …

For a year. That’s all you need to know. About a company that has rich contracts with US intelligence,

Amazon Bans Police Use Of Facial Recognition Tech – For A Year (BBC)

Technology giant Amazon has banned the police from using its controversial facial recognition software for a year. It comes after civil rights advocates raised concerns about potential racial bias in surveillance technology. This week IBM also said it would stop offering its facial recognition software for “mass surveillance or racial profiling”. The decisions follow growing pressure on firms to respond to the death in police custody of George Floyd. Amazon said the suspension of law enforcement use of its Rekognition software was to give US lawmakers the opportunity to enact legislation to regulate how the technology is employed.


“We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge,” Amazon said in a statement. “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.” However, the company said that it would still allow organisations that deal with human trafficking to use the technology. Like other facial recognition products, Amazon’s Rekognition can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to very quickly compare a picture from, for example, an officer’s phone camera and try to match it with mugshots held on police databases that can hold hundreds of thousands of photos.

Read more …

You mean, that wasn’t obvious yet? Sometimes you guys surprise me.

The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work (KHN)

When the American Medical Association moved its headquarters to a famous Chicago skyscraper in 2013, the floor-to-ceiling views from the 47th-floor conference space were a spectacular selling point. But now, those glimpses of the Chicago River at the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed landmark, now known as AMA Plaza, come with a trade-off: navigating the elevator in the time of COVID-19. Once the epitome of efficiency for moving masses of people quickly to where they needed to go, the elevator is the antithesis of social distancing and a risk-multiplying bottleneck. As America begins to open up, the newest conundrum for employers in cities is how to safely transport people in elevators and manage the crowd of people waiting for them.

If office tower workers want to stay safe, elevator experts think they have advice, some practical, some not: Stay in your corner, face the walls and carry toothpicks (for pushing the buttons). Not only have those experts gone back to studying mathematical models for moving people, but they are also creating technology like ultraviolet-light disinfection tools and voice-activated panels. “When there is risk of disease spreading from human to human, continuing to maintain a clean and safe vertical transportation system is critical to help people return to work and safe living,” said Jon Clarine, head of digital services at Thyssenkrupp Elevator, in an email.

After all, most elevators are inherently cramped, enclosed spaces that can barely fit two people safely spaced 6 feet apart, much less the dozen or more that elevators in commercial and residential buildings were designed to hold. They’re a minefield of buttons and surfaces tempting to touch. Air circulation is limited to what a few vents and the opening doors can manage. Plus, they’re usually mobbed during the morning, lunchtime and evening rushes.

Read more …

If news agencies write this sort of thing, while there are hundreds such products being touted, how is that not stealth advertizing and promotion?

Lilly COVID19 Treatment Could Be Authorized For Use As Soon As September (R.)

Eli Lilly and Co could have a drug specifically designed to treat COVID-19 authorized for use as early as September if all goes well with either of two antibody therapies it is testing, its chief scientist told Reuters on Wednesday. Lilly is also doing preclinical studies of a third antibody treatment for the illness caused by the new coronavirus that could enter human clinical trials in the coming weeks, Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky said in an interview. Lilly has already launched human trials with two of the experimental therapies. The drugs belong to a class of biotech medicines called monoclonal antibodies widely used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other conditions. A monoclonal antibody drug developed against COVID-19 is likely to be more effective than repurposed medicines currently being tested against the virus.


Skovronsky said the therapies – which may also be used to prevent the disease – could beat a vaccine to widespread use as a COVID-19 treatment, if they prove effective. “For the treatment indication, particularly, this could go pretty fast,” he said in an interview. “If in August or September we’re seeing the people who got treated are not progressing to hospitalization, that would be powerful data and could lead to emergency use authorization.” “So that puts you in the fall time: September, October, November is not unreasonable,” he said. Coronavirus vaccines being developed and tested at unprecedented speed are not likely to be ready before the end of the year at the earliest.

Read more …

Out of over 5,000, most of whom have been in Greece for much of their entire lives.

Germany Takes In Another 249 Refugee Children From Greece (K.)

Germany has taken in an additional 249 refugee children from Greece, the country’s interior minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday, noting that most of the minors are sick or the siblings of migrants that are already in Germany. “As the rates of coronavirus are currently at this low level, we decided as the Interior Ministry… to take in more children from Greece,” Seehofer said, noting that Germany had already received 47 refugee children in April. Seehofer said that some of his associates visited Greece last week to arrange the transfer of the children.


Six of the youngsters who were too sick to travel last week will be transferred on a subsequent trip, he said. “I always said that my migration policy includes order but also humanity,” the German minister said. Luxembourg, Switzerland, Portugal and France are among the countries that have also taken in child refugees from Greece. Many of the children being relocated belong to the ranks of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece, who number over 5,000.

Read more …

Tomorrow’s the DC Appeals Court Michael Flynn hearing. Fireworks.

FBI Knew Steele Dossier Linked To Clinton, Dems From The Start (JTN)

Notes and emails that have been kept so far from Senate investigators show the FBI knew from its earliest interactions with Christopher Steele in July 2016 that his Russia research project on Donald Trump was connected to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. The information, so far mentioned only glancingly and in footnotes of a Justice Department report, could provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with the most powerful evidence yet to confront witnesses about why the bureau concealed the political origins of Steele’s work from the FISA court. “So far the bureau is slow-walking this stuff,” a source familiar with senators’ frustrations told Just the News. “We need to see these sort of documents before we question key witnesses.”

Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) is seeking a vote later this week to authorize subpoenas that would compel the Christopher Wray-led FBI to produce witnesses and outstanding documents for the committee’s investigation of the Russia investigators. The effort to acquire the original source materials began last December after DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his explosive report blaming the FBI for 17 mistakes, omissions and acts of misconduct in seeking a FISA warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. While the headlines since that report have mostly focused on FISA abuses, Senate investigators have also zeroed in on a handful of little-noticed passages in Horowitz’s narrative that reference original FBI source documents showing what agents and supervisors knew about Steele, the former MI6 agent, and the firm that hired him, Fusion GPS.

It wasn’t until late October 2017 that the public and Congress first learned that the law firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, hired Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS research firm to have Steele delve into Trump’s Russia connections. And FBI officials have been vague in their explanations about when they knew Steele’s research was tied to Clinton and the DNC and why they did not explicitly inform the FISA court that the Steele dossier used to secure the warrant was funded by Trump’s election opponent. But one passage and two footnotes in Horowitz’s report that have largely escaped public attention suggest the FBI agent who first interviewed Steele about his anti-Trump research in London on July 5, 2016 was aware immediately of a connection to Clinton and that a separate office of the FBI passed along information from an informant by Aug. 2, 2016 that Simpson’s Fusion GPS was connected to the DNC.

[..] The FBI notes and emails from summer 2016 are consistent with recent testimony that Steele gave in a civil case in London, where he testified he told the bureau his research and the Fusion GPS project was connected to Clinton. “I presumed it was the Clinton campaign, and Glenn Simpson had indicated that. But I was not aware of the technicality of it being the DNC that was actually the client of Perkins Coie,” Steele testified in March under questioning from lawyers for Russian bankers suing over his research. Steele confirmed during that testimony that his notes of a 2016 FBI meeting showed he told agents about the Clinton connection.

Read more …

 

 

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Apr 302020
 


Wyland Stanley Golden Gate Bridge under construction 1935

 

FBI Notes Detail Effort To Frame Michael Flynn (Solomon)
Handwritten Notes, Emails Reveal FBI Agents Set Perjury Trap For Flynn (SAC)
Steele Testifies Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice Knew About His Anti-Trump Research
The NY Times Used to Correct Its Whoppers. But Not These (Kuntz)
WHO Declines Comment On Remdesivir In COVID-19, Hopes For Best (R.)
Fauci Says Leak Concerns Fueled His White House Revelation Of Remdesivir Tests (R.)
Britain Has Europe’s Second Highest COVID-19 Death Toll (R.)
UK To Miss 100,000 Coronavirus Tests Target, Minister Admits (G.)
Seoul Tests Find False Positives, Not Reinfections In Recovered Patients (KH)
After Aggressive Mass Testing, Vietnam Says It Contains COVID19 Outbreak (R.)
Los Angeles To Offer Free Coronavirus Tests To All Residents (NBC)
Small Farms, Stressed And Underfunded, Struggle For Coronavirus Relief (IC)
COVID19 Crisis Will Wipe Out Demand For Fossil Fuels – IEA (G.)
Swedish City To Dump Ton Of Chicken Manure In Park To Deter Visitors (G.)
Stock Surge Is A Bear Market Rally That Will Collapse – Bianco (CNBC)

 

 

• US records 2,502 #coronavirus deaths in past 24 hours:

• Ben Hunt @EpsilonTheory
– 2,390 Americans died today of CV-19, the sixth worst day of this nat’l disaster. 2,470 Americans died yesterday, the fifth worst day of this nat’l disaster. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet you thought the death toll was improving. Now ask yourself, WHY wasn’t I told this?

• The coronavirus may have killed more people in the U.S. than is officially known: Total deaths in 7 hard-hit states are nearly 50% above normal, CDC data shows. That’s 9,000 more deaths than were reported as of April 11 in official counts.

 

 

 

Yesterday we had 6,120 new deaths. Today it’s 10,135. Not sure what caused that surge. I did the screenshots at roughly the same time.

Cases 3,232,992 (+ 83,759 from yesterday’s 3,149,233)

Deaths 228,520 (+ 10,135 from yesterday’s 218,385)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 18%

 

 

From SCMP: Note: SCMP has a new layout for its tracker.

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: watch Peru, it’s rising fast. As are Russia and Brazil, Mexico.

 

 

 

 

Found something not corona to start off with today. What an insane tale this has already become. Sidney Powell has promised more soon.

Think back before she became Flynn’s lawyer, and now look at this. The man had been bankrupted by these shenanigans; I still wonder who pays her.

So we have Comey, McCabe, Priestap. And then what about Obama, Hillary, Biden?

FBI Notes Detail Effort To Frame Michael Flynn (Solomon)

A senior FBI official’s handwritten notes from the earliest days of the Trump administration expressed concern that the bureau might be “playing games” with a counterintelligence interview of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to get him to lie so “we could prosecute him or get him fired.” The notes and other emails were provided to Flynn’s lawyers under seal last week and released Wednesday night by court order, providing the most damning evidence to date of potential politicalization and misconduct inside the FBI during the Russia probe. The notes show FBI officials discussed not providing Flynn a Miranda-like warning before his January 2017 interview — a practice normally followed in such interviews — so that he could be charged with a crime if he misled the agents, the officials said.

“What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?,” the handwritten notes of the senior official say. The notes express further concern the FBI might be “playing games.” Multiple officials confirmed to Just the News that the author of the notes is William Priestap, the now-retired FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence and the ultimate supervisor for fired agent Peter Strzok, who led the Russia probe. Justice Department officials are investigating whether Priestap’s notes were written in conjunction with meetings he had with top leaders like then-Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, officials said.

A special prosecutor is reviewing DOJ’s and the FBI’s handling of the Flynn prosecution, which led to the former Trump adviser and retired general pleading guilty to lying to the FBI under a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia case. Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell filed a court motion last week saying new evidence has emerged showing Flynn was “framed” and his conviction should be dismissed. The officials said the notes are part of that new evidence and had been withheld from Flynn’s defense team for years even though they were potential evidence of innocence.

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There’s plenty to be said against Flynn, that’s not it. I think of his lobbying for Turkey in 2016.

The Sparrow Project @sparrowmedia on Twitter:

PRO TIP: “The FBI are not your friends, don’t lionize the FBI. Also, Michael Flynn is an Islamophobic, criminal, neo-crusader who should be sent to the gallows for the brutality he oversaw in JSOC, and at Camp Bucca in Iraq, brutality that ultimately gave birth to ISIS.”

Handwritten Notes, Emails Reveal FBI Agents Set Perjury Trap For Flynn (SAC)

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan unsealed four pages of stunning FBI emails and handwritten notes Wednesday, regarding former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, which allegedly reveal the retired three star general was targeted by senior FBI officials for prosecution, stated Flynn’s defense attorney Sidney Powell. Those notes and emails revealed that the retired three-star general appeared to be set up for a perjury trap by the senior members of the bureau and agents charged with investigating the now-debunked allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, said Sidney Powell, the defense lawyer representing Flynn. Moreover, the Department of Justice release 11 more pages of documents Wednesday afternoon, according to Powell.

What is especially terrifying is that without the integrity of Attorney General Bill Barr and U.S. Attorney Jensen, we still would not have this clear exculpatory information as Mr. Van Grack and the prosecutors have opposed every request we have made,” said Powell. It appears, based on the notes and emails that the Department of Justice was determined at the time to prosecute Flynn, regardless of what they found, Powell said. “The FBI pre-planned a deliberate attack on Gen. Flynn and willfully chose to ignore mention of Section 1001 in the interview despite full knowledge of that practice,” Powell said in a statement. “The FBI planned it as a perjury trap at best and in so doing put it in writing stating ‘what is our goal? Truth/ Admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

The documents, reviewed and obtained by SaraACarter.com, reveal that senior FBI officials discussed strategies for targeting and setting up Flynn, prior to interviewing him at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017. It was that interview at the White House with former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka that led Flynn, now 61, to plead guilty after months of pressure by prosecutors, financial strain and threats to prosecute his son. Powell filed a motion earlier this year to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea and to dismiss his case for egregious government misconduct. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017, under duress by government prosecutors, to lying to investigators about his conversations with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak about sanctions on Russia. This January, however, he withdrew his guilty plea in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

He stated that he was “innocent of this crime” and was coerced by the FBI and prosecutors under threats that would charge his son with a crime. He filed to withdraw his guilty plea after DOJ prosecutors went back on their word and asked the judge to sentence Flynn to up to six months in prison, accusing him of not cooperating in another case against his former partner. Then prosecutors backtracked and said probation would be fine but by then Powell, his attorney, had already filed to withdraw his guilty plea.

The documents reveal that prior to the interview with Flynn in January, 2017 the FBI had already come to the conclusion that Flynn was guilty and beyond that the officials were working together to see how best to corner the 33-year military veteran and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The bureau deliberately chose not to show him the evidence of his phone conversation to help him in his recollection of events, which is standard procedure. Even stranger, the agents that interviewed Flynn later admitted that they didn’t believe he lied during the interview with them.

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As if we couldn’t have guessed. Note the role played by Victoria Nuland.

Steele Testifies Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice Knew About His Anti-Trump Research

Steele recently testified in a British court that he believed both then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and then-Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice were aware of his dossier research as it was going on in summer 2016. The testimony makes his most direct link yet between his Russia collusion research and the top of the Clinton campaign and Obama White House. Steele told a British court he believed he had been hired by the Fusion GPS firm owned by Glenn Simpson through the Democratic National Committee-linked law firm Perkins Coie to assist the Clinton campaign during the election, according to a transcript of the testimony.

“I presumed it was the Clinton campaign, and Glenn Simpson had indicated that. But I was not aware of the technicality of it being the DNC that was actually the client of Perkins Coie,” Steele testified in March under questioning from lawyers for Russian bankers suing over his research. “You knew it was the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign didn’t you?” a lawyer for the businessmen asked. “I believed it was the campaign. Yes,” he answered. “The leadership of the Clinton campaign?” he was asked. “Fine, the leadership of the campaign,” Steele conceded. The lawyer persisted. “You also understood that Hillary Clinton herself was aware of what you were doing?” the lawyer asked. “I think Glenn had mentioned it, but I wasn’t clear,” Steele answered.

Then Steele was confronted with what lawyers said were notes he took at a meeting with the FBI in 2016 in which he purported to tell agents that Clinton was aware of his research. The lawyers read from those notes during the court proceedings. The notes, according to the transcript, read: “We explained that Glenn Simpson/GPS Fusion was our commissioner but the ultimate client were the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign and that we understood the candidate herself was aware of the reporting at least, if not us.” The lawyers prodded: “It’s your note, so we assume it’s accurate?” “Yes,” Steele answered during the March 17 testimony. You can read that testimony here.

[..] A day later in additional testimony, Steele was asked how he came to present some of his dossier findings to the U.S. State Department during an October 2016 meeting with then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. The former British MI6 agent turned private intelligence investigator said his meeting was set up by State officials Jonathan Winer and Victoria Nuland after longtime Clinton adviser and friend Strobe Talbott had reached out to him. “The meeting was set up by a State Department official called John Winer,” Steele explained. “At your request?” the lawyers asked. “No, at his request, his suggestion. He invited us into meet, as I understood it, at her request, Assistant Secretary of State Nuland,” Steele answered.

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Not much use waxing nostalgic about a washed out rag.

The NY Times Used to Correct Its Whoppers. But Not These (Kuntz)

The New York Times is widely admired for owning up to its errors. In addition to the corrections it runs each day, it has a tradition of publishing extensive Editor’s Notes and even full-length investigations when it has determined that flawed reporting misled readers and botched the rough first draft of history.[..] During the last few years the Times has published two other sets of deeply flawed articles that also demand such extended corrections: “The 1619 Project” and its Trump-Russia coverage. It is a sign of how much the Times, and mainstream journalism in general, have changed that it appears highly unlikely the “paper of record” will correct the record.

[..] The Trump-Russia coverage, even with caveats pinning assertions to sources rather than solid evidence, clearly created a false impression that Donald Trump and his team were in cahoots with the Russians. It’s hard to believe that former Times Executive Editor Max Frankel would have written an op-ed for the paper declaring that an “obvious bargain [was] reached during the campaign of 2016” between the Trump campaign and Russia if he hadn’t read those unmistakable insinuations in the Times. The Trump campaign is suing the Times for libel over Frankel’s claims. (Full disclosure: I was hired as an editor at the Times in 1988 under Frankel.)

A fuller accounting by the Times is especially necessary because the media’s pushing of Trump-Russia conspiracy theories was central to an unprecedented and possibly criminal effort to subvert or remove a president under false pretenses. Unless the Times and other sources come clean about who was feeding them misleading and partisan information, we may never understand this momentous chapter of history. Protecting confidential sources is, of course, one of the bedrocks of journalism. The free flow of information depends on people being able to share hard truths without jeopardizing their careers or lives.

But not when sources lie or mislead. When that happens, the confidentiality deal is off and “your responsibility would be to set the record straight,” Lynn Walsh, ethics chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, confirmed to me recently in a general conversation about SPJ’s standards for anonymous sourcing. When sources engage in gross deception on a matter of such import, even committing national security crimes in the process, the news media involved should honor their higher duty – to their readers or viewers – to expose the malfeasance and correct the record.

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Even the WHO won’t commit. A handful scary reports of people dying from 70-year old, tried and tested and never lethal, chloroquines, followed by upbeat though opaque stories on remdesivir.

Note the tweet below about 65,000(!) Italian RA, lupus patiens on long term hydroxychloroquine. Deadly, right? With a 90% reduction in COVID19 infection rate…

One difference: chloroquine patents have run out, so no big profits for “investors”. Which they will get from remdesivir if it “works”.

WHO Declines Comment On Remdesivir In COVID-19, Hopes For Best (R.)

A top World Health Organization official declined comment on Wednesday on reports that Gilead Science’s remdesivir could help treat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but said that further data was needed. “I wouldn’t like to make any specific comment on that, because I haven’t read those publications in detail,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told an online briefing in response to a question, adding it can sometimes take a number of publications to determine a drug’s efficacy. “Clearly we have the randomised control trials that are underway both in the UK and US, the ‘Solidarity trials’ with WHO. Remdesivir is one of the drugs under observation in many of those trials. So I think a lot more data will come out,” he said. Ryan added: “But we are hopeful this drug and others may prove to be helpful in treating COVID-19.”

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Reauters headline spells it out: “US Stocks Surged As Hopes For An Effective COVID-19 Treatment Prompted A Broad Rally”.

Fauci Says Leak Concerns Fueled His White House Revelation Of Remdesivir Tests (R.)

Concerns over leaks compelled the top U.S. infectious disease official to reveal data on Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental drug remdesivir, the first in a scientifically rigorous clincial trial to show benefit in treating COVID-19. The dramatic announcement by Dr Anthony Fauci in the Oval Office on Wednesday prompted concerns among scientists that the Trump administration was raising hopes about a coronavirus treatment before sharing the full data with researchers. As a cautionary example of inflating the potential value of a therapy, some pointed to President Donald Trump’s repeated endorsements of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, with no evidence that it works. Newer data suggests the malaria treatments may carry significant risks for some sufferers of the respiratory disease caused by the virus.


Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is running the trial, said he took the first opportunity to get the word out that patients taking a dummy treatment or placebo should be switched to remdesivir in hopes of benefiting from it. He expressed concern that leaks of partial information would lead to confusion. Since the White House was not planning a daily virus briefing, Fauci said he was invited to release the news at a news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards(D). “It was purely driven by ethical concerns,” Fauci told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I would love to wait to present it at a scientific meeting, but it’s just not in the cards when you have a situation where the ethical concern about getting the drug to people on placebo dominates the conversation.”

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The numbers tell us it’s a matter of days before Britain overtakes Italy in having most deaths in Europe.

Britain Has Europe’s Second Highest COVID-19 Death Toll (R.)

Britain now has Europe’s second highest official COVID-19 death toll with more than 26,000, according to figures published on Wednesday that raised questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the outbreak. Some 26,097 people died across the United Kingdom after testing positive for COVID-19 as of April 28 at 1600 GMT, Public Health England (PHE) said, citing daily figures that included deaths outside of hospital settings for the first time. That means the United Kingdom has suffered more COVID-19 deaths than France or Spain have reported, though less than Italy, which has Europe’s highest death toll and the second worst in the world after the United States.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that behind every statistic there are many human lives that have tragically been lost before their time,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told reporters. “We are still coming through the peak and…this is a delicate and dangerous moment in the crisis.” Such a high UK death toll increases the pressure on Johnson just as opposition parties accused his government of being too slow to impose a lockdown to limit contagion from the new coronavirus, too slow to introduce mass testing and too slow to get enough protective equipment to hospitals. Johnson returned to work on Monday after recuperating from COVID-19, which had left him gravely ill in intensive care at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. He celebrated the birth of a baby son on Wednesday.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticised Johnson’s response to the world’s worst public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak. Johnson had spoken of Britain’s “apparent success” in tackling COVID-19 in a speech to the nation on Monday. “We are possibly on track to have one of the worst death rates in Europe,” Starmer told parliament. “Far from success, these latest figures are truly dreadful,” he added, referring to previously published data. Starmer said his calculations showed 27,241 had died in the UK from COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the coronavirus. In mid-March the government’s chief scientific adviser said keeping Britain’s death toll below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”.

Read more …

Government reveal their failures piecemeal, after shouting out loud about BIG targets. This model does require cooperation of the media at all times.

