Jul 082020
 


Unknown Strictly no elephants 1939

 

Serious Brain Disorders In People With Mild Coronavirus Symptoms (G.)
Scientists Warn Of Potential Wave Of COVID-Linked Brain Damage (R.)
Dozens Of Florida Hospitals Out Of Available ICU Beds (R.)
Majority Testing Positive Have No Symptoms (BBC)
Stanford’ Ioannidis Says Greece Needs More Aggressive COVID Testing (GR)
Is Strzok Memo the Rosetta Stone of Obamagate? (RCP)
US Judge Says “Tentatively Inclined” To Reject Bayer’s Monsanto Settlement (ZH)
Purdue Pharma Made Political Contributions After Going Bankrupt (IC)
Apple Suddenly Catches TikTok Secretly Spying On Millions Of iPhone Users (F.)
Madness of Political Correctness (Pelerin)
Ghislaine Maxwell Arraignment Scheduled For July 14 (R.)
Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Has Secret Stash Of Epstein Sex Tapes’ (DM)

 

 

Not much good news on the COVID front. But the reported severe nerve- and brain damage is a new low. We still know very little about COVID19, though many people claim otherwise. Can’t be careful enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inflammation of nerves and brains. Psychosis, paralysis.

Serious Brain Disorders In People With Mild Coronavirus Symptoms (G.)

Doctors may be missing signs of serious and potentially fatal brain disorders triggered by coronavirus, as they emerge in mildly affected or recovering patients, scientists have warned. Neurologists are on Wednesday publishing details of more than 40 UK Covid-19 patients whose complications ranged from brain inflammation and delirium to nerve damage and stroke. In some cases, the neurological problem was the patient’s first and main symptom. The cases, published in the journal Brain, revealed a rise in a life-threatening condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem), as the first wave of infections swept through Britain. At UCL’s Institute of Neurology, Adem cases rose from one a month before the pandemic to two or three per week in April and May. One woman, who was 59, died of the complication.

A dozen patients had inflammation of the central nervous system, 10 had brain disease with delirium or psychosis, eight had strokes and a further eight had peripheral nerve problems, mostly diagnosed as Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune reaction that attacks the nerves and causes paralysis. It is fatal in 5% of cases. “We’re seeing things in the way Covid-19 affects the brain that we haven’t seen before with other viruses,” said Michael Zandi, a senior author on the study and a consultant at the institute and University College London Hospitals NHS foundation trust. “What we’ve seen with some of these Adem patients, and in other patients, is you can have severe neurology, you can be quite sick, but actually have trivial lung disease,” he added.

“Biologically, Adem has some similarities with multiple sclerosis, but it is more severe and usually happens as a one-off. Some patients are left with long-term disability, others can make a good recovery.” The cases add to concerns over the long-term health effects of Covid-19, which have left some patients breathless and fatigued long after they have cleared the virus, and others with numbness, weakness and memory problems. One coronavirus patient described in the paper, a 55-year-old woman with no history of psychiatric illness, began to behave oddly the day after she was discharged from hospital. She repeatedly put her coat on and took it off again and began to hallucinate, reporting that she saw monkeys and lions in her house. She was readmitted to hospital and gradually improved on antipsychotic medication.

Read more …

Same topic, different take.

Scientists Warn Of Potential Wave Of COVID-Linked Brain Damage (R.)

Scientists warned on Wednesday of a potential wave of coronavirus-related brain damage as new evidence suggested COVID-19 can lead to severe neurological complications, including inflammation, psychosis and delirium. A study by researchers at University College London (UCL) described 43 cases of patients with COVID-19 who suffered either temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage or other serious brain effects. The research adds to recent studies which also found the disease can damage the brain. “Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic – perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s after the 1918 influenza pandemic – remains to be seen,” said Michael Zandi, from UCL’s Institute of Neurology, who co-led the study.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is largely a respiratory illness that affects the lungs, but neuroscientists and specialist brain doctors say emerging evidence of its impact on the brain is concerning. “My worry is that we have millions of people with COVID-19 now. And if in a year’s time we have 10 million recovered people, and those people have cognitive deficits … then that’s going to affect their ability to work and their ability to go about activities of daily living,” Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at Western University in Canada, told Reuters in an interview.

In the UCL study, published in the journal Brain, nine patients who had brain inflammation were diagnosed with a rare condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) which is more usually seen in children and can be triggered by viral infections. The team said it would normally see about one adult patient with ADEM per month at their specialist London clinic, but this had risen to at least one a week during the study period, something they described as “a concerning increase”. “Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause,” said Ross Paterson, who co-led the study. “Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes.”

Read more …

10,000 new cases per day is a lot for one state.

Dozens Of Florida Hospitals Out Of Available ICU Beds (R.)

More than four dozen hospitals in Florida reported that their intensive care units (ICUs) have reached full capacity on Tuesday as COVID-19 cases surge in the state and throughout the country. Hospital ICUs were full at 54 hospitals across 25 of Florida’s 67 counties, according to data published on Tuesday morning by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. More than 300 hospitals were included in the report, but not all had adult ICUs. Thirty hospitals reported that their ICUs were more than 90% full. Statewide, only 17% of the total 6,010 adult ICU beds were available on Tuesday, down from 20% three days ago, according to the agency’s website.


Florida’s coronavirus cases have soared in the last month, with the state’s daily count topping 10,000 three times in the last week. The death rate from COVID-19 rose nearly 19% in the last week from the week prior, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 3,800. All ICU beds are filled at the three hospitals in Clay County, where the population is around 220,000. Florida Governor Ron Desantis on Monday encouraged state residents to seek care at hospitals if needed, citing concerns that people with life-threatening conditions other than COVID-19 had avoided hospitals earlier in the pandemic to the detriment of their health.

Read more …

Different takes on asymptomatic cases emerging.

Majority Testing Positive Have No Symptoms (BBC)

Only 22% of people testing positive for coronavirus reported having symptoms on the day of their test, according to the Office for National Statistics. This hammers home the role of people who aren’t aware they’re carrying the virus in spreading it onwards. Health and social care staff appeared to be more likely to test positive. This comes as deaths from all causes in the UK fell to below the average for the second week in a row. Between the end of March and June, there were 59,000 more deaths than the five-year average. Meanwhile, the UK government’s daily figures released on Tuesday showed another 155 people have died after testing positive for the virus. This takes the total number of deaths to 44,391.


It comes after 16 new deaths were reported on Monday, but there are often reporting lags over the weekend. While the ONS survey includes relatively small numbers of positive swab tests (120 infections in all) making it hard to make any strong conclusions about who is most likely to be infected, there are some patterns coming through in the data: • Those in people-facing health or social care roles, and working outside their homes in general, were more likely to have a positive test. • People from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to have a positive antibody test, suggesting a past infection. • White people were the least likely proportionally to test positive for antibodies. • There was also some evidence that people living in larger households were more likely to test positive than those in smaller households.

Read more …

Looks like Greece may very soon have to choose between closing its borders or locking down its own people again.

Stanford’ Ioannidis Says Greece Needs More Aggressive COVID Testing (GR)

After Greece’s opening up to travelers from much of the rest of the world on July 1, the nation has seen a troubling trend in the increasing numbers of coronavirus infections. Currently, as of today, 27 new COVID cases were diagnosed in Greece in the past 24 hours — and 14 of these are tourists. Speaking to Greek Reporter, the noted medical professor Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University, an expert in the field of epidemiology, questions the somewhat lax attitude Greece has taken, with its use of an algorithm arrived at by answers on a questionnaire and random testing of arrivals.

“I think it would be useful to require more aggressive (perhaps universal) testing for tourists coming from countries that have low testing rates. Most of these countries make small contributions to the Greek tourism budget anyhow, so one is risking the emergence of an epidemic wave without much tangible financial benefit.” The epidemiologist states “I understand that Greece desperately needs tourism funds, since tourism is responsible for about 20% of the GDP. The Greek and the European COVID task forces include capable scientists and I trust they have put a lot of thought on how to reopen the country to tourism. It is not an easy situation.

“Determining which country is eligible for allowing tourists from is difficult and our knowledge base is incomplete. I just want to caution that it is potentially misleading to base this decision on the number of cases that continue being detected in each country. Countries that deal seriously with coronavirus do more testing and come up with more detected cases. Conversely, countries that do little testing will find few cases, but this does not mean that coronavirus does not exist there.”

“Serbia is one example worth discussing, since 20 of the 36 tourist cases today were from there. In that country, the number of cases looked pretty low, but this was simply because relatively little testing was done. With only 11,000 cases detected in Serbia until the end of May, it is likely that the true number exceeded 200,000. Moreover, apparently there were substantial residual foci of epidemic activity. However, I think this is a problem that may be pertinent to Balkan countries in general. Testing in other Balkan countries is even less frequent than Serbia on a population basis.

Read more …

Keep your focus on Sidney Powell and Obama.

Is Strzok Memo the Rosetta Stone of Obamagate? (RCP)

It doesn’t seem to matter to the mainstream media that evidence has mounted into the stratosphere that Trump has been right all along about his campaign being illegally surveilled by the Obama administration. It doesn’t matter that Trump survived a two-plus year investigation by a special counsel and was cleared of any kind of collusion with the Russians. The Democrats and their agents in the Deep State know that whatever they do to harass Trump will be treated as noble and patriotic by the corrupt media, and that whenever evidence surfaces of their criminal behavior it will be promptly buried again.

Which brings us to the infamous handwritten notes by disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok about a White House meeting that surfaced in a recent filing in the Flynn case. Strzok had already earned a prominent place in the “Wish I Hadn’t Done That” Hall of Fame for his serial confession via text message of not just marital infidelity but also constitutional perfidy. But the half-page of notes released by Flynn’s defense team rises to the level of a history-altering “Oops!” Indeed, it could well be the Rosetta stone that allows us to penetrate the secrets of the anti-Trump conspiracy that stretched from the FBI to the CIA, the Justice Department and the White House.

What we know about the provenance of the notes comes from Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell, who said they were written by Strzok about a meeting that took place on Jan. 4, 2017. The only problem is that the cast of characters in the memo duplicates those who were in attendance at the White House on Jan. 5, 2017, to discuss how the Obama administration should proceed in its dealings with Flynn, who was accused of playing footsie with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to assuming his official role as national security adviser. Attorney General William Barr has gone on the record (on the “Verdict With Ted Cruz” podcast) that the notes actually describe the Jan. 5 meeting.

If so, the notes strongly contradict Susan Rice’s CYA “memo to self” where the Obama national security adviser recounts the Jan. 5 meeting and stresses three times that President Obama and his team were handling the Flynn investigation “by the book.” Methinks the lady doth protest too much, especially now that we have Strzok’s contemporaneous notes to contradict her memo, which suspiciously was written in the final minutes of the Obama administration as Donald Trump was being sworn in at the Capitol.

From what we can tell, Strzok (unlike Rice) was not writing his memo to protect anyone. He seems to have merely jotted down some notes about what various participants in the meeting said, including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Rice, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and Strzok’s boss — FBI Director James Comey. Chances are, at this point Strzok had no idea his dirty laundry was going to be aired or that his role as a master of the universe was going to be toppled.

Read more …

That settlement makes me think of the one Epstein got, one of those “everything included” deals that make you wonder how legal they can be.

US Judge Says “Tentatively Inclined” To Reject Bayer’s Monsanto Settlement (ZH)

As the EU’s antitrust regulator announces another round of sweeping antitrust investigations into the big US tech behemoths. an American judge is apparently making noises about throwing out a major settlement involving German multinational pharma conglomerate Bayer. According to the settlement, which we reported on a few weeks ago when it was first announced, Bayer had agreed to pay $10 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits brought against it over its purchase of Monsanto, the American agrichemical giant that’s best known for producing Roundup weed killer. The lawsuits stemmed from evidence that glyphosate, one of the primary ingredients of Monsanto’s Roundup, is actually carcinogenic.

Which means that by marketing Roundup into ubiquity, even pairing it with genetically modified crop seeds allowing farmers to spray the stuff then simply forget about it since it wouldn’t harm the crops. A landmark California Court ruling handed down in 2017 found Bayer liable for the plaintiffs’ cancers, since it now owned Monsanto. The mountain of litigation has weighed on Bayer’s share price ever since, making the Monsanto acquisition one of the biggest blunders in the history of the storied German firm. The two sides have been in negotiations virtually ever since, until two weeks ago, when a majority of the plaintiffs agreed to a $10 billion settlement.

BBG News: “U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria wrote in a court filing Monday that a proposed system for dealing with future lawsuits over the herbicide is problematic. Shares of Bayer, which inherited the weedkiller through its purchase of Monsanto, fell as much as 6.9% in Frankfurt, the most intraday since March 23. The judge’s misgivings center on a plan to create a class of future claims as part of the nearly $11 billion settlement. Any change to that portion of the proposal wouldn’t necessarily affect the rest of the deal, in which the company agreed to resolve about 125,000 existing lawsuits. About 30,000 claims, contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are not yet subject to deals between plaintiffs and Bayer. Some U.S. plaintiffs’ lawyers are vowing to file another wave of new suits that could add tens of thousands to that total.“

Read more …

America at its ugliest.

Purdue Pharma Made Political Contributions After Going Bankrupt (IC)

Last september, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy after several cities sued the company for its role in creating the opioid crisis. By going bankrupt, it was able to get all litigation stayed; family members of the over 500,000 victims of the opioid crisis are now just creditors in the bankruptcy. The Sackler family — including Jonathan Sackler, a co-owner of Purdue who died Monday — made off with over $10 billion in company funds. Meanwhile, in December, the Democratic Attorneys General Association accepted $25,000 in donations from the company, according to data collected by Political MoneyLine. Several members of the Association are leading the litigation against Purdue.

In January, the Democratic Governors Association, headed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, accepted $50,000 from Purdue Pharma, as did the Republican Governors Association, headed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Those donations come as states, including New Jersey, California, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Tennessee, and Vermont, are considering excise taxes on prescription opioids — which would be approved and implemented by governors. While Purdue is not publicly traded and as a result does not have to disclose risk factors to investors, close allies of Purdue, including the Healthcare Distribution Alliance and the lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, have vocally opposed the taxes.

Fellow pharmaceutical companies Mallinckrodt and Endo International have raised concerns that the taxes could materially affect their bottom line in SEC disclosures. To date just five states — New York, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maine, and Delaware — have implemented an opioid tax or fee. Adam Levitin, a bankruptcy law professor at Georgetown University, called the donations “astonishing.” “Given the politics of the case, there’s something incredibly brazen about this, such that I’m shocked that Purdue didn’t seek court approval,” Levitin said of the DAGA donation. “That they would give to the Dem AGs, but not the GOP AGs is really problematic given that the most aggressive AGs have been Dems.”

Read more …

Simple solution: don’t use TikTok.

Apple Suddenly Catches TikTok Secretly Spying On Millions Of iPhone Users (F.)

As I reported on June 23, Apple has fixed a serious problem in iOS 14, due in the fall, where apps can secretly access the clipboard on users’ devices. Once the new OS is released, users will be warned whenever an app reads the last thing copied to the clipboard. As I warned earlier this year, this is more than a theoretical risk for users, with countless apps already caught abusing their privacy in this way. Worryingly, one of the apps caught snooping by security researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk was China’s TikTok. Given other security concerns raised about the app, as well as broader worries given its Chinese origins, this became a headline issue. At the time, TikTok owner Bytedance told me the problem related to the use of an outdated Google advertising SDK that was being replaced.


Well, maybe not. With the release of the new clipboard warning in the beta version of iOS 14, now with developers, TikTok seems to have been caught abusing the clipboard in a quite extraordinary way. So it seems that TikTok didn’t stop this invasive practice back in April as promised after all. According to TikTok, the issue is now “triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior,” and has told me that it has “already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.” In other words: We’ve been caught doing something we shouldn’t, we’ve rushed out a fix. TikTok also told me that the platform “is committed to protecting users’ privacy and being transparent about how our app works.” No comment on that one. TikTok added that it “looks forward to welcoming outside experts to our Transparency Center later this year.”

Read more …

All US sports teams need to be renamed.

Madness of Political Correctness (Pelerin)

The madness of political correctness is mocked in this e-mail sent to Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune after an article he published concerning a name change for the Washington Redskins. The author is unknown but perceptive, clever and sarcastic:. Dear Mr. Page: I agree with our Native American population. I am highly jilted by the racially charged name of the Washington Redskins. One might argue that to name a professional football team after Native Americans would exalt them as fine warriors, but nay, nay. We must be careful not to offend, and in the spirit of political correctness and courtesy, we must move forward. Let’s ditch the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians. If your shorts are in a wad because of the reference the name Redskins makes to skin color, then we need to get rid of the Cleveland Browns. The Carolina Panthers obviously were named to keep the memory of militant Blacks from the 60’s alive. Gone. It’s offensive to us white folk.


The New York Yankees offend the Southern population. Do you see a team named for the Confederacy? No! There is no room for any reference to that tragic war that cost this country so many young men’s lives. I am also offended by the blatant references to the Catholic religion among our sports team names. Totally inappropriate to have the New Orleans Saints, the Los Angeles Angels or the San Diego Padres. Then there are the team names that glorify criminals who raped and pillaged. We are talking about the horrible Oakland Raiders, the Minnesota Vikings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Pirates! Now, let us address those teams that clearly send the wrong message to our children. The San Diego Chargers promote irresponsible fighting or even spending habits. Wrong message to our children.