UK To Miss 100,000 Coronavirus Tests Target, Minister Admits (G.)

The UK government is likely to miss its target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests by the end of April, a cabinet minister has admitted. After weeks of ministers insisting the deadline would be met, Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, said it was “probable that we won’t” reach it on Thursday but said it was likely in the next few days. “Even if we don’t hit it, we will in the next few days hit that target. We are up to 52,000 being tested, capacity is rising and I think it was right to set an ambitious target. Sometimes if you don’t hit a target on the due date, the direction of travel is the most important thing. And I believe we are going to get there and move beyond it because we need more,” he told Sky News.

The target was set by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, on 2 April as the government came under pressure over low testing levels. At that point, there was capacity for 12,799 daily tests in England, with just over 10,650 tests carried out. The total as of 9am on Wednesday was 52,429 tests with capacity to do 73,000, but only 33,000 individuals were tested because of multiple retests. [..] .. hospital leaders launched a strident attack on the government’s testing strategy, regardless of the target. Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents foundation trusts in England, dismissed the 100,000 target as a “red herring” that distracted from the lack of a coherent overall strategy.

NHS Providers said in a report on Wednesday: “NHS trust leaders believe they have done all they can to support the national testing effort so far but are increasingly frustrated with the lack of clarity on how the testing regime will be developed for this next phase. “At the moment they feel they are on the end of a series of frequent tactical announcements extending the testing criteria to new groups with no visibility on any longer term strategy, and are being expected at the drop of a hat to accommodate these changes with no advance notice or planning.”

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Might be good news. Might even be very good. But it’s also yet another condemnationn of testing as a whole.

Seoul Tests Find False Positives, Not Reinfections In Recovered Patients (KH)

South Korea’s infectious disease experts said Thursday that dead virus fragments were the likely cause of over 260 people here testing positive again for the novel coronavirus days and even weeks after marking full recoveries. Oh Myoung-don, who leads the central clinical committee for emerging disease control, said the committee members found little reason to believe that those cases could be COVID-19 reinfections or reactivations, which would have made global efforts to contain the virus much more daunting. “The tests detected the ribonucleic acid of the dead virus,” said Oh, a Seoul National University hospital doctor, at a press conference Thursday held at the National Medical Center.


He went on to explain that in PCR tests, or polymerase chain reaction tests, used for COVID-19 diagnosis, genetic materials of the virus amplify during testing, whether it is from a live virus or just from fragments of dead virus cells that can take months to clear from recovered patients. The PCR tests cannot distinguish whether the virus is alive or dead, he added, and this can lead to false positives. “PCR testing that amplifies genetics of the virus is used in Korea to test COVID-19, and relapse cases are due to technical limits of the PCR testing.” As of Sunday, 263 people in Korea tested positive for the disease again after being declared virus-free, of which 17 were minors or teens, the National Medical Center said. “The respiratory epithelial cell has a half-life of up to three months, and RNA virus in the cell can be detected with PCR testing one to two months after the elimination of the cell,” Oh said.

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I saw the first graph here and thought something doesn’t add up. Vietnam didn’t do mass testing, 213,000 in a country of 96 million people is nothing compared to the 6.1 million in the 320 million US.

What the second graph shows is the clue: Vietnam tests a lot compared to confirmed cases.

After Aggressive Mass Testing, Vietnam Says It Contains COVID19 Outbreak (R.)

Vietnam, a country of 96 million people which shares a border with China, is signalling that it has succeeded where many wealthier and more developed countries have not by containing the new coronavirus. The government is officially reporting a relatively small 270 cases and zero deaths. That puts the country on course to revive its economy much sooner than most others, according to several public health experts interviewed by Reuters. Its slightly more populous regional neighbour the Philippines, in comparison, has reported almost 30 times as many cases and more than 500 deaths. These public health experts say Vietnam was successful because it made early, decisive moves to restrict travel into the country, put tens of thousands of people into quarantine and quickly scaled up the use of tests and a system to track down people who might have been exposed to the virus.

“The steps are easy to describe but difficult to implement, yet they’ve been very successful at implementing them over and over again,” said Matthew Moore, a Hanoi-based official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who has been liaising with Vietnam’s government on the outbreak since early January. He added that the CDC has “great confidence” in the Vietnamese government’s response to the crisis. Vietnam increased the number of laboratories that can test for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, from three at the beginning of the outbreak in January, to 112 by April. As of Wednesday, 213,743 tests had been conducted in Vietnam, of which 270 were positive, according to health ministry data. That ratio of 791 tests to every confirmed case is by far the highest in the world, according to data from health ministries compiled by Reuters. The next highest, Taiwan, has conducted 140 tests for every case.

[..] “It is organised, it can make country-wide policy decisions that get enacted quickly and efficiently and without too much controversy,” said Guy Thwaites, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City. Thwaites said the number of positive tests processed by his organisation’s lab was in line with government data. He said the hospital where he works on the wards – Ho Chi Minh City’s 550-bed Hospital for Tropical Diseases, serving a population of 45 million people in southern Vietnam – had not admitted any additional cases not reflected in the government’s numbers. “If there was ongoing and unreported or unappreciated community transmission, we would have seen the patients in our hospital. We have not,” he said. Thwaites said his organisation’s lab increased capacity from being able to do around 100 tests a day to around 1,000 a day.

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Get yourself tested. Don’t wait.

Los Angeles To Offer Free Coronavirus Tests To All Residents (NBC)

Los Angeles will begin offering free coronavirus tests to all residents no matter if they have symptoms or not, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. Garcetti said that all residents of Los Angeles County can get the tests. The website to schedule tests says it is open to any county resident regardless of symptoms. Those with symptoms will be given priority. The mayor said he believes Los Angeles is the first major city to offer tests to all residents. He said they now have enough testing capacity to handle the increased tests. Testing rules had previously been relaxed to allow grocery store workers, first responders and other essential workers with exposure to the virus to get tests regardless of whether they have symptoms. Health officials say that even those without symptoms can spread the virus.

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All you need to know is America doesn’t like small. But people can still buy from small farms. All it may take is some effort.

Small Farms, Stressed And Underfunded, Struggle For Coronavirus Relief (IC)

Before coronavirus hit, farmers in the U.S. were already hurting from years of falling food prices, severe weather, and, more recently, President Donald Trump’s trade war. “We’ve had a record number of farm bankruptcies [in the U.S.], total farm debt is at $425 billion, [and farmer] incomes have fallen by about half since 2013,” said Eric Deeble, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which supports small and mid-sized family farms. Now, with the global pandemic closing factories and restaurants and disrupting supply chains, already stressed farms are grappling with lower demand and fewer markets to sell in, as well as a presidential administration that favors relief for big businesses over small.

Small farmers in particular — those who sell directly to farmers markets, schools, and other local food hubs — are facing an existential crisis, as they face slim odds of accessing competitive federal stimulus money. They have reason to be pessimistic. In recent years, federal subsidies to help struggling farmers have flowed almost exclusively to large corporate farms. Of the roughly $28 billion the Trump administration has distributed to food producers to offset losses from his trade wars, almost all went to big farms. Advocates for small farmers say this is driven in part by the preference of Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Purdue, who has encouraged farmers to get bigger farms if they wanted to stay in business. “Big get bigger and small go out … and that’s what we’ve seen,” he told a group of Wisconsin dairy farmers in 2018, echoing Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary, who infamously told farmers in the 1970s to “get big or get out.”

While 91 percent of U.S. farms are small — defined by the federal government as an operation with gross cash income under $250,000 — large farms account for 85 percent of the country’s farm production. The public health crisis has already had a devastating impact on agriculture across the country. A report released in mid-March by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition estimated that small farms would see a $689 million decline in sales from March to May this year due to Covid-19, leading to a payroll decline of $103 million and a total loss to the economy of $1.3 billion. Now, as the pandemic shows no sign of slowing, the coalition worries that the impact for small farmers will be even more substantial — which could lead many small farms to permanently close.

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When are they planning to tell us that renewable energy is not renewable?

COVID19 Crisis Will Wipe Out Demand For Fossil Fuels – IEA (G.)

Renewable electricity will be the only source resilient to the biggest global energy shock in 70 years triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the world’s energy watchdog. The International Energy Agency said the outbreak of Covid-19 would wipe out demand for fossil fuels by prompting a collapse in energy demand seven times greater than the slump caused by the global financial crisis. In a report, the IEA said the most severe plunge in energy demand since the second world war would trigger multi-decade lows for the world’s consumption of oil, gas and coal while renewable energy continued to grow. The steady rise of renewable energy combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean electricity will play its largest ever role in the global energy system this year, and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions.


Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard of slump in electricity use.” Renewable energy is expected to grow by 5% this year, to make up almost 30% of the world’s shrinking demand for electricity. The growth of renewables despite a global crisis could spur fossil fuel companies towards their goals to generate more clean energy, according to Birol, but governments should also include clean energy at the heart of economic stimulus packages to ensure a green recovery. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts,” said Birol. “But the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”

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What makes Sweden so successful.

Swedish City To Dump Ton Of Chicken Manure In Park To Deter Visitors (G.)

The university town of Lund in Sweden is to dump a tonne of chicken manure in its central park in a bid to deter up to 30,000 residents from gathering there for traditional celebrations to mark Walpurgis Night on Thursday. “Lund could very well become an epicentre for the spread of the coronavirus on the last night in April, [so] I think it was a good initiative,” the chairman of the local council’s environment committee, Gustav Lundblad, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. “We get the opportunity to fertilise the lawns, and at the same time it will stink and so it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer in the park,” Lundblad said, adding that the only potential drawback was that the smell may not be confined to the park.


“I am not a fertiliser expert, but as I understand it, it is clear that it might smell a bit outside the park as well,” Lundblad admitted. “These are chicken droppings, after all. I cannot guarantee that the rest of the city will be odourless. But the point is to keep people out of the city park.” Sweden has opted for a light touch approach to containing Covid-19, eschewing the strict lockdowns imposed by its Nordic neighbours and much of the rest of Europe and favouring personal responsibility over draconian enforcement. Walpurgis Night, celebrated on 30 April, is widely marked across central and northern Europe with parties and bonfires. The festivities are classed as “spontaneous” so cannot be banned by authorities, but to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus many towns and cities in Sweden have asked citizens to give the tradition a miss this year.

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Just in case you still thought there are financial markets.

Stock Surge Is A Bear Market Rally That Will Collapse – Bianco (CNBC)

Market researcher James Bianco warns April’s big run will collapse. His reason: Investors are too bullish. “I understand the market has been up a lot since the March low. But what I see in the market is a retracement rally that looks very similar to the first type of rallies that you get in protracted bear markets,” the Bianco Research president told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Wednesday. Bianco warned last month the coronavirus turmoil would be worse than the financial crisis. In early March, he put all his money in cash and never looked back — despite the bounce. So far this month, the S&P 500 is up almost 14%. If the trend holds, it’ll be the index’s best showing since 1974.


Meanwhile, the Dow is up more than 12% in the same period and is on track for its best monthly performance since January 1987. “We’ll revisit the 2,200 S&P low, if not make a lower low — probably by late summer,” he said. “That’s going to come because we’re going to find out now is a critical time for the market.” Bianco predicts there will be an overwhelming realization that life isn’t getting back to normal when then economy starts to reopen. “What the market seems to be thinking is we’re going to restart, and we’re all going to pretend that it’s 2019,” said Bianco. “And, we’re all going to stand on the subway platform with 500 other people waiting for the next train.”

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thanks for your generosity.

 

 

Before the lockdowns:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

Apr 292020
 


Gottscho-Schleisner Fulton Market pier, view to Manhattan over East River, NY April 20 1934

 

9 in 10 Americans Fear Economy Will Collapse During Coronavirus Shutdowns (WE)
50 Million Americans Have Lost Their Job In Past 6 Weeks (ZH)
China Could Have 50x More Coronavirus Cases Than Claimed – US Official (Fox)
China Embassy Accuses Australia Of ‘Petty Tricks’ In Coronavirus Dispute (R.)
A Fifth To Half Of All Coronavirus Deaths Have Been In Nursing Homes (JTN)
Experimental Trial Of Recombinant Human Interferon Alpha Nasal Drops (medRxiv)
Patients Who Survive COVID19 May Suffer Lasting Lung Damage (ScienceN)
More Than 100 Experts Call For ‘Aggressive Action Against COVID-19’ (Wsls)
Lithuanian Capital To Be Turned Into Vast Open-Air Cafe (G.)
Thousands Of British Workers Will Need To Gather The Harvest (R.)
Can Macy’s Get Through this Crisis and Stay Relevant? (WS)
Merkel Wants Green Recovery From Coronavirus Crisis (R.)
Trump Wants All US Troops Out Of Afghanistan Now Due To Coronavirus (ZH)
Amazon, Walmart Essential Workers Plan Unprecedented Strike (IC)
Boeing 737 MAX Expected To Remain Grounded Until At Least August (R.)
Steele Had Undisclosed Meetings With Lawyers For DNC, Clinton Campaign (DC)

 

 

People start blaming the economic damage on the lockdowns. Like such damage could have been prevented by letting the virus rule. Opinions differ.

 

• In a 24-hour period to 8:30 pm (0030 GMT), there were 2,207 additional US deaths, Johns Hopkins University says, after the daily deaths had fallen to around 1,300 on Sunday and Monday.
– 55,000 Americans died in the past month.

• The UK is:
– 5th in the world for coronavirus deaths
– 58th in the world for coronavirus tests conducted per million people

 

 

Numbers “temper” a little, but not by much. And there are some new kids on the block: Peru, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Singapore(!), Bangladesh and more.

 

Cases 3,149,233 (+ 69,132 from yesterday’s 3,080,101)

Deaths 218,385 (+ 6,120 from yesterday’s 212,265)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 18%

 

 

From SCMP: Note: SCMP has a new layout for its tracker.

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: watch Peru, it’s rising fast.

 

 

 

 

That’s settled then.

9 in 10 Americans Fear Economy Will Collapse During Coronavirus Shutdowns (WE)

A large portion of the country is concerned about the economy collapsing amid restrictions placed on businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Tuesday poll from Axios/Ipsos, 89% of both Republicans and Democrats have some concern that the coronavirus may trigger an economic collapse. The U.S. economy has already suffered some significant blows, including 26 million new jobless claims since the pandemic first hit the country. While the Trump administration has predicted that the economy will recover quickly, senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on Sunday that this is the worst hit the economy has taken since the Great Depression.

“During the Great Recession, remember that was the financial crisis around 2008 that we lost 8.7 million jobs in the whole thing. Right now, we’re losing that many jobs about every 10 days. And so, the economic lift for policymakers is an extraordinary one,” Hassett said. The federal government worked to inject money into the economy by giving most adults a stimulus check of up to $1,200 for an individual and $500 for dependents. According to the poll, 38% put the check into savings, 26% used it to pay off debt, and 18% planned to spend it but hadn’t yet. The patterns show that much of the stimulus funding was not spent on new purchases from businesses.


Republicans and Democrats were on the same page when it came to their concern of economic ruin, but they differed greatly on their fears about reopening the economy too soon. 88% of Democrats feared opening the economy too soon, while only 56% of Republicans felt the same way.

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Wait. That means they don’t get anything from the payroll schemes, right?

50 Million Americans Have Lost Their Job In Past 6 Weeks (ZH)

When Thursday’s initial claims report is published at 830am on Thursday, the Dept of Labor will confirm that the current depression is unlike any seen before, with approximately 30 million Americans losing their jobs in the past 6 weeks alone. That, however, may be underestimating the full number of Americans who have lost their jobs by as much as 50%. According to an online poll by the left-wing Economic Policy Institute, millions of Americans who have been thrown out of work during the coronavirus pandemic have been unable to register for unemployment benefits. The poll found that for every 10 people who have successfully filed unemployment claims, three or four people have been unable to register and another two people have not tried to apply at a time of acute economic crisis.

Official statistics show that 26.5 million people have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, wiping out all of the jobs gained during the longest employment boom in U.S. history, and another 3.5 million initial claims are expected to be filed this week. However, EPI’s survey indicates that an additional 8.9 million to 13.9 million people have been shut out of the system, said Ben Zipperer, the study’s lead author, which means that as of this week, just shy of 50 million American have lost their job since the start of March. “This study validates the anecdotes and news reports we’re seeing about people having trouble filing for benefits they need and deserve,” Zipperer said.


Among the reasons why idled workers have been unable to get in the “pipeline”, they claim they have encountered downed websites and clogged phone lines, as the state governments that administer the program have been overwhelmed by applicants. “It’s a shame how you work for so many years and then when you need it, you can’t get it,” said Jim Hewes, 48, who said he was unable to file a claim online for more than two weeks after he was furloughed from his job at an Orlando, Florida, second-hand store in March. Hewes said he mailed off a paper application on April 9 but had not heard back from the state.

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Mass incineration.

China Could Have 50x More Coronavirus Cases Than Claimed – US Official (Fox)

As the international community, including Chinese citizens, raises questions about the Chinese government’s tally of coronavirus cases and the communist nation’s mortality rate, new details are emerging about just how far off official government calculations have likely been, Fox News has learned. Last week, the People’s Republic of China increased their official count of fatalities inside Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, by 50 percent in just one day, increasing the overall tally by 1,290 people. Now, a Trump administration official tells Fox News they estimate the PRC has miscalculated and underreported the true tally nationwide by at least a factor of 50. “PRC numbers as reported today seem to be arithmetically impossible,” the official said.


“Again, we don’t know the real numbers today, but we do know the about 80,000 infections and 4,000 deaths as reported by the Chinese Communist Party propaganda are not even remotely close,” the person added. Intelligence sources, asked about recent reports of funeral homes in Wuhan becoming overwhelmed by the volume of new corpses and plagued by a shortage of urns to hold virus victims’ remains, declined to confirm the existence of classified satellite images. They did affirm, however, that the reporting is within the realm of possibility based on the evidentiary record. In support of this claim, officials point to the existence of seven funeral homes inside Wuhan city with a total incineration capacity of about 2,000 corpses per day. They also flag recent reporting that incinerators have been in near-constant use for 24 hours per day over the past several weeks. They note that, at this rate, the city’s incineration capacity nears 60,000 corpses per month.

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Australia is just “.. chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes..”

China Embassy Accuses Australia Of ‘Petty Tricks’ In Coronavirus Dispute (R.)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his proposed inquiry into how the coronavirus developed and spread would not be targeted at China but was needed given COVID-19 had killed more than 200,000 people and shut down much of the global economy. “Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again,” he said. Australian government ministers have repeatedly said China, the country’s largest trade partner, was threatening “economic coercion” after its ambassador, Cheng Jingye, said this week that Chinese consumers could boycott Australian products and universities because of the calls for the inquiry.

The head of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called Cheng to express concern. The Chinese embassy then released a statement detailing what it said was discussed on the call, prompting another rebuke from DFAT. On Wednesday, the Chinese embassy returned fire, saying on its website that details of the call had first been “obviously leaked by some Australian officials” and it needed to set the record straight. “The Embassy of China doesn’t play petty tricks, this is not our tradition. But if others do, we have to reciprocate,” an embassy spokesman said in the statement. Chinese state media has fiercely rounded on Morrison, with Australian studies scholar Chen Hong writing in the Global Times tabloid on Wednesday that Australia was “spearheading” a “malicious campaign to frame and incriminate China”.


And Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the paper which is affiliated to the Beijing-controlled People’s Daily newspaper, said on Chinese social media that Australia was always making trouble. “It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off,” Hu wrote. New Zealand, which also has China as its largest trading partner, on Wednesday sided with neighbouring Australia in supporting an inquiry into the pandemic. “It’s very hard to conceive of there not being a desire by every country in world, including the country of origin, for an investigation to find out how this happened,” Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.

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What are the odds of every single country on the western face of the earth getting this so horribly wrong? And yet, they did.

A Fifth To Half Of All Coronavirus Deaths Have Been In Nursing Homes (JTN)

A few days ago the World Health Organization’s European regional director garnered global headlines by providing a grim statistic that pinpoints the ground zero in this coronavirus pandemic. More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in Europe have occurred in long-term care or nursing home facilities. It is “an unimaginable human tragedy,” Dr. Hans Kluge declared. Europe is not alone. At least one in five deaths recorded in the United States so far has occurred in nursing homes or long-term care facilities and experts believe that percentage may grow substantially. The Kaiser Family Foundation, one of the leading health nonprofits in America, reported late last week that 27 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the 23 states that report fatalities publicly by location have occurred in nursing homes and long-term facilities.

In six of those states — Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Utah — the percentage of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes was over 50 percent of total deaths, the foundation reported. “The individuals that reside in long-term care facilities are among the most vulnerable in the US to this virus, given occupation density of these facilities and residents’ underlying poor health,” Kaiser warned. The disproportionate death toll in long-term care facilities is shining a painful light both on how poorly prepared these facilities were for a lethal outbreak and how the drastic measures since taken to stem the tide — including a ban on family visits — are creating isolation in the final days of victims’ lives. “They are no longer getting their emotional and physical support that such visits provide,” Kluge said. “Sometimes residents face the threat of abuse and neglect.”


Dr. Max Arella, a Quebec-based virologist and molecular biologist studying coronavirus for decades, told Just the News that in Canada some nursing homes have had 40% or more of their residents infected. “From the start everyone was responding as if this were a normal influenza virus and with the aging population and underlying conditions whether it is diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or cancer patients it is hard to practice social distancing,” he said. “Everyone failed from the start. The Chinese and the World Health Organization failed and even at the international, regional and national levels leaders failed,” he said. ”There are sometimes two or more people in one room so if a healthcare provider goes from bed to bed or the patients play cards the virus spreads. Not recognizing what this was and responding early was a major issue.”

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Promising. Nasal drops.

Experimental Trial Of Recombinant Human Interferon Alpha Nasal Drops (medRxiv)

Objective To investigate the efficacy and safety of recombinant human interferon alpha1b (rhIFN-α) nasal drops in healthy medical staff to prevent 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Methods A prospective, open-label study was conducted. Starting January 21, 2020, at Taihe Hospital in Shiyan City, Hubei Province, 2944 medical staff members were recruited and allocated into a low-risk group or a high-risk group according to whether they were directly exposed to the coronavirus.

Participants in the low-risk group received rhIFN-α nasal drops (2-3 drops/nostril/time, 4 times/day) for 28 days; those in the high-risk group received rhIFN-α nasal drops combined with thymosin-α1 (1.6 mg, hypodermic injection, once a week). The primary outcome was new-onset COVID-19 over 28 days. The secondary outcome was new-onset fever or respiratory symptoms but with negative pulmonary images.

The results were compared with the number of new cases in medical staff in the same areas of Hubei Province (including Wuhan) during the same period. Adverse reactions to interferon nasal drops were also observed.

Results Among the 2944 subjects in our study, 2415 were included in the low-risk group, including 997 doctors and 1418 nurses with average ages of 37.38 and 33.56 years, respectively; 529 were included in the high-risk group, including 122 doctors and 407 nurses with average ages of 35.24 and 32.16 years, respectively.

The 28-day incidence of COVID-19 was zero in both the high- and low-risk groups. The 28-day incidence of new-onset clinical symptoms with negative images for pneumonia was also zero in both the high- and low-risk groups. As controls, a total of 2035 medical personnel with confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia from the same area (Hubei Province) was observed between January 21 to February 23, 2020. There were no serious adverse effects in the 2944 subjects treated during the intervention period.

Conclusion In this investigator-initiated open-label study, we observed that rhIFN-α nasal drops can effectively prevent COVID-19 in treated medical personnel. Our results also indicate that rhIFN-α nasal drops have potential promise for protecting susceptible healthy people during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Don’t think it’s only the lungs that are at risk.

Patients Who Survive COVID19 May Suffer Lasting Lung Damage (ScienceN)

Among patients who have recovered from COVID-19 in China comes the first evidence that some may suffer long-term lung damage from the disease. In 70 patients who survived COVID-19 pneumonia, 66 had some level of lung damage visible in CT scans taken before hospital discharge, researchers report March 19 in Radiology. The damage ranged from dense clumps of hardened tissue blocking blood vessels within the tiny air sacs called alveoli, which absorb oxygen, to tissue lesions around the alveoli, Yuhui Wang, a radiologist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, and colleagues found. The tissue lesions can be a sign of chronic lung disease. Similar damage has been documented in survivors of SARS and MERS, respiratory diseases caused by coronaviruses similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind COVID-19.


Long-term studies of SARS patients have shown that roughly a third of people who recovered from severe bouts were left with permanent lung damage. In the case of MERS, one study found about a third of people who recovered from a serious infection still had signs of lung damage about seven months later. But while initial lung images indicate that SARS and MARS typically set into just one lung, COVID-19 appears to be more likely to afflict both lungs right away. In 75 of the 90 patients admitted to Huazhong University Hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia from January 16 to February 17, damage was seen across both lungs, Wang and colleagues report. CT scans taken before hospital discharge revealed that 42 out of 70 patients displayed the type of lesions around the alveoli that are more likely to develop into scars.

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Not a great headline.

Yaneer Bar-Yam is the president of the New England Complex System Institute and a co-writer with Taleb. His motto is “Crush the Curve”, not flatten it.

“Rather than kind of doing sort of the least effort that kind of will slow it down, do the most effort and get it to stop and you’re done”

More Than 100 Experts Call For ‘Aggressive Action Against COVID-19’ (Wsls)

Scientists, healthcare professionals, policy experts, business owners, and concerned citizens are calling upon Gov. Ralph Northam to be far stricter to eliminate the coronavirus in Virginia. The group, organized by EndCoronavirus.org, is asking for the governor to take seven “low-cost, high-impact actions to zero out COVID-19 in Virginia”:
• Empower local governments
• Maximize social distancing
• Require mask usage
• Deploy approaches that have worked elsewhere to scale up testing
• Leverage volunteers to cheaply scale up contact tracing
• Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities
• Implement “safe travel” rules to prevent importation of new cases

Yaneer Bar-Yam led the charge in crafting this plan, after he said Virginians asked for his expertise to find the best way to combat COVID-19. “It’s the opportunity to go back to normal that everybody wants,” Bar-Yam said. “We’re kind of operating now at kind of the edge of, ‘Is it going to go up? Is it going to be flat? Is it going to go down?’ Why should we do it in that way?” Bar-Yam said this plan is about stopping the spread altogether instead of just slowing it. “Rather than kind of doing sort of the least effort that kind of will slow it down, do the most effort and get it to stop and you’re done,” Bar-Yam said.


More than 200 people have signed the letter, explaining those seven points in greater detail. Among the signers of the letter are faculty members at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. “We have the chance to decrease the suffering and death of so many people,” said Felicia Etzkorn, chemistry professor at Virginia Tech.

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You can try, but do be careful. How is a waitress going to serve you?

Lithuanian Capital To Be Turned Into Vast Open-Air Cafe (G.)

Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, has announced plans to turn the city into a vast open-air cafe by giving over much of its public space to hard-hit bar and restaurant owners so they can put their tables outdoors and still observe physical distancing rules. The Baltic state, which has recorded 1,344 cases of the coronavirus and 44 deaths, allowed cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating, hairdressers and almost all shops to begin reopening this week as part of a staged exit from lockdown. But the health ministry has imposed strict physical distancing rules and safety measures. Shops must limit the number of customers at one time, masks will remain mandatory in all public spaces, and cafe and restaurant tables have to be placed at least two metres apart.


That posed a problem for many restaurateurs in Vilnius old town, Senamiestis, a Unesco-listed world heritage site whose narrow streets make it almost impossible to place more than a couple of tables outside – prompting the mayor’s offer. “Plazas, squares, streets – nearby cafes will be allowed to set up outdoor tables free of charge this season and thus conduct their activities during quarantine,” said Remigijus Simasius. Public safety remained the city’s top priority, the mayor said, but the measure should help cafes to “open up, work, retain jobs and keep Vilnius alive”. Eighteen of the city’s public spaces, including its central Cathedral Square, have been opened up for outdoor cafes and restaurants, city hall said, and more are expected to be added as the summer progresses. The move has been welcomed by owners, with more than 160 applying to take up the offer.

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Let the politicians go first.

Thousands Of British Workers Will Need To Gather The Harvest (R.)

Thousands of British workers will need to help gather the harvest as seasonal workers from other parts of Europe are unable to travel due to the coronavirus lockdown, the environment minister said on Wednesday. British Environment Secretary George Eustice said that in a normal year around 30,000 people come from mainly the European Union to do seasonal agricultural work, though only a third are here now. “We will need a significant number of British people, in particular those who have been furloughed they have the chance if they want,” Eustice told BBC radio. “We are getting huge interest from people wanting to do this,” he said. “We need tens of thousands of people to do this work.” The peak comes at the end of May and during June, he said.

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“Macy’s has been living off its real estate portfolio of “owned boxes” for years by selling them.”

Can Macy’s Get Through this Crisis and Stay Relevant? (WS)

Macy’s, the largest surviving department store in the US, and still clinging by its fingernails to the last rung of the top 10 ecommerce retailers in the US, down from 7th place in 2019, may never reopen many of its stores that it hadn’t already decided to shutter before the crisis. In 2019, 26% of its $24.5 billion in sales were online sales, up from 23% a year earlier, according to its 10-K filing with the SEC. In the second quarter (February through April), as all its stores were closed on March 18, the percentage of digital sales to total sales will surge. But it won’t be enough. Investors have lost faith, demonstrated amply by the crash of its 7.0% senior unsecured 30-year bond due in February 2028. The bonds have been in deeply distressed territory since mid-March. Since February 14, they have collapsed by 53%, to a new low on Tuesday of 54.1 cents on the dollar, giving them a yield of 18.6% (chart via Finra-Morningstar):

Macy’s is not out of cash. At the end of its fiscal year on February 1, it had $685 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand. On March 20, it said that it drew its entire credit line of $1.5 billion as “proactive measure.” So that would be close to a total of $2.2 billion in cash. But part of the cash has already been burned. The bond market believes that there is a decent chance these $2.2 billion and whatever else Macy’s may be able to pull out of its hat – more on that in a moment – will get it through the first part of 2021 without filing for bankruptcy. [..] To stay out of bankruptcy court, Macy’s is now trying to pull a big rabbit out of the hat: borrow up to $5 billion, secured by stores it owns and by merchandise, sources told CNBC and Bloomberg last week.


The sources said that $3 billion of the debt could be backed by inventories as collateral. And that $1 billion to $2 billion could be backed by real estate. Macy’s owns 342 of 775 stores it still operated as of February 1. None of these “owned boxes,” as it calls them, were encumbered by a mortgage, it said in its 10-K. It also owns some other properties. For years already, Macy’s has been “monetizing,” as it calls it, this real estate portfolio through the sale of properties.

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Merkel doesn’t understand how energy links to the economy: “..a higher cash incentive for buying electric cars..” is the very opposite of what the situation calls for. Try fewer cars first.

Merkel Wants Green Recovery From Coronavirus Crisis (R.)

Governments should focus on climate protection when considering fiscal stimulus packages to support an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday. Her comments are the clearest sign yet that Merkel wants to combine the task of helping companies recover from the pandemic with the challenge of setting more incentives for reducing carbon emissions. Speaking at a virtual climate summit known as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Merkel said she expected difficult discussions about how to design post-crisis stimulus measures and about which business sectors need more help than others.


“It will be all the more important that if we set up economic stimulus programmes, we must always keep a close eye on climate protection,” Merkel said, adding the focus should be laid on supporting modern technologies and renewable energies. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the conference there could be an opportunity for the world in the “dark times” of the coronavirus crisis. “The restart can lead to a healthier and more resilient world for everyone,” he said. Merkel said governments should pull in private-sector money through international financial markets to finance the costly shift towards a more climate-friendly economy. Proposals discussed by senior members of Merkel’s ruling coalition for a post-coronavirus stimulus package include a higher cash incentive for buying electric cars.

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Cue protest from both sides of the aisle.

Trump Wants All US Troops Out Of Afghanistan Now Due To Coronavirus (ZH)

It appears the coronavirus pandemic may have provided the leverage President Trump needs to finally get all American troops out of the over eighteen-year quagmire in Afghanistan. A new report this week by NBC has cited multiple senior officials to say the president “complains almost daily” that the US still has troops in Afghanistan, and that they are at risk for the spread of coronavirus. According to NBC: “His renewed push to withdraw all of them has been spurred by the convergence of his concern that coronavirus poses a force protection issue for thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and his impatience with the halting progress of his peace deal with the Taliban, the officials said.”

The historic peace deal signed between the US and Taliban at the end of February was based on a roadmap that would see the complete withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the country 14 months from the signing. It also called for a near-term massive US troop reduction to 8,600 within 135 days of signing – contingent on the Taliban’s fulfillment of its commitments under the agreement. Trump is not satisfied with the progress, and his generals appear divided on his recent increased verbalization to get out. But they apparently share his concerns over local outbreaks impacting troops stationed there: U.S. officials worry the virus could become rampant in Afghanistan, given its lack of health care and testing and its shared border with Iran, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.


“Afghanistan is going to have a significant coronavirus issue,” a former senior U.S. official said. “It hasn’t really manifested yet but it will.” On the other hand they argue that should coronavirus be a driving reason to pullout of central Asia, then it makes the American military’s presence in places like hard-hit Italy even harder to defend. “They said the president’s military advisers have made the case to him that if the U.S. pulls troops out of Afghanistan because of the coronavirus, by that standard the Pentagon would also have to withdraw from places like Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, officials said,” according to the NBC report

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“All of a sudden, they’re deemed essential workers in a pandemic, giving them tremendous leverage and power if they organize collectively.”

Amazon, Walmart Essential Workers Plan Unprecedented Strike (IC)

An unprecedented coalition of workers from some of America’s largest companies will strike on Friday. Workers from Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, and FedEx are slated to walk out on work, citing what they say is their employers’ record profits at the expense of workers’ health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic. The employees will call out sick or walk off the job during their lunch break, according to a press release set to be published by organizers on Wednesday. In some locations, rank-and-file union members will join workers outside their warehouses and storefronts to support the demonstrations.

“We are acting in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart and other companies for International Worker’s Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic,” said Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee and strike organizer. The labor action comes as workers and organizers say Amazon, in particular, has not been forthcoming about the number of Covid-19 cases at its more than 175 fulfillment centers globally. Jana Jumpp, an Indiana Amazon employee, along with her small team of fellow Amazon workers, has over the last month tallied Covid-19 cases at Amazon warehouses in the U.S. According to Jumpp, there have been at least 500 coronavirus cases in at least 125 Amazon facilities.


[..] “These workers have been exploited so shamelessly for so long by these companies while performing incredibly important but largely invisible labor,” said Stephen Brier, a labor historian and professor at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. “All of a sudden, they’re deemed essential workers in a pandemic, giving them tremendous leverage and power if they organize collectively.” The workers coalition will unveil a set of demands. Among them are: compensation for all unpaid time off used since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in March; hazard pay or paid sick leave to be provided for the duration of the pandemic; protective equipment and all cleaning supplies to be provided at all times by the company; and a demand for full corporate transparency on the number of cases in facilities.

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Headline could easily have been from 6 months ago.

Two more and entirely new software issues. But yeah, hand them another $100 billion.

Boeing 737 MAX Expected To Remain Grounded Until At Least August (R.)

Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX jet is expected to remain grounded until at least August as the manufacturer continues to grapple with software issues, people briefed on the matter told Reuters. The largest planemaker has signaled it now hopes to win regulatory approval in August for the plane’s return to service, but that could be pushed backed until fall, the sources said, as timing for meeting milestones is uncertain. The best-selling airplane has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Boeing halted production in January and has 400 undelivered MAX planes in storage.

Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of 737 MAX airplanes worldwide, said Tuesday it was removing the MAX from its schedule through Oct. 30 based on Boeing’s “recent communication on the MAX return to service date.” Last week, Reuters reported that a key certification test flight had been delayed until late May at the earliest and reported in early April the company was dealing with two new software issues. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has repeatedly said it has no timetable for approving the plane’s return to the skies.


Boeing said on April 7 it needed to make two new software updates to the 737 MAX’s flight control computer. One issue involves hypothetical faults in the flight control microprocessor, which could potentially lead to a loss of control known as a runaway stabilizer. The other issue could lead to disengagement of the autopilot feature during final approach. Boeing said on April 7 it was working with Raytheon unit Collins Aerospace Systems on the software updates, but it remained unclear when Collins will complete work and how long it will take U.S. and other regulators to validate the fixes as they complete a software documentation audit.

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Matt Taibbi got a lot of flack on Twitter for quoting this from the Daily Caller. His reply: they’re the only ones reporting on it; I can only wish there were others.

Steele Had Undisclosed Meetings With Lawyers For DNC, Clinton Campaign (DC)

A lawyer representing the DNC and Clinton campaign provided Christopher Steele with information in 2016 regarding an alleged secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, the former spy told a British court last month. That now-debunked tip, from Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann, set off a chain of events that led to Steele publishing a Sept. 14, 2016 memo accusing the founders of the bank, Alfa Bank, of having “illicit” ties to Vladimir Putin, according to a court transcript obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. A week after Steele wrote that memo, he had another meeting with Sussmann’s colleague, Marc Elias, according to the transcript.

Steele disclosed the previously unreported meetings with Sussmann and Elias during testimony in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by the Alfa Bank founders, the transcript shows. Steele’s testimony about Sussmann and Elias provides insight into how deeply involved the two lawyers were in the Trump investigation, and suggests they helped shape Steele’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. [..] Elias, who served as general counsel for the Clinton campaign, hired Fusion GPS in April 2016 to investigate Donald Trump. Fusion GPS in turn picked Steele, a former MI6 officer, in June 2016 to investigate Trump’s possible ties to Russia.


Steele would go on to produce 17 memos alleging that the Russian government had blackmail material on Trump, and that members of his campaign were conspiring with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. Many of Steele’s most explosive allegations have been debunked in the 40 months since BuzzFeed News published the dossier. A Justice Department inspector general’s report said that Steele’s primary source of information disputed many of the allegations in the dossier. The IG report also said that the FBI and U.S. intelligence community received evidence in 2017 that Russian intelligence operatives may have fed disinformation to Steele. The IG report also dealt a fatal blow to the Alfa Bank theory peddled by Sussmann.

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Apr 242020
 


Banksy Girl With a Pierced Eardrum (and face mask) 2020

 

Americans Prioritize Staying Home, Worry Restrictions Will Lift Too Fast (CBS)
Doctors Rethink Rush To Ventilate (R.)
First Known US COVID19 Death Occurred On Feb. 6 In Santa Clara County (SFC)
Chinese Scientists ‘Unable To Judge’ If US Lab Is Virus Source (Global Times)
House Passes $484 Billion Coronavirus Relief Package (Hill)
Fed Balance Sheet Increases To Record $6.62 Trillion (R.)
No, Trump Did Not Put A Labradoodle Breeder In Charge Of Covid19 Response (DN)
Lawmaker Who Thanked Trump To Face Censure Vote From Michigan Democrats (JTN)
News Outlets Have Received Millions In Forgivable Stimulus Loans (JTN)
Ousted US Health Official To File Whistleblower Complaint (R.)
WTO Report Says 80 Countries Limiting Exports Of Face Masks, Other Gear (R.)
Biden Campaign’s Outside Economic Advisers Include Larry Summers (R.)
Steele Testified Emails Were Wiped, No Docs Related To Primary Source (DC)
Insect Numbers Down 25% Since 1990 (G.)
Banksy’s ‘Girl with a Pierced Eardrum’ Gains A Coronavirus Face Mask (R.)

 

 

• US records 3,176 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours – total fatalities near 50,000: Johns Hopkins tally

• The US has 866,646 confirmed cases, up 26,971 from the previous day

 

 

Yaneer Bar-Yam
@yaneerbaryam

• Our Getting to Zero list:
Yesterday new cases:
South Korea +11
Greece +7
Iceland +7
Estonia +7
Australia +4
Hong Kong +4
New Zealand +3
Jordan +2
Taiwan +1
Vietnam 0

 

 

 

Cases 2,745,469 (+ 89,078 from yesterday’s 2,656,391)

Deaths 191,791 (+ 6,635 from yesterday’s 185,156 )

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers

 

 

 

 

Or maybe it’s simply too soon?

Americans Prioritize Staying Home, Worry Restrictions Will Lift Too Fast (CBS)

Health concerns still take precedence over economic concerns by a wide margin for Americans in their views on when to reopen the economy — both in what they want for the nation, and in what they’d do themselves. Many say they need to be confident the coronavirus outbreak is over before returning to public places, and big majorities of all partisans agree the stay-at-home orders are effective. The health concerns may be so salient that even for those whose finances have been impacted and even for those concerned about job loss, most of them still worry the country will open up too fast. 63% of Americans are more worried about restrictions lifting too fast and worsening the outbreak — than worry about lifting restrictions too slowly and worsening the economy.

And what would Americans actually do if restrictions were lifted right now? Would anyone show up to public places or would they be too worried about health risks? That could be the most important factor in the economy. Only 13% say they would definitely return to public places over the next few weeks if restrictions were lifted right now, regardless of what else happened with the outbreak. Almost half — 48% — say they would not return to public places until they were confident the outbreak was over. Another 39% are “maybes”: they’d return depending on whether they saw the outbreak getting better. These views are not decidedly partisan: most Republicans are “maybes” at best, as are most Democrats and independents.

Small numbers for specific things:
• Only 13% would be comfortable going to a large sports or entertainment event.
• Only 15% would be comfortable getting on an airplane.
• 29% would be comfortable going to restaurants or bars.

Read more …

Just a few lines from a long Reuters piece, which leaves you realizing there are as many doctors and studies as there are opinions. And when you read that in some cases 90% of people put on ventilators die, it’s obvious some people got some things pretty wrong.

Doctors Rethink Rush To Ventilate (R.)

Luciano Gattinoni, a guest professor at the Department of Anaesthesiology, Emergency and Intensive Care Medicine, University of Göttingen in Germany, and a renowned expert in ventilators, was one of the first to raise questions about how they should be used to treat COVID-19. “I realised as soon as I saw the first CT scan … that this had nothing to do with what we had seen and done for the past 40 years,” he told Reuters. In a paper published by the American Thoracic Society on March 30, Gattinoni and other Italian doctors wrote that COVID-19 does not lead to “typical” respiratory problems. Patients’ lungs were working better than they would expect for ARDS, they wrote – they were more elastic. So, he said, mechanical ventilation should be given “with a lower pressure than the one we are used to.”

Ventilating some COVID-19 sufferers as if they were standard patients with ARDS is not appropriate, he told Reuters. “It’s like using a Ferrari to go to the shop next door, you press on the accelerator and you smash the window.” The Italians were swiftly followed by Cameron Kyle-Sidell, a New York physician who put out a talk on YouTube saying that by preparing to put patients on ventilators, hospitals in America were treating “the wrong disease.” Ventilation, he feared, would lead to “a tremendous amount of harm to a great number of people in a very short time.” This remains his view, he told Reuters this week. When Spain’s outbreak erupted in mid-March, many patients went straight onto ventilators because lung X-rays and other test results “scared us,” said Delia Torres, a physician at the Hospital General Universitario de Alicante.

They now focus more on breathing and a patient’s overall condition than just X-rays and tests. And they intubate less. “If the patient can get better without it, then there’s no need,” she said. In Germany, lung specialist Voshaar was also concerned. A mechanical ventilator itself can damage the lungs, he says. This means patients stay in intensive care longer, blocking specialist beds and creating a vicious circle in which ever more ventilators are needed. Of the 36 acute COVID-19 patients on his ward in mid-April, Voshaar said, one had been intubated – a man with a serious neuro-muscular disorder – and he was the only patient to die. Another 31 had recovered.

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The virus was in the US in January.

First Known US COVID19 Death Occurred On Feb. 6 In Santa Clara County (SFC)

A person who died at home in Santa Clara County on Feb. 6 was infected with the coronavirus at the time of death, a stunning discovery that makes that individual the first recorded COVID-19 fatality in the United States, according to autopsy results released by public health officials late Tuesday. That death — three weeks before the first fatality was reported in the U.S., in Washington state on Feb. 28 — adds to increasing evidence that the virus was in the country far earlier than once thought. Santa Clara County on Tuesday announced three previously unidentified deaths from the coronavirus: the Feb. 6 case; one on Feb. 17, which also predates the death that was earlier believed to be the first; and one on March 6. Initially, the first death in the county had been reported March 9.

“What it means is we had coronavirus circulating in the community much earlier than we had documented and much earlier than we had thought,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer. “Those deaths probably represent many, many more infections. And so there had to be chains of transmission that go back much earlier.” Cody did not provide details about the people who died in February but said the deaths “tell us we had community transmission – probably significant community transmission – far before we realized it and documented it.” “From what we understand, neither of the cases had a history of travel,” Cody said. “So we assume that they were acquired locally.”

People typically die of COVID-19 about a month after they are infected with the coronavirus, suggesting that the person who died Feb. 6 likely was infected in early January. At that time, the virus had been reported only in China — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not yet issued any advisories to Americans about the potential threat.

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Predictably, Chinese state media strike back. What caught my eye is:

“..infected more than 2.6 million Americans with nearly 20,000 deaths as of 4:30 pm Thursday.”

Worldometer, as I write this, says 886,000 infections and 50,000 deaths.