The New York Giants and the San Francisco Giants promote obesity, a growing childhood epidemic. Wrong message to our children. The Cincinnati Reds promote downers/barbiturates. Wrong message to our children. The Milwaukee Brewers. Well that goes without saying. Wrong message to our children. So, there you go. We need to support any legislation that comes out to rectify this travesty, because the government will likely become involved with this issue, as they should. Just the kind of thing the do-nothing Congress loves. As a die-hard Oregon State fan, my wife and I, with all of this in mind, suggest it might also make some sense to change the name of the Oregon State women’s athletic teams to something other than “the Beavers” (especially when they play Southern California). Do we really want the Trojans sticking it to the Beavers? I always love your articles and I generally agree with them. As for the Redskins name, I would suggest they change the name to the “Foreskins” to better represent their community, paying tribute to the dick heads in Washington DC.

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Apparently the prison in Brooklyn is a horror.

Ghislaine Maxwell Arraignment Scheduled For July 14 (R.)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former associate of Jeffrey Epstein, will be arraigned on July 14 on charges of luring underage girls so that the financier, now dead, could abuse them, according to a court order issued Tuesday evening. Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan federal court said a bail hearing would be held at 1 pm EST that day via video conference. Maxwell, 58, arrived at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn on Monday. She was arrested on July 2 at a mansion in New Hampshire, where investigators said she had been lying low. Prosecutors said Maxwell groomed girls so Epstein abuse them at lavish homes in Palm Beach, Florida; New Mexico and Manhattan.


Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking minors between 2002 and 2005 when he was found hanged in a federal facility in Manhattan in August. Medical examiners concluded his death was a suicide. Nathan said on Tuesday that to optimize video quality, only the judge, Maxwell, her lawyer and a prosecutor would appear on video at the hearing. The judge said others could access audio of the hearing by telephone. Maxwell faces up to 35 years in prison.

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It was always about blackmail. But how useful is that to her at this point?

Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Has Secret Stash Of Epstein Sex Tapes’ (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell has a secret stash of Jeffrey Epstein’s twisted sex tapes and will use the footage as an insurance policy to save herself, a former friend exclusively revealed to DailyMail.com. Maxwell, 58, was arrested at her hideout in Bradford, New Hampshire last Thursday. She was charged with six federal crimes, including enticement of minors, sex trafficking and perjury. The British socialite was arguably Epstein’s closest friend and she is alleged to have acted as his madam, accused of securing underage girls for the multi-millionaire, who reportedly kept evidence of his perverted sex acts against the minors. When officials raided Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse after his arrest last July, they found thousands of graphic photos that included images of underage girls and a safe filled with compact discs labeled ‘nude girls’, according to authorities.

Maxwell’s former friend explained: ‘Ghislaine has always been as cunning as they come. She wasn’t going to be with Epstein all those years and not have some insurance. ‘The secret stash of sex tapes I believe Ghislaine has squirreled away could end up being her get out of jail card if the authorities are willing to trade. She has copies of everything Epstein had. They could implicate some twisted movers and shakers.’ They added: ‘If Ghislaine goes down, she’s going to take the whole damn lot of them with her.’ The former friend continued: ‘Not only did Epstein like to capture himself with underage girls on camera – he wanted to make sure he had something to hold over the rich and powerful men who took advantage of his sick largesse.’

‘I’ll bet anything that once it comes out that Ghislaine has those tapes these men will be quaking in their Italian leather boots. ‘Ghislaine made sure that she socked away thumb drives of it all. She knows where all the bodies are buried and she’ll use whatever she had to save her own a**.’ The day after Epstein’s suicide last August, the New York Times published an account by journalist James B. Stewart who had interviewed Epstein in August 2018. In the course of their conversation, Epstein told Stewart he had filed away dirt on his famous house guests, ‘some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use’. Maxwell’s next court appearance is on Friday in New York. She is currently being held without bail.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 252020
 


Thomas Eakins Walt Whitman 1891

 

Strzok’s Newly Discovered FBI Notes Deliver Jolt To ‘Obamagate’ Evidence (JTN)
Flynn Dismissal Order ‘Thoroughly Demolishes’ Dissenting Judge’s Opinion (ZH)
Julian Assange Accused In US Indictment Of Conspiracy (Fox)
State, Local Gov’ts Need Billions More In Aid To Avert 4 Million Layoffs (MW)

 

 

Ever since I began reporting on the new coronavirus, I have pointed to trendlines as the reason to publish graphs and numbers on a daily basis. They make it possible to see how things develop. And what I see lately scares the heebees out of me. The trendlines tell us that things are getting worse, fast, while at the same time everyone pretends that they’re ready to re-open their societies.

I’ve said from the start that lockdowns can only be temporary, because we are social beings, but also that you need to use a lockdown wisely. Very few societies have, though.

In a few days’ time we will cross 10 million global confirmed cases, and 500,000 deaths. There is a lot wrong with the way these numbers are tallied, but they’re the best we have. And yes, these two “milestones” indicate a case fatality rate of 5%. Now, I can hear the protests all the way over here, and I don’t think a 5% rate is real, but even just one tenth of that, an 0.5% rate, is pretty terrible.

Yes, there are many more infections than those 10 million, no doubt, but there are also a lot more deaths than half a million. And by the way, that is a lot of lives lost, we should never forget that. Moreover, both the cases and the deaths just keep on coming, and there is no end in sight to that.

If things continue along current trendlines, we will in all likelihood observe how the end to the lockdowns does a lot more economic damage than the lockdowns ever did. Several US states already ring alarm bells over their healthcare facilities threatening to be overwhelmed.

And what about Brazil, Mexico, India and more? What will happen in Europe now all countries there are opening up, claiming that they have it all solved? There are many many millions of jobs in the west that are gone forever, and I can’t see countries being prepared to deal with that.

Be careful out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 24 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 172,383.

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 38,621
• Brazil + 40,021
• Russia + 7,790
• India + 23,229

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

A lot is being said about the “newfound” Peter Strzok notes from the Jan 4 2017 meeting with Rise, Yates, Biden, Comey, Obama. I think this part has more meaning than any other.

Strzok’s Newly Discovered FBI Notes Deliver Jolt To ‘Obamagate’ Evidence (JTN)

The real impact of the notes may be on the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of the Russia investigators, where U.S. Attorneys John Durham and Jeff Jensen are determining whether the FBI or others committed crimes in deceiving the courts or Congress about the evidence in the now-discredited Russia collusion allegations. A former senior FBI official told Just the News that Strzok’s notes about the White House meeting are a red flag that the Comey-led bureau may have been involving itself illegitimately in a political dispute between the outgoing Obama administration and incoming Trump administration. “It was a political meeting about a policy dispute, and the bureau had no business being involved,” Former Assistant Director for Intelligence Kevin Brock said. “No other FBI director would ever have attended such a meeting.

“Comey is quoted in the notes as saying the Kislyak call appeared legit. At that point he should have gotten up and left the room,” Brock added. “The FBI had no business being represented in that meeting. It did not have a counterintelligence interest any longer.”

A second impact of the notes could be on the campaign trail. A few months ago, Biden claimed he was unaware of the Flynn probe as he was leaving the VP’s office. I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn,” he said. He then clarified his denial. “I was aware that … they asked for an investigation,” Biden said. “But that’s all I know about it, and I don’t think anything else.” If Powell’s interpretation of the notes is correct, Biden was knowledgeable enough to suggest a possible pretext for continued investigation, the Logan Act. And he eventually unmasked one of Flynn’s intercepted phone calls a week later.

https://twitter.com/Techno_Fog/status/1275803339738021890

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Is this a deliberate mess?

Flynn Dismissal Order ‘Thoroughly Demolishes’ Dissenting Judge’s Opinion (ZH)

Missouri appellate attorney John Reeves has weighed in on today’s decision by the US Court of Appeals for DC ordering Judge Emmett Sullivan to grant a DOJ request to drop the case against Michael Flynn. The opinion, authored by one of the three judges on the panel, Neomi J. Rao, “thoroughly demolishes” a dissenting opinion by Judge Robert Wilkins – who Reeves thinks was so off-base that he “shot himself in the foot” when it comes to any chance of an ‘en-banc review’ in which the Flynn decision would be kicked back for a full review by the DC appellate court.

[..] In all my years of appellate practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-US Supreme Court appellate opinion that so thoroughly demolishes a dissenting opinion as this one. Judge Rao could not have done better in writing the opinion, and it should be required law school rdg. In addition, Judge Wilkins’ dissenting opinion is so off-the-mark that I believe he has shot himself in the foot for purposes of en banc review–in other words, he has ensured that otherwise-sympathetic judges on the DC Circuit will vote against en banc review. Judge Rao comes out swinging by holding that its earlier opinion in Fokker “foreclose[s] the district court’s proposed scrutiny of the government’s motion to dismiss the Flynn prosecution.” p. 7.

In relying on Fokker, Judge Rao explicitly rejects Judge Wilkinson’s argument that Fokker’s holding is dicta (that is, non-binding). She holds Fokker “is directly controlling here.” p. 14. Keep in mind that Fokker was written by Chief Judge Srinivasan, an OBAMA appointee. Judge Srinivasan does NOT want Fokker’s legitimacy undermined, no matter his politics. Judge Wilkins’ dissent implies that Fokker was wrongly decided, and that it conflicts with other federal appellate courts. See p. 23 of 28. Judge Srinivasan will NOT be impressed by this argument in deciding whether to grant en banc rehearing. Fokker does not create a split. Judge Rao goes on to emphasize that while judicial inquiry MAY be justified in some circumstances, Flynn’s situation “is plainly not the rare case where further judicial inquiry is warranted.” p. 6.

Rao notes that Flynn agrees with the Govt.’s dismissal motion, so there’s no risk of his rights being violated. In addition, the Government has stated insufficient evidence exists to convict Flynn. p. 6. Rao also holds that “a hearing cannot be used as an occasion to superintend the prosecution’s charging decisions.” p. 7. But by appointing amicus and attempting to hold a hearing on these matters, the district court is inflicting irreparable harm on the Govt. because it is subjecting its prosecutorial decisions to outside inquiry. p. 8 Thus, Judge Rao holds, it is NOT true that the district court has “yet to act” in this matter, contrary to Judge Wilkins’ assertions. p. 16. “[T]he district court HAS acted here….[by appointing] one private citizen to argue that another citizen should be deprived of his liberty regardless of whether the Executive Branch is willing to pursue the charges.” p. 16. This justified mandamus being issued NOW.

Read more …

https://twitter.com/MrsC_Assange/status/1276031301036896256

Julian Assange Accused In US Indictment Of Conspiracy (Fox)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sought to recruit hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia who could provide his anti-secrecy website with classified information, and conspired with members of hacking organizations, according to a new Justice Department indictment announced Wednesday. The superseding indictment does not contain additional charges beyond the 18 counts the Justice Department unsealed last year. But prosecutors say it underscores Assange’s efforts to procure and release classified information, allegations that form the basis of criminal charges he already faces.

Beyond recruiting hackers at conferences, the indictment accuses Assange of conspiring with members of hacking groups known as LulzSec and Anonymous. He also worked with a 17-year-old hacker who gave him information stolen from a bank and directed the teenager to steal additional material, including audio recordings of high-ranking government officials, prosecutors say.

Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in a statement that “the government’s relentless pursuit of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know.” “While today’s superseding indictment is yet another chapter in the U.S. Government’s effort to persuade the public that its pursuit of Julian Assange is based on something other than his publication of newsworthy truthful information,” he added, “the indictment continues to charge him with violating the Espionage Act based on WikiLeaks publications exposing war crimes committed by the U.S. Government.”

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What’s going to happen to all the people who end up without jobs?

State, Local Gov’ts Need Billions More In Aid To Avert 4 Million Layoffs (MW)

A new private sector report is warning anew of continuing damage to the economy if Washington doesn’t deliver several hundred billion dollars in budget relief to states and local governments amid the coronavirus pandemic. But Wednesday’s report by Moody’s Analytics, a private sector economic research firm, could also help illustrate a path for bipartisan agreement in Congress on next month’s fifth, and possibly final, COVID-19 response bill. The study warns that doing nothing to address the economic perils of state layoffs and cutbacks could cost 4 million jobs. But it also says that significantly less money is needed than what’s being called for by House Democrats, who passed almost $1 trillion in help for cash-poor states and local governments as part of a sweeping $3.5 trillion rescue package last month.


The Democratic bill combines $500 billion for state governments — as requested by the nation’s governors — and $375 billion for local governments, many of whom were left out of earlier relief efforts. The Moody study says that level of spending — rejected out of hand by Republicans — is likely beyond what’s needed. “The scope of aid being requested is certainly unprecedented in size and warrants significant scrutiny,” Moody’s says. “For example, the $1 trillion in aid recently approved as part of the house’s HEROES Act would be enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most aggressive advocates of fiscal stimulus.”

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Frederick Douglass about Abaham Lincoln:

 

 

 

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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”.

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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.”

Read more …

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 …

 

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Feb 012020
 


Russell Lee Street scene. Spencer, Iowa 1936

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

• Deaths: 259 (up 46 from yesterday)

• Discharged from hospitals on the Chinese mainland: 243

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China Voices Anger At US Travel Ban (G.)

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


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

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Et tu, Qantas?

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

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


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

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

Still would like to know who debunked the theory though.

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

What Trump Acquittal Would Mean For 2020 Election (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Sound familiar?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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George is 89 and afraid global dominance will escape him.

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

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

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

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

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Posing as controversial. Most people will buy it too.

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

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

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

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

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

Tales From the Crypt (Jim Kunstler)

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

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

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

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Jan 192020
 
 January 19, 2020  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


John Collier “Grandfather Romero, a member of the family of Juan Lopez, the majordomo, is ninety-nine years old.” Trampas, New Mexico 1943

 

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)
Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)
DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)
House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)
Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)
Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)
Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)
A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)
The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)
Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)
Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

 

 

Does Biden know how a video is doctored? He’s handing the Sanders camp a big freebee.

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)

Joe Biden accused Bernie Sanders’ campaign Saturday of issuing a “doctored video” to attack him over Social Security, a false claim that ratcheted up the tension between the two campaigns in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. “Let’s get the record straight,” Biden said at Simpson College here. “There’s a little, doctored video going around … saying I agreed with Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, about wanting to privatize Social Security.” But the video in question — of Biden’s 2018 remarks to the Brookings Institution think tank — was not doctored by Sanders, whose campaign this month stepped up criticisms of Biden’s record on Social Security.

Sanders’ campaign did say in a recent campaign email that “Biden lauded Paul Ryan for proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare” — which PolitiFact said Sanders’ campaign got wrong. But there is no evidence that the campaign altered any video. Biden, however, referenced the fact-checking website in making a muddled claim: “PolitiFact looked at it and they doctored the photo, they doctored the piece and it’s acknowledged that it’s a fake.”


Sanders’ campaign bristled at the criticism from Biden — a serious charge that Democrats recently have begun to level at Republicans, including Donald Trump, for manipulating images and videos on social media. An aide said Sanders might address the criticism head on. “Joe Biden should be honest with voters and stop trying to doctor his own public record of consistently and repeatedly trying to cut Social Security,” said Sanders Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir in a statement Saturday. “The facts are very clear: Biden not only pushed to cut Social Security — he is on tape proudly bragging about it on multiple occasions.”

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Things are moving too fast for me to keep up. Rosenstein was in the Trump camp’s crosshairs forever, but now all of a sudden he’s the other camp’s worst enemy?

Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)

Mystery solved. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has ‘fessed up to giving explosive text messages of FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the press in 2017. The messages between the two, exchanged in 2016 while both were involved in sensitive political probes, revealed their antipathy to then-candidate Donald Trump and loyalty to Hillary Clinton. Rosenstein’s admission came in a Friday-night court filing by the Department of Justice, which is seeking to dismiss Strzok’s lawsuit challenging his June 2016 firing, Politico reported. The former agent’s case seeks damages for invasion of privacy, arguing that the texts were disclosed due to political pressure from the White House.

But Rosenstein, who left the DOJ last year, says he made the texts public to protect Page and Strzok — because Congress was about to hear about the embarrassing messages anyway. “Providing the most egregious messages in one package would avoid the additional harm of prolonged selective disclosures” from leaky congressional staffers, wrote Rosenstein, who now has a corporate law gig. The texts showed that Page and Strzok had feared Trump might win the election. Both had worked on the probe into whether Clinton jeopardized classified information by using a private email server while she was secretary of state as well as Crossfire Hurricane, the feds’ investigation into the Trump campaign.

Later, they worked briefly on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. “This man cannot be president,” Page wrote in March 2016. “She just has to win now,” she said in a July 2016 message, referring to Clinton. In his texts to Page, Strzok referred to Trump as an “idiot” and a “douche.” Shortly before the 2016 election, he wrote that the prospect of a Trump presidency made him “scared for our organization.”

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Strzok and Page sent 100s, 1000s of messages to each other, often during work hours, but they still get to claim invasion of their privacy?

DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the release to the media of text messages between ‘FBI lovebirds’ Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, many of which revealed deep animus towards then-candidate Donald Trump while they were investigating him during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Politico. In a Friday night court filing submitted shortly before midnight, Rosenstein says he made the decision to protect Strzok and Page from the damaging effects of lawmakers and others releasing the texts for use as political ammunition.


“In the messages, Strzok and Page regularly disparaged Trump and appeared to seek to reassure each other he could not be elected. Both called Trump an “idiot” and said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton deserved to win. The texts also included murky discussions of an “insurance policy” to guard against Trump’s election. Trump backers have interpreted the reference as a plan to use the then-ongoing investigation into ties between Trump advisers and Russia as way to prevent him from taking office or undermine his presidency, but Strzok and Page have denied any such intent.” -Politico. Lisa Page – who sued the DOJ and FBI in December over the release, appears to be pissed.

Strzok has separately sued the agencies as well – for which Rosenstein’s admission was submitted as part of the government’s defense. The former DAG says that public disclosure of the texts was inevitable in connection with testimony he was set to give the next day in front of the House Judiciary Committee. “With the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event, I authorized [Justice’s Office of Public Affairs] to disclose to the news media the text messages that were being disclosed to Congressional committees,” wrote Rosenstein.


“In November, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to throw out Strzok’s suit, which challenges both his firing from the FBI and the release of the texts. However, Strzok’s attorneys countered in a court filing last month that one reason to allow the suit to proceed was that Justice Department was being vague about just who made the final call to give the messages. Arguing that an air of mystery continued to surround the disclosure, Strzok lawyer Aitan Goelman called “revealing” Justice’s decision to seek dismissal of the suit without identifying the responsible official. “An agency cannot avoid Privacy Act liability for a disclosure actually made for an improper purpose by eliciting a sanitized after-the-fact rationale from an official who does not have all of the facts,” Goelman wrote. -Politico

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Always wonder why people claim to know exactly what the Framers meant, and to the exclusion of their political rivals.

House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)

Ahead of Tuesday’s opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial, House Democrats – seven impeachment managers led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff – filed their legal brief today. The 111-page summons urges the Senate to “eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security” as it lays out the case against President Trump. The House legal filing (due by 5pmET) reiterates the findings of the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels, which, after hearing from witnesses and experts, settled on charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Additionally, the case that House prosecutors sent to the Senate references new evidence that wasn’t part of the impeachment inquiry, including material from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to Democratic officials familiar with the argument. “The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both. The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths,” the brief reads. “History will judge each Senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly, and defend the Constitution.”

Compiled by the seven Democrats serving as impeachment managers, the brief describes the president’s conduct as “the Framer’s worst nightmare” in arguing that he should be impeached and removed from office. “President Trump’s ongoing pattern of misconduct demonstrates that he is an immediate threat to the Nation and the rule of law. It is imperative that the Senate convict and remove him from office now, and permanently bar him from holding federal office,” they write. President Trump’s legal team outlined the fiery response to its impeachment summons, calling the two articles of impeachment passed by the House last month “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”

The six-page document – which they stressed is different from the brief that is not due until Monday – offers a taste of the rhetoric expected to be deployed by the president’s defenders in the Senate. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away,” the filing states. Trump’s legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, is challenging the impeachment on both procedural and constitutional grounds, claiming Trump has been mistreated by House Democrats and that he did nothing wrong. Notably, at least four of the impeachment managers, including Schiff, are scheduled to appear Sunday on political talk shows.

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Only six weeks? But that only takes us to early March, 8 whole months before the election.

Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told Fox News this week that he predicts President Donald Trump’s Senate trial will be short and that the president’s best defense is a review of the transcript. “The transcript is the single best piece of evidence that the president has,” Gowdy said. “Who brought up Rudy Giuliani’s name? It wasn’t Donald Trump. It was Zelensky. This was the second call, not the first call. If President Trump were really hell-bent on ensuring that Ukraine investigate the Bidens, would he not have brought that up in the first telephone call he had with Zelensky? Why wait till the second?” “As far as the timing of this trial is concerned, Trey, they are estimates that it could be quick, it could last as long as six weeks,” Fox News co-host Sandra Smith said. “Where do you fall on that, and what is the length of time mean?”

“I mean God help us if it lasts six weeks,” Gowdy responded. “The investigation is over, so it’s Schiff’s job to present the case. If he’s going to present the case on the paper with the depositions, it shouldn’t take that long. I don’t need Adam to read the depositions to me; the jury can go read it themselves.” “If they open it up to witnesses, and they want Bolton, and then there’s some Republicans that want four or five other witnesses, it could last six weeks,” Gowdy continued. “Sandra, I just have not met anyone whose opinion has changed during the pendency of this investigation. I can’t identify – maybe three open-minded jurors in the U.S. Senate. I just don’t, no matter how long it lasts, I don’t think it’s gonna change anyone’s mind in the Senate or among my fellow citizens. The shorter the better.”

Fox News co-host Bill Hemmer asked, “Did you want to give us a time frame for that?” “I’m saying two weeks,” Gowdy said. “If it goes six weeks, then they’re going to have to make some hard decisions on which witnesses are important enough to hear from and which ones, while they may have relevant evidence, we just don’t – I think in terms of a real trial.” “Why would you ever not call a witness if that witness has relevant information?” Gowdy continued. “How do you pick which ones to call and which ones not to? You can never do that in a real trial. So, if we’re going to open this thing up anew to a brand new investigation, then call everybody, and God knows how long that’ll take.”

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Nobody feels bad he didn’t get the job, himself least of all.

Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)

If things had gone a little differently, Rudy Giuliani might have been elected president in 2008. The former New York City mayor turned Donald Trump stooge led polling in the Republican primaries for almost a year, and was seen as someone who could defeat Hillary Clinton – then the presumptive Democratic nominee – in key metropolitan areas. Giuliani, still riding a wave of good feeling from his handling of the 9/11 attacks, was raising serious amounts of cash, and was the best-known of the Republican candidates. He had a very real chance of succeeding George W Bush. But Giuliani’s campaign collapsed in chaotic fashion, and he became a political irrelevance – until re-emerging a decade later as Donald Trump’s lawyer, mouthpiece, bungling envoy to Ukraine and a central character in the third impeachment of an American president.

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the end of 2006, Giuliani was the most popular politician in the country. In March 2007, after Giuliani formally announced his White House campaign, he was the early favorite to win the Republican primary contest, with 44% support nationwide. (John McCain, the eventual nominee, was second with 20%.) Giuliani maintained that lead throughout the year, and raised the most money. Armed with a campaign slogan that read like the responses to a word-association examination – “Tested. Ready. Now” – Giuliani seemed destined to represent the Republican party in the November 2008 election.

“When Rudy Giuliani entered the race he was seen as the frontrunner,” said Capri Cafaro, a former minority leader of the Ohio senate and an adjunct professor at the American University school of public affairs. Oprah Winfrey had dubbed Giuliani “America’s mayor” following the 9/11 attacks – a moniker that stuck – while Time magazine went further, naming Giuliani its person of the year for 2001 and branding him “mayor of the world”. Cafaro said: “His strength predominantly came from being seen as America’s mayor – in light of this being just a few years after 9/11. [He was] playing to his strengths: his strengths in national security and essentially being able to rise to the occasion as a leader.”

[..] Giuliani was still leading the polls in the summer of 2007, six months out from the first Republican vote in Iowa. But he hit an unexpected problem, in the form of a man dressed in a chicken suit – the “Iowa Chicken” – who tirelessly followed Giuliani around in protest at him skipping the Ames straw poll, a traditional barometer of the Republican primary race.

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Can we move the Senate to the Appalachians?? Alabama?

Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to relocate parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, to the northern English city of York, the Sunday Times reported. In last month’s national election for the lower house, Johnson’s Conservatives won a swathe of seats in the traditional Northern English heartland of the opposition Labour Party as he secured a large majority in parliament. With a view to securing these gains, Johnson has promised to ramp up investment in the north of England, which suffered under the decline of heavy industries and austerity policies since the financial crisis, the Sunday Times said, without citing sources.


York, founded by the Romans and famed for its large minster, is first choice for the move, ahead of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. The unelected House of Lords, which dates back to the 14th Century, is principally seen as a revising and refining mechanism but it technically has the power to block laws.

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Whitney’s laying it on a little thickish.

A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.” While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East.

Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China. While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role.

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends.

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Part 2 from the article above. Of course the US is worried about China’s growing influence, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But how much oil can you trade for services before you run out of those? That only seems a concern if Iraq would become a Chinese satellite. Not going to happen.

China is a threat to the petrodollar only when the yuan becomes freely tradable. But that would be a direct threat to the CCP and Xi.

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that: “Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

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Putin is being practical.

Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)

President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he did not want Russia to return to the late Soviet-era practice of having lifelong rulers who died in office without a proper succession strategy. His comments, made to World War Two veterans in St Petersburg, came days after he unveiled a sweeping shake-up of the political system which led to the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister along with his government. Putin, in a surprise move, picked Mikhail Mishustin, the low-profile head of the country’s tax service, as the country’s next prime minister. Russians are now waiting to hear which ministers will keep their jobs in a new government.


Putin’s changes, which would amend the constitution to create new centers of power outside the presidency, were widely seen as giving the 67-year-old scope to extend his grip on power once he leaves the presidency in 2024. He has dominated Russian politics, as president or as prime minister, for two decades. Critics accuse Putin, a former KGB officer, of plotting to stay on in some capacity after his term ends. They suspect he wants to continue to wield power over the world’s largest nation, which is also one of its two leading nuclear powers. In his comments on Saturday, Putin, who has already said he wants to limit future presidents to two terms in power despite currently serving out his fourth term himself, rejected the idea of Russian presidents for life.

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I don’t get why RT has to repeat the “shut your filthy mouth” phrase multiple times. Obviously lost in translation. But the narrative changes are real. Poland was very wrong in WWII (see Shoah). And now they try and rewrite that.

Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

Moscow is to create the most extensive collection of WWII documents, open to all persons anywhere, to once and for all “shut the filthy mouth” of those seeking to rewrite history for short-term gains, the Russian president said. Any person, Russian or non-national, will be able to access the archive, including through a website resource, and the ultimate goal is to debunk any disinformation about the most devastating conflict in human history, President Vladimir Putin pledged, during a meeting with veterans of the Great Patriotic War, held in St. Petersburg on Saturday. The creation of the center would leave no chance to those willing to distort the truth about the war for their own political needs, he argued. “We will shut the filthy mouth of some public figures abroad, who open theirs only to achieve short-term political goals. We will shut them up with reliable and fundamental facts.”

The center is expected to incorporate the biggest and most extensive collection of documents, as well as photos and video footage dating back to the World War II era. The president first floated this idea during his annual state-of-the-nation address earlier this week, arguing that Russia should combat “brazen lies and attempts to distort history.” In St. Petersburg, Putin also said that Moscow should follow the example of Tel Aviv, which virtually allows no one on Earth to forget about the true horrors of the Holocaust. “Among the Holocaust victims, a large number were Soviet Jews,” he said, adding that “we should also not forget about the sacrifices of other Soviet peoples, the Russian people” who defended “their homeland and the whole world from the brown plague [of Nazism].”

Putin’s words come amid a row between Moscow and Warsaw over the events that led to the Second World War. Poland has been revising that devastating conflict’s history for quite some time, seeking to shun any responsibility relating to events during that period, while presenting itself as a victim of both Nazi and Soviet aggression and occupation. Warsaw has been removing monuments to Soviet soldiers who died while liberating the city from Nazi Germany occupation, and also initiated an EU Parliament resolution in September, which claims that the 1939 non-aggression pact between Moscow and Berlin had “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.”

This last move did not sit well with Moscow, which labeled it a falsification of history. Putin himself eventually joined the heated debate between the two nations, when he called Jozef Lipski, the Polish ambassador to Berlin from 1934 to 1939, “a bastard and an anti-Semitic pig.” The Russian president referred to the fact that the envoy had promised Adolf Hitler that Poles would “erect for him a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he expelled all European Jews to Africa. Warsaw took offense to Putin’s remarks, though no one disputed Lipski’s words, which have long been known to the public.

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Dec 312019
 
 December 31, 2019  Posted by at 10:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Peter Beard Francis Bacon on his Roof at 80 Narrow Street, London 1972

 

The Decade of Debt (R.)
I, Who Vowed to Never Short Stocks Again, Just Shorted the Entire Market (WS)
Pelosi’s Half Right Constitutional Claim Leaves The House All Wrong (Turley)
Strzok Claims FBI, DOJ Violated His Free Speech, Privacy Rights (Hill)
Tulsi: Impeachment Greatly Increased Likelihood Of Trump Reelection (Hill)
Forecast 2020 — Whirlin’ and Swirlin’ (Kunstler)
States Are Already Paying For Unfunded Pensions (Platt)
Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Says Is In Lebanon, Fleeing Japan’s ‘Rigged’ Justice (R.)
How Fentanyl Spread Across the US (Kolitz)
UK MoD Proposed Russian Membership Of NATO In 1995 (G.)
Images Of ‘Mayhem’ And ‘Armageddon’ As Bushfires Rage (G.)

 

 

Leave it to Reuters to turn this into a bland story. Oh, and just you watch the next decade.

The Decade of Debt (R.)

Whatever nickname ultimately gets attached to the now-ending Twenty-tens, on Wall Street and across Corporate America it arguably should be tagged as the “Decade of Debt.” With interest rates locked in at rock-bottom levels courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policy after the financial crisis, companies found it cheaper than ever to tap the corporate bond market to load up on cash. Bond issuance by American companies topped $1 trillion in each year of the decade that began on Jan. 1, 2010, and ends on Tuesday at midnight, an unmatched run, according to SIFMA, the securities industry trade group. In all, corporate bond debt outstanding rocketed more than 50% and will soon top $10 trillion, versus about $6 trillion at the end of the previous decade.


The largest U.S. companies – those in the S&P 500 Index – account for roughly 70% of that, nearly $7 trillion. What did they do with all that money? It’s a truism in corporate finance that cash needs to be either “earning or returning” – that is, being put to use growing the business or getting sent back to shareholders. As it happens, American companies did a lot more returning than earning with their cash during the ‘Tens. In the first year of the decade, companies spent roughly $60 billion more on dividends and buying back their own shares than on new facilities, equipment and technology. By last year that gap had mushroomed to more than $600 billion, and the gap in 2019 could be just as large, especially given the constraint on capital spending from the trade war.

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Just too juicy.

I, Who Vowed to Never Short Stocks Again, Just Shorted the Entire Market (WS)

In my decades of looking at the stock market, there has never been a better setup. Exuberance is pandemic and sky-high. And even after today’s dip, the S&P 500 is up nearly 29% for the year, and the Nasdaq 35%, despite lackluster growth in the global economy, where many of the S&P 500 companies are getting the majority of their revenues. Mega-weight in the indices, Apple, is a good example: shares soared 84% in the year, though its revenues ticked up only 2%. This is not a growth story. This is an exuberance story where nothing that happens in reality – such as lacking revenue growth – matters, as we’re now told by enthusiastic crowds everywhere.

Until just a couple of months ago, the touts were out there touting negative interest rates soon to come to the US and thus making stocks the only place to be. Those touts have now been run over by the reality. Now they’re touting QE4 by the Fed, or whatever. And people were looking for any reason to buy. The unanimity of it all was astounding. I’ve seen this before, but not in this magnitude. And there is this: As stocks were surging over the past few months, investors with large gains who wanted to sell didn’t sell before year-end in order to defer that income for tax considerations. So there was reduced selling pressure from that group that would have liked to sell, and that will sell after the new year starts.

So I shorted the stock market today, December 30 – me who is on record of saying repeatedly that I would never ever short anything ever again, after the debacle of November 1999 when I shorted the most obviously ridiculous Nasdaq high-fliers a few months too early. They collapsed to near-zero, but not before ripping off my face.

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Turley’s on a roll.

Pelosi’s Half Right Constitutional Claim Leaves The House All Wrong (Turley)

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has penned an editorial column in support of the refusal of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to submit House articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial. Tribe declares this strategy is not just constitutional but also commendable. That view may be half right on the Constitution. However, it leaves Pelosi all wrong on her unprecedented gaming of the system. The withholding of the articles is not only facially inappropriate. It shatters the fragile rationale for the rush to impeach. Tribe focuses on a point on which I agree entirely. We both have criticized the position of Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, who testified with me in the House Judiciary Committee hearings, that President Trump has not really been impeached.

Feldman insists that impeachment occurs only when the articles and a slate of House trial managers are submitted to the Senate for trial. However, there is no support for that interpretation in the text or history of the Constitution. Indeed, English impeachments by the House of Commons often were not taken up for trial in the House of Lords, yet all those individuals still were referenced as impeached. Now for our point of disagreement. The Constitution does not state that the House must submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate at any time, let alone in a specific period of time. Tribe insists this means that the “House rules unmistakably leave to the House itself” when to submit an impeachment for trial. There are, in fact, two equal houses of Congress.

Faced with a House manipulating the system, the Senate can change its rules and simply give the House a date for trial then declare a default or summary acquittal if House managers do not come. It is the list of House trial managers that is necessary for Senate proceedings to commence. The “standing rules of procedure and practice in the Senate when sitting on impeachment trials” are triggered when the House gives notice that “managers are appointed.” The Senate is given notice of the impeachment in the congressional record shared by both houses. The articles are later “exhibited” by the managers at the trial. Waiting for the roster of managers is a courtesy shown by the Senate to the House in preparing its team of managers for the trial.