Chinese Scientists ‘Unable To Judge’ If US Lab Is Virus Source (Global Times)

Responding to viral reports alleging that the novel coronavirus was leaked from a US military biochemical laboratory, Chinese scientists said that they could not make a judgment on the allegation, as the US had not given any public response on the issue. Shi Yi, a research fellow from the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, made the remarks at a press conference Thursday, noting that the origin of the virus is a scientific issue requiring a long period of research and involves a great deal of uncertainty. The remarks came amid circulating reports alleging that the Fort Detrick laboratory, which handles high-level disease-causing materials such as Ebola, in Fredrick, Maryland, may be the origin of the deadly novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 2.6 million Americans with nearly 20,000 deaths as of 4:30 pm Thursday.


The lab was ordered to shut down in July 2019, reportedly for multiple causes, including failure to follow local procedures and a lack of periodic recertification training for workers in the biocontainment laboratories. Some other posts on social media platforms also alleged that a US armed diplomatic driver and cyclist who was in Wuhan in October 2019 for the cycling competition in the Military World Games, could be patient zero for COVID-19 in Wuhan. Netizens from both China and the US have called on the US government to respond to public concerns over the above mentioned issues. Some have even launched a petition on the White House website, but the US government has not made any comment so far.

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The US political system is inherently incapable of getting this right. Not going to happen.

House Passes $484 Billion Coronavirus Relief Package (Hill)

The House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation providing roughly $484 billion in coronavirus relief for small businesses, hospitals and expanded medical testing, capping weeks of contentious negotiations that had stalled Washington’s latest round of emergency aid. The vote was 388-5-1, with four conservative Republicans breaking with GOP leaders to oppose the measure, citing its effect on federal deficit. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also voted against the measure, while Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) voted present. The four Republicans who voted “no” were House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.), Jody Hice (Ga.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.).


The legislation, which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday, now goes to the desk of President Trump, who has promised to sign it quickly into law. The massive package is the fourth coronavirus bill to move through Congress over the last seven weeks, and brings the federal response to the global pandemic up to a whopping $2.8 trillion — by far the largest emergency relief effort in modern U.S. history. It came after two weeks of tense talks between the White House, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the top Democrats in both chambers, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), over the scope and direction of the latest infusion of emergency funds.

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By now fully meaningless numbers for 99% of the population.

Fed Balance Sheet Increases To Record $6.62 Trillion (R.)

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet increased to a record $6.62 trillion this week as the central bank used its nearly unlimited buying power to soak up assets to keep markets functioning amid an abrupt economic free fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since early March, the Fed has slashed interest rates to zero, restarted bond purchases and rolled out an unprecedented range of programs to keep credit flowing and shore up business and household confidence. The central bank’s balance sheet as of Wednesday rose about $200 billion from $6.42 trillion a week earlier. That is up from just $4.29 trillion in the first week of March. It is now the equivalent of roughly 30% of the size of the U.S. economy before the crisis struck, and will certainly grow larger in the weeks ahead as the Fed keeps piling on assets and the economy shrinks.


The central bank continued to snap up Treasury securities, mortgage bonds and other assets, according to data released on Thursday. The Fed’s holdings of mortgage-backed securities rose to $1.62 trillion from $1.57 trillion. Treasury holdings rose to $3.91 trillion from $3.79 trillion. Use of the Fed’s central bank liquidity swap lines, which allow foreign central banks to exchange their local currencies for dollars, rose to $409.7 billion on Wednesday from $378.3 billion the previous week. Loan balances for the Fed’s discount window, its last-resort lending program for banks, fell to $33.7 billion from $36.3 billion a week ago.

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Worked for CNN though. They need new stories every day, or people will switch off.

No, Trump Did Not Put A Labradoodle Breeder In Charge Of Covid19 Response (DN)

No, the Trump administration did not put a professional dog breeder from Dallas in charge of COVID-19 response. Yes, the chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services briefly owned a family business raising Labradoodles. But he’s also served three administrations in high level posts at HHS, the White House and the Pentagon. Colleagues who hired Harrison and served with him in government were appalled to see him disparaged Thursday as a mere “dog breeder,” as if Joe Exotic had catapulted from tiger king to head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


“This is so silly. He went home and worked in a family business,” said Jack Kalavritinos, who served with Harrison at HHS during the administrations of both George W. Bush and President Donald Trump, most recently as director for intergovernmental and external affairs, working on the opioid crisis and drug prices. “Brian was a no-brainer pick,” said another colleague, Michael Reilly, who hired Harrison for his first job at HHS under Bush. “His private sector experience is irrelevant.…He was a complete known commodity who had extensive experience.” Trump’s irritation with Harrison’s current boss, Secretary Alex Azar, has been apparent for months and some confidants suspect that he’s has gotten caught in the crossfire of a classic Washington ritual: finger pointing.

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“At the end of the day, we have political systems,” Jonathan Kinloch, district chair of Michigan 13th Congressional District Democratic Party said according to The Detroit News. “We have political parties, and political parties exist for a reason.”

Lawmaker Who Thanked Trump To Face Censure Vote From Michigan Democrats (JTN)

Michigan Democratic state Rep. Karen Whitsett, publicly expressed her gratitude toward President Trump for her coronavirus recovery, and now she is facing possible censure from her fellow Democrats. Whitsett has indicated that the president may have helped save her life by publicly discussing the drug hydroxychloroquine, which she says helped her to recover. The Detroit Free Press reported that when questioned about “whether she thinks Trump may have saved her life, Whitsett said: ‘Yes, I do,’ and ‘I do thank him for that.'” Whitsett earlier this month met with the president at a meeting of coronavirus survivors and expressed her gratitude. “At the end of the day, we have political systems,” Jonathan Kinloch, district chair of Michigan 13th Congressional District Democratic Party said according to The Detroit News.


“We have political parties, and political parties exist for a reason.” “I’m a Democrat, and I plan on continuing to be a Democrat, but they will change their ways,” Whitsett said according to the outlet. “I have my First Amendment right, and no one will take that away from me.” The Detroit News reports that one of the items mentioned in the resolution to censure Whitsett says she “‘has repeatedly and publicly praised the president’s delayed and misguided COVID-19 response efforts in contradiction with the scientifically based and action-oriented response’ from Michigan’s Democratic leadership, ‘endangering the health, safety and welfare of her constituents, the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.'”

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Shouldn’t they be able to sell more papers? If not now, when?

News Outlets Have Received Millions In Forgivable Stimulus Loans (JTN)

News outlets are receiving tens-of-millions in federal stimulus money as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that President Trump signed into law, among them such venerable newspapers as The Seattle Times and Tampa Bay Times. The money is coming through forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans under the CARES Act that Congress passed last month. According to the Small Business Administration, businesses with under 500 employees can apply for PPP loans, which are forgivable if they are used for qualifying expenses such as payroll costs and rent. However, it’s unclear whether any of the news outlets intend to repay the money, or how much they’ll repay.


The Tampa Bay newspaper, which received an $8.5 million loan, told Just the News on Thursday that its chairman and CEO, Paul Tash, says the federal government will “likely forgive much of the loan” and that the “remaining balance” will carry an interest rate of 1 percent. The Seattle Times received a $9.9 million PPP forgivable loan from the federal government. In its voluntary announcement of the loan, the Seattle Times stated that the loan is forgivable but didn’t specify whether the company plans to repay any of the money. The paper did not respond to a request for comment before publication. The media outlet Axios, based in Arlington, Va., disclosed that it had received a forgivable PPP loan of roughly $5 million. Axios did not respond when asked if it plans to repay the loan.

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Why has the word whistleblower been injected here? Wrongful dismissal doesn’t sound catchy enough?

Ousted US Health Official To File Whistleblower Complaint (R.)

Lawyers for the ousted director of a U.S. agency responsible for the development of drugs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic said on Thursday he will file a whistleblower’s complaint with two government offices over his reassignment. Rick Bright said on Wednesday he was replaced as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, because he resisted the Trump administration’s efforts to push hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine as cures for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted the malaria drugs as a treatment for coronavirus though few studies suggest a possible benefit.


“In our filing we will make clear that Dr. Bright was sidelined for one reason only — because he resisted efforts to provide unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs, including chloroquine, a drug promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which is untested and possibly deadly when used improperly,” his lawyers said in a statement. His lawyers said they will file the complaint with the Office of Special Counsel and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General. Bright hopes he will be reinstated in his post at BARDA once the facts of the case become known, his lawyers said. The Office of Special Counsel, an independent U.S. government agency, investigates and can prosecute abuses against federal employees.

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Wonder how this will evolve when food gets scarce.

WTO Report Says 80 Countries Limiting Exports Of Face Masks, Other Gear (R.)

Eighty countries and customs territories have banned or limited the export of face masks, protective gear, gloves and other goods to mitigate shortages since the coronavirus outbreak began, the World Trade Organization reported on Thursday. It said the bans were imposed by 72 WTO members and eight non-WTO member countries, but only 13 WTO members had notified the global trade body as required by its regulations. Lack of transparency about restrictions and failure to cooperate internationally could undermine efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease, which has infected 2.64 million people around the world and killed 184,910, the WTO said.


“While the introduction of export-restrictive measures is understandable, the lack of international cooperation in these areas risks cutting off import-reliant countries from desperately needed medical products and triggering a supply shock,” the WTO report said. “And by interfering with established medical supply chains, such measures also risk hampering the urgently required supply response.” Export bans and restrictions are generally prohibited in the WTO, although there are exceptions which allow temporary measures to “prevent or relieve critical shortages of foodstuffs or other products essential to the exporting contracting party.” Travel restrictions had already slowed the flow of goods needed to fight the pandemic, but export restrictions made it difficult for governments and businesses to adjust purchasing decisions and find new suppliers, the report said.

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As someone remarked: Jeffrey Epstein wasn’t available.

Biden Campaign’s Outside Economic Advisers Include Larry Summers (R.)

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, an academic and longtime economic aide to Democratic presidents, is among the people now advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, according to two people familiar with the matter. Summers is a renowned economist with long ties to presidential administrations, including Barack Obama’s. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, served as Obama’s vice president. Summers is viewed critically by some liberals, who view his policy prescriptions as too centrist. Dozens of economic and public health policy officials are briefing Biden ahead of the Nov. 3 election, when Republican President Donald Trump hopes to win a second term.


If he is elected, Biden would be faced with a U.S. economy scarred by a pandemic that has brought large segments to a standstill, forced more than 26 million people to seek unemployment benefits since March 21, and raised the prospect of job losses not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Before then, Biden has to bring together his own party behind his candidacy, including liberals who once backed Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The two senators have both endorsed Biden, but it is not clear how many of their supporters will turn out to vote for Biden. [..] “Joe Biden’s will be the most progressive agenda of any president in generations, and he looks forward to his continuing engagement with progressive leaders to build on his existing policies and further the bold goals driving his campaign,” [an] adviser said.

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Simple question: who did the wiping and deleting?

Steele Testified Emails Were Wiped, No Docs Related To Primary Source (DC)

The former MI6 officer made the disclosures during a March 17-18 deposition in a defamation case related to the dossier. The DCNF obtained a transcript of the deposition. Steele suggested in a Dec. 10 statement that he had evidence that would shed light on what his main dossier source told him back in 2016, when Steele was working for the firm Fusion GPS to investigate the Trump campaign. Steele’s statement was a response to an IG report released the day before that said that Steele’s source — dubbed the “Primary Sub-Source” — told the FBI in January 2017 that Steele misrepresented or embellished information in the dossier. That bombshell severely undermined Steele’s report, which the FBI used as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign.

In a rebuttal to the IG, Steele’s lawyers disputed what the dossier source purportedly told the FBI, and said that the source’s debriefings to Steele “were meticulously documented and recorded.” They also asserted that if Steele had been given a chance to respond to the IG report, “the statements by the ‘Primary Sub-Source’ would be put in a different light.” It is unclear if Steele made audio or video recordings of the debriefings with the source, or if the retired spy was referring to written or electronic documents. It is also unclear whether Steele got rid of the information himself, or if it was lost through other means. Steele’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The status of the information was revealed during an exchange Steele had on March 18 with Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for Petr Aven, German Khan, and Mikhail Fridman, the owners of Alfa Bank. The three Russian bankers are suing Steele for defamation over a memo in the dossier that accused them of making illicit payments to Vladimir Putin. Tomlinson pressed Steele over the accuracy of his memo, as well as his relationship with “Primary Sub-Source,” the transcript shows. The lawyer asked Steele about the existence of the documents and recordings that his attorneys mentioned in their rebuttal to the IG report. “But none of these documents exist, so they have all been destroyed?” a lawyer asked Steele. “They no longer exist,” Steele said.

Steele indicated that many other records related to the dossier were deleted, including from a personal email account he used for the Fusion GPS project. “As I understand your position, you have no contemporaneous notes or emails, save for your notes of interactions with the FBI; is that right?” Tomlinson asked. “I believe that is true, yes,” Steele replied. Steele said he had no records related to the creation of his dossier memos, including “Report 112” from the dossier, which dealt with the Alfa Bank owners. “You have no record of anything, have you?” Tomlinson asked. “I haven’t got any records relating to the creation of 112,” said Steele.

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So 75% in Germany, France, but only a third of that overall? Anything to do with population density?

Insect Numbers Down 25% Since 1990 (G.)

The biggest assessment of global insect abundances to date shows a worrying drop of almost 25% in the last 30 years, with accelerating declines in Europe that shocked scientists. The analysis combined 166 long-term surveys from almost 1,700 sites and found that some species were bucking the overall downward trend. In particular, freshwater insects have been increasing by 11% each decade following action to clean up polluted rivers and lakes. However, this group represent only about 10% of insect species and do not pollinate crops. Researchers said insects remained critically understudied in many regions, with little or no data from South America, south Asia and Africa.

Rapid destruction of wild habitats in these places for farming and urbanisation is likely to be significantly reducing insect populations, they said. Insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times, and are essential to the ecosystems humanity depends upon. They pollinate plants, are food for other creatures and recycle nature’s waste. The previous largest assessment, based on 73 studies, led scientists to warn of “catastrophic consequences for the survival of mankind” if insect losses were not halted. Its estimated rate of decline was more than double that in the new study. Other experts estimate 50% of insects have been lost in the last 50 years. Recent analyses from some locations have found collapses in insect abundance, such as 75% in Germany and 98% in Puerto Rico.

The new, much broader study found a lower rate of losses. However, Roel van Klink, of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig, who led the research, said: “This 24% is definitely something to be concerned about. It’s a quarter less than when I was a kid. One thing people should always remember is that we really depend on insects for our food.” The research, published in the journal Science, also examined how the rate of loss was changing over time. “Europe seems to be getting worse now – that is striking and shocking. But why that is, we don’t know,” said van Klink. In North America, the declines are flattening off, but at a low level.

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Ever seen him do anything wrong?

Banksy’s ‘Girl with a Pierced Eardrum’ Gains A Coronavirus Face Mask (R.)

Banksy’s “Girl with a Pierced Eardrum” has been updated for the coronavirus era with the addition of a blue surgical face mask. The mural, a take on Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” but with a security alarm replacing the pearl, was painted on a harbourside building in the street artist’s home city of Bristol in west England in 2014. It is not known whether Banksy, whose identity is a closely guarded secret, or somebody else attached the fabric face mask to the painted girl.


The newly adorned mural did not appear on Banksy’s Instagram page where he usually posts images of his work. The COVID-19 pandemic has already inspired the artist. He unveiled a scene of his trademark stencilled rats running amok in a bathroom rather than on the streets last week, reflecting official advice form the British government to stay at home. “My wife hates it when I work from home,” he commented alongside the photos.

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From Upton Sinclair’s 1927 book “Oil!”, which inspired the movie There Will Be Blood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nov 282019
 
 November 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Brooding woman 1891

 

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)
Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)
China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)
Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)
The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)
Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)
Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)
US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)
Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)
“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)
Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)
Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

 

 

Well, censure appears to be the word of the day.

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) is not one of those who represent a 2016 Trump-voting district. In fact, her safe Democrat district encompasses part of eastern Detroit. Even so, Lawrence has seen the writing on the wall: Among independent voters, enthusiasm for impeachment is waning, and Lawrence – who previously supported the idea – is perhaps now thinking beyond her own chances of re-election. “I will tell you, sitting here knowing how divided this country is,” Lawrence explained Nov. 24 during a radio interview, “I don’t see the value of taking [Trump] out of office, but I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.”

An editorial, published Nov. 23 by The Detroit News, suggests censure of the president rather than impeachment, and The Chicago Tribune followed suit on Nov. 25. It is neither unfair nor inaccurate to point out that the left-wing media rarely take up a political narrative not preapproved by someone within the Democratic Party. So the sudden appearance of editorials arguing for censure strongly suggests that Democrat strategists are leaning in that direction or at least testing the waters. Unlike impeachment, censure is not a constitutional measure. That is not to say that censure is unconstitutional, but that it is simply a course of action devised by Congress and not described in the nation’s founding document. There is no mandatory consequence to censure, and nobody would suggest that censure could lead to removal from the office of president.

It has been used most often to rebuke or reprimand members of Congress, though Trump, were he censured, would not be the first commander in chief to have faced it. In effect, censure is an act of disapproval. For a member of Congress, it may entail such undesirable consequences as loss of committee memberships or even suspension; it comes with no penalties when used against executive branch officials. And that is how it should be, or the concepts of separation of powers and co-equal branches of government would likely be swept away in an avalanche of partisan censure votes. Both the Senate and the House have the power to censure or reprimand, and each chamber may do it without the approval or involvement of the other. Censure requires only a simple majority. At least some Democrats, surely, are considering how much easier than impeachment censure will be. They also may be considering how a censure resolution will provide the opportunity to pontificate at length – on live TV – about Trump’s moral turpitude and failings, both as a human being and as a president.

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A lone voice in the wilderness: “..you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard once again defended supporters of President Donald Trump, as well as her appearances on Fox News, during an interview with Joe Rogan on Tuesday night. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said that you can’t lead Americans as president if you’re going to throw “half of them away.” “It’s one thing to say you’re gonna go on Fox News and tussle with Sean Hannity about things you disagree on, but what they see as more dangerous is finding areas where you actually do agree,” Gabbard proclaimed.

“I have a platform to be able to speak to millions of people across the country about the kind of leadership I bring in the area of foreign policy. What I would do here in this country, what I would do there in that country if I were president today. And I have the opportunity to deliver that message directly to people’s living rooms or offices or wherever they are.” Rep. Gabbard was attacked by Sen. Kamala Harris during the November Democratic Primary debate for her willingness to appear on Fox News.

“I think in some of these areas, Tucker and I will disagree on a whole host of things, but on some of these issues of foreign policy he’ll say, ‘Yeah, I agree with you,’” she continued. “And I think when you look at this cancel culture — I was attacked on the debate stage for going on Fox News — how do you think you’re gonna lead this country, all Americans, if you’re completely not only shutting out and not willing to do talk to half the country that watches Fox News, but you’re in fact disrespecting and dismissing them just because they may disagree with you, or they watch a different news channel than you do. I think that’s the bigger issue here, is you know, yeah, there’s a political consequence.” She noted that you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

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Trump had no choice, he was outnumbered. China also has no choice, it must respond, but Xi knows what situation Trump is in.

China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)

[..] on day 510 of the trade war, it appears the president was confident enough that a collapse in trade talks won’t drag stocks too far lower, and moments after futures reopened at 6pm, the White House said that Trump had signed the Hong Kong bill backing pro-democracy protesters, defying China and making sure that every trader’s Thanksgiving holiday was just ruined.Needless to say, no differences will be “settled amicably” and now China will have no choice but to retaliate, aggressively straining relations with the US, and further complicating Trump’s effort to wind down his nearly two-year old trade war with Beijing.

Trump’s signing of the bill comes during a period of unprecedented unrest in Hong Kong, where anti-government protests sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill proposal have ballooned into broader calls for democratic reform and police accountability. “The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms and amends the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, specifies United States policy towards Hong Kong and directs assessment of the political developments in Hong Kong,” the White House said in a statement. “Certain provisions of the act would interfere with the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States.”

The legislation, S. 1838, which was passed virtually unanimously in both chambers, requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status under American law and will allow Washington to suspend said status in case the city does not retain a sufficient degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework. The bill also sanctions any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. The House cleared the bill 417-1 on Nov. 20 after the Senate passed it without opposition, veto-proof majorities that left Trump with little choice but to acquiesce, or else suffer bruising fallout from his own party. the GOP.

Trump also signed into law the PROTECT Hong Kong act, which will prohibit the sale of US-made munitions such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the city’s authorities. While many members of Congress in both parties have voiced strong support for protesters demanding more autonomy for the city, Trump had stayed largely silent, even as the demonstrations have been met by rising police violence. Until now.

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A tangled web.

Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)

The Obama holdover heading the Pentagon office reportedly under investigation by the U.S. attorney who is conducting the criminal probe of the Trump–Russia investigation was accused of leaking a classified document, in a recent court filing for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The connection hasn’t been previously reported. According to a Nov. 21 report by independent journalist Sara Carter, U.S. Attorney John Durham is questioning personnel in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA). ONA awarded about $1 million in contracts to FBI informant Stefan Halper, who appears to have played a key role in alleged U.S. intelligence agency spying on 2016 Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

In addition, however, a court filing indicates that ONA’s director, James H. Baker, “is believed to be the person who illegally leaked the transcript of Mr. Flynn’s calls” to The Washington Post. Specifically, the filing states, “ONA Director Baker regularly lunched with Washington Post Reporter David Ignatius.” The filing adds that Baker “was Halper’s ‘handler’” at ONA. Moreover, according to the court filing, the tasks assigned to “known long-time operative for the CIA/FBI” Halper “seem to have included slandering Mr. Flynn with accusations of having an affair with a young professor (a British national of Russian descent).” The filing notes that Flynn’s defense team has requested phone records for then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, likewise in order to confirm contacts with Ignatius.

The filing singles out records for Jan. 10, 2017, when, according to the filing, “Clapper told Ignatius in words to the effect of ‘take the kill shot on Flynn.’” The Pentagon’s current inspector general has already found that Baker’s office “did not maintain documentation of the work performed by Professor Halper or any communication that ONA personnel had with Professor Halper.” As a result, according to the inspector general, ONA staff “could not provide sufficient documentation that Professor Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”

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Quite the attack.

The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)

What does Barack Obama want? To ask the question is both to wonder how one of the world’s most influential people chooses to dedicate his time and to consider to what ends he thinks it is best put to use. As Nathan Robinson and I argued a little more than two years ago, a post-presidency offers us the ideal heuristic for doing exactly that. In office, or so it has often been suggested, Obama’s fiery progressive spirit was endlessly stifled by a combination of events, GOP obstruction, and the inherent conservatism of the American legislative process. Having left such constraints behind, many believed, post-2016 Obama would now be free to do just about anything he wanted — meaning that the former president’s real self could finally surface from beneath the depths of institutional necessity under which it had hitherto been submerged.

This prediction turned out to be true enough, just not in the way many Obama partisans assumed. Equipped with fame, wealth, and a vast reservoir of residual goodwill Obama now has more power to do good in an hour than most of us do in a lifetime. The demands of etiquette and propriety notwithstanding, he no longer has intransigent Blue Dog senators to appease, donors to placate, or personal electoral considerations to keep him up at night. When he speaks or acts, we can be reasonably certain he does so out of sincere choice and that the substance of his words and actions reflect the real Barack Obama and how he honestly sees the world.

It therefore tells us a great deal that, given the latitude, resources, and moral authority with which to influence events, Obama has spent his post-presidency cozying up to the global elite and delivering vapid speeches to corporate interests in exchange for unthinkable sums of money. Though often remaining out of the spotlight, he has periodically appeared next to various CEOs at events whose descriptions might be read as cutting satire targeting the hollowness of business culture if they weren’t all-too real. As the world teeters on the brink of ecological disaster, he recently cited an increase in America’s output of oil under his administration as a laudable achievement.

When Obama has spoken about or intervened in politics, it’s most often been to bolster the neoliberal center-right or attack and undermine the Left. Having emerged from seclusion to endorse the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, Obama also rang up Britain’s austerity-loving Conservative prime minister Theresa May on election night in 2017 to offer reassurance and trash the Labour Party’s electoral prospects. Only last week, while denouncing the Democratic Party’s “activist wing,” the former president who had once introduced himself to the nation as a progressive, community-minded outsider inveighed against those pushing for a more ambitious direction — contemptuously instructing a group of wealthy donors not to concern themselves too-much with the irrational zealotry of “certain left-leaning Twitter feeds.”

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Why do we still have polls left? What purpose do they serve other than entertainment?

Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)

After several major polls revealed a sharp decline in support for impeaching President Trump in the wake of unconvincing public testimony by aggrieved bureaucrats (and at least one House Democrat publicly opposing the move), Reuters/Ipsos now claims support for impeachment has increased. “The latest poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 47% of adults in the United States felt Trump “should be impeached,” while 40% said he should not. The result, combined with Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past several weeks, showed that the number of Americans who want to impeach the president increasingly outnumbers those who do not.” -Reuters The problem? Reuters sampled a disproportionate number of Democrats. Buried at the bottom of their report, they disclose:

“The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,118 adults, including 528 Democrats, 394 Republicans and 111 independents. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.” In other words, Reuters sampled more Democrats than Republicans and independents combined to arrive at their conclusion. They also reveal that ” about eight in 10 Democrats [were] supportive of impeaching Trump, and eight in 10 Republicans opposed,” and that seven in 10 Republicans felt the House impeachment inquiry had not been conducted fairly. As we noted during the 2016 US election, Reuters/Ipsos wasoversampling Democrats when they found that Hillary Clinton had a giant lead over Donald Trump – using a poll that sampled 44% Democrats and 33% Republicans.

But hey, Adam Schiff needs something to back his claim that support for impeachment has grown “dramatically” over the past two months.

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And here’s another poll. Does anyone fully understand this system?

Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)

Fewer than 120,000 anti-Brexit tactical votes in the right seats could deny Boris Johnson an overall majority in the House of Commons, new polling suggests. A large-scale survey of almost 40,000 voters found that Conservatives are heading for 366 seats in the House of Commons, giving Mr Johnson a comfortable majority of 82. But analysis for the Best for Britain campaign for a second EU referendum found that in 57 seats, the Tory candidate could be defeated by 4,000 or fewer anti-Brexit voters voting tactically. And the campaign said that as few as 117,314 pro-EU tactical votes in the right seats could produce a hung parliament which could deliver a Final Say referendum.

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Scary enough fpr you?

US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)

US negotiators pushed for “full market access” to services including the NHS in talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK, a cache of leaked documents has revealed. The papers were dramatically unveiled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said they left “in tatters” the prime minister’s denial that the NHS will be on the table in trade talks. The 451-page dossier of official files showed the US had “pushed hard” to extend patents on drugs developed by American corporations in a way which would raise prices to NHS patients. A UK negotiator said such a move could put Britain “in difficult territory”.

And the dossier made clear that the US has been “emphatic” in its insistence that climate change should not even be mentioned in the deal, which Boris Johnson wants to strike as soon as possible after the UK leaves the European Union. But furious Conservatives accused Mr Corbyn of “out-and-out lying” and suggested he was peddling conspiracy theories in a bid to distract attention away from his difficulties over antisemitism allegations and Labour’s plans for Brexit and taxation. Mr Johnson dismissed the Labour leader’s claims as “total nonsense”, and said: “I can give you an absolute cast-iron guarantee that this is a complete diversion. That the NHS under no circumstances would be on the table for negotiation, for sale.”

[..] After a slew of bad headlines about his refusal to apologise for his handling of antisemitism during a TV interview on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn came back fighting with the claim that Mr Johnson’s government was “preparing to sell our NHS”. He pointed to details in the dossier which showed that the US was pushing for a deal in which all services would be opened up to American companies unless they were specifically exempted. “Total market access” should be the “baseline assumption of the trade negotiations” because it “incentivises freer trade”, the dossier said. UK officials assured their US counterparts that Britain would be “a liberalising influence” and that together they could “fly the good flag for services liberalisation”.

“That’s a green light for breaking open Britain’s public services so corporations can profit from them,” said Mr Corbyn. And he warned: “The US is demanding that our NHS is on the table in negotiations for a toxic deal – it’s already being talked about in secret. That could lead to runaway privatisation of our health service. “Mega-corporations see Johnson’s alliance with Trump as a chance to make billions from the illness and sickness of people in this country. “And if the Conservatives have their way and this deal goes forward, the changes I’ve revealed will be almost irreversible.”

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A foreigner paid for dirt on a political opponent. What do we call that?

Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)

Just before Christmas 2015, the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele emailed a report to private clients that included an American lawyer for a Ukrainian oligarch. The title of the dossier was “FIRTASH Abortive Return to Ukraine,” and it purported to provide intelligence on why the energy oligarch Dmitri Firtash tried, but failed, to return to his home country of Ukraine. “FIRTASH’s talk of returning to Ukraine a genuine ambition rather than merely a ruse to reveal Ukrainian government’s hand. However the oligarch developed cold feet upon the news of a negative reception at Boryspil airport,” Steele reported on Dec. 23, 2015.

Perhaps most important to the recipients, the former MI6 agent’s report purported to share the latest thinking of Russian and U.S. officials on Firtash, who at the time faced U.S. criminal charges and was awaiting extradition from Austria. Those charges and extradition remain unresolved four years later. Firtash insists on his innocence, while the U.S. government stands by it case despite recent criticism from Austrian and Spanish authorities. “The prevarication over his return has lost FIRTASH credibility with the Russians, but his precarious position in Austria leaves him little choice but to acquiesce with Moscow’s demands,” the Steele report claimed. “Separate American sources confirm that US Government regards FIRTASH as a conduit for Russian influence and he remains a pariah to the Americans.”

The anecdote of the Firtash report underscores that challenges the FBI faced when it used Steele in 2016 as a human source in the Russia collusion probe. He not only opposed Trump and was paid by Hillary Clinton’s opposition research firm to dig up dirt on the then-GOP nominee, he also was in the business of selling intelligence to private clients – all perfectly legal — while informing for the FBI.

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Robert Mueller gave it away.

“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)

The U.S. has claimed that the Russia government tried to influence the 2016 election through Facebook and Twitter. Russia supposedly did this through people who worked the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia. The IRA people ran virtual persona on U.S. social networks which pretended to have certain political opinions. It also spent on advertising supposedly to influence the election. U.S. intelligence claimed that the purpose of the alleged Russian influence campaign was to “sow discord” within the United States. But the IRA had nothing to do with the Russian government. It had no interests in politics. And a new study confirms that the idea that it was “sowing discord” is blatant nonsense.


IRA influencer

The Mueller investigation indicted 13 Russian persons and three Russian legal entities over the alleged influence campaign. But, as we wrote at that time, there was more to it than the media reported: “The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no “Russian influence” campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome.”

The IRA hired people in Leningrad for little money and asked them to open accounts on U.S. social media. The virtual persona they created and ran were to attract as many persons to those accounts as possible. They did that by posting funny dog pictures or by taking strong political positions. They were ‘influencers’ who sold their customers’ products to the people they attracted. The sole purpose was the same as in any commercial media. Create content to attract ‘eyeballs’, then sell those eyeballs to advertisers.

The IRA also bought advertisement to attract more people to its accounts. But the amount it spent was tiny. The final price tag for the 2016 election was $6.5 billion for the presidential and congressional elections combined. The IRA spend a total of $100,000 to promote its own accounts. But only some $45,000 of that was spend before the election. It was 0.000007 cent for every election dollar that was spend during that time. It is statistically impossible that the mostly apolitical IRA spending had any effect on the election.

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Not the same all over Manhattan, but the trend is there.

Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)

These are major shopping corridors in Manhattan, and in nearly all of them, asking rents for ground-floor retail space have been dropping for years – and in some of them by half. For example, the average asking rent on Madison Avenue between 57th Street and 72nd Street, plunged 22% in the second half of 2019, compared to the same period last year, to $906 per square foot per year, and is down 47% from the first half in 2015, according to the bi-annual Manhattan Retail Report released today by the Real Estate Board of New York. The REBNY report points out, “An increased amount of leases expiring has contributed to the high availability rates [meaning, vacancies] that has led owners to lower asking rents and offer more short-term lease agreements.”

Falling asking rents and better terms in the Madison Avenue corridor – better deals for prospective tenants – help bring out prospective tenants, according to the report: “Softening rents has led to increased absorption as recent leases consist of retailers relocating to smaller-sized storefronts with better co-tenancy. Notables tenants such as Akris, Mont Blanc, and Morgane Le Fay indicate that apparel tenants still dominate this corridor.” The report is entirely focused on ground-floor retail spaces. Of the 17 shopping corridors in Manhattan tracked by the REBNY, average asking rents fell in 11 of them. But since 2015, asking rents in all but three of them have dropped sharply.

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The true colors of Mutti.

Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO is now equally or more important than it was during the Cold War, a praise being sang to a military bloc long without its arch-rival and with a history of interventions.
East Germany native Angela Merkel provided her very complimentary take as NATO braces to mark their 70th anniversary at a special summit in London. Keeping the military bloc in place today “is even more in our very own interests as it was in the Cold War – or at least as important as it was in the Cold War,” the Chancellor told German MPs. “Because, and the Foreign Minister [Heiko Maas] said yesterday, Europe currently cannot defend itself on its own,” she reiterated.

Slightly contradicting her own words, the chancellor admitted that the US “no longer automatically takes up responsibility when it’s burning around us.” As the formal etiquette prescribes, Merkel called NATO a “bulwark for peace and freedom” over the past 70 years, without highlighting the bloc’s war on former Yugoslavia and the 2011 bombardments of Libya. The German leader has recently locked horns with France’s Emmanuel Macron over his famous “NATO’s brain death” remark that sent shockwaves through European elite circles. Macron’s “drastic words” were “unnecessary, even if we do have problems and must get it together,” Merkel complained at the time.

Rebuking Macron was also NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said last week that “European unity cannot replace Transatlantic unity as we need both … especially after Brexit.” But bringing the 70-year-old alliance together is increasingly becoming a challenge for its members. On the latest occasion, Turkey – a country that has one of NATO’s largest standing armies – refused to sign a new defense plan for the eastern European countries, according to Reuters.

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Clive James died yesterday.

 

 

 

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Nov 022019
 
 November 2, 2019  Posted by at 8:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Woman with blue collar (Portrait d’Inez) 1941

 

Christopher Steele Gave Evidence To UK Intrusion Inquiry (G.)
Trump-Ukraine Whistleblower Suddenly Won’t Testify (ZH)
Former CIA Heads Praise Deep State, Admit They Want to ‘Take Out’ Trump (SN)
A Partisan Impeachment Vote Is Exactly What The Framers Feared (Dershowitz)
Horse-Trading Is Not An Impeachable Offense (HE)
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard (Sjursen)
Trevor Noah Asks Hillary: “How Did You Kill Jeffrey Epstein?” (ZH)
Halloween is Over and the Jig is Up (Kunstler)
Greek Refugee Camps ‘On Edge Of Catastrophe’ – EU Watchdog (BBC)
28,000 American Airlines Flight Attendants Refuse To Work On 737 Max (ZH)
Apple Introduces Gender-Neutral Versions Of Nearly Every Human Emoji (RT)

 

 

A fine piece of garbage co-authored by the least trustworthy man in UK media, Luke Harding, notorious for multiple fact-free Assange smear pieces. And really, Steele hasn’t been discredited enough?

Christopher Steele Gave Evidence To UK Intrusion Inquiry (G.)

A report on Russian interference in British politics allegedly being sat on by Downing Street includes evidence from Christopher Steele, the former head of MI6’s Russia desk whose investigation into Donald Trump’s links with Moscow sparked a US political scandal. Steele made submissions in writing to parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), it is understood. [..] In April the US special counsel Robert Mueller corroborated Steele’s central claim that the Russians ran a “sweeping and systematic” operation in 2016 to help Trump win.


[..] on Thursday, Dominic Grieve, the MP who chairs the committee, accused Boris Johnson of sitting on the report – potentially preventing its publication before the general election. [..] Two sources told BuzzFeed that British intelligence found no evidence of Russian meddling in either the 2016 referendum vote or the 2017 general election. However, Steele’s involvement in the committee’s unpublished dossier raises the stakes considerably. [..] Experts who gave evidence were informed on Wednesday evening that the report was due to be published imminently. The decision to stop it from coming out is being seen inside Whitehall as unusual.

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Completely, completely nuts. They appear to have nothing, and try to drag that nothing out until the 2020 elections. This faultily labeled ‘whistleblower’ worked for Obama, Biden and Brennan, and was heavily coached by Schiff. And they STILL are afraid to use him. But Trump is the one under investigation?

If Trump did anything truly impeachable, and not merely “made up because you want to get rid of him”, by all means, impeach him. But in a regular way, one that includes Republicans. I can see now why Trump talks about impeaching Adam Schiff. Do the CNN, NYT and WaPo audience realize how damaging this whole affair is to their country?

Trump-Ukraine Whistleblower Suddenly Won’t Testify (ZH)

A CIA officer who filed a second-hand whistleblower complaint against President Trump has gotten cold feet about testifying after revelations emerged that he worked with Joe Biden, former CIA Director John Brennan, and a DNC operative who sought dirt on President Trump from officials in Ukraine’s former government. According to the Washington Examiner, discussions with the whistleblower – revealed by RealClearInvestigations as 33-year-old Eric Ciaramella have been halted, “and there is no discussion of testimony from a second whistleblower, who supported the first’s claims.” Ciaramella complained that President Trump abused his office when he asked Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as claims related to pro-Clinton election interference and DNC hacking in 2016.

On Thursday, a top National Security Council official who was present on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky testified that he saw nothing illegal about the conversation. “I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed,” said Tim Morrison, former NSC Senior Director for European Affairs who was on the July 25 call between the two leaders. “There is no indication that either of the original whistleblowers will be called to testify or appear before the Senate or House Intelligence committees. There is no further discussion ongoing between the legal team and the committees,” said the Examiner’s source.

“The whistleblower is a career CIA officer with expertise in Ukraine policy who served on the White House National Security Council during the Obama administration, when 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was “point man” for Ukraine, and during the early months of the Trump administration.” -Washington Examiner In other words, House Democrats are about to impeach President Trump over a second-hand whistleblower complaint by a partisan CIA officer, and neither he nor his source will actually testify about it (for now…).

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No, you can NOT make this up: “This is the institution within the U.S. government — that with all of its flaws, and it makes mistakes — is institutionally committed to objectivity and telling the truth,” McLaughlin claimed.

The CIA is committed to telling the truth… You heard it here first.

Former CIA Heads Praise Deep State, Admit They Want to ‘Take Out’ Trump (SN)

Two former intelligence heads bragged about how the deep state is engaged in a coup to remove President Trump Thursday, with one even praising God for the existence of the deep state. During an interview with Margaret Brennan of CSPAN, former CIA head John McLaughlin along with his successor John Brennan both basically admitted that there is a secretive cabal of people within US intelligence who are trying to ‘take Trump out’. “Thank God for the ‘Deep State,’” McLaughlin crowed as liberals in the crowd cheered. “I mean I think everyone has seen this progression of diplomats and intelligence officers and White House people trooping up to Capitol Hill right now and saying these are people who are doing their duty or responding to a higher call.” he added.


“This is the institution within the U.S. government — that with all of its flaws, and it makes mistakes — is institutionally committed to objectivity and telling the truth,” McLaughlin claimed. “It is one of the few institutions in Washington that is not in a chain of command that makes or implements policy. Its whole job is to speak the truth — it’s engraved in marble in the lobby.” he continued to blather. Brennan also expressed praise for the deep state and admitted that the goal is to remove the President. “Thank goodness for the women and men who are in the intelligence community and the law enforcement community who are standing up and carrying out their responsibilities for their fellow citizens.” he said.

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Derhowitz has been heavily tainted by the Epstein saga, but he does make sense here. The Founding Fathers knew the risk involved in impeachment proceedings.

A Partisan Impeachment Vote Is Exactly What The Framers Feared (Dershowitz)

The House vote to establish procedures for a possible impeachment of President Trump, along party lines with two Democrats opposing and no Republicans favoring, was exactly was Alexander Hamilton feared in discussing the impeachment provisions laid out in the Constitution. Hamilton warned of the “greatest danger” that the decision to move forward with impeachment will “be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties than the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” He worried that the tools of impeachment would be wielded by the “most cunning or most numerous factions” and lack the “requisite neutrality toward those whose conduct would be the subject of scrutiny.” It is almost as if this founding father were looking down at the House vote from heaven and describing what transpired this week.

Impeachment is an extraordinary tool to be used only when the constitutional criteria are met. These criteria are limited and include only “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Hamilton described these as being “of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” His use of the term “political” has been widely misunderstood in history. It does not mean that the process of impeachment and removal should be political in the partisan sense. Hamilton distinctly distinguished between the nature of the constitutional crimes, denoting them as political, while insisting that the process for impeachment and removal must remain scrupulously neutral and nonpartisan among members of Congress.

Thus, no impeachment should ever move forward without bipartisan support. That is a tall order in our age of hyperpartisan politics in which party loyalty leaves little room for neutrality. Proponents of the House vote argue it is only about procedures and not about innocence or guilt, and that further investigation may well persuade some Republicans to place principle over party and to vote for impeachment, or some Democrats to vote against impeachment. While that is entirely possible, the House vote would seem to make such nonpartisan neutrality extremely unlikely. It is far more likely that, no matter how extensive the investigation is and regardless of what it uncovers, nearly all House Democrats will vote for impeachment and nearly all House Republicans will vote against it. Such a partisan vote would deny constitutional legitimacy to impeachment.

[..] the partisanship strongly suggests that what Hamilton regarded as the greatest danger may be on the horizon, namely a vote to impeach a duly elected president based not on “real demonstrations of innocence or guilt” but rather on “comparative strength of parties.”

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Good find from Tyler. Go back to the Blagojevich case and take it from there. “[A] proposal to trade one public act for another, a form of logrolling, is fundamentally unlike the swap of an official act for a private payment.”

Horse-Trading Is Not An Impeachable Offense (HE)

Horse trading is the oxygen of politics; it is how politicians are persuaded to care about things that otherwise would not make their radar. Not only does it happen all the time, but it is a core feature of our political system; representative government relies on this kind of political trading to ensure a plurality of interests and needs are satisfied. Members of Congress routinely trade “policy for policy.” You sponsor my bill, and I’ll sponsor yours, you vote for a road in my district, and vice versa. Members even trade policy for personnel and hiring purposes: you support my bill, and I’ll let so-and-so’s hearing move forward, you appoint me to this, and I’ll recommend your protege for that.

These deals can even cross the blood/brain barrier between states and the federal government. It is not corruption. It’s the warp and woof of a democratic political system. But in routinely branding President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as potential “corruption,” and pointing to the exchange of unrelated asks as proof of that corruption, our friends in the fourth estate are acting in willful ignorance and bad faith. The President has taken a firm position that he did not hold out foreign aid to Ukraine as a condition for investigating Hunter Biden’s activities there. But, even if he did, bargaining isn’t corruption—it’s policymaking.

An esteemed panel of federal judges in Chicago made precisely this point a few years ago. You may recall the prosecution of former-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on various federal charges. And although the judges largely upheld his conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit commentary on the affair was crystal clear. At least one of the counts that the trial judge had sent to the jury was just politics, pure and simple, and could not have been a crime. “[A] proposal to trade one public act for another, a form of logrolling, is fundamentally unlike the swap of an official act for a private payment.” In other words, swapping one policy for another is a political commonplace. “Governance would hardly be possible without these accommodations,” the court went on to observe.

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View from the military. Hillary has opened the door for any and all of them to be accused of working for Putin.

In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard (Sjursen)

“The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.” – Arundhati Roy

Once again, Arundhati Roy – the esteemed Indian author and activist – more eloquently described what I’m feeling than I could ever hope to. After tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, a lifetime in the Army and burying several brave young men for no good reason, I couldn’t remain silent one moment longer. Certainly not about the madness of America’s failed forever wars, nor about domestic militarization of the police and the border, nor about the structural racism borne of our nation’s “original sin.” Still, most of my writing and public dissent has stayed within the bounds of my limited expertise: the disease of endless, unwinnable and often unsanctioned American wars.

At times it’s been a decidedly lonely journey, particularly in the many years I remained on active duty while actively dissenting. I was, and remain, struck by how few of my fellow soldiers, officers and recent post-9/11 veterans felt as I did—strongly enough, at least, to publicly decry U.S. militarism. Then I discovered Tulsi Gabbard, an obscure young congresswoman from Hawaii who, coincidentally, serves in the Army and is herself a veteran of the war in Iraq. In the current climate of Gabbard-bashing, where even sites like Truthdig offer measured criticism, it’s hard to convey the profound sense of relief I felt that someone as outspokenly anti-war as Gabbard even existed way back in 2016. She said things I only dared think back then; and as I did, she backed Bernie Sanders—a risky endeavor that likely doomed her to the recent slanderous accusations of treason by Hillary Clinton. That’s called courage.

Perhaps the appropriate place to begin my qualified defense of Gabbard is with Clinton’s outrageous—and unsubstantiated—assertion that the long-shot 2020 presidential candidate is being “groomed” by the Russians to run a third-party spoiler campaign in the general election. First off, Gabbard should seriously consider suing for libel. Clinton has veritably, and without a shred of evidence, accused her of treason, a crime that, due to Gabbard’s continued military service, is punishable by death. This is no small matter.