We have never experienced this type of bicameral discourtesy where the House uses articles of impeachment to barter over the details of the trial. Just as the Senate cannot dictate the handling of impeachment investigations, the House cannot dictate the trial rules.

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Feels weak overall, given the contents of his mails to Lisa Page.

Strzok Claims FBI, DOJ Violated His Free Speech, Privacy Rights (Hill)

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, a onetime member of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, is claiming the FBI and Justice Department violated his rights of free speech and privacy when firing him for uncovered texts that criticized President Trump. Strzok and his legal team made the claims in a court document filed Monday that pushes back on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) motion to dismiss the lawsuit he filed in August over his ouster a year earlier. DOJ alleged in its motion to dismiss that Strzok’s role in high-profile investigations meant he was held to a higher standard when it came to speech.

But Strzok’s legal team disputed this in Monday’s filing, saying that the approximately 8,000 other employees in similar positions retain their privacy even when using government-issued devices. “The government’s argument would leave thousands of career federal government employees without protections from discipline over the content of their political speech,” the filing said. “Nearly every aspect of a modern workplace, and for that matter nearly every non-workplace aspect of employees’ lives, can be monitored,” it added. “The fact that a workplace conversation can be discovered does not render it unprotected.”

Strzok’s team also accuses the bureau and DOJ of only punishing those who condemn Trump, as “there is no evidence of an attempt to punish” those who verbally backed the president ahead of the 2016 election. The FBI declined to comment, saying the bureau does not comment on pending litigation. “It doesn’t matter who you are — someone, like Pete, who has devoted his whole life to protecting this country, or a Gold Star family, or a Purple Heart winner, or a lifelong Republican who spent 5 years as a POW in North Vietnam. If you dare to raise your voice against President Trump, he and his allies will try to destroy you,” Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman said in a statement to The Hill.

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Trying to please the DNC. Not.

Tulsi: Impeachment Greatly Increased Likelihood Of Trump Reelection (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) predicted Monday that it would be more difficult for House Democrats to remain in control of the House following passage of articles of impeachment against President Trump. In a video tweeted Monday evening, the 2020 candidate for president wrote that Trump’s chances of winning reelection had been “greatly increased” because of the House’s vote. “Unfortunately, the House impeachment of the president has greatly increased the likelihood Trump will remain the president for the next 5 years,” Gabbard says in the video. “We all know that Trump is not going to be found guilty by the U.S. Senate,” she added. The remarks are not the first Gabbard has made warning against Trump’s impeachment. She made similar comments just days ago in New Hampshire, arguing that Trump’s supporters would be emboldened by the House’s move heading in to 2020.

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“..the Golden Golem of Greatness himself, rises in his pajamas and tweets that, at long, long last, he has finally got “woke,” changed his name to Donatella..”

Forecast 2020 — Whirlin’ and Swirlin’ (Kunstler)

[..] a venerable institution such as The New York Times can turn from its mission of strictly pursuing news and be enlisted as the public relations service for rogue government agencies seeking to overthrow a president under false pretenses. The overall effect is of a march into a new totalitarianism, garnished with epic mendacity and malevolence. Since when in the USA was it okay for political “radicals” to team up with government surveillance jocks to persecute their political enemies? This naturally leads to the question: what drove the American thinking class insane?

I maintain that it comes from the massive anxiety generated by the long emergency we’ve entered — the free-floating fear that we’ve run out the clock on our current way of life, that the systems we depend on for our high standard of living have entered the failure zone; specifically, the fears over our energy supply, dwindling natural resources, broken resource supply lines, runaway debt, population overshoot, the collapsing middle-class, the closing of horizons and prospects for young people, the stolen autonomy of people crushed by out-of-scale organizations (government, WalMart, ConAgra), the corrosion of relations between men and women (and of family life especially), the frequent mass murders in schools, churches, and public places, the destruction of ecosystems and species, the uncertainty about climate change, and the pervasive, entropic ugliness of the suburban human habitat that drives so much social dysfunction.

You get it? There’s a lot to worry about, much of it quite existential. The more strenuously we fail to confront and engage with these problems, the crazier we get. Much of the “social justice” discontent arises from the obvious and grotesque income inequality of our time accompanied by the loss of meaningful work and the social roles that go with that. But quite a bit of extra tension comes from the shame and disappointment over the failure of the long civil rights campaign to correct the racial inequalities in American life — everything from attempts at school integration to affirmative action (by any name) to “multiculturalism” to the latest innovations in “diversity and inclusion.”

[..] By 2020 Wokesterism has shot its wad and the Wokesters are banished to a windowless room in the sub-basement of America’s soul where they can shout at the walls, point their fingers, grimace spittlingly, and issue anathemas that no one will listen to. And when they’re out of gas, they can kick back and read the only book in the room: Mercy, by Andrea Dworkin. And then, one fine spring morning, after everyone else has given up on it, Donald Trump, social media troll-of-trolls, the Golden Golem of Greatness himself, rises in his pajamas and tweets that, at long, long last, he has finally got “woke,” changed his name to Donatella, and declared his personal pronoun to be “you’all.”

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“When a company defaults, there is a clear legal framework for who gets paid back first. This isn’t the case for states, however, as there is no such legal structure, nor much precedent.”

States Are Already Paying For Unfunded Pensions (Platt)

Kicking pension problems into the future is popular with politicians, enabling them to make promises and let voters worry later about borrowing costs. But large, unfunded state pension liabilities are a costly problem—and the cost is already reflected in current bond prices, research by Chicago Booth PhD candidate Chuck Boyer suggests. “The public pension funding crisis is not merely about future insolvency,” he writes. “Future obligations are having an effect on debt spreads right now.” To many Americans, it may seem unimaginable that states would fail to fully pay pensions promised to teachers, firefighters, and other public-service workers.

It has been almost 90 years since the last state default: during the Great Depression, Arkansas owed over $160 million to debt payments, which was nearly half of the state’s annual revenue (and equivalent to roughly $3 billion in 2019 dollars). The debt was restructured and “debtholders were eventually made whole,” Boyer writes in recounting this history. However, pension obligations are mounting in many states, and officials are struggling to cut costs and raise taxes to pay what is owed. And he argues that the effects can be seen in the $3.8 trillion capital market for US municipal bonds, which includes bonds issued by 50,000 state and local governments. When a company defaults, there is a clear legal framework for who gets paid back first.

This isn’t the case for states, however, as there is no such legal structure, nor much precedent. The markets’ expectations, then, are built into bond prices. Bondholders, wary of how a default could play out, demand a premium. Using annual fiscal reports released by state governments, Boyer looked at the ratio of unfunded pension liabilities to GDP from 2002 to 2016 and estimates that every 1-standard-deviation increase is associated with a 27–32 basis-point increase in bond spreads over the Treasury rate, up to a fifth of the average total spread. Unfunded pensions cost US states more than $2 billion in lost bond-issuance proceeds in 2016, he calculates, adding that he considers that a conservative estimate.

But the penalty that a state would essentially pay in the form of higher spreads varies from state to state, providing some indication of how the market thinks a default could play out. States where pensioners have more legal protections and their unions have more bargaining power (and maybe higher public support) are paying higher borrowing costs. In these areas, debtholders see a higher risk of default—perhaps assuming states would take care of pensioners before bondholders, who are mostly high-net-worth and retail investors.

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Walking away from a $9 million bond.

Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Says Is In Lebanon, Fleeing Japan’s ‘Rigged’ Justice (R.)

Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn confirmed he fled to Lebanon, saying he wouldn’t be “held hostage” by a “rigged” justice system and raising questions about how one of the world’s most-recognized executives escaped Japan months before his trial. Ghosn’s abrupt departure marks the latest dramatic twist in a year-old saga that has shaken the global auto industry, jeopardized the alliance of Nissan Motor Co Ltd and top shareholder Renault SA and cast a harsh light on Japan’s judicial system. “I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” Ghosn, 65, said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.” Most immediately, it was unclear how Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, was able to orchestrate his departure from Japan, given that he had been under strict surveillance by authorities while out on bail and had surrendered his passports. Japanese immigration authorities had no record of Ghosn leaving the country, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. A person resembling Ghosn entered Beirut international airport under a different name after flying in aboard a private jet, NHK reported, citing an unidentified Lebanese security official.

His lawyers were still in possession of his three passports, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters in comments broadcast live by NHK. Hironaka said the first he had heard of Ghosn’s departure was on the news this morning and that he was surprised. He also said it was “inexcusable behavior”. [..] Ghosn was arrested at a Tokyo airport shortly after his private jet touched down on Nov. 19, 2018. He faces four charges – which he denies – including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to dealerships in the Middle East. Nissan sacked him as chairman saying internal investigations revealed misconduct ranging from understating his salary while he was its chief executive, and transferring $5 million of Nissan funds to an account in which he had an interest.

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Words fail. It’s not just bankers that don’t go to jail.

How Fentanyl Spread Across the US (Kolitz)

Often lost in the early news reports was the fact that fentanyl alone wasn’t killing people; many different kinds of fentanyl were. Since its invention in 1959 by the Belgian chemist and doctor Paul Janssen, fentanyl has seen more than 1,400 analogues: twists on the original formula whose origins and effects vary widely. Carfentanil, for instance—100 times stronger than fentanyl—was until 2018 FDA-approved for use as an elephant tranquilizer. It is here that the opioid crisis intersects with (and amplifies) a newer scourge: NPS, or new psychoactive substances, molecularly tweaked stand-ins for traditional street drugs. The best-known of these is probably K2, or Spice, the ostensible marijuana substitute whose high bears little resemblance to the real thing and whose side effects include blood-clotting, kidney failure, and instant death.

But there are hundreds more, and likely thousands in development. Mini-pandemics have erupted across the country, as when, in the course of a single week last year, over 100 people in New Haven overdosed on what was later determined to be AB-FUBINACA, yet another synthetic cannabinoid. Ben Westhoff, in “Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic”, charts this progression in harrowing detail. We are now dealing, he writes, with “the harshest drug challenge in our history.” His book is one of the first to address what the Centers for Disease Control has called the “third wave” of the opioid crisis: first OxyContin, then heroin, and now fentanyl and its analogues.

Earlier accounts of this crisis – Sam Quinones’s “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” or Beth Macy’s “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” – had in Purdue Pharma the benefit, structural and dramatic, of a villain. More or less everyone can agree that pharmaceutical companies should refrain from wantonly pursuing profit at the expense of public health. Dopesick is rarely a pleasant read, but Macy’s account of Purdue’s first major court battle – which culminated in criminal convictions for three executives and $600 million in fines—provided at least some measure of catharsis.

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I still wonder what made Yeltsin turn to Putin. Guilt, a rare moment of lucidity?

UK MoD Proposed Russian Membership Of Nato In 1995 (G.)

Russia could have become an “associate member” of Nato 25 years ago if a Ministry of Defence proposal had gained support, according to confidential Downing Street files which also expose Boris Yeltsin’s drinking habits. The suggestion, aimed at reversing a century of east-west antagonism, is revealed in documents released on Tuesday by the National Archives at Kew. Presented by Malcolm Rifkind, then defence secretary, to a Chequers strategy summit, the plan was to dispel Kremlin suspicions of the alliance’s eastwards expansion. In 1995, Yeltsin was president and the cold war over. Relations were in flux as a Russia tried to come to terms with shrunken international borders.

Yeltsin was proving an unpredictable ally. Files show that he urged western leaders at a summit in Halifax, Canada to delay Nato enlargement until after Russia’s elections because “public discussion could provoke trouble”. But poor health and heavy drinking jeopardised his authority. The previous year he had notoriously failed to disembark from a plane during a stopover in Ireland amid rumours of alcoholism and a heart attack. In July 1995, the Moscow embassy cabled about Yeltsin going into hospital due to his “longstanding heart condition”. At Hyde Park, the Roosevelt home in New York, according to US diplomats, Yeltsin subsequently appeared “rolling, puffy and red”. He consumed “wine and beer greedily … and regretted the absence of cognac. One of his aides took a glass of champagne from him when the aide felt enough was enough and he was alcoholically cheerful at his press conference with Clinton.”

[..] In a 10-page submission, Rifkind argued that: “A possible solution would be to create a new category of associate member of Nato. Such a status could not involve article V guarantees [which declares an attack on one state is an attack on all members], membership of the IMS [Nato’s International Military Staff] or Russian vetoes and would not therefore change the essence of Nato. “It would, however, give Russia a formal status within Nato, allow it to attend, as of right, ministerial and other meetings and encourage a gradual convergence and harmonisation of policy, doctrine and practice.”

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The photos have now all turned red. NOTE: the army still hasn’t been sent in, apparently. The people dying are volunteer firemen.

Images Of ‘Mayhem’ And ‘Armageddon’ As Bushfires Rage (G.)

Thousands of people fled to the lake and ocean in Mallacoota, as bushfires hit the Gippsland town on Tuesday. The out-of-control fire reached the town in the morning and about 4,000 people fled to the coastline, with Country Fire Authority members working to protect them. The town had not been told to evacuate on Sunday when the rest of East Gippsland was, and authorities decided it was too dangerous to move them on Monday. People reported hearing gas bottles explode as the fire front reached the town, and the sound of sirens telling people to get in the water. By 1.30pm the fire had reached the water’s edge. A local man, Graham, told ABC Gippsland he could see fire in the centre of the town, and 20m high flames on the outskirts where he believed homes were alight.

“We saw a big burst of very big flames in Shady Gully,” he said. “As I speak to you I’m looking across Coull’s Inlet and there are big flames … and they would be impacting houses. That’s not good at all.” People in Mallacoota posted in community social media groups estimates of about 20 houses lost, with the school, bowling club and golf club also hit. Hundreds more evacuees sheltered in the community centre. “There are a lot of people at the waterfront jetty, in the lake, on the sand spit between the lake and the ocean, and there are people on a sandbar, and some on boats,” Charles Livingstone told Guardian Australia from the community centre. He said there were at least 350 people in the community centre, many with children and pets. He, his wife and their 18-month-old baby were at the jetty on Monday night but moved to the community centre to avoid the heavy smoke.

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Dec 072019
 
 December 7, 2019  Posted by at 10:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Homeless mother and child walking from Phoenix to Imperial County CA Feb 1939

 

Donald Trump and Jerome Powell Can ‘Take Another Victory Lap’ (Y!)
Abenomics has Failed Japan. Financial Times Wants to Make it Global. (Lacalle)
What the ‘Expert’ Panel Should Have Told You About Impeachment (ET)
A Fraught Moment (Kunstler)
Strzok and Page Did Real Damage (Cortese)
Pelosi Puts A Brave Face On A Doomed Mission (Tucker Carlson)
Bloomberg On His Democratic Rivals: ‘Trump Would Eat ‘Em Up’ (R.)
Kamala Harris, Michael Bloomberg, and a Supreme Court Decision (IC)
Musk’s Defamation Win May Reset Legal Landscape For Social Media (R.)
Saudi Arabia Retreats From The Troubles Its Clown Prince Caused (MoA)

 

 

If you look only at jobs, and not even the quality of those jobs, things may appear shiny. We get it.

Donald Trump and Jerome Powell Can ‘Take Another Victory Lap’ (Y!)

The November jobs report crushed expectations on Friday, sending the stock market surging. “Jerome Powell and Donald Trump can take another victory lap,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Federal Reserve advisor and CEO of Quill Intelligence. The economy added 266,000 jobs in November, according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The prior two months of job gains were revised higher pushing the three month average of job adds to 205,000. “In stark contrast to just about every other source of economic data, the jobs data insists the U.S. economy is strong, and that is all markets care about as it is the most visible and most quoted,” Booth said. “The reaction in the dollar and bond yields speaks volumes to how surprised markets were to this data.”


[..] As for Fed Chair Jerome Powell, he has steered a Federal Reserve that cut interest rates three times so far this year in an effort to reverse the hawkishness of Fed policy last year, which included four rate hikes, and to get ahead of any economic weakness sparked by the ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The Federal Reserve meets again next week, and most market participants aren’t expecting any changes to rates. “Despite the strengthening trend, this [jobs report] will not change anything at the Fed aside from what officials say publicly,” Booth said.

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Abe and the BOJ looked only at deflation. And the harder they tried to make them spend, the more fearful of spending the Japanse people became.

Abenomics has Failed Japan. Financial Times Wants to Make it Global. (Lacalle)

A recent article in the Financial Times, “Abenomics provides a lesson for the rich world,” mentioned that the experiment started by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the early 2010s should serve as an important warning for rich countries. Unfortunately, the article’s “lessons” were rather disappointing. These were mainly that the central bank can do a lot more than the ECB and the Fed are doing, and that Japan is not doing so badly. I disagree. The failure of Abenomics has been phenomenal. The balance sheet of the Central Bank of Japan has ballooned to more than 100% of the country’s GDP, the central bank owns almost 70% of the country’s ETFs and is one of the top 10 shareholders in the majority of the largest companies of the Nikkei index.

Government debt to GDP has swelled to 236%, and despite the record-low cost of debt, the government spends almost 22% of the budget on interest expenses. All of this to achieve what? None of the results that were expected from the massive monetary experiment, inventively called QQE (quantitative and qualitative easing) have been achieved, even remotely. Growth is expected to be one of the weakest in the world in 2020, according to the IMF, and the country has consistently missed both its inflation and economic growth targets, while the balance sheet of the central banks and the country’s debt soared. Real wages have been stagnant for years, and economic activity continues to be as poor as it was in the previous two decades of constant stimulus.

[..] The wrong diagnosis will lead to worsening outcomes. When the government is surrounded by economists that tell them that the problem of the economy is that there are too many savings, the government will decide to raise taxes and create a larger problem attacking consumption. With private debt at 221% of GDP. Japan has many issues, none of them being a “savings glut.” If you abandon structural reforms, the results will be worse. The QQE program was based on three “arrows”: monetary policy, government spending, and structural reforms. Guess which arrow they forgot to implement? Exactly. Structural reforms never happened, and when they did, they came in the form of higher taxes and more interventionism, the opposite of what the economy needed.

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Back to the 18th century we go.

What the ‘Expert’ Panel Should Have Told You About Impeachment (ET)

Many phrases in the Constitution—such as “necessary and proper,” “Privileges and Immunities,” and “Convention for proposing Amendments”—carry specialized 18th century meanings not obvious to the modern reader. Recall that most of the leading Founders were lawyers and the Constitution is a legal document. Some of these phrases derive from 18th century law. Therefore, to understand them you have to consult 18th century legal materials in addition to better-known sources such as the 1787 convention debates or the Federalist Papers. Unfortunately, most of the scholars called by the House Judiciary Committee to address the meaning of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” were not able to do so accurately.

According to the authoritative Westlaw database, two of the three Democratically appointed witnesses have published no scholarly work on impeachment: Their specialties are in other areas. None showed any familiarity with 18th century fiduciary standards—which (as explained below) are part of the law of impeachment. All of the witnesses voted against President Trump, and several have been involved in anti-Trump activity. It’s not surprising, therefore, that, except for professor Jonathan Turley’s heavily footnoted 53-page written statement, the testimony was biased and superficial. [..] The core of the case against President Trump is that he used his political position to seek re-election assistance from a foreign government. Although there’s dark talk of crimes committed, the principal charge is fiduciary rather than criminal. In other words, a “high … Misdemeanor.”

House Democrats have struggled to define Trump’s alleged offense. Initially, they described it as “quid pro quo.” Then they employed the term “bribery.” The legally correct designation is “self-dealing.” Self-dealing is betraying your employer’s interests to enrich yourself. It’s a violation of the fiduciary duty of loyalty. We can assume the president might benefit from a Ukrainian investigation, but that doesn’t mean asking for an investigation was self-dealing as defined by fiduciary, and therefore by impeachment, law. There’s nothing unusual or improper about a president asking a recipient of U.S. foreign aid to address corruption. As for seeking political advantage: If we punished every politician who did that, they would all be swinging from the yardarm.

This is as true in foreign as in domestic affairs. When President Barack Obama told the Russian president he would have more flexibility after his re-election, he was saying (1) an agreement now would benefit both Russia and the United States, but (2) I’m going to sacrifice our mutual interests for the present because such an agreement might hurt my re-election campaign. Was this impeachable self-dealing? Almost certainly not. So where is the divide between “normal” conduct and impeachable conduct? To answer this, we need to weigh at least three factors: impeachment precedent, the national interest, and the practice of other presidents.

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The Horowitz report is due on Monday. He’s scheduled to testify on Wednesday.

A Fraught Moment (Kunstler)

The IG has no real law enforcement powers. He can only refer or recommend further action. Nevertheless, a great miasma of anxiety oppresses the Democratic Party now as it awaits whatever Mr. Horowitz has to say about these matters. The party’s propaganda arms at The New York Times, the WashPo, and cable news networks worked up a frenzy of distractions and ruses this past week — for instance the “bombshell” that International-Man-of-Mystery Joseph Mifsud was not a hireling of the FBI. Of course, nobody ever claimed he was. Rather, he is suspected of being an agent of the Italian intel service with links to British intel, both used by the CIA as beards for its nefarious activities around its own election meddling of 2016.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic caucus has been busy with ersatz impeachment proceedings, which are invidiously scheduled to continue next week as a smokescreen to conceal the Horowitz findings. It’s been a frantic campaign for them at a fraught moment in this long saga — but the odor of desperation is thick and rank. Of course, behind the Horowitz report loom the specters of Barr & Durham. Whatever they’ve been up to has been hermetically sealed in a globe of silence even more oppressive and nightmarish for the Dems than the IG’s inquiry. Barr & Durham are able to make things stick, most crucially genuine criminal culpability for the entire RussiaGate fiasco and all of its offshoots, including the most recent “Whistleblower” caper — a patently treasonous scheme. Who knows if and when indictments start raining down, but there’s a chance that it will be a very hard rain indeed.

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Jeff Cortese, a financial crimes manager in the private sector, is the former acting chief of the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit.

Strzok and Page Did Real Damage (Cortese)

Strzok and Page were employed by what was the world’s leading law enforcement agency. The integrity of their work and the work of their FBI peers was paramount to maintaining stability and confidence in the country and its law enforcement. It’s not news that the FBI’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, but the extent of the impact from the imprudence of Strzok and Page is likely not fully understood by most people. Their obvious improprieties created a level of widespread distrust in the FBI not previously seen. Recruiting assets and sources, finding willing participants for interviews, and even trial success can all be adversely impacted by the decline in the FBI’s reputation.

Former colleagues have told me they recently lost otherwise strong cases because lone jurors claimed after trial they refused to convict anyone investigated by the FBI. Criminals are literally walking the streets because the FBI has lost the confidence of the American people. And that decline is directly linked to the famously poor judgment made by two senior FBI employees who knew better. This is precisely why the FBI teaches its agents never to engage in activity on FBI phones or in a public forum that reveals personal bias. The risk to the Agency is too significant. The work of all the great men and women in the FBI should not be jeopardized by the actions of one, or two, of its people.

As Americans we have a soft spot for stories of redemption. We are a country of second chances, and that is a good thing. The idea that anyone could find pleasure in someone’s downfall is abhorrent, even if they hold opposing political views. That is not to say Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did not do this to themselves. They did. They made themselves political talking points that will be used by politicians and pundits until the next election, and perhaps beyond.

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“The framers, Pelosi tells us, worried that corrupt Americans might take money from foreign powers to do their bidding. And that, class, is why we need to impeach Donald Trump. Get it? Wait a second. Trump didn’t take money from Ukraine; Hunter Biden did.”

Pelosi Puts A Brave Face On A Doomed Mission (Tucker Carlson)

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House: “Let us begin where our Founders began in 1776: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another.” With those words, our founders courageously began our Declaration of Independence, from an oppressive monarch, for among other grievances, the king’s refusal to follow rightfully passed laws. In the course of today’s events, it becomes necessary for us to address, among other grievances, the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law.” It’s just mesmerizing on many levels. But what did it mean exactly? Well, it was a metaphor. Trump is a slightly more orange version of King George III.

Democrats are the patriots plotting to overthrow him with violence. If that strikes you as alarming, Pelosi has a few words of comfort. A group of 18th-century slaveholders, she assures us, would have been completely in favor of what she’s doing. Pelosi: “James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, warned that the president might betray his trust to foreign powers, which might prove fatal to the republic. Another Founder, Gouverneur Morris, feared that a president may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust. He emphasized that this magistrate is not the king. The people are the king.” So, James Madison has given Nancy Pelosi his personal seal of approval. Remember that the next time Pelosi’s acolytes try to pull Madison’s statue off its pedestal for crimes against progressive orthodoxy.

For a brief moment, the Founders of our country are useful to the left, so they’re being presented as heroes. Enjoy it while it lasts. The framers, Pelosi tells us, worried that corrupt Americans might take money from foreign powers to do their bidding. And that, class, is why we need to impeach Donald Trump.Get it? Wait a second. Trump didn’t take money from Ukraine; Hunter Biden did. Trump just pointed that out. He was on James Madison side on that score, vigilantly policing bribery by a hostile foreign power. And for that, he must be removed from office.

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But not him?

Bloomberg On His Democratic Rivals: ‘Trump Would Eat ‘Em Up’ (R.)

Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg said on Friday that Donald Trump would easily defeat any of his Democratic White House rivals in next year’s election, bluntly declaring: “Donald Trump would eat ‘em up.” Bloomberg, 77, a billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, was a late entry into the race last month. He has been privately disparaging of his Democratic presidential rivals but this was the first time he had been so critical of them in public. In an interview on CBS’s “This Morning,” Bloomberg said: “I looked at our national government getting worse, the way we’re behaving overseas and domestically, led by our president.”


“I said back in 2016, ‘He is the wrong person for the job. He doesn’t have the temperament or the ethics or the intellect to do the job.’” Bloomberg added: “And I said, ‘We just can’t have another four years of this.’ And then I watched all the candidates. And I just thought to myself: ‘Donald Trump would eat ‘em up’.” Bloomberg, a former Republican and independent, fears that liberal candidates such as U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and their proposed costly expansion of government programs, will alienate voters in battleground states.

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I wouldn’t want to create the impression that Kamala due to a lack of money.

Kamala Harris, Michael Bloomberg, and a Supreme Court Decision (IC)

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California suspended her presidential campaign on Tuesday. Why? Because, she said, she did not “have the financial resources we need to continue. I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign.” Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who definitely is a billionaire, has spent at least $57 million of his own money since he jumped into the race on November 24. Harris, by contrast, raised $36 million as of her last campaign filing in October. Of that, she’d spent almost $26 million since she announced her campaign last January 21. The divergence in the fates of the two candidates can be traced back to a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of campaign finance law.

But the case involved is not Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, from 2010. It’s a far less famous one: Buckley v. Valeo, from 1976. The decision opened the door for billionaires — and, more generally, the ultra-rich — to spend as much as they want on their own political campaigns. The divergence in the fates of Harris and Bloomberg can be traced back to a Supreme Court decision — not from Citizens United in 2010, but Buckley v. Valeo in 1976. One of the main forces behind the case was a young Republican lawyer named John Bolton, later to become President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for a time. In Bolton’s memoir, he proudly states that “Everyone knew the decision in Buckley v. Valeo could determine … the future shape of American politics.” Bolton was right — and his long-ago efforts continue to bear fruit today.

Watergate was, among other things, a scandal about money in politics. President Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign had accepted bribes, including $200,000 from the chairman of the board of McDonald’s in return for permission from the federal government to raise the price of their Quarter Pounder cheeseburger. Soon after Nixon resigned in 1974, Congress responded with significant amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. This included a new limit of $50,000 per calendar year on what presidential candidates could spend of their own money on their campaign. Adjusting for inflation, that’s about $275,000 today.

Just two years later, however, the Supreme Court struck that limit down in the Buckley case. Those running for political office could now spend any amount of their own fortune they wanted. In fact, the court stated, it could be good for the wealthy to self-fund runs for office, because “the use of personal funds reduces the candidate’s dependence on outside contributions and thereby counteracts the coercive pressures and attendant risks of abuse.”

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Are we now all free to call each other whatever we want?

Musk’s Defamation Win May Reset Legal Landscape For Social Media (R.)

Elon Musk’s daring has left its mark on electric cars and rockets, and now experts say the entrepreneur may have reshaped U.S. defamation law with his willingness to defend at a high-stakes trial a lawsuit over an off-the-cuff tweet. The victory by Tesla Inc’s outspoken chief executive over a Twitter message describing a British cave explorer as “pedo guy” has raised the bar for what amounts to libel online, according to some legal experts. Musk defended his comments as trivial taunts made on a social media platform that he argued everyone views as a world of unfiltered opinion, which is protected as free speech, rather than statements of fact.

“I think this verdict reflects that there is a feeling that internet tweets and chats are more like casual conversation whether you call it opinion or rhetoric or hyperbole and should not be punished in a lawsuit,” said Chip Babcock, a lawyer who defends against defamation lawsuits. Several other attorneys who specialize in defamation cases privately expressed surprise at the outcome of what they viewed as a strong case for the cave explorer, Vernon Unsworth. They attributed it to Musk’s fame and the perceived youthfulness of the jury. But they also agreed it would shift the legal landscape, undercutting the cases that would have seemed viable before the trial while defendants would use it to try to reduce possible settlement values.

Musk’s court papers cast his comments as part of the rough-and-tumble world of Twitter, which rewards and encourages emotional outbursts and sucks in readers worldwide but that no one takes seriously. Mark Sableman, a lawyer who defends defamation cases, said the freewheeling nature of social media has inevitably changed the understanding of language and what amounts to defamatory factual statements, versus opinion. “I think defendants in modern defamation cases are likely to point to the vitriolic no-holes-barred nature of modern social media, cable TV, and political discourse, in contending that many words and accusations formerly considered defamatory are now understood only as mere opinions, not factual assertions,” he said.

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“..some $25.6 billion will be taken out of the left Saudi trouser pocket to be put into the right one.”

Saudi Arabia Retreats From The Troubles Its Clown Prince Caused (MoA)

Iran has enabled the Houthi to resist throughout the 5 years of war the Saudis waged on them. Drones and missiles parts provided by Iran to the Houthi allowed them to compel the Saudis to file for peace. It is thereby highly unlikely that the Houthi will dissociate themselves from Iran. They will agree to end their attacks on Saudi Arabia if the Saudis end their attacks on Yemen and pay for the damage their war has caused. If the Saudis do not agree to that more of their helicopters will come down in flames and more of their oil installations will be set on fire. The war on Yemen was started by clown prince Muhammad bin Salman who was then Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia.

He had hoped for a fast victory but the well equipped Saudi military proved to be incapable of defeating barefoot Houthi in the mountains of north Yemen. The war costs the Saudis several billions per month and threatened to ruin the state. Muhammad Bin Salman’s other projects did not go any better. He had planned to sell shares of Saudi Aramco at international stock exchanges and at a total valuation of 2 trillion dollar. The move was supposed to bring in $100 billion to finance a further industrialization of the Saudi economy. After many delays Saudi Aramco is now finally making its initial public offering. The shares will start trading on December 11. But the stock will only be listed at the Saudi Tadawul exchange.

The initial share price offer puts the value of the company at $1.7 trillion which is higher than the $1.5 trillion estimate international banks had published. Today the Saudis announced a large cut in their oil output to increase the global oil prices and the company’s valuation. That might attract more urgently needed buyers to the IPO. But the stocks will still be sold to mainly domestic entities, if needed with some pressure. Instead of attracting $100 billion of fresh money from abroad some $25.6 billion will be taken out of the left Saudi trouser pocket to be put into the right one. The economic benefit for the country is dubious.

Two and a half years ago the clown prince tried to attack and occupy Qatar. The given ideological reason was the Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood. But the real reason was the Saudi need for more money which MbS tried to gain through a real estate and resource grab. The project failed when Turkish troops came to Qatar’s aid.

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Nov 202019
 
 November 20, 2019  Posted by at 10:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Miserable poverty. Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, OK 1936

 

Australia’s Westpac Bank Slapped With 23 Million Money Laundering Breaches (R.)
UN Demands ‘Full Investigation’ After Sweden Drops Assange Rape Probe (RT)
Swedish Decision To Drop Rape Probe Comes Too Late To Help Assange (Szamuely)
Statement For Aaron Swartz Day 2019 (Chelsea Manning )
Massive ‘Dark-Money’ Group Boosted Democrats In 2018 (Pol.)
Another Congresswoman Lashes Out At The Hill (Pol.)
FBI CItes Strzok For Misconduct, ‘Exceptionally Poor Judgment’ (Solomon)
Beijing’s Angry Reaction To High Court Mask Ruling Sparks Concern (SCMP)
China Vows To Retaliate If Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Act Into Law (SCMP)
Reclaiming Your Inner Fascist (C.J. Hopkins)
Fossil Fuel Production On Track For Double The Safe Climate Limit (G.)

 

 

“The regulator is pursuing fines of up to A$21 million ($14 million) for every transaction Westpac failed to monitor adequately or report on time.”

How much is 23 million times $14 million?

Australia’s Westpac Bank Slapped With 23 Million Money Laundering Breaches (R.)

Regulators accused Australia’s Westpac of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws, saying the banking giant ignored red flags and for years enabled payments from convicted child sex offenders and “high risk” countries. The oversight failure at Australia’s second-largest bank led to deep systemic non-compliance with anti-money laundering laws, financial crime watchdog AUSTRAC said in a civil court filing on Wednesday. The regulator is pursuing fines of up to A$21 million ($14 million) for every transaction Westpac failed to monitor adequately or report on time.


The lawsuit dwarfs a case AUSTRAC brought against larger Commonwealth Bank of Australia which agreed last year here to pay a record A$700 million penalty after admitting to allowing 53,750 payments that violated similar protocols. It also brings fresh scrutiny to an industry still trying to rebuild community trust after a bruising Royal Commission public inquiry. “These contraventions are the result of systemic failures in its control environment, indifference by senior management and inadequate oversight by the Board,” AUSTRAC said in the court filing.

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In case you forgot Melzer represents the UN. When he speaks, the UN speaks. When he is ignored, the UN is ignored.

UN Demands ‘Full Investigation’ After Sweden Drops Assange Rape Probe (RT)

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture has called for a “full investigation” into the role Sweden played in driving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange into asylum and eventual custody, after the rape case against him was dropped. Swedish prosecutors announced on Tuesday that they would drop a dubious rape inquiry against Assange, as oral testimony against the publisher had “weakened,” and corroborating evidence was not strong enough to pursue a case. A Swedish arrest warrant was issued against assange in 2010, and a British court upheld a decision to extradite him in 2012. Threatened with what many saw as a politically motivated extradition, Assange sought refuge in London’s Ecuadorian embassy.

“Today’s collapse of Sweden’s #Assange investigation was inevitable,” rapporteur Nils Melzer tweeted on Tuesday. “Given its gross arbitrariness, there must now be a full investigation, and accountability & compensation for the harm inflicted on #JulianAssange.” Melzer had previously claimed that Assange was subjected to “psychological torture” and had his due process rights “systematically violated” by the governments of Britain and Sweden. The WikiLeaks founder is still languishing in a maximum security unit at Belmarsh prison, awaiting a hearing on extradition to the US, where he potentially faces 175 years behind bars for publishing leaked military documents. In a document tweeted by Melzer, the envoy accuses Sweden of “actively and knowingly” contributing to Assange’s torture, and accuses prosecutors there of working in tandem with Britain’s Crown Prosecutorial Service to keep the case against Assange alive in the face of exculpatory evidence.

With the rape case against him dropped, some commentators have warned that the path to extradition to the US may now be clearer. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told supporters that their focus should now shift to the most important “threat” that Assange was “warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment.”

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Not the strongest piece by George Szamuely. I like this tweet of his better:

“The Ukrainian people are fighting Russia over there, so we don’t have to fight Russia over here”–thus Tim Morrison. There’s definitely a lunatic asylum in which these sick individuals dwell. I guess it’s the US national security establishment.”

Swedish Decision To Drop Rape Probe Comes Too Late To Help Assange (Szamuely)

The Swedish prosecutors’ decision to end the investigation of Julian Assange—for the third time—confirms that the sexual-misconduct accusations were always a cynical ploy to trap the publisher in a Kafkaesque legal proceeding. Swedish prosecutors today announced they were closing their nearly 10-year-old sexual-misconduct investigation of Julian Assange. The reason? The “evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.” However, the prosecutor tendentiously added, “the complaint was credible” but that corroborating evidence was not strong enough to pursue the case.

Let’s focus on the verbiage. Note first the use of the word “investigation.” This is very important, because contrary to what innumerable media outlets have reported during the past decade, the Swedes never charged Assange with anything, least of all “rape.” Following Assange’s arrest on April 11 of this year, there was a plethora of media stories informing us that there are outstanding rape charges pending against Assange in Sweden. Human Rights Watch chimed in, saying that Assange was facing a “rape charge” in Sweden. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labor Party feminists urged the UK government to extradite Assange to Sweden to face “rape charges.”

The Swedish case was a fraud. The prosecutors’ goal all along was to use their powerful coercive tools in order to trap Assange within a slow-moving legal proceeding from which he would be unable to escape, while the US prepared its criminal charges against him. Sadly, despite today’s announcement, the Swedes’ mission has been accomplished.

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Chelsea rocks.

Statement For Aaron Swartz Day 2019 (Chelsea Manning )

Good Evening Folks, I wish I could be there in person, but I appreciate this opportunity to summarize for you my letter to the court that ordered me to be confined, explaining why grand juries are so dangerous. I am not alone in objecting to the grand jury as a dangerous relic that has evolved in ways that increase its power without increasing its protections. I refuse to participate in a process that has clearly transformed into something that violates the spirit, if not the letter of the law. I am certainly not alone in thinking that the grand jury process, which at one time acted as an independent body of citizens along the lines of a civilian police review board, has slowly transitioned into an unbridled arm of the police and prosecution in ways that run contrary to its originally intended purpose.

Early grand juries acted independently, as investigations by citizens, ostensibly to protect citizens, not only from unjust indictments, but from unjust laws. In 2019, the federal grand jury exists as a mockery of the institution that once stood against the whims of monarchs. It guts the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of due process. Today’s grand juries do not safeguard such fundamental rights and are easily subject to abuse. The tradition of using grand juries to jail political dissidents and activists is long. The ability of grand juries to be abused or used for political ends is entrenched and perpetuated by the fact that jeopardy doesn’t attach with a grand jury, so prosecutors can repeatedly bring the same charges.

Despite laws that require prosecutors to show new evidence or that it is in the public interest to extend or reconvene a grand jury, this is hardly an obstacle. For instance, Thomas Jefferson had to convene three separate grand juries in order to indict Aaron Burr for sedition – but he was able to continue to convene those grand juries until he obtained his desired indictment. During the McCarthy era, when people were publicly interrogated about their beliefs and associations, the public was eventually outraged, and the McCarthy hearings are widely seen as a disgraceful episode of modern history. However, these kinds of interrogations have now returned, and happen routinely, under the modern grand jury system.

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Business as usual.

Massive ‘Dark-Money’ Group Boosted Democrats In 2018 (Pol.)

The “green wave” of campaign cash that boosted Democrats and liberal causes in 2018 included an unprecedented gusher of secret money, new documents obtained by POLITICO show. The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a little-known nonprofit headquartered in Washington, spent $141 million on more than 100 left-leaning causes during the midterm election year, according to a new tax filing from the group. The money contributed to efforts ranging from fighting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and other Trump judicial nominees to boosting ballot measures raising the minimum wage and changing laws on voting and redistricting in numerous states. The spending was fueled by massive anonymous donations, including one gift totaling $51.7 million.

That single donation was more than the group had ever raised before in an entire year before President Donald Trump was elected. Most of the group’s funders are likely to remain a mystery because federal law does not require “social welfare”-focused nonprofits to reveal their donors. The group’s 2018 fundraising surpassed any amount ever raised by a left-leaning political nonprofit, according to experts, who pointed to the Koch network and the Crossroads network as rare right-leaning groups that posted bigger yearly fundraising totals at the height of their powers. The Sixteen Thirty Fund’s rise last year is a sign that Democrats and allies have embraced the methods of groups they decried as “dark money” earlier this decade, when they were under attack from the money machines built by conservatives including the Kochs.

“In terms of the size of dark money networks, there are only a few that have gone into the $100 million-plus range,” said Robert Maguire, the research director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and an expert in political nonprofits. “These kinds of totals aren’t unheard of,” Maguire added. “I do think they’re unheard of on the liberal side. I think that’s what’s so striking about this.”

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@RepMikeTurner : Did he ever say to you that he was not going to allow aid with the US to go to Ukraine unless there were investigations into Burisma, the Bidens or the 2016 election?

VOLKER: No he did not.

It’s open season on John Solomon. By the way, Marie Yovanovitch has denied the existence of a Don’t Prosecute list, and all kinds of people say Lutsenko denied it too. Solomon says he did not.

Another Congresswoman Lashes Out At The Hill (Pol.)

Florida Congresswoman Val Demings questioned Tuesday whether the The Hill is “fair and unbiased” during an exchange with a reporter from the publication, the second of such incidents in recent days. California Rep. Jackie Speier, who is also a Democrat, told a Hill reporter on Friday that it was “reprehensible” that the paper published columns by John Solomon, a conservative journalist who helped ignite the Ukraine scandal and whose work has been promoted by President Donald Trump and his allies. Demings said Tuesday she had “not heard good things recently” about The Hill in response to tech policy reporter Emily Birnbaum identifying herself before asking a question about a short-term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown, according to audio of the exchange reviewed by POLITICO.

“Recently, I have not heard good things about The Hill being fair and impartial and unbiased… and that concerns me because any story we’re telling needs to be fair and unbiased and impartial,” Demings told Birnbaum during the exchange in the speaker’s lobby, which was witnessed by other reporters. Demings answered Birnbaum’s question and agreed it was fair. Though Demings did not mention Solomon specifically, the former employee’s work has come under increasing scrutiny and has put The Hill under the media spotlight. ProPublica recently explored Solomon’s relationship with associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and CNN looked Monday night at the connection between The Hill’s owner, Jimmy Finkelstein, and Trump, Giuliani and Solomon.

Solomon’s work has come up several times during impeachment testimony. Former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on Friday denied an allegation from Ukraine’s former top prosecutor that she gave Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor a list of who not to prosecute. “Yovanovitch says John Solomon’s columns were used to push false allegations,” read a headline in The Hill. Solomon, who left The Hill in September and his now a contributor for Fox News, where he was a frequent guest this past year, has repeatedly defended his reporting. “I stand by each and every one of the columns that I wrote and that The Hill (both editors and lawyers) carefully vetted,” Solomon told POLITICO on Friday. “All facts in those stories are substantiated to original source documents and statements.”

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So the best thing Solomon can do is do his job: report.

FBI Cites Strzok Cited For Misconduct, ‘Exceptionally Poor Judgment’ (Solomon)

This summer, ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok filed a lawsuit suggesting his firing was political retribution for having run the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation into the now debunked allegations that Donald Trump and Russia colluded to hijack the 2016 election. The Justice Department has responded to the lawsuit in a big way, releasing to the court presiding over the civil case Strzok’s official misconduct file that concluded the former FBI supervisor exhibited “a gross lack of professionalism and exceptionally poor judgment.” It shows the FBI substantiated that Strzok had engaged in dereliction of duty, had committed misconduct through the expression of anti-Trump bias on his official FBI phone and committed security violations by performing official government work on personal email.

The records show one official recommended termination, and another recommended suspension for 60 days without pay. The bureau leadership chose the more severe of the two penalties, terminating Strzok last year. The dereliction of duty citation involved Strzok’s failure, according to the FBI, to quickly follow up in fall 2016 after the belated discovery of a trove of Hillary Clinton emails on a laptop belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Strzok was supervising the investigation of whether Clinton’s use of personal email for classified State Department matters created a security risk, and his failure caused an unnecessary delay to evaluate the new evidence just weeks before Election Day, the FBI concluded.

The disciplinary file included testimony from one of Strzok’s colleagues, a fellow agent, about the failure to respond to the discovery of emails. “The crickets I was hearing was making me uncomfortable because something was going to come crashing down,” the agent testified. “….I still to this day don’t understand what the hell went wrong.” The agent testified he feared “somebody was not acting appropriately, somebody was trying to bury this” discovery of new Clinton email evidence, the files show. Strzok offered a bevy of excuses for his inaction, including he was busy working the Trump-Russia case at the time. All were rejected. “The investigation reveals that there is no reasonable excuse for the FBI’s delay in following up on this matter,” the disciplinary file concluded.

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Why does Hong Kong still have courts?

Beijing’s Angry Reaction To High Court Mask Ruling Sparks Concern (SCMP)

There was a swift response from Beijing when the High Court ruled on Monday that the Hong Kong government’s anti-mask law was unconstitutional. Central government officials criticised the court for failing to support the government in its efforts to end more than five months of increasingly violent social unrest. For the first time, they suggested that the city’s courts do not have the power to declare a local law invalid by checking it against the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. China’s top legislative affairs body argued that only the national legislature had the right to decide on issues of constitutionality.


Beijing’s reaction left its critics in Hong Kong fearing for the erosion of the city’s independent judiciary. They also feared that Beijing would decide to hand down its own interpretation of the Basic Law and overturn the court ruling. But members of the pro-establishment camp dismissed those concerns, saying Beijing was only reiterating its position. What are the key issues in the controversy over the court ruling?

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Remember: Hong Kong won’t become Chinese until 2037.

China Vows To Retaliate If Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Act Into Law (SCMP)

China summoned a senior United States diplomat on Wednesday as it warned it would retaliate if US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, after the act was passed by the US Senate. In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said Foreign Vice-Minister Ma Zhaoxu had summoned William Klein, the US embassy’s Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs. “China will take strong opposing measures, and the US has to bear all the consequences,” the statement said, after Congress’ upper chamber passed the act – which could pave the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against Hong Kong’s government.


It was the second time China had summoned a US diplomat since anti-government protests in Hong Kong began five months ago, triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China’s opaque legal system. In June, Robert Forden, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Beijing, was summoned by Foreign Vice-Minister Le Yucheng. Klein was summoned after foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that any attempt by the US to interfere in China’s internal affairs would be in vain. “We call on the US side to take a clear look at the situation and take steps to stop the act from becoming a law, and stop meddling in the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong, to avoid setting a fire that would only burn itself,” Geng said in a statement. “If the US sticks to its course, China will surely take forceful measures to resolutely oppose it to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interest.”

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If the treatment of Assange shows you anything, it’s that you live in a fascist world.

Reclaiming Your Inner Fascist (C.J. Hopkins)

OK, we need to talk about fascism. Not just any kind of fascism. A particularly insidious kind of fascism. No, not the fascism of the early 20th Century. Not Mussolini’s National Fascist Party. Not Hitler’s NSDAP. Not Francoist fascism or any other kind of organized fascist movement or party. Not even the dreaded Tiki-torch Nazis. It’s the other kind of fascism we need to talk about. The kind that doesn’t come goose-stepping up the street waving big neo-Nazi flags. The kind we don’t recognize when we’re looking right at it. It’s like that joke about the fish and the water … we don’t recognize it because we’re swimming in it. We’re surrounded by it. We are inseparable from it. From the moment we are born, we breathe it in.

We are taught it by our parents, who were taught it by their parents. We are taught it again by our teachers in school. It is reinforced on a daily basis at work, in conversations with friends, in our families and our romantic relationships. We imbibe it in books, movies, TV shows, advertisements, pop songs, the nightly news, in our cars, at the mall, the stadium, the opera … everywhere, because it is literally everywhere. It doesn’t look like fascism to us. Fascism only looks like fascism when you’re standing outside of it, or looking back at it. When you are in it, fascism just looks like “normality,” like “reality,” like “just the way it is.”

We (i.e., Americans, Brits, Europeans, and other citizens of the global capitalist empire) get up in the morning, go to work, shop, pay the interest on our debts, and otherwise obey the laws and conform to the mores of a system of power that has murdered countless millions of people in pursuit of global-hegemonic dominance. It has perpetrated numerous wars of aggression. Its military occupies most of the planet. Its Intelligence agencies (i.e., secret police) operate a worldwide surveillance apparatus that can identify, target, and eliminate anyone, anywhere, often by remote control. Its propaganda network never sleeps, nor is there any real way to escape its constant emotional and ideological conditioning.

The fact that the global capitalist empire does not call itself an empire, and instead calls itself “democracy,” doesn’t make it any less of an empire. The fact that it uses terms like “regime change” instead of “invasion” or “annexation” makes very little difference to its victims. Terms like “security,” “stability,” “intervention,” “regime change,” and so on are not meant for its victims. They are meant for us … to anesthetize us. The empire is “regime-changing” Bolivia currently. It has “regime-changed” most of Latin America at one time or another since the Second World War. It “regime-changed” Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, Indonesia … the list goes on. It very much wants to “regime-change” Iran, which it “regime-changed” back in the 1950s, before the Iranians “regime-changed” it back. It would love to “regime-change” Russia and China, but their ICBMs make that somewhat impractical.

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Lip service.

Fossil Fuel Production On Track For Double The Safe Climate Limit (G.)

The world’s nations are on track to produce more than twice as much coal, oil and gas as can be burned in 2030 while restricting rise in the global temperature to 1.5C, analysis shows. The report is the first to compare countries’ stated plans for fossil fuel extraction with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which is to keep global heating well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5C. It exposes a huge gap, with fossil fuel production in 2030 heading for 50% more than is consistent with 2C, and 120% more than that for 1.5C. Scientists have warned that even the difference between 1.5C and 2C of heating will expose hundreds of millions of people to significantly higher risks of extreme heatwaves, drought, floods and poverty.

The report was produced by the UN Environment Programme and a coalition of research organisations. It complements an earlier UN analysis showing the current Paris agreement pledges to cut emissions would still lead to a catastrophic 3-4C rise. “We’re in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging,” said Måns Nilsson, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), which was part of the analysis. “Despite more than two decades of climate policymaking, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever.” Most action to tackle the climate crisis involves reducing emissions, but Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme, said a focus on fossil fuel production was long overdue.

Most of the action pledges made by countries under the Paris deal do not even mention changes to production. The UK is a “striking” example of this mismatch, said Cleo Verkuijl, at the SEI’s centre in Oxford, UK. It was the first major economy to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, she said, but also subsidises fossil fuel production at home and abroad and intends to extract “every drop of oil and gas” from its North Sea fields.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Apr 112019
 


Marion Post Wolcott Signboard along highway in Alabama 1939

 

EU Leaders Agree Brexit Delay Until Halloween (Ind.)
Macron Enrages Other EU Leaders After Opposing Long Brexit Extension (G.)
UK Car Production Could Halve In No-Deal Brexit Scenario (G.)
Peter Strzok Could Face ‘Serious’ Charges (Sara Carter)
William Barr on 2016 Elections: ‘I Think Spying Did Occur’ (CNS)
The Next Phase of Deep State-Gate (Ray McGovern)
WikiLeaks Says Julian Assange Is Being Spied On In Ecuadorean Embassy (R.)
Spanish Police ‘Recover Julian Assange Surveillance Footage’ (G.)
Spain Police Probe Extortion Scheme Involving Surveillance on Assange (Lauria)
Short-Term Growth Policies Risk New Financial Crisis – IMF (G.)
Fed Hawk-o-Meter Jumps 18% (WS)
The Family That Took On Monsanto (G.)
Chinese Scientists Put Human Brain Genes In Monkeys (TR)
The Gates Of Hell At The End Of Space And Time (Nature)

 

 

Between Halloween Brexit, EU leaders having a Macadamia Nut Parfait, and the black hole pictures described as “The Gates Of Hell At The End Of Space And Time”, what can I say? Can’t compete with that.

EU Leaders Agree Brexit Delay Until Halloween (Ind.)

Theresa May is set to enrage her critics within the Conservative party after setting herself up to stay on as prime minister until the winter while presiding over a long delay to Brexit. She told MPs just weeks ago that she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June” as prime minister and said she would resign once this stage of talks was complete – prompting her rivals to gear up for a summer leadership contest. But as EU leaders met on Wednesday night to decide on another lengthy Article 50 extension, a Conservative source said the prime minister’s promised departure was tied to passing the withdrawal agreement rather than a specific date.


After six hours of talks late into the night leaders agreed to extend the new Brexit deadline until 31 October, with a potential summit in June to review the situation. Ms May tried to play down the consequences of the expected long extension as she arrived at the meeting on Wednesday evening, telling reporters that “what is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point we ratify the withdrawal agreement” rather than the length. Asked whether the 30 June date was still a red line for the prime minister, the Tory source said: “She understands that the Conservative Party feels a sense that new leadership is required for the second phase of negotiations. That was the commitment she gave to her parliamentary colleagues and that’s one she stands by.”

Read more …

Macadamia Nut Parfait

Macron Enrages Other EU Leaders After Opposing Long Brexit Extension (G.)

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, enraged fellow leaders after standing alone against a long extension to Britain’s membership of the EU. Macron insisted on speaking last during a working dinner in Brussels on Wednesday night during which he set his stall against a longer extension up to 31 December backed by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Over a dinner of scallop salad, cod loin and macadamia nut parfait, it soon emerged that France was nearly isolated, with only a handful of member states, such as Belgium, sounding sympathetic to his arguments. The French president angered some EU leaders with his attempt to block a long extension of nine to 12 months that was favoured by the majority.

The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, told the room that Macron’s opposition meant that “we are now only solving French domestic problems”. German officials were said to be “very irritated” with Macron. France argued that a long delay risked serious damage to the EU, an outcome Paris said was worse than no-deal. “We do not want to import Britain’s political crisis into the EU,” said an Élysée official. Theresa May’s talks with Jeremy Corbyn were not a justification “that we have a long extension without guarantees for the functioning of the European Union”. The French source said no-deal could not be ruled out, arguing that damaging the running of the EU was the worst possible outcome. “The default position is no deal. Endangering the functioning of the EU is not preferable to no-deal.”

After the new deadline was announced, Macron said leaders had found “the best possible compromise” because the 31 October date preserved EU unity, allowed the British more time and preserved “the good functioning of the European Union”.

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Well, that’s a good thing, no?!

UK Car Production Could Halve In No-Deal Brexit Scenario (G.)

Car production in Britain could collapse by almost half by the mid-2020s in a no-deal Brexit scenario, with plant closures triggering job losses across the country, according to an Oxford University study. Matthias Holweg, an automotive expert at Oxford, said Britain leaving the EU without a deal and trading on World Trade Organization terms would trigger a big fall in output. According to the study, car production has already slipped by about 9% since the EU referendum in 2016. Production volumes have fallen from more than 1.7m cars per year to less than 1.5m, but could drop further to about 900,000 a year in 2026 if Britain leaves without a deal.


Holweg said the UK’s current volumes of production could not be sustained under a WTO trading regime with the EU, as higher levels of border friction and tariffs would render UK car manufacturing less competitive. Car plants across the country would at first be starved of investment before their owners eventually closed them. The study found that investment has already dropped by about 80% over the past three years. “This would invariably lead to a hollowing-out of the UK’s component supply chain, effectively condemning the automotive industry to a slow ‘death by a thousand cuts’,” said Holweg, professor of operations management at Oxford University’s Saïd business school. “The great and present danger is that the decisions on where to produce new models will continue to go against the UK.”

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Michael Horowitz’s report is more interesting than the Mueller report.

Peter Strzok Could Face ‘Serious’ Charges (Sara Carter)

Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok could face ‘serious’ charges for his involvement and actions in the bureau’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send classified emails, as well as the FBI’s investigation into President Trump’s campaign, multiple sources with knowledge of Strzok’s actions told SaraACarter.com. Further, sources contend that the nearly year long investigation by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, will reveal explosive information and shed light on alleged malfeasance by FBI and DOJ officials directly involved in the Russia investigation. The Inspector General’s report may be completed as early as May or June, according to testimony provided this week by Attorney General William Barr.

Strzok who has already been investigated by Horowitz for his role in the FBI’s Clinton investigation is also expected to be named in the IG’s upcoming report on how the Russia investigation was handled by the FBI. He was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in 2017 and then fired from the FBI in August, 2018. He was fired by the FBI after an extensive review by Horowitz’s office into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation and was removed from Mueller’s team after the IG discovered his anti-Trump text messages to his paramour former FBI Attorney Lisa Page.

“There are a number of individuals who are looking at Peter Strzok’s actions and inactions and how those actions affected both of the investigations he was involved in,” said a U.S. official, with knowledge. “Further evaluation of what Peter Strzok did or did not do needs to be evaluated thoroughly.” The official did not reveal what Strzok’s “actions or inactions” may have been but said “obstruction, is a serious concern.” Strzok “is in hot water,” said another government official, with knowledge. “I’m certain he’s not the only one.”

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Between Horowitz and Barr, we’re going to have us some fun.

William Barr on 2016 Elections: ‘I Think Spying Did Occur’ (CNS)

Attorney General William Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday that spying did occur during the 2016 presidential election, but he needs to “explore” whether or not it was “predicated.” “News just broke today that you have a special team looking into why the FBI opened an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections? I wonder if you can share with this committee who’s on that team, why you felt the need to form that kind of a team and what you intend to be the scope of their investigation,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) asked Barr. “As I said in my confirmation hearing, I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016.”


“A lot of this has already been investigated, and a substantial portion of it has been investigated and is being investigated by the Office of Inspector General at the department, but one of the things I want to do is pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the department and see if there are any remaining questions to be addressed,” Barr said. Shaheen asked Barr why he felt “a need to do that.” “For the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections,” Barr said.

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MICIMATT

The Next Phase of Deep State-Gate (Ray McGovern)

Readers of The Washington Post on Monday were treated to more of the same from editorial page chief Fred Hiatt. Hiatt, who won his spurs by promoting misleading “intelligence” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and suffered no consequences, is at it again. This time he is trying to adjust to the fading prospect of a Deus ex Mueller to lessen Hiatt’s disgrace for being among the most shameless in promoting the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. He is not giving up. When you are confident you will not lose your job so long as you adhere to the agenda of the growing Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex (MICIMATT if you will), you need not worry about being a vanguard for the corporate media. It is almost as though Hiatt is a tenured professor in an endowed chair honoring Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who perhaps did most to bring us Iraqi WMD.


In his Monday column Hiatt warned: “Trump was elected with the assistance of Russian spies and trolls, which he openly sought and celebrated. But he did not (or so we are told) secretly conspire with them.” In effect, Hiatt is saying, soto voce: “Fie on former (now-de-canonized) Saint Robert of Mueller; we at the Post and our colleagues at The New York Times, CNN et al. know better, just because we’ve been saying so for more than two years.” Times executive editor Dean Baquet said, about the backlash to the Times‘ “collusion” coverage: “I have no regrets. It’s not our job to determine whether or not there was illegality.” CNN President Jeff Zucker said: “We are not investigators. We are journalists.” (One wonders what investigative journalist Bob Parry, who uncovered much of Iran-Contra and founded this site, would have thought of that last one.)

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Take Lenin Moreno to The Hague.

WikiLeaks Says Julian Assange Is Being Spied On In Ecuadorean Embassy (R.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been the subject of a sophisticated spying operation in the Ecuadorean embassy where he has been holed up since 2012, the group said on Wednesday. “Wikileaks has uncovered an extensive spying operation against Julian Assange within the Ecuadorean embassy,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief said, adding that Assange’s “eviction” from the embassy could happen at any time. Hrafnsson did not immediately give evidence for his claims. Reuters was unable to independently verify the allegations. Assange’s relations with his hosts have chilled since Ecuador accused him of leaking information about President Lenin Moreno’s personal life. Moreno has said Assange has violated the terms of his asylum.


To some, Assange is a hero for exposing what supporters cast as abuse of power by modern states and for championing free speech. But to others, he is a dangerous rebel who has undermined the security of the United States. “We know that there was a request to hand over visitors’ logs from the embassy and video recordings from within the security cameras in the embassy,” Hrafnsson told reporters, adding that he assumed the information had been handed over to the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Criminal behavior: “.. included recordings of Assange’s meetings with his lawyers and doctor.”

Spanish Police ‘Recover Julian Assange Surveillance Footage’ (G.)

WikiLeaks has said it has uncovered a surveillance operation against Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy and that images, documents and videos gathered have been offered for sale. Spanish police were said to have mounted a sting operation against unnamed individuals in Madrid who offered the material for sale in what lawyers and colleagues of Assange said on Wednesday was an attempt at extortion. Some of the material came from video cameras with a capacity to record audio and which had been installed last year, a press conference organised by WikiLeaks was told. WikiLeaks said material including video, audio, copies of private legal documents and a medical report had turned up in Spain, where a group was said to have threatened to start publishing unless they were paid €3m.

The Guardian reported last year that Ecuador had bankrolled a multimillion-dollar surveillance operation to protect and support Assange at the embassy, employing an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and even the British police. Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said he had met four individuals, one of whom he was told was a ringleader and who had prior convictions. There was a possibility that at least one was not a Spanish national, he added. The matter is now in the hands of an investigating Spanish magistrate, according to the whistleblowing website.

Hrafnsson said the surveillance at the embassy – which had led to Assange living a “Truman Show existence” – was part of an escalation designed to result in Assange being extradited to the US. “If you connect the dots it’s easy to draw that picture,” said Hrafnsson, who was appearing with the barrister Jennifer Robinson and Fidel Narváez, a former consul of Ecuador in London. It remained unclear whether Assange was planning to leave the embassy of his own accord at any point soon. His legal team said they would still need assurances from the UK government that Assange would not face onward extradition to the US. WikiLeaks said the surveillance had constituted a total invasion of privacy, which had included recordings of Assange’s meetings with his lawyers and doctor.

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WikiLeaks:
Ecuador caught in espionage operation against its refugee Julian Assange which:
1. Spied on his legal, medical visits
2. Stole legal notes during the middle of a court hearing against them
3. Secretly cooperated with US
4. Tried to extort him for 3M Euro

Spain Police Probe Extortion Scheme Involving Surveillance on Assange (Lauria)

A Spanish judge is investigating an alleged extortion scheme in which suspects in Madrid offered video and audio surveillance to the editor of WikiLeaks in exchange for €3 million, WikiLeaks said on Wednesday. The surveillance was taken over the past year inside the Ecuador embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has legally been granted political asylum since 2012, said Kristinn Hrafnsson, the WikiLeaks editor, at a press conference in the British capital. Included in the “trove” of material was a copy of a legal document regarding Assange’s defense strategy that was briefly left behind in a conference room in the embassy, Hrafnsson said. “It is a grave and serious concern when legal meetings are being spied upon and legal documents are stolen,” he said. “That is something that not even prisoners have to endure.”

Assange was also filmed being examined by his doctor in the embassy, Hrafnsson said. “Nobody expected that this was recorded and stored and found its way to some dubious individuals in Spain,” he said. Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, called it a breach of attorney-client privilege. “The documents you have seen [presented at the press conference] demonstrates just how much surveillance he has been under and it is a breach of confidence for us, his lawyers, and his doctors to provide medical care in the embassy,” Robinson said. “This is a severe breach of attorney-client privilege and fundamentally undermines our ability to defend and provide defense to Julian Assange.”

Hrafnsson communicated with the alleged extortioners and was given samples of what they possessed, the WikiLeaks editor said. He then traveled to Spain and secretly videotaped a meeting with “four individuals” in which Hrafnsson learned the extent of the material that they possessed. They told them him that €3 million was “a good deal” as they had had offers of €9 million for the material. Hrafnsson then went to the Spanish police who opened an investigation. He said he knew the identity of one of the four who had a prior conviction on similar charges and was seen as the “ringleader.”

Aitor Martinez, the Assange lawyer who said he’d briefly left the legal document in the embassy conference room that was copied, then took part in a sting operation with the police. He wore a wire as he met with the alleged extortioners in Madrid, Hrafnsson said. A full investigation by a special extortion team was then opened and the case is now in the hands of an investigative judge, he said. “Extortion is a serious matter,” Hrafnsson said, “but of greater concern to me is that this is material gathered by spying by the government of Lenin Moreno and officials who work on his behalf against an individual who was granted diplomatic protection by the Ecuadorian government.”

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There are clever people at the IMF, they’re just mostly silenced.

Short-Term Growth Policies Risk New Financial Crisis – IMF (G.)

Central banks are running the risk of a severe financial crisis through policies aimed at boosting short-term economic growth, the International Monetary Fund has warned. In its half-yearly global financial stability report, the IMF said the removal of the threat of higher interest rates had prompted a rapid recovery in financial markets after last autumn’s turbulence but would lead to a fresh buildup in already high levels of debt. The report expressed concern about a sharp increase in lower quality corporate bonds, the vulnerability of European banks to falling government bond prices, debt levels in China, flows of hot money in and out of developing countries, and the risk of house price crashes.

The report said the tightening in financial conditions during the final three months of 2018 – when markets were unnerved by the possibility of the US Federal Reserve tightening policy throughout 2019 – had been too short-lived to have a material impact on the buildup of vulnerabilities. Tobias Adrian and Fabio Natalucci, two IMF officials, said in a blogpost released alongside the report that policymakers faced a dilemma as they sought to counter a slowdown in the global economy that has seen the IMF cut its growth forecast to 3.3% this year.

“In the United States, the ratio of corporate debt to GDP is at record-high levels. In several European countries, banks are overloaded with government bonds. In China, bank profitability is declining, and capital levels remain low at small and medium-size lenders,” Adrian and Natalucci said. “By taking a patient approach to monetary policy, central banks can accommodate growing downside risks to the economy. But if financial conditions remain easy for too long, vulnerabilities will continue to build, and the odds of a sharp drop in economic growth at some later point will be higher.”

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“The average frequency per meeting minutes of “strong,” “strongly,” and “stronger” between January 2013 and December 2017..”

Fed Hawk-o-Meter Jumps 18% (WS)

My fancy-schmancy Fed Hawk-o-Meter jumped 18% from 22 to 26, after having been on a downtrend for four Fed meetings in a row. Something’s up. The Fed Hawk-o-Meter checks the minutes of the FOMC meetings for signs that the Fed sees the economy as strong and that rates should rise; or that the economy is OK but not strong enough to raise rates further; or that the economy is spiraling down to where rates need to be cut. It quantifies and visualizes what the Fed wishes to communicate to the markets by counting how often “strong,” “strongly,” and “stronger” appear in the minutes to describe the economy. In the minutes of the March 19-20 meeting, released this afternoon, those words appear 26 times, up 18% from 22 times in the prior minutes:

The average frequency per meeting minutes of “strong,” “strongly,” and “stronger” between January 2013 and December 2017 was 8.7 times. The 26 mentions in the March-meeting minutes were 226% the pre-redline average. The 18% jump in the March minutes from the January minutes is particularly striking because the Fed had spent the prior four meetings backing off ever so gingerly its bullish assessment of the economy. But in March, the direction changed. Yet the reading still hasn’t jumped back to the peak levels of last August, when the Fed, with the economy running red hot, was telling the markets that it would raise rates four times in the year.
The current reading of 26 is just above the average over the past 11 meetings minutes of 25.2, starting with the December 2017 meeting, when the Hawk-o-Meter started redlining.

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Stop killing weeds. Because you’re killing life itself.

The Family That Took On Monsanto (G.)

Edwin Hardeman and his wife, Mary, never expected that they would become de facto leaders of the federal court fight against the world’s most widely used weedkiller. They just wanted Monsanto to acknowledge the dangers – and potentially save other families from the horror they endured. “This is something that was egregious to me. It was my personal battle and I wanted to take it full circle,” said Edwin, whose cancer is now in remission. “It’s been a long journey.” Mary bristled when she thought about Monsanto’s continued defense of its chemical: “They should have been with us when we were in the chemo ward … not knowing what to do to relieve the pain.“ I get angry,” she added. “Very angry.”


Monsanto first put Roundup on the market in 1974, presenting the herbicide, which uses a chemical called glyphosate, as a breakthrough that was effective at killing weeds and safe. The product has earned the corporation billions in revenue a year, and glyphosate is now ubiquitous in the environment – with traces in water, food and farmers’ urine. But research has repeatedly challenged Monsanto’s assertions that Roundup is safe, culminating in a key 2015 ruling by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (Iarc), which said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The Iarc classification opened the floodgates to litigation alleging that Roundup exposure caused their NHL, a cancer that affects the immune system.

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Let’s call it Progress, shall we?

Chinese Scientists Put Human Brain Genes In Monkeys (TR)

Human intelligence is one of evolution’s most consequential inventions. It is the result of a sprint that started millions of years ago, leading to ever bigger brains and new abilities. Eventually, humans stood upright, took up the plow, and created civilization, while our primate cousins stayed in the trees. Now scientists in southern China report that they’ve tried to narrow the evolutionary gap, creating several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence. “This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model,” says Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort.


According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop—as those of human children do. There wasn’t a difference in brain size. The experiments, described on March 27 in a Beijing journal, National Science Review, and first reported by Chinese media, remain far from pinpointing the secrets of the human mind or leading to an uprising of brainy primates. Instead, several Western scientists, including one who collaborated on the effort, called the experiments reckless and said they questioned the ethics of genetically modifying primates, an area where China has seized a technological edge. “The use of transgenic monkeys to study human genes linked to brain evolution is a very risky road to take,” says James Sikela, a geneticist who carries out comparative studies among primates at the University of Colorado.

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The object in that photo no longer exists. What you see is what it looked like 55 million years ago.

The Gates Of Hell At The End Of Space And Time (Nature)

Astronomers have finally glimpsed the blackness of a black hole. By stringing together a global network of radio telescopes, they have for the first time produced a picture of an event horizon — a black hole’s perilous edge — against a backdrop of swirling light. “We have seen the gates of hell at the end of space and time,” said astrophysicist Heino Falcke of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, at a press conference in Brussels. “What you’re looking at is a ring of fire created by the deformation of space-time. Light goes around, and looks like a circle.” The images — of a glowing, ring-like structure — show the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy M87, which is around 16 megaparsecs (55 million light years) away and 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun.

They reveal, in greater detail than ever before, the event horizon — the surface beyond which gravity is so strong that nothing that crosses it, even light, can ever climb back out. The highly anticipated results, comparable to recognizing a doughnut on the Moon’s surface, were unveiled today by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration in six simultaneous press conferences on four continents. The findings were also published in a suite of papers in Astrophysical Journal Letters on 10 April. [..] Nearly a century ago, physicists first deduced that black holes should exist from Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, but most of the evidence so far has been indirect. The EHT has now made a new, spectacular confirmation of those predictions.

The team observed two supermassive black holes — M87’s and Sagittarius A*, the void at the Milky Way’s centre — over five nights in April 2017. They mustered enough resolution to capture the distant objects by linking up eight radio observatories across the globe — from Hawaii to the South Pole — and each collected more data than the Large Hadron Collider does in a year. It took two years of work to piece the pictures together.

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Jul 252018
 
 July 25, 2018  Posted by at 8:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Ivan Aivazovsky Lake Maggiore 1892

 

Trump Downbeat Ahead Of Trade Talks With EU (R.)
Trump’s $12 Billion Aid For Farmers Risks Unintended Consequences (CNBC)
ECB To Hold Steady Amid Heightened Risks Of A Trade War (CNBC)
Alphabet May Become The Berkshire Hathaway Of The Internet Age (CNBC)
Brexit: Raab ‘Sidelined’ As May Takes Control Of EU Negotiations (G.)
“Cliff Edge” Brexit Threatens $34 Trillion of Derivative Contracts (DQ)
UK Ministers Set To Be Given New Powers To Block Foreign Takeovers (G.)
Offshore Owners Of British Property To Be Forced To Reveal Names (G.)
The Greedy Little Nation That Sold Its Soul For House Prices (MB)
When America Was Ruled by a King (Davis)
Moon-Strzok No More, Lisa Page Spills the Beans (McGovern)
Novichok Victim Found Substance Disguised As Perfume In Sealed Box (G.)
US Intelligence Community as a Collapse Driver (Dmitry Orlov)
Holiday Hunger Should Be The Shame Of This Government And It Isn’t (G.)

 

 

The EU doesn’t have a lot of room to move. It’s made of tariffs, barriers and subsidies.

Trump Downbeat Ahead Of Trade Talks With EU (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump took a pessimistic view of talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker set for Wednesday aimed at averting a trade war. In a tweet on Tuesday night, Trump said both the United States and the European Union should drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies. “That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade!” Trump said. “Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!” he said. Trump has accused the EU of unfair trade practices and has threatened to raise tariffs on cars imported from the bloc.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who will accompany Juncker, said last week that the EU was preparing a list of U.S. products to hit if the United States imposed the tariffs. Juncker will not arrive in Washington with a specific trade offer, the commission said on Monday. “I do not wish to enter into a discussion about mandates, offers because there are no offers,” Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference in Brussels. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said he expected Juncker to come with a “significant” trade offer.

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EU agriculture is built on enormous subsidies. No way they can let much of that go. Imagine the protests in France. Perhaps countries, but certainly continents should focud on producing their own food, not export it. But then the tiny Netherlands is the 2nd biggest tomato exporter in the world. That’s quite an applecart to upset.

Trump’s $12 Billion Aid For Farmers Risks Unintended Consequences (CNBC)

According to the statement from the USDA, the administration “will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.” The plan authorizes the agency to spend “up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.” “Our farmers, our producers, they don’t want bailouts,” Simon Wilson, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Tuesday. “They don’t want this help in the short term. They want long-term stability.”

Wilson added, “A lot of people have been hurt, so that’s a lot of money that’s going to have to be shared.” Payments under the largest part of the federal government’s relief plan would be targeted to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. Some experts have warned in the past that government aid or new subsidies could distort or disrupt markets and ultimately have negative consequences for the agriculture industry. That also includes the possibility it could lead to more retaliation on other agricultural exports.

In any event, Glauber said the program is likely to be taken as “producer support” and appears to be targeted toward a drop in the market price of certain commodities, meaning it could get counted against the U.S. commitments from the WTO. “We’ve run pretty low levels of [producer] support in recent years, but it will certainly raise a lot of eyebrows and will make people look at those calculations very, very carefully,” said Glauber. “It also will look at the way we formulate those programs very, very carefully.”

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With Brexit and Trump in its face, the ECB is pretty much stuck.

ECB To Hold Steady Amid Heightened Risks Of A Trade War (CNBC)

After a surprisingly dovish meeting in June, the European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to strike a more balanced tone this week, given heightened uncertainties for the global economy. The focus will be on the ECB‘s assessments of these risks at its meeting Thursday, with investors concerned of the acute risk of a trade war escalation. “We expect Mario Draghi to aim for a ‘Goldilocks’ tone at the July 26 press conference — not too hawkish, not too dovish,” said Mark Wall, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank, in a research note. “The ECB only recently made a commitment to unchanged rates for the next year to lean against trade and volatility risks and avoid an unwarranted tightening of financial conditions.”

The ECB has committed itself to stop buying new bonds at the end of this year, but the onus clearly now is on the reinvestment of these purchases (as part of its crisis-era stimulus program) and its refined rate guidance. The euro zone’s central bank pledged to keep its key interest rate at minus 0.4 percent “at least through the summer of 2019” during its last meeting. The risks now are that the ECB is unwinding its monetary stimulus right at a time when the economy could head south. For now, its seems the ECB is convinced the region’s economy will remain resilient.

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Building empires.

Alphabet May Become The Berkshire Hathaway Of The Internet Age (CNBC)

Alphabet CEO Larry Page has long admired Warren Buffett’s business acumen in creating the industrial and investment conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. And now analysts and investors are noticing Alphabet’s investments in emerging disparate businesses are starting to bear fruit — including YouTube, autonomous cars and cloud computing — drawing comparison to Berkshire Hathaway’s success. The internet giant reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings Monday, driving Alphabet shares to a new all-time high the following day. It generated adjusted earnings per share of $11.75 versus the Wall Street consensus of $9.59 for the quarter. Alphabet also posted a $1.06 billion gain in its equity investments for the time period.

“Our investments are driving great experiences for users, strong results for advertisers, and new business opportunities for Google and Alphabet,” said Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet and Google in the earnings press release Monday. As a result one well-known investor believes Alphabet has a shot of being the Berkshire Hathaway of tomorrow. “What I’m really talking about is the diversified nature of what [Alphabet is] building away from the ad platform, in much the same way as Berkshire reinvested the float from insurance premiums into other investments. I guess I am also talking in terms of longevity, not just size,” Josh Brown said in an email Tuesday. “This quarter witnessed a host of Google’s other investments throwing off profits. Larry and Sergey were very open about their intention to create something Berkshire-like when they first announced the new structure and Alphabet.”

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She can’t escape a second vote anymore. If you have 2.5 years, and you waste the first two, that’s what happens. It’s just the illusion of control.

Brexit: Raab ‘Sidelined’ As May Takes Control Of EU Negotiations (G.)

Theresa May has taken back control of crucial negotiations with Brussels from her new Brexit secretary just hours after the government published its white paper on withdrawing from the EU. The prime minister announced she would now lead the crunch talks with the EU while Dominic Raab, who was appointed two weeks ago, would be left in charge of domestic preparations, no-deal planning and legislation. The move was swiftly characterised as a “sidelining” of the Brexit secretary by No 10’s Europe unit, led by May’s chief Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins, with the prime minister also taking officials from his department. In a written statement on the last sitting day of the Commons before the summer recess, May said: “I will lead the negotiations with the European Union, with the secretary of state for Exiting the European Union deputising on my behalf.

“Both of us will be supported by the Cabinet Office Europe Unit and with this in mind the Europe Unit will have overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations, drawing upon support from DExEU and other departments as required.” Robbins, appearing alongside Raab at the Commons’ Brexit committee, said: “The overall strategy for the conduct of these negotiations, she regards very much as her personal responsibility, now with the secretary of state very close at hand.” Raab described the changes as a “shifting of the Whitehall deckchairs” and said there would now be “one team, one chain of command” but pointed out that there would be “full assertion of ministerial accountability”.

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I’d swear it’s more. It’s dominoes.

“Cliff Edge” Brexit Threatens $34 Trillion of Derivative Contracts (DQ)

A messy, no-deal Brexit could throw 48 million insurance contracts and £26 trillion ($34 trillion) of derivatives deals into confusion. Nausicaa Delfas, head of international strategy at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), told delegates at a CityUK and Bloomberg event that there were “cliff-edge” risks due to uncertainty over the legality of financial contracts extending beyond the planned Brexit date, in March. The UK government has already passed regulations that would allow European banks and insurers to maintain their UK operations under current rules after Brexit. So far, the EU has refused to reciprocate, even on a temporary basis.

The EU has also ruled out extending passporting rights to UK financial institutions after Brexit. These rights allow UK-based institutions to sell financial products from the City to investors in the 27 other EU member states. Brussels has also turned down the UK government’s latest proposal for a system of “advanced equivalence” between British and EU financial services. If the EU continues to reject a temporary permissions regime and no cooperative Brexit deal is signed by the March 29 deadline, big doubts could be raised about the viability of certain derivatives contracts. And that could seriously disrupt an already highly volatile, deeply opaque, largely unregulated $600-trillion dollar industry.

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Cue Trump.

UK Ministers Set To Be Given New Powers To Block Foreign Takeovers (G.)

Ministers will have the power to block foreign takeovers across all sectors of the British economy on national security grounds under new government proposals designed to protect some of the UK’s most important and technically advanced businesses. The business secretary, Greg Clark, wants to widen the scope of the current system, which is limited to large transactions and certain industries such as defence, to cover all UK firms including small businesses as he seeks to keep vital firms and technologies out of foreign ownership. The proposals, which will be subject to a 12-week consultation, will allow ministers to halt or unwind takeovers and even the smallest asset sales that could be deemed to jeopardise Britain’s national security.

Potential targets under the new rules are likely to be Chinese and Russian takeovers of defence-related industries. Technology firms, including cybersecurity businesses that already have links with the Ministry of Defence, or are viewed as crucial to the development of the UK’s financial and commercial defence systems, are also expected to top the list of ministers’ national security concerns. Clark allowed the £74m takeover of the handset maker Sepura by the Hytera Corporation of China last year, making it only the second review of a transaction on national security grounds in 18 months, after the MoD raised concerns this month over the sale of Northern Aerospace to a Chinese buyer. The Competition and Markets Authority later cleared the Northern Aerospace transaction, by which time it had lapsed.

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Why would you want faceless foreigners owning your real estate?

Offshore Owners Of British Property To Be Forced To Reveal Names (G.)

Offshore owners of British property will be forced to reveal their true identities or face jail sentences and unlimited fines under draft laws that aim to end the UK’s reputation as a high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering. The legislation follows years of scandals involving the acquisition of high-value UK property by offshore companies, and concerns that a lack of regulation was allowing corrupt money into the housing market. The National Crime Agency said three years ago that overseas criminal gangs were using British property transactions to launder billions of pounds in corrupt funds. Parliament’s foreign affairs committee went further earlier this year, saying that corrupt Russian funds laundered through the UK, including via property, posed a threat to national security.

Under the new legislation, overseas companies that own UK properties will be required to identify their true owners on a publicly available register. The government said the register was part of a wider crackdown on money laundering in the property sector, and would make it easier for law enforcers to seize criminal assets. The anonymous ownership of property via offshore companies is perfectly legal, but it has also been a subject of concern for housing campaigners concerned about an influx of foreign money forcing up house prices.

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If it’s any consolation: you’re not alone.

The Greedy Little Nation That Sold Its Soul For House Prices (MB)

There was a time when Australia’s housing bubble was not much more than a curiosity. Contained mostly to Sydney it seemed it would pass with a little pop and be forgotten. Then there was a time when the bubble went national. And suddenly the little pop was going to be a big pop so monetary and fiscal policy began to distort in support of it. Next there was a time when moral hazard became so great that the bubble grew to engulf all policy and media, marginalising an entire generation from home ownership. Politicians routinely lied to cover the collapse in evidence based policy-making.

Finally, we come to today. When notions of managing the macro-economic levers of an economy now boil down to just one thing: • low interest rates to prevent the housing bubble bursting; • fiscal repair to prevent the bubble bursting, and • mass immigration to prevent the bubble bursting even though it is crushing living standards and gutting wages. [..] It’s all so bizarre. All we need to do is cut immigration and let house prices fall. There’ll be a period of adjustment while wages and the currency correct but it won’t be too bad. We’ll still be on the doorstep of Asia. The students and tourists will still come, in greater numbers than ever as we get cheaper, but they’ll also go home not pressuring living standards.

Broader tradables (40% of the economy) will boom. Commodity income will surge, lifting the Budget. Our maginalised youth will have much greater opportunities to advance their global opportunities as Dutch Disease ends. Incomes will ultimately be much more sustainable. Then we can all move on with a much healthier economy, polity, society and strategic outlook. The alternative is to sell our freedom to China, our standards of living to a few rich developers, our politics to carpet baggers and our society to fractious class wars. Just for higher house prices. If a more ignominious fate awaited any nation in history then I’m not aware of it.

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Did the US go down with Elvis? And in the same way?

When America Was Ruled by a King (Davis)

America emerged out of darkness and light – a proto-nation clouded by the genocide of native Americans and the enslavement of transshipped Africans but brilliantly shot through with shafts of luminescence – the liberal ideals of European philosophers such as Locke and Hume.The alternate red and white stripes of its flag have thus come to echo a nation born in the blood of its innocent victims yet ennobled, in parallel, by the spirit of the Enlightenment. Yet even after its ideals were enshrined in The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the country continued to countenance slavery, the trading of domestic, purpose-bred Africans and the brutal killing of native peoples and their vibrant communities.

Today, the historic and contemporary horrors of the American nation are ground together with its liberal principles (in some mythic bedrock mortar) to produce a culture that proclaims its goodness to its people and to the world, yet is visibly marbled with the evils of state violence against refugees and minorities, the economic oppression of a population paradoxically made comatose through over-consumption and the global havoc wreaked by its Imperial killing machine. It is this grand chiaroscuro that Eugene Jarecki explores in The King, 2018, his new documentary on the life, death and after-life of Elvis Presley, now in select release following its acclaimed debuts at the film festivals in Sundance and Cannes.

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The FBI as a Shakespearean comedy.

Moon-Strzok No More, Lisa Page Spills the Beans (McGovern)

Former FBI attorney Lisa Page has reportedly told a joint committee of the House of Representatives that when FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok texted her on May 19, 2017 saying there was “no big there there,” he meant there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It was clearly a bad-luck day for Strzok, when on Friday the 13th this month Page gave her explanation of the text to the House Judiciary and Oversight/Government Reform Committees and in effect threw her lover, Strzok, under the bus. Strzok’s apparent admission to Page about there being “no big there there” was reported on Friday by John Solomon in the Opinion section of The Hill based on multiple sources who he said were present during Page’s closed door interview.

Strzok’s text did not come out of the blue. For the previous ten months he and his FBI subordinates had been trying every-which-way to ferret out some “there” — preferably a big “there” — but had failed miserably. If Solomon’s sources are accurate, it is appearing more and more likely that there was nothing left for them to do but to make it up out of whole cloth, with the baton then passed to special counsel Robert Mueller. The “no there there” text came just two days after former FBI Director James Comey succeeded