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I wasn’t going to include this, thought it’s a nice thing for Tyler to run with and that’s it. But I am still hurt and surprised by the total demise of American late night TV. Saw Noah the other day on Seinfeld’s Comedians with Coffee series, and he seemed like an okay guy. But they are all caught in the Jeff Zucker/NYT et al thing, of How Do You Make Money?: By Dumping On Orange Man Bad. It’s a scam for dollars. And Noah gets paid off of that.

But I used to like Letterman and Jon Stewart, and I don’t like that being taken away from me for scraps off the table. All the media made the same calculation: sure, we’ll lose half the audience, but the one half we get to keep, they’ll be fully addicted to us as long as we dump on Trump. Because Trump Sells Better Than Sex.

Trevor Noah Asks Hillary: “How Did You Kill Jeffrey Epstein?” (ZH)

In what was oh-so-transparently aimed a debunking a so-called “right-wing-conspiracy,” Daily Show host Trevor Noah jokingly asked, during an interview with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton on Thursday, “How did you kill Jeffery Epstein?” “I have to ask you a question that has been plaguing me for a while: How did you kill Jeffrey Epstein?” asked Noah to laughter from the New York studio audience. “Because you’re not in power, but you have all the power. I really need to understand how you do what you do, because you seem to be behind everything nefarious, and yet you do not use it to become president.” “Honestly, what does it feel like being the boogeyman to the right?” the host asked.


Clinton responded by saying it was a “constant surprise.” “Well, it’s a constant surprise to me,” she said. “Because the things they say, and now, of course, it’s on steroids with being online, are so ridiculous, beyond any imagination that I could have. And yet they are so persistent in putting forth these crazy ideas and theories. Honestly, I don’t know what I ever did to get them so upset.” Of course, it would not be Hillary Clinton if she did not take a jab at President Trump proclaiming that, “I don’t think his real philosophy is America First, I think it’s Trump First… [Trump]…clearly does Putin’s bidding…” Forward to around 6:09 for Noah’s Epstein question…

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Jim has a lot of faith in Bill Barr. I am a bit more reserved on that one.

Halloween is Over and the Jig is Up (Kunstler)

And so Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff take the Republic into a dangerous defile on a dark day as they engineer a House resolution with rules for a medieval-style inquiry on the existence of phantoms. The phantom du jour, of course, is the fabled “whistleblower,” a CIA ectoplasm identified by everybody and his uncle in Swampland as one Eric Ciarmarella, 33, a former Joe Biden staffer, Obama White House low-level NSC holdover, and John Brennan “asset” deeply involved in Ukrainian pranks during the 2016 election and subsequent disinformation leakage to the media since the early days of the Trump administration.

The “whistleblower’s” trail winds through every shadowy turn of RussiaGate to the current phantasmagoria of UkraineGate, and connects the principal misdeeds carried out along the way including Hillary Clinton’s devious operations with Fusion GPS, the Comey-led FBI’s illegal entanglement with CIA spying on US citizens (including occupants of the White House), and lately the mendacious maneuvers of House Intel Committee chair Mr. Schiff. The notion that Mr. Ciamarella’s identity will remain officially hidden much longer is a joke, since his “complaint” lies at the center of the impeachment process underway, and sooner or later he will be compelled to make public testimony — unless Ms. Pelosi’s House majority votes to rename the USA the Haunted Forest of North America.

And when this unmasked phantom finally faces legitimate cross examination his mischief will be plain for all to see. Do you also suppose that Mr. Ciamarella’s revealed adventures in perfidy have not been noticed by the attorney general, Mr. Barr, and his deputy John Durham? It seems obvious that the Democrats’ mad rush to this wholly irregular impeachment happened in direct, proportional response to the encroaching danger to them posed by the DOJ inspector general’s imminent report and the news a week ago that the AG upgraded his “review” of all things RussiaGate to a criminal inquiry, with grand juries assembled to process indictments.

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Yes, the new rightwing government is screwing things up even more than they were. But this is on the EU.

Greek Refugee Camps ‘On Edge Of Catastrophe’ – EU Watchdog (BBC)

Thousands of people living in “abysmal” refugee camps on two Greek islands are “on the edge of catastrophe”, Europe’s human rights watchdog has said. Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke of an “explosive situation” on the Aegean islands, home to 36,000 asylum seekers. Hours later, Greece’s parliament passed a bill to fast-track deportations. The prime minister said refugees would be protected but Greece’s gates would not be thrown open to everyone. The left-wing opposition has criticised the law and some humanitarian groups, including United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, have warned it could restrict protection for asylum seekers.


But centre-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the move would deter those not entitled to asylum, telling parliament: “Enough is enough.” Nearly one million migrants refugees, including many fleeing war in Syria, crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands in 2015. Turkey agreed a financial deal with the EU to curb the influx but is still hosting 3.6 million Syrians. In recent months the numbers have surged and all the camps on the Greek islands are filled beyond capacity. [..] In a scathing assessment, Ms Mijatovic said: “The situation of migrants, including asylum seekers, in the Greek Aegean islands has dramatically worsened over the past 12 months. Urgent measures are needed to address the desperate conditions in which thousands of human beings are living.” She described the camps as “vastly overcrowded” places where people “queue for hours to get food and to go to bathrooms, when these are available”.

Read more …

Saw the Reuters piece early Friday, thought bigger version would follow. Relevant, though, because WHO would want to fly 737MAX? Not passengers, not crew.

28,000 American Airlines Flight Attendants Refuse To Work On 737 Max (ZH)

Tens of thousands of American Airlines’ flight attendants fear for their safety and will not work on Boeing 737 Max planes if they return to the air in 2020, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) union’s president wrote in a letter to Boeing’s CEO this week, reported Reuters. “The 28,000 flight attendants working for American Airlines refuse to walk onto a plane that may not be safe and are calling for the highest possible safety standards to avoid another tragedy,” APFA President Lori Bassani said in the letter (seen by Reuters). Reuters noted the letter was dated Oct. 30, which followed several days of Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg being grilled by lawmakers in Washington after two Max crashes killed 346 people and led to a worldwide grounding of the plane in March.

Read more …

Don’t know about you, but I like pretty girls in their summer dresses. Should I feel guilty about that now? This feels like something well-intentioned that has gone terribly off the rails.

Apple Introduces Gender-Neutral Versions Of Nearly Every Human Emoji (RT)

The latest iOS 13.2 update is dividing digital fans with dozens of new genderless emoji characters. More choice or a step too far? iOS updates – they drain your battery and cause social anxiety – but the world can relax as the flamingo and otter emojis have finally been released. The update has delivered almost 400 images in total…. and it even includes a gender free vampire. But it seems the new mix of identity politics can stimulate confusion and division. Many online supporters have given a thumbs up to the Unicode Consortium team (that approves new emojis) as gender neutral choices and people with disabilities are now listed. But some fear too many choices are dividing society. Do we really need to be placed into so many boxes and categories?


Emoji characters now have a genderless character as well as male and female. Whoever thought a non-binary vampire even existed? Perhaps the emoji mafia are trying too hard. We have come such a long way since the original emoticon. What started off as a smiley face text two decades ago now equates to hundreds of people that can be represented. But this wasn’t enough, so Emojipedia declared the year 2015 as “the year of Emoji diversity” adding different skin colours, more female characters, gender inclusive people and more hair colours.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 172019
 


Salvador Dali Mme. Reese 1931

 

The circus will be coming to town a week later, but not to worry, the show will go on longer and there will be many added attractions, including a full troop of 800-pound gorillas and an entire herd of 8000-pound elephants in the room. And once the balancing acts, the clowns and the ferocious beasts pack up and move on, America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize.

The circus is the testimony of Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary (extended to 3 hours) and Intelligence Committees (2 hours). The Democrats will aim to use Mueller’s words to finally achieve their long desired impeachment of Donald Trump. But is there anyone who’s not a US Democrat who thinks that is realistic? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to think so.

In order for the Dems to get their wish, Mueller would have to say a lot of things that are not in his report. It all appears to hang on the interpretation of his assessment that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, which the Dems take to mean that there actually was a crime that could -or should- be prosecuted.

It’s not clear why the hearing was delayed from July 17 to 24, but don’t be surprised if it has to do with US District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision that Mueller must stop talking in public about a case that is in front of her, because his words might prejudice a jury. That is the case that Mueller brought in February 2018 against Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, their owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin (aka Putin’s cook), and 12 of his employees.

Mueller thought he could get away with presenting a case against them because they would not show up, but Prigozhin did hire a major law firm. Ironically, Friedrich has reportedly also decided that the lawyers cannot talk about the case to their own client(s). She hasn’t thrown out the case or anything, she’s simply told everyone including Mueller to stop discussing it in public.

 

So it’s quite possible that once the House Democrats figured this out (the decision stems from May 28 but was unsealed only on July 1), they had to change strategy. Mueller has been barred from saying a single word about it, including in the House.

In his report, Mueller tried to establish a link between the Russian firms and the Kremlin, but never proved any such link. They are accused of meddling in the 2016 election through emails and social media posts, an accusation that looks shakier by the day.

With that part of his report out of the way, what is left for him to talk about? He himself already gave up on the whole collusion narrative, which would appear to leave only obstruction. Well, there’s the Steele dossier, but with John Solomon blowing another gaping hole in it yesterday, that may not be the wisest topic to discuss on the House floor. By now, only the very faithful still believe in the dossier.

The Republicans surely don’t, and they also happen to be House members, and get to ask questions of Mueller on the 24th. The spectacle last night where Nancy Pelosi insisted on calling Trump a racist was nutty (you don’t do that in the House), but the Mueller hearings promise to be much much more nuts still.

 

In the background a second investigation is playing out: DOJ IG Michael Horowitz has been probing if DOJ or FBI officials abused their powers to spy on the Trump campaign. His report has been delayed, if reports are correct, because Christopher Steele at the very last minute agreed to testify. Those talks apparently were long and detailed. Wonder what he had to say.

And there’s a third probe too: AG Barr has tasked John Durham, the US attorney for Connecticut, to follow up on the Horowitz report and look at whether officials at the CIA, the NSA, and/or foreign intelligence agencies (think MI6), violated protocols or statutes.

That case is about whether the FISA court was misled to secure a warrant to put Trump campaign aide Carter Page under surveillance. It can also take a new look at the text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, messages that Trump tweeted about on Saturday: “This is one of the most horrible abuses of all. Those texts between gaga lovers would have told the whole story. Illegal deletion by Mueller. They gave us “the insurance policy.”

The deletion reportedly may have been accidental. But it does set the tone. The door is wide open for the Republicans to go after Mueller. And he knows it, always has. He never wanted the hearings, he said it was all in his report. But the Dems wanted more, they want Mueller to say Trump is guilty of obstruction (of a probe that perhaps should never have taken place).

Personally, I wonder whether a Republican congressman/woman will have the guts to ask Mueller why he refused to talk to Julian Assange, the most obvious person for him to talk to in the whole wide world. But since the GOP hates Assange as much as the Dems, I don’t have high hopes of that happening.

What they certainly will ask is when he knew his probe wasn’t going anywhere. And if that was perhaps as much as a whole year before he presented his report. The Dems will tear into Mueller looking for obstruction. Like: if Trump were not the president, would you sue him? Problem with that is none of this would have happened if Trump were just a citizen.

But I lean towards Ray McGovern’s take, who says that the circus may not come to town on July 24 either. Because there’s no there there (something Peter Strzok himself said about the Steele dossier), and because the Dems know this is their last shot at glory. And the GOP doesn’t mind another week or so of preparation.

Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence. No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence.


Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

And I was serious when I said before that once the Mueller hearings are done, “America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize”. Because if and when the Mueller circus fails to provide the impeachment dream (try elections!), where are they going to go, what else is there to do?

They’ve been clamoring for impeachment for collusion (big fail), for obstruction (Mueller wouldn’t have it) and now racism, but that is merely based on interpretation of tweets. Nancy Pelosi wrote about ‘women of color’, not Donald Trump.

America needs a strong Democratic party, and it certainly doesn’t have one right now. The Dems should be calling for an end to regime change wars, that is a popular theme among their voters. But they don’t, because guess where their money comes from. They are in a very deep identity crisis, and Trump just has to pick them off one by one. They should look at themselves, not at him. Do these people ever do strategy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 042019
 
 June 4, 2019  Posted by at 7:30 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Francisco Goya The dog 1820-23

 

What follows are items from sources not everyone may like, such as Fox and The Hill. But please bear with me, because if you want to understand what is about to happen in the US, you’re going to need this kind of info, and you’re not likely to get it from the mainstream media.

The overall term here is questions. There are too many to list. Some will merely be asked, some will be asked and answered, others will not be asked at all. It’s going to be a jousting match between lawyers and prosecutors, investigators and politicians. It’s safe to say it’s going be ugly.

First off, as Zero Hedge reports, Christopher Steele, after long refusing to, has agreed to talk to investigators from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

 

Steele Agrees To Discuss Trump Dossier With DOJ Inspector General

Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele has finally agreed to meet with US officials to discuss his relationship with the FBI, and the now-infamous dossier of unfounded claims against Donald Trump which he assembled on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The 54-year-old Steele has agreed to meet with investigators from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), according to The Times of London, after a former US official told Politico that the OIG report would “try to deeply undermine” Steele.

The news marks a 180-shift in Steele’s past refusals to engage with US authorities. In April, Politico reported that Steele would not meet with the OIG to assist them with their investigation, while just last week, Reuters reported that he wouldn’t meet with US attorney John Durham, who was handpicked by AG William Barr to review the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

Steele, a MI6 Russia specialist for more than two-decades, has worked with the FBI as a confidential source since 2010. According to the report, he will retain the services of a top American attorney if the interview goes ahead, and is only willing to discuss the narrow scope of his dealings with US intelligence. Steele also wanted US officials to seek the approval of the British government.

Steele’s lawyers will try to limit the topics on the table as much as they can. But that may not be enough. There are very serious doubts and allegations surrounding the Steele Dossier, as well as the clients he prepared the report for. There’s Hillary Clinton, there’s the DNC, there’s their law firm Perkins Coie, there’s Fusion GPS, there’s its CEO Glenn Simpson, there’s the FBI, there’s the 2016 DOJ, and then there’s John Brennan and James Clapper. All these parties have played roles in making sure the dossier was ‘prepared’.

That is a lot of parties. How Steele is going to talk under oath without implicating one or more of them in shady dealings if not downright criminal activities is hard to imagine. If only because the dossier leads straight to the Mueller report, which would never have been written if the Steele dossier had not been used to -possibly illegally- get FISA warrants.

Moreover, Robert Mueller is now being accused of tampering with evidence he used in his report. I know I seem to be jumping from Steele to Mueller kind of suddenly, but these things are very closely connected, so I’ll allow myself that freedom.

It appears from files released on the order of judge Sullivan that Mueller has tampered with his own evidence. He omitted part of a phone conversation between lawyers for Trump and those for Michael Flynn, ostensibly to create the impression that the former sought confidential information.

 

Ex-Trump Lawyer John Dowd Slams Mueller Report As A ‘Fraud’

Nunes, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, was reacting to the release of a voicemail message that John Dowd, a former lawyer for President Trump, had left for a lawyer representing former national security adviser Michael Flynn, in which Dowd asks for a “heads up” if Flynn planned to say anything damaging about Trump to Mueller’s team. Nunes retweeted a side-by-side comparison of the Dowd transcript text and the Mueller report text, suggesting that the Mueller report did not disclose the full Dowd message.


The Mueller report had redacted the part of the voicemail where Dowd said he wanted the heads up “not only for the president but for the country” and that he wasn’t asking for “any confidential information.” Alan Dershowitz claimed on “Hannity” Monday night that the quotation was “distorted.” “This is a very, very serious issue,” he said. “The distortion of the Dowd quote is very serious. Especially since, remember, that a report by a special counsel is always going to be one-sided. Therefore, you have to trust it.”

 

Totally separate from the above development, Democrat House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wants Mueller to talk to Congress no matter what. The Dems of course want to get dirt on Trump from Mueller, but given that development, added to many other questions GOP Congressmen already wanted to ask him, the Mueller testimony may well backfire in spectacular fashion. Do they realize this?

 

Hoyer: Democrats Should Subpoena Mueller If Necessary

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats should insist on special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress, even if it requires a subpoena. “I think he ought to testify. He may want a subpoena, for all I know,” Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing in his Capitol office. “He indicated that his report speaks for itself. Very frankly, … questioning is an important fact-finding pursuit.”

Mueller said last week during brief remarks at the Justice Department that he hoped those statements — combined with his 488-page report — would be his last word on the topic. It was a clear indication that the former FBI chief — who’s built a reputation for nonpartisanship over his long career in Washington — is hoping to avoid the political circus that would surely accompany his return to Capitol Hill.

But Democrats are fighting to secure his testimony, emphasizing the importance of hearing the author of the report elucidate its conclusions. Both Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, are in negotiations with Mueller’s team in an effort to secure the special counsel’s testimony. [..] Another Democratic lawmaker familiar with the talks said a major sticking point remains Mueller’s reluctance to testify publicly, as Democrats are insisting.

“We’re trying to do everything possible to get him out in the open,” said the lawmaker, who spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive negotiations. Democrats are also wary that Mueller will be unwilling to answer clarifying questions outside the literal text of his report, the lawmaker said. “The concern is that Mueller is just going to sit there like a parrot and parrot the report,” the lawmaker said. “And there’s not going to be anything meaningfully new coming out of the testimony.”

Here are a few questions Mueller may be called upon to answer, courtesy of Sharyl Attkisson at The Hill. Most if not all appear to me to be reasonable, and there seems to be little reason not to demand they are answered. The credibility of the entire American political system, as well as the intelligence community, is at stake.

 

Robert Mueller’s Parting Shot: 10 Questions I’d Like To Ask

The statement Mueller chose to give carries with it an implication that his team looked for evidence of President Trump’s innocence but simply could not find it. With that in mind, I thought of a short list of questions I’d like to ask Mueller, if ever permitted to do so:

1) What witnesses did you interview and what evidence did you collect in an attempt to exonerate Trump or prove him not guilty? (I believe the answer would be, “None. It’s not the job of a special counsel or prosecutor to do so.” Therefore, was Mueller’s comment appropriate?)

2) Does it concern you that the FBI claimed “collection tool failure” in stating that 19,000 text messages between former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strozk had been deleted and were unavailable for review by the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general? Is it worth investigating how the inspector general was able to recover the messages, when the FBI said it could not? Does the FBI lack the technical expertise, or the will? Isn’t it a serious issue that should be addressed, either way?

3) Along the same lines, do you think it strange or inappropriate that the DOJ wiped text messages between Strzok and Page from their special counsel cell phones? The deletions happened shortly after they were ejected from the team and before the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General could review them — at a time when all had been informed that their actions were under review. Did technicians attempt to recover the messages? Were the circumstances of the deletions thoroughly investigated?

4) When did you first learn that the FBI and DOJ signed off on and presented unverified, anti-Trump political opposition research to a court to get wiretaps on an innocent U.S. citizen? Doesn’t this violate the strict procedures enacted while you were FBI director, intended to ensure that only verified information is seen by the court? Who will be held accountable for any lapses in this arena?

5) Do these issues point to larger problems within our intelligence community, in terms of how officials operate? Does that put you in a position where there’s a conflict of interest since you were in charge of the FBI when prior surveillance abuses were identified by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court? Did you consider disclosing this potential conflict and stepping aside, or referring any issues that overlap with your interests?

6) What steps did you take after Strzok and Page were exposed, to try to learn if other investigators on your team likewise were conflicted? Did you take action to segregate the work of these agents and any potential biases they injected into your investigation and team? Wasn’t their behavior a beacon to call you to follow an investigative trail in another direction?

7) Did you become concerned about foreign influence beyond Russia when you learned that a foreign national, Christopher Steele, claimed to have obtained opposition research from Russian officials connected to Putin — and that the FBI and DOJ presented this material to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain wiretap approvals?

8) Were you aware that some Democratic Party officials acknowledged coordinating with Ukraine in 2016 to undermine Trump and his associates and to leak disparaging information to the news media?

9) Is it true that you applied for the job as FBI director but Trump rejected you, the day before then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed you as special counsel to investigate Trump? Does that put you in a potentially conflicted position?

10) Do you think Donald Trump is guilty of a crime? If so, then do you believe he is perhaps the most clever criminal of our time since he was able to conceal the evidence despite all the government wiretaps, investigations, informants, surveillance and hundreds of interviews spanning several years?

And then when the DOJ, as well as AG William Barr’s team, are done with Mueller, The Hill’s John Solomon has another set of questions, this time for Hillary Clinton. And again, the credibility of the entire American political system, as well as the intelligence community, is at stake. Is Hillary untouchable?

 

Hillary Clinton’s Russia Collusion IOU: The Answers She Owes America

Here are 10 essential questions:

1) In January 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a formal investigative request for documents and written answers from your campaign. Do you plan to comply?

2) Please identify each person in your campaign who was involved with, or aware of, hiring Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele.

3) Please identify each person in your campaign, including Perkins Coie lawyers, who were aware that Steele provided information to the FBI or State Department, and when they learned it.

4) Describe any information you and your campaign staff received, or were briefed on, before Election Day that was derived from the work of Simpson, Steele, Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr or Perkins Coie and that tried to connect Trump, his campaign or his business empire with Russia.

5) Please describe all contacts your campaign had before Election Day with or about the following individuals: Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Glenn Simpson, Christopher Steele, former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, former foreign policy scholar Stefan Halper and Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud.

6) Did you or any senior members of your campaign, including lawyers such as Michael Sussmann, have any contact with the CIA, its former Director John Brennan, current Director Gina Haspel, James Baker, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page or former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe?

7) Describe all contacts your campaign had with Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal concerning Trump, Russia and Ukraine.

8) Describe all contacts you and your campaign had with DNC contractor Alexander Chalupa, the Ukraine government, the Ukraine Embassy in the United States or the U.S. Embassy in Kiev concerning Trump, Russia or former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

9) Why did your campaign and the Democratic Party make a concerted effort to portray Trump as a Russian asset?

10) Given that investigations by a House committee, a Senate committee and a special prosecutor all have concluded there isn’t evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, do you regret the actions by your campaign and by Steele, Simpson and Sussmann to inject these unfounded allegations into the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community and the news media?

The Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, had their day in the sun with the 2 years Mueller probe. Now ‘the other side’ has its turn. And it makes no difference what side you are on, or even whether you think that is fair, this is going to happen. How it can go down without people being indicted, I can’t see. Same as with some Trump allies. Paul Manafort was sent to Rikers Island today.

Still, in the same way that it’s impossible to predict which questions will eventually be asked, and which the legal experts on all sides decide should not be asked, it’s not possible at this point to foresee where the hammer will come down hardest. But it’s not going to be pretty.

Then again, we’re looking, down the line, at Brennan and Clapper and the entire intelligence community. Do Barr and IG Horowitz have the clout and the strength and determination to clean up that mess? Here’s hoping that they do. America needs a thorough cleansing, badly.

 

 

 

 

May 102019
 


James McNeill Whistler Symphony in White, No. 3 1867

 

US Hikes Tariffs On Chinese Goods, China Says To Strike Back (R.)
Historic Lawsuit Could “Wreak Havoc” On The Leveraged Loan Market (ZH)
The Real Muellergate Scandal (Craig Murray)
From Russiagate to Gunboat Diplomacy (Jacobin)
FBI’s Steele Story Falls Apart (Solomon)
Roger Stone Wins Right To Receive Unredacted Parts of Mueller Report (SC)
Chelsea Manning Released After 2 Months, Might Be Back In Jail In 6 Days (RT)
The Law Being Used to Prosecute Julian Assange Is Broken (Ekeland)
Swedish Prosecutor To Give Decision On Assange Rape Inquiry (G.)
The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 (Vos)
Facebook Co-Founder Calls For Breakup Of The Company (ZH)
UK Tories Could Come Sixth In European Elections (G.)
America, You Are Fired! (Dmitry Orlov)
Chernobyl Has Become A Refuge For Wildlife 33 Years Later (Conv.)
Ireland Second Country To Declare Climate, Biodiversity Emergency (RTE)

 

 

Keep talking!

US Hikes Tariffs On Chinese Goods, China Says To Strike Back (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff increase to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods took effect on Friday, and Beijing said it would strike back, ratcheting up tensions as the two sides pursue last-ditch talks to try salvaging a trade deal. China’s Commerce Ministry said it “deeply regrets” the U.S. decision, adding that it would take necessary countermeasures, without elaborating. The hike comes in the midst of two days of talks between top U.S. and Chinese negotiators to try to rescue a faltering deal aimed at ending a 10-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked for 90 minutes on Thursday and were expected to resume talks on Friday.


The Commerce Ministry said that negotiations were continuing, and that it “hopes the United States can meet China halfway, make joint efforts, and resolve the issue through cooperation and consultation”. With no action from the Trump administration to reverse the increase as negotiations moved into a second day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection imposed the new 25% duty on affected U.S.-bound cargoes leaving China after 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) on Friday. Goods in the more than 5,700 affected product categories that left Chinese ports and airports before midnight will be subject to the original 10% duty rate, a CBP spokeswoman said.

Read more …

Don’t worry, Fed to the rescue.

Historic Lawsuit Could “Wreak Havoc” On The Leveraged Loan Market (ZH)

Ask any banker (or analyst) what the difference is between a junk bond and a loan, and you’ll most likely get a blank start in response: starting with the size of the loan market, which is now virtually identical to that of the high yield bond market, continuing through the standardization of loan terms, the growth of secondary trading, and all the way through to “protections” granted to loan investors, which in an age of exclusively covenant-lite issuance, no longer exist, and one can argue that at least superficially, a loan is effectively the same as a junk bond. And yet, there is one critical difference between the two: junk bonds are securities, while loans aren’t. That difference, however, may not be true for much longer.

As Bloomberg reports, a group suing JPMorgan Chase and other banks over a loan that went sour four years ago is alleging the underwriters engaged in securities fraud. If successful, the article contends correctly, the lawsuit will “radically transform the $1.2 trillion leveraged lending market” because should the plaintiff ultimately prevail in arguing that loans are de facto securities, it would dramatically alter how American companies raise debt, according to two industry groups that filed a brief supporting the defendants’ argument last week. “There are absolutely enormous market consequences if a court determines that leveraged loans are securities,” J. Paul Forrester, a partner at Mayer Brown told Bloomberg. “Leveraged loans and lenders would be potentially subject to the same offering and disclosure requirements as securities and would face the same regulatory oversight and enforcement consequences.”

Read more …

Well, whaddaya know, there are people who agree with me… The VIPS, Assange, it’s all I’ve been talking about. I said Mueller is a coward and a liar, Murray calls him deeply corrupt. Same difference.

The Real Muellergate Scandal (Craig Murray)

Robert Mueller is either a fool, or deeply corrupt. I do not think he is a fool. I did not comment instantly on the Mueller Report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge – the leak of DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks. On the wider question of the corrupt Russian 1% having business dealings with the corrupt Western 1%, all I have to say is that if you believe that is limited in the USA by party political boundaries, you are a fool. On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney. He did not interview Julian Assange. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless. There has never been, by any US law enforcement or security service body, a forensic examination of the DNC servers, despite the fact that the claim those servers were hacked is the very heart of the entire investigation. Instead, the security services simply accepted the “evidence” provided by the DNC’s own IT security consultants, Crowdstrike, a company which is politically aligned to the Clintons.

That is precisely the equivalent of the police receiving a phone call saying: “Hello? My husband has just been murdered. He had a knife in his back with the initials of the Russian man who lives next door engraved on it in Cyrillic script. I have employed a private detective who will send you photos of the body and the knife. No, you don’t need to see either of them.” There is no honest policeman in the world who would agree to that proposition, and neither would Mueller were he remotely an honest man.

[..] Mueller’s failure to examine the servers or take Binney’s evidence pales into insignificance compared to his attack on Julian Assange. Based on no conclusive evidence, Mueller accuses Assange of receiving the emails from Russia. Most crucially, he did not give Assange any opportunity to answer his accusations. For somebody with Mueller’s background in law enforcement, declaring somebody in effect guilty, without giving them any opportunity to tell their side of the story, is plain evidence of malice. Inexplicably, for example, the Mueller Report quotes a media report of Assange stating he had “physical proof” the material did not come from Russia, but Mueller simply dismisses this without having made any attempt at all to ask Assange himself.

Read more …

Where would US media be without Russia?

From Russiagate to Gunboat Diplomacy (Jacobin)

One of the things Russiagate skeptics found unsettling about the frenzy over supposed “collusion” was that it made war more likely. Not only did the now-debunked conspiracy theories and resulting political climate push officials into a more aggressive posture toward Russia, but once the Kremlin was returned to its status as the foreign policy elite’s Big Bad, it was easy to imagine a situation where the threat of a Russian bogeyman could be used to justify any number of unrelated foreign adventures. This appears to be exactly what’s happening with Venezuela right now. First there was Fareed Zakaria, who two months ago tried to goad Trump into attacking Venezuela by pointing to Russia’s support for Maduro.

“Putin’s efforts seem designed to taunt the United States,” he said (it might also have something to do with the billions of dollars Russia sank into the country), making reference to the Monroe Doctrine. He asked if Washington would “allow Moscow to make a mockery of another American red line,” warning that “if Washington does not back its words with deeds” the country could become another Syria. Zakaria concluded: “will Venezuela finally be the moment when Trump finally ends his appeasement?” More recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that Russia had “invaded” Venezuela before claiming the Kremlin had dissuaded Maduro from fleeing the country at the last moment, something Pompeo has provided no evidence for but much of the media has treated as fact since.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has said that “this is our hemisphere” and “not where the Russians ought to be interfering.” Democratic Sen. Doug Jones echoed this sentiment on CNN, praising the Trump administration for saying “all options are on the table” to deal with Venezuela, something he suggested may have to be acted on “if there is some more intervention [by] Russia.” The national press, taking a break from warning about Trump being a dangerous authoritarian, has been demanding to know why he hasn’t been more aggressive toward the country over this. Particularly shameless was Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, who went on Tucker Carlson’s show to peddle half-baked innuendo as brazen as anything claimed in the lead up to the Iraq War. If Maduro’s government survived, he claimed, it would be “a green light, an open door for the Russians and for the Chinese and for others to increase their activity against our national security interest right here in our hemisphere.”

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John Solomon digs on. “She quoted Steele as saying, “Payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami..” [..] “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”

FBI’s Steele Story Falls Apart (Solomon)

The FBI’s sworn story to a federal court about its asset, Christopher Steele, is fraying faster than a $5 souvenir T-shirt bought at a tourist trap. Newly unearthed memos show a high-ranking government official who met with Steele in October 2016 determined some of the Donald Trump dirt that Steele was simultaneously digging up for the FBI and for Hillary Clinton’s campaign was inaccurate, and likely leaked to the media. The concerns were flagged in a typed memo and in handwritten notes taken by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec on Oct. 11, 2016. Her observations were recorded exactly 10 days before the FBI used Steele and his infamous dossier to justify securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the campaign’s contacts with Russia in search of a now debunked collusion theory.

It is important to note that the FBI swore on Oct. 21, 2016, to the FISA judges that Steele’s “reporting has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings” and the FBI has determined him to be “reliable” and was “unaware of any derogatory information pertaining” to their informant, who simultaneously worked for Fusion GPS, the firm paid by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign to find Russian dirt on Trump. That’s a pretty remarkable declaration in Footnote 5 on Page 15 of the FISA application, since Kavalec apparently needed just a single encounter with Steele at State to find one of his key claims about Trump-Russia collusion was blatantly false.

In her typed summary, Kavalec wrote that Steele told her the Russians had constructed a “technical/human operation run out of Moscow targeting the election” that recruited emigres in the United States to “do hacking and recruiting.” She quoted Steele as saying, “Payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami,” according to a copy of her summary memo obtained under open records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. Kavalec bluntly debunked that assertion in a bracketed comment: “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”

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What if the relevant sections did get redacted?

Roger Stone Wins Right To Receive Unredacted Parts of Mueller Report (SC)

A federal judge in Washington ordered the Department of Justice to turn over any unredacted sections of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that relate to Roger Stone. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave the prosecutors until Monday to “submit unredacted versions of those portions of the report that relate to defendant Stone and/or ‘the dissemination of hacked materials.” Judge Jackson would review the material in private to see if it is relevant to the case and to decide whether Stone and his defense team will have access to the material.

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Is this a game?

Chelsea Manning Released After 2 Months, Might Be Back In Jail In 6 Days (RT)

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been released from a Virginia prison where she spent the last 62 days for refusing to testify on her 2010 leak of classified military files before a grand jury. Manning was released from William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday after the term of the grand jury before which she was supposed to testify expired, her legal team said in a statement reported by the Sparrow Project. However, the WikiLeaks whistleblower and activist might soon be locked up again and has already been served with another subpoena, requesting that she testifies before a different set of jurors. “Unfortunately, even prior to her release, Chelsea was served with another subpoena.


This means she is expected to appear before a different grand jury, on Thursday, May 16, 2019, just one week from her release today,” her lawyers said. Despite having spent over two months behind bars, Manning has no intention to cave in to the demand and make herself available to a secret grand jury’s questioning, according to the statement. “Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony.” Manning insists that she already gave an “exhaustive testimony” on all the matters concerning her disclosure of military documents at a 2013 court martial. In an 8-page declaration filed to the Virginia court on May 6, Manning accused the US government of using the “corrupt and abusive tool” of grand jury to “harass and disrupt political opponents and activists.”

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Taking us back to Aaron Schwartz.

The Law Being Used to Prosecute Julian Assange Is Broken (Ekeland)

[..] the UK courts will evaluate the US’s request to send Assange to Virginia to stand trial in federal court for a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a government computer, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). After Assange’s arrest, many reached out to ask me about the CFAA. For years, I’ve represented hackers in federal criminal cases nationally involving the CFAA, including Lauri Love, whom the US unsuccessfully tried to extradite from the UK. The US indicted Love in three separate federal courts in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, for hacking of a number of government sites including NASA, the FBI, the United States Sentencing Commission, and the Bureau of Prisons.

This was part of #OpLastResort, in protest of the CFAA prosecution and death of computer science pioneer Aaron Swartz, whose suicide in 2013 was widely viewed as resulting from a draconian CFAA prosecution. Whether intended or not, the CFAA makes it easy for a prosecutor to bring felony computer crime charges even when there’s little or no harm. [..] The core problem with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is that it doesn’t clearly define one of the central things it prohibits: unauthorized access to a computer. The courts across the country aren’t any help on this front, issuing conflicting decisions both with other jurisdictions and often within their own. Under the CFAA, what is a felony in one jurisdiction is legal in another.

This lack of definitional clarity allows prosecutors to charge felonies even when the harms are minimal, questionable, or just political views that DOJ doesn’t like. This is a serious problem, given that much political speech and protest these days is done with computers. And DOJ has previously used the CFAA in a politically charged prosecution. In 2011, DOJ charged the politically outspoken Aaron Swartz under the CFAA for going into an open server closet at MIT, a mecca of modern American hacking, and downloading academic articles—many of which were publicly funded—for public distribution. Even though the extent of any harm was questionable—this was a mere copying of articles—DOJ charged him with felony unauthorized access to a computer, unauthorized damage to a protected computer, felony aiding and abetting of both, and wire fraud.

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All Swedes need to be deeply ashamed. Is it too much to ask of you to let your voices be heard? All I hear is silence.

Swedish Prosecutor To Give Decision On Assange Rape Inquiry (G.)

Sweden’s state prosecutor will announce on Monday whether she will reopen a preliminary investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder is in prison in Britain after he was arrested last month after seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The US wants to extradite him in a case relating to WikiLeaks’ massive release of sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Sweden’s legal tussle with the Australian Assange has dragged on for nearly a decade after he was accused by two Swedish women of sexual assault and rape in 2010.


The statute of limitations ran out on the sexual assault allegations in 2015 and the prosecutor dropped the investigation into the rape allegation in 2017 because Assange was in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had taken refuge to avoid extradition. The prosecutor said at the time the investigation could be reopened if the situation changed. After Assange’s arrest last month, the lawyer representing the woman who accused Assange of rape asked for the investigation to be reopened. “At [a] press conference, the prosecutor will announce her decision, which will formally be made immediately before the press conference,” the Swedish prosecution authority said in a statement.

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Elizabeth Lea Vos is compiling a history of all WikiLeaks files.

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 (Vos)

Three months after it published the “Collateral Murder” video, WikiLeaks on July 25, 2010 released a cache of secret U.S. documents on the war in Afghanistan. It revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict, among other revelations. The publication of the Afghan War Diaries helped set the U.S. government on a collision course with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ultimately led to his arrest last month. The war diaries were leaked by then-Army-intelligence-analyst Chelsea Manning, who had legal access to the logs via her Top Secret clearance.

Manning only approached WikiLeaks, after studying the organization, following unsuccessful attempts to leak the files to The New York Times and The Washington Post. A major controversy surrounding the Diaries’ release were allegations that operational details were made public to the Taliban’s battlefield advantage and that U.S. coalition informants’ lives were put at risk by publishing their names. Despite a widely-held belief that WikiLeaks carelessly publishes un-redacted documents, only 75,000 from a total of more than 92,201 internal U.S. military files related to the Afghan War (between 2004 and 2010) were ultimately published.

WikiLeaks explained that it held back so many documents because Manning had insisted on it: “We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source.” Manning testified at her 2013 court-martial that the files were not “very sensitive” and did not report active military operations.

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Facebook: We’re Not A Monopoly, We’re “A Successful American Company”

Chris Hughes, Zuck’s former roommate, said in a NYT op-ed that Facebook should be split up. The reaction: no, we’re just successful, but we do need new laws, and Zuck himself has some great ideas for that.

Facebook Co-Founder Calls For Breakup Of The Company (ZH)

[..] would-be rivals can’t raise the money to take on Facebook. Nobody would finance them knowing that if they get too powerful, Facebook will run them out of business. Hughes doesn’t blame Zuckerberg for this; after all, he’s simply demonstrating the “virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur.” But this is exactly why the government should feel obligated to step in and “break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.” Specifically, Hughes believes the FTC should work with the DoJ to undo the Instagram and Whatsapp acquisitions. There is some precedent for this, he says.

How would a breakup work? Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares. Until recently, WhatsApp and Instagram were administered as independent platforms inside the parent company, so that should make the process easier. But time is of the essence: Facebook is working quickly to integrate the three, which would make it harder for the F.T.C. to split them up. For what it’s worth, Hughes acknowledges his complicity in creating Facebook, and the fact that he didn’t speak out – or even question the company’s monopoly power – until after Cambridge Analytica.

But that’s the past: Already, support for breaking up big-tech monopolies is gaining traction among Democrats and Republicans alike. The fact that Hughes has decided to criticized his former co-founder (and one-time college buddy) in such a public forum might seem galling to some: After all, Hughes was transformed into a millionaire 500 times over largely because he had the good fortune of being assigned to the same dorm room as Zuckerberg at Harvard. But regardless, now that Hughes has broken the seal, will he inspire more of Facebook’s co-founders and former top employees speak out. It’s worth noting that in March, Chris Cox, one of Zuckerberg’s top deputies and a longtime FB executive, left the company. Cox’s decision to leave was reportedly due to ‘disagreement’s’ that were alluded to in a blog post.

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Torn between multiple lovers. The UK governed by a fringe party.

UK Tories Could Come Sixth In European Elections (G.)

Conservative officials fear the party could come sixth in the European elections, with their support plummeting to single digits. Candidates running in the election said the party was “almost in denial” that the poll was happening and continued to insist they would not need to take up their seats in the European parliament, despite fading prospects for a cross-party deal with Labour that would enable Brexit to happen before 2 July. The fears of a dismal performance have been stoked by the fact that the party plans to spend no money on candidate campaigning, will not publish a manifesto and is refusing to hold a launch.


One MEP said candidates were funding their campaigns out of their own pockets, unlike previous years when there was a central pot of funding available. They have been told they are allowed to have their own regional manifestos, but many are not bothering, and there will be no central party manifesto. “The thinking is that if we make no effort then we will have an excuse for having done so badly. But it is seriously embarrassing,” said one MEP. Another Conservative source said internal data showed the party could do worse than the Brexit party, Labour, the Lib Dems, Change UK and even potentially the Greens, with support at less than 10%. That would translate to only a handful of seats, down from the current 22.

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Nuclear is set to make a come back, because it is the only option to maintain our complex societies. He may have a point there. The ultimate desperation.

America, You Are Fired! (Dmitry Orlov)

Some ironies are just too precious to pass by. The 2016 US presidential elections gave us Donald Trump, a reality TV star whose famous tag line from his show “The Apprentice” was “You are fired!” Focus on this tag line; it is all that is important to this story. Some Trump Derangement Disorder sufferers might disagree. This is because they are laboring under certain misapprehensions: that the US is a democracy; or that it matters who is president. It isn’t and it doesn’t. By this point, the choice of president matters as much as the choice of conductor for the band that plays aboard a ship as it vanishes beneath the waves. I have made these points continuously since before Trump got into office. Whether or not you think that Trump was actually elected, he did get in somehow, and there are reasons to believe that this had something to do with his wonderfully refreshing “You are fired!” tag line.

[..] Financially ruinous and generally nonsensical schemes such as tar sands, shale oil and industrial-scale photovoltaics, wind generation and electric cars will only accelerate the process of sorting nations into energy haves and energy have-nots, with the have-nots wiping themselves out sooner rather than later. Leaving aside various fictional and notional schemes (nuclear fusion, space mirrors, etc.) and focusing just on the technologies that already exist, there is only one way to maintain industrial civilization, and that is nuclear, based on Uranium 235 (which is scarce) and Plutonium 239 produced from Uranium 238 (of which there is enough to last for thousands of years) using fast neutron reactors. If you don’t like this choice, then your other choice is to go completely agrarian, with significantly reduced population densities and no urban centers of any size.

And if you do like this choice, then you have few alternatives other than to go with the world’s main purveyor of nuclear technology (VVER-series light water reactors, BN-series fast neutron breeder reactors and closed nuclear fuel cycle technology) which happens to be Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rosatom. It owns over a third of the world nuclear energy market and has a portfolio of international projects stretching far into the future that includes as much as 80% of the reactors that are going to be built. The US hasn’t been able to complete a nuclear reactor in decades, the Europeans managed to get just one new reactor on line (in China) while Japan’s nuclear program has been in disarray ever since Fukushima and Toshiba’s financially disastrous acquisition of Westinghouse. The only other contenders are South Korea and China. Again, if you don’t like nuclear—for whatever reason—then you can always just buy yourself some pasture and some hayfields and start breeding donkeys.

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Nuclear anyone?

Chernobyl Has Become A Refuge For Wildlife 33 Years Later (Conv.)

About 30 researchers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium, Norway, Spain and Ukraine presented the latest results of our work. These studies included work on big mammals, nesting birds, amphibians, fish, bumblebees, earthworms, bacteria and leaf litter decomposition. These studies showed that at present the area hosts great biodiversity. In addition, they confirmed the general lack of big negative effects of current radiation levels on the animal and plant populations living in Chernobyl. All the studied groups maintain stable and viable populations inside the exclusion zone. These studies showed that at present the area hosts great biodiversity.

In addition, they confirmed the general lack of big negative effects of current radiation levels on the animal and plant populations living in Chernobyl. All the studied groups maintain stable and viable populations inside the exclusion zone. A clear example of the diversity of wildlife in the area is given by the TREE project (TRansfer-Exposure-Effects, led by Nick Beresford of the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology). As part of this project, motion detection cameras were installed for several years in different areas of the exclusion zone. The photos recorded by these cameras reveal the presence of abundant fauna at all levels of radiation. These cameras recorded the first observation of brown bears and European bison inside the Ukrainian side of the zone, as well as the increase in the number of wolves and Przewalski horses.

Our own work with the amphibians of Chernobyl has also detected abundant populations across the exclusion zone, even on the more contaminated areas. Furthermore, we have also found signs that could represent adaptive responses to life with radiation. For instance, frogs within the exclusion zone are darker than frogs living outside it, which is a possible defence against radiation. Studies have also detected some negative effects of radiation at an individual level. For example, some insects seem to have a shorter lifespan and are more affected by parasites in areas of high radiation. Some birds also have higher levels of albinism, as well as physiological and genetic alterations when living in highly contaminated localities. But these effects don’t seem to affect the maintenance of wildlife population in the area.


European bison (Bison bonasus), boreal lynx (Lynx lynx), moose (Alces alces) and brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Ukraine). Proyecto TREE/Sergey Gaschack

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Wondering what practical measures they have in mind. Renewables?

Ireland Second Country To Declare Climate, Biodiversity Emergency (RTE)

Ireland has become only the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. The development came after a Fianna Fáil amendment to the Oireachtas report on Climate Action was accepted by both the Government and Opposition parties without a vote. Chair of the Climate Action Committee, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, welcomed the outcome as “an important statement” but added “now we need action.” She said Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton would speedily return to the Dáil with new proposals, and she looked forward to working “with all parties and none” to scrutinise them.


Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also welcomed the development, but warned that “declaring an emergency means absolutely nothing unless there is action to back it up. That means the Government having to do things they don’t want to do”. Deputy Bríd Smith, of Solidarity/People Before Profit, said she was “delighted” with the declaration, but added it will be “interesting to see” if the Government will support her Climate Emergency Measures Bill next month, which seeks to to limit oil and gas exploration.

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May 092019
 


James Ensor The frightful musicians 1891

 

How Julian Assange Changed Journalism (Stefania Maurizi)
Pamela Anderson’s Assange Blanket Conceals The Truth Of His Detention (G.)
China Backtracked On Nearly All Aspects Of US Trade Deal (R.)
Trump Blames Bolton For Embroiling Him In Potential Venezuelan Quagmire (Week)
Trump Predicts Dem Investigation Will Drive Him To 2020 Win (Hill)
Steele’s Stunning Pre-FISA Confession (Solomon)
Democrats Vote To Hold Attorney General Barr In Contempt Of Congress (G.)
Democrats Showing Contempt By Holding William Barr In Contempt (Turley)
Democrats Know Mueller Can’t Discuss His Report (Schoen)
James Comey Is In Trouble And He Knows It (Hill)
Time to Start Worrying About Global Corporate Debt – Bank of England (DQ)
Greek Bonds Yield Less Than Treasurys – As Irrational As In 2007 (Ashoka Mody)
The Fight to Save Wild Salmon- Have We Reached The End Of Wild? (G.)
Only A Third Of World’s Great Rivers Remain Free Flowing (G.)
Proposal To Spend 25% Of EU Budget On Climate Change (BBC)

 

 

The entire media left Assange to rot in hell. This is from a longer interview with Maurizi. It captures the essence.

How Julian Assange Changed Journalism (Stefania Maurizi)

For me it has been really shocking to witness how Julian Assange has declined in the last nine years. I have been able to see changes in Julian’s health and psychology. It was so sad, and no one could do anything. I could report on it and expose it but the other media and public opinion did absolutely nothing to make the government understand how terrible his treatment was. And all this is happening not in Russia, not in North Korea, this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. I now realize how little we can do in our democracy.


If you look at what has happened to high-profile whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and an important publisher like Assange, who had the courage to publish these important revelations, what did your democracy do to save them, to treat them in a human way? Chelsea Manning was put in prison for seven years, where she tried to commit suicide twice. Now she is back in prison. Edward Snowden was forced to leave the U.S. Julian Assange has spent nine years in detainment and no one did anything. We were reporting, we were denouncing, we were exposing how seriously his health was declining. Nothing happened.

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A great example of how it’s done. I stumbled upon this in the Guardian, “Ask Hadley” by one Hadley Freemen. Yes the kind of thing men won’t read, it’s directed at women. Who in this way get told what to think of Assange. The rape smear against him from MI6 et al has been more successful than anything else in turning especially women against him. This is how. It’s vile and it’s very dirty. And this Hadley person has no qualms about throwing another woman, Pamela Anderson, under the bus to do it. Because, you know, of her reputation.

Pamela Anderson’s Assange Blanket Conceals The Truth Of His Detention (G.)

Anderson made a long comment to the handily assembled press ranks outside the jail after her visit. She talked about how horrifically unjust it was that Assange was “really cut off from everybody”, to which you can only answer: “Well then, he should be delighted, given he chose to do exactly that for the past seven years when he holed himself up in the Ecuadorean embassy.” Anderson continued: “He does not deserve to be in a supermax prison. He has never committed a violent act. He is an innocent person.”


‘Nothing makes a woman look more credible than writing “Cromwell” on a blanket and then standing outside a prison.’ Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

And again, Ms Anderson, one must beg to remind you that, while that may all be true, no one knows that for certain because – and apologies for bringing up this inconvenient truth yet again – he avoided extradition to Sweden to answer to crimes he is accused of by hiding out in an embassy in Knightsbridge for seven flipping years. You remember that, right? You visited him there. That place where your warrior for truth would – according to Ecuador’s UK ambassador, Jaime Marchán – leave half-eaten meals in the sink. As Andrew O’Hagan explained way back in 2014 when describing what it was like spending time with Assange: “If you asked him to do the dishes, he would say he was trying to free economic slaves in China and had no time to wash up.”


Anderson added: “He is a good man, he is an incredible person. I love him.” She clearly rather fancies herself and Assange as the 21st century’s Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller (as opposed to what they actually are, which is a real-life Harley Quinn and Joker from Batman: The Animated Series). Still, good for you, Pamela! Love is a wondrous thing. This column sincerely hopes you have many happy years of washing his dishes ahead of you. Anyway, just in case Anderson’s word salad was not sufficiently persuasive, she also wore a blanket emblazoned with writing that included the words “free speech”, “gagged” and “Cromwell”. Because, honestly, nothing makes a woman look more credible than writing “Cromwell” on a blanket and then standing outside a prison. Anderson is just the latest in a long and not especially noble line of people who have decided that the best way to express themselves is by writing words on their clothing.

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“The talks were so bad that the real surprise is that it took Trump until Sunday to blow up,” the source said.”

China Backtracked On Nearly All Aspects Of US Trade Deal (R.)

The diplomatic cable from Beijing arrived in Washington late on Friday night, with systematic edits to a nearly 150-page draft trade agreement that would blow up months of negotiations between the world’s two largest economies, according to three U.S. government sources and three private sector sources briefed on the talks. The document was riddled with reversals by China that undermined core U.S. demands, the sources told Reuters. In each of the seven chapters of the draft trade deal, China had deleted its commitments to change laws to resolve core complaints that caused the United States to launch a trade war: theft of U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets; forced technology transfers; competition policy; access to financial services; and currency manipulation.

U.S. President Donald Trump responded in a tweet on Sunday vowing to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent on Friday – timed to land in the middle of a scheduled visit by China’s Vice Premier Liu He to Washington to continue trade talks. The stripping of binding legal language from the draft struck directly at the highest priority of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer – who views changes to Chinese laws as essential to verifying compliance after years of what U.S. officials have called empty reform promises. Lighthizer has pushed hard for an enforcement regime more like those used for punitive economic sanctions – such as those imposed on North Korea or Iran – than a typical trade deal.


“This undermines the core architecture of the deal,” said a Washington-based source with knowledge of the talks. [..] Liu last week told Lighthizer and Mnuchin that they needed to trust China to fulfil its pledges through administrative and regulatory changes, two of the sources said. Both Mnuchin and Lighthizer considered that unacceptable, given China’s history of failing to fulfil reform pledges. One private-sector source briefed on the talks said the last round of negotiations had gone very poorly because “China got greedy”. “China reneged on a dozen things, if not more … The talks were so bad that the real surprise is that it took Trump until Sunday to blow up,” the source said.

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If we could get rid of Bolton and Pompeo this way, great! For now though, Trump doesn’t want to start wars, but he won’t fire the warmongers either.

Trump Blames Bolton For Embroiling Him In Potential Venezuelan Quagmire (Week)

President Trump is having second thoughts about “his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela,” complaining to aides and advisers that “he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman,” President Nicolas Maduro, with opposition leader Juan Guadió, The Washington Post reports. “The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around National Security Adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires.”


Officially, U.S. policy in Venezuela is the same, and last week’s failed effort to oust Maduro has “effectively shelved serious discussion of a heavy U.S. military response,” and “Trump is now not inclined to order any sort of military intervention in Venezuela,” the Post reports, citing current and former officials and outside advisers. Instead, the U.S. is settling in to wait out Maduro on the expectation he will fall on his own, with the help of U.S. sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela,” Trump said last week, after a 90-minute phone call with Putin. “And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid.” U.S. officials say Russia is deeply involved in backing Maduro.

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A constitutional crisis?

Trump Predicts Dem Investigation Will Drive Him To 2020 Win (Hill)

President Trump, speaking at a rally hours after the White House invoked executive privilege to block the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, predicted congressional Democrats’ investigations would propel him to a reelection victory in 2020. Trump did not directly address his administration’s decision to defy a subpoena from House Democrats, a move that raised the specter of a constitutional crisis, but he said the party’s desire to probe his administration, campaign and businesses would backfire politically. “They want to do investigations instead of investments,” the president told a crowd of supporters at an outdoor amphitheater just steps from the Gulf of Mexico. “I think it drives us on to victory in 2020.”


Trump said Democrats’ focus on investigations is a “disgrace” and that they should instead work with him on infrastructure, lowering drug prices and improving veterans’ health care. [..] Trump mentioned Barr only in passing during the Wednesday rally but did not address the proceedings. “Now the Democrats — we have a great attorney general — now the Democrats are saying, ‘We want more.’ You know, it was going to be like, ‘We want the Mueller report.’ Now they say, ‘Mueller report? No, we want to start all over again.’”

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This will go far. This is very damning.

Steele’s Stunning Pre-FISA Confession (Solomon)

If ever there were an admission that taints the FBI’s secret warrant to surveil Donald Trump’s campaign, it sat buried for more than 2 1/2 years in the files of a high-ranking State Department official. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec’s written account of her Oct. 11, 2016, meeting with FBI informant Christopher Steele shows the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded British intelligence operative admitted that his research was political and facing an Election Day deadline. And that confession occurred 10 days before the FBI used Steele’s now-discredited dossier to justify securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the campaign’s ties to Russia.

Steele’s client “is keen to see this information come to light prior to November 8,” the date of the 2016 election, Kavalec wrote in a typed summary of her meeting with Steele and Tatyana Duran, a colleague from Steele’s Orbis Security firm. The memos were unearthed a few days ago through open-records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. Kavalec’s notes do not appear to have been provided to the House Intelligence Committee during its Russia probe, according to former Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). “They tried to hide a lot of documents from us during our investigation, and it usually turns out there’s a reason for it,” Nunes told me. Senate and House Judiciary investigators told me they did not know about them, even though they investigated Steele’s behavior in 2017-18.


One member of Congress transmitted the memos this week to the Department of Justice’s inspector general, fearing its investigation of FISA abuses may not have had access to them. Nonetheless, the FBI is doing its best to keep much of Kavalec’s information secret by retroactively claiming it is classified, even though it was originally marked unclassified in 2016. The apparent effort to hide Kavalec’s notes from her contact with Steele has persisted for some time. State officials acknowledged a year ago they received a copy of the Steele dossier in July 2016, and got a more detailed briefing in October 2016 and referred the information to the FBI.

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From what I can see, this is quite weak. Jonathan Turley explains why in the next article: “..the contempt action against Barr is long on action and short on contempt ..”

Democrats Vote To Hold Attorney General Barr In Contempt Of Congress (G.)

House Democrats voted on Wednesday to hold the US attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress, citing his failure to hand over the full, unredacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The decision came on a day of escalating tensions between Congress and the White House. Earlier on Wednesday, the White House invoked executive privilege to block the House judiciary committee’s request for the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. Later in the day, the House intelligence committee chair, Adam Schiff, subpoenaed Barr for “documents and materials related Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials produced during the Special Counsel’s investigation, the full unredacted report, and the underlying evidence”.


According to a statement from Schiff’s office, the justice department must produce the documents by 15 May. The Senate intelligence committee, meanwhile, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. The panel is calling in the president’s son to answer questions about his 2017 testimony to the panel as part of its investigation into Russian election interference. It is the first known subpoena of a member of Donald Trump‘s immediate family, and a new sign that the Senate panel is continuing with its own Russia investigation even after the release of Mueller’s report on the same subject.

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Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and represented the House of Representatives in its successful challenge to executive actions under the Affordable Care Act..

Democrats Showing Contempt By Holding William Barr In Contempt (Turley)

The House Judiciary Committee is voting to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress and to secure a vote of the entire House of Representatives in order to send the matter to federal court. The problem is that the contempt action against Barr is long on action and short on contempt. Indeed, with a superficial charge, the House could seriously undermine its credibility in the ongoing conflicts with the White House. Congress is right on a number of complaints against the White House, including possible cases of contempt, but this is not one of them. As someone who has represented the House of Representatives, my concern is that this one violates a legal version of the Hippocratic oath to “first do no harm.”


This could do great harm, not to Barr, but to the House. It is the weakest possible case to bring against the administration, and likely to be an example of a bad case making bad law for the House. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler laid out the case for contempt. He raised three often repeated complaints against Barr in that he failed to release an unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller, allegedly lied twice to Congress, and refused to appear before the committee. Yet, notably, the only claim the committee seeks to put before a federal court is the redaction of the report. That seems rather curious since, if Barr lied or refused a subpoena as House leaders claim, it normally would be an easy case of contempt. The reason for this move is that House Democrats know both claims would not withstand even a cursory judicial review.

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David Schoen is a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer.

Democrats Know Mueller Can’t Discuss His Report (Schoen)

When Mueller accepted his appointment as special counsel, he did so fully aware of the federal regulations governing his office. The regulations make it absolutely clear that the special counsel is prohibited from discussing his report publicly. Leading members of Congress now demanding that Mueller testify know he is barred from doing so. The current special counsel regulations were passed while they were members of Congress. In 1978, Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act. It created a process for appointing special prosecutors. This is a different position from special counsels like Mueller. Under the 1978 law, Congress could mandate the appointment of a special prosecutor. Congress could remove the special prosecutor, and the special prosecutor was required to report to Congress. The executive and legislative branches were both a direct part of the process.


However, the law on special prosecutors expired and it was not renewed. In 1999, the special counsel regulations under which Mueller was appointed became law and remain in effect today. These regulations were written and heavily promoted by President Bill Clinton’s administration. They changed the 1978 law in several important ways. Under the current regulations, the special counsel does not report to Congress. Congress cannot require the appointment or removal of a special counsel. These powers and duties lie exclusively with the attorney general. Section 600.9 of the special counsel regulations backed by the Clinton administration places very limited requirements on the attorney general in regard to what he needs to provide to Congress, and he has already exceeded these requirements.

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“A strategy of insulting the executioner right before he swings his ax is an odd one but, then, Comey has a long record of odd decisions and questionable judgment.”

James Comey Is In Trouble And He Knows It (Hill)

James Comey’s planet is getting noticeably warmer. Attorney General William Barr’s emissions are the suspected cause. Barr has made plain that he intends to examine carefully how and why Comey, as FBI director, decided that the bureau should investigate two presidential campaigns and if, in so doing, any rules or laws were broken. In light of this, the fired former FBI director apparently has decided that photos of him on Twitter standing amid tall trees and in the middle of empty country roads, acting all metaphysical, is no longer a sufficient strategy. No, Comey has realized, probably too late, that he has to try to counter, more directly, the narrative being set by the unsparing attorney general whose words in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week landed in the Trump-opposition world like holy water on Linda Blair. Shrieking heads haven’t stopped spinning since.


And so we’ve seen Comey get real busy lately. First he penned a curious op-ed in The New York Times. Then a Times reporter, with whom Comey has cooperated in the past, wrote a news article exposing an early, controversial investigative technique against the Trump campaign in an attempt to get out front and excuse it. Next, Comey is scheduled to be encouraged on a friendly cable news “town hall.” In the op-ed, Comey trotted out his now-familiar St. James schtick, freely pronouncing on the morality of others. He sees himself as a kind of Pontiff-of-the-Potomac working his beads, but comes across more like an unraveling Captain Queeg working his ball bearings. Comey adjudged the president as “amoral.” He declared the attorney general to be “formidable” but “lacking inner strength” unlike — the inference is clear — Comey himself. A strategy of insulting the executioner right before he swings his ax is an odd one but, then, Comey has a long record of odd decisions and questionable judgment.

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[From 2008 to 2016] “the number of Chinese companies issuing bonds soared from just 68 to a peak of 1,451..”

Time to Start Worrying About Global Corporate Debt – Bank of England (DQ)

By 2016, emerging market corporations were issuing ten times more money ($711 billion) than before, much of it in hard foreign currencies (mainly euros, dollars and yen) that will prove much harder to pay back if their local currency slides, as is happening in Turkey and Argentina right now. Although bond issuance by emerging market companies declined by 29% in 2017 and remained around the same level in 2018, it is still approximately 7.5 times higher than the pre-crisis level. Much of the increase has been driven by China as it transitioned from a negligible level of issuance of corporate debt prior to the 2008 crisis to a record issuance amount of $590 billion in 2016.


During that time the number of Chinese companies issuing bonds soared from just 68 to a peak of 1,451 and the total amount of corporate debt in China exploded from $4 trillion to almost $17 trillion, according to BIS data. By late 2018 it had reached $19.7 trillion. “There has been a persistent buildup of private debt to record levels in China,” Cunliffe said. Much of this increase took place in the direct aftermath of the financial crisis. The largest increases have been in the corporate sector, mainly in state-owned enterprises. At last count, China’s corporate debt-to-GDP ratio was 153%, enough to earn it seventh place on WOLF STREET’s leaderboard of countries with the most monstrous corporate debt pileups (as a proportion of GDP), 18 places above the US. This chart compares the rise of non-financial corporate debt in China and the US:

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“Why would investors expect the euro to appreciate? [..] such a scenario is highly implausible.”

Greek Bonds Yield Less Than Treasurys – As Irrational As In 2007 (Ashoka Mody)

Yields on five-year Greek government bonds are lower than those of U.S. Treasurys — and have been this way for the past month. Yes, on 3- and 5-year bonds, Greece, with its rating deep in junk territory, pays investors less than the double-A-plus-rated U.S. government does. Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French government bonds — also lower-rated than the U.S. — offer lower, indeed considerably lower, yields than the U.S. government does, even for 10-year maturities. Even if we stipulate that Greece’s government is, in fact, as creditworthy as the U.S. government, why would investors accept a lower yield on the Greek bond? And why are they willing to accept the even lower yields on the bonds of other eurozone governments?

One possible reason is that they expect the euro to appreciate. Despite the low eurozone bond yields, investors may expect eventually to boost their returns by selling the expensive euros and buying cheaper dollars and other currencies. Indeed, there is some basis for such a strategy. As of late April, the consensus among analysts was that the euro will appreciate significantly over the next couple of years, and more modestly thereafter; forward markets (where buyers and sellers settle the price of a future transaction in advance) support this consensus view.


But if expectations of an appreciating euro solve the low-bond-yield puzzle, they raise another, deeper puzzle. Why would investors expect the euro to appreciate? [..] such a scenario is highly implausible. Current growth forecasts point worryingly in the opposite direction. The IMF projects world economic growth to slow more markedly than it already did a year ago. Crucially, of all major economies, those in the eurozone appear to be decelerating particularly quickly.

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Fish farms kill.

Have We Reached The End Of Wild? (G.)

In salmon’s case, we have interrupted one of the most dramatic cycles of nature, the wild fish’s journey from the rivers where they spawn to the oceans where they grow and back again. The result is that fish have died, species that eat them have died, communities that depend on them have faded, the food supply has been polluted and a lot of tax dollars have been wasted. [..] In an inspired gambit, Artifishal takes a swerve into the metaphyscial, framing the salmon emergency as a question about the human soul, about what it needs – about what we need – to survive.


The contention of the film-makers is that while it may be human nature to seek dominion and control over the rest of nature, the very thing we need to survive is precisely that which defies our control, that thing which, when we seek to subjugate it, instead either slips through our nets, or is caught and dies. If we drive the wild to extinction, the film suggests, we will bring our own that much closer. “I really hope the film leaves the viewer with this disquieting question, which is, have we reached the end of wild?” said Murphy in a phone conversation near the end of a tour to promote the movie, which debuted at the Tribeca film festival after a tour of screenings in Patagonia stores. “At the outset we kept wondering if we would find a bad guy. And we didn’t. In fact, I kept feeling that the force of antagonism was us – we’re the bad guy. Because humans just are always looking out for themselves.”

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More damage from renewables. There’s no free lunch. The sooner we get that straight, the better.

Only A Third Of World’s Great Rivers Remain Free Flowing (G.)

Only a third of the world’s great rivers remain free flowing, due to the impact of dams that are drastically reducing the benefits healthy rivers provide people and nature, according to a global analysis. Billions of people rely on rivers for water, food and irrigation, but from the Danube to the Yangtze most large rivers are fragmented and degraded. Untouched rivers are largely confined to remote places such as the Arctic and Amazonia. The assessment, the first to tackle the subject on a worldwide level, examined 12m kilometres of rivers and found that just 90 of the 246 rivers more than 1,000km (621 miles) long flowed without interruption.


The scientists, whose research, published in the journal Nature, was led by Günther Grill, at McGill University in Canada, were particularly concerned to discover that only a quarter of long rivers that once flowed freely to the sea, rather than to an inland lake or other river, still had such a course. Separate research in Britain, which included the effects of smaller infrastructure such as weirs, fords and culverts, suggests that 97% of the nation’s river network has been interrupted by human-built structures. Thriving wildlife in rivers is crucial to keeping water clean but freshwater habitats were found to be the hardest hit of all the ecosystems, with wildlife populations having plunged by an average of 83% since 1970 due to dams, overuse of water and pollution.

Great rivers that flow freely are now rare in populated areas. Heavily fragmented rivers include the Danube, Nile, and Euphrates, the Paraná and Missouri in the Americas, the Yangtze and Brahmaputra in Asia, and the Darling in Australia. The Congo and Amazon were found to be among the least affected. The biggest impact comes from physical barriers created by dams, but reservoirs also seriously affect the natural seasonal flow of rivers. “It can be really freaky sometimes, when the electricity is produced one hour on, one hour off, and the river goes up and down by a metre, which is very stressful to the ecosystems downstream,” said Grill. The study estimates that there are about 60,000 large dams worldwide and 3,700 in planning or construction, in addition to millions of smaller dams.

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A cheap way to get young votes. Don’t fall for it. Thes countries fail even their Paris commitments.

Proposal To Spend 25% Of EU Budget On Climate Change (BBC)

Eight European countries have called for an ambitious strategy to tackle climate change – and to spend a quarter of the entire EU budget on fighting it. The joint statement says the EU should have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 “at the latest”. It was signed by France, Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. The group says their plan can “go hand in hand with prosperity” and “set an example for other countries to follow.” The position paper comes ahead of a major summit of European leaders in the Romanian city of Sibiu, beginning on Thursday, which will discuss the future of Europe and the EU’s strategy for the next five years. But not everyone is on board – there are 28 countries in the EU, and several of those absent from the joint position statement are significant players – including Germany.


The position of the eight countries is that climate change has “profound implications for the future of humanity” and that its impacts are already apparent – citing “the heat waves and scorching fires of last summer”. [..] “The EU budget currently under negotiation will be an important tool in this respect: at least 25% of the spending should go to projects aimed at fighting against climate change,” the paper said. Annual EU budgets have spending limits set by what is known as the multiannual financial framework (MFF). The current one allowed the EU to spend more than €900bn between 2014-2020. The eight-nation group is eyeing the next framework, which is set to cover 2021-2027. [..] At the moment, EU countries are required to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from their 1990 levels by 2020, with the aim of raising that to a 40% reduction by 2030. But many are set to miss these targets – some by a wide margin.

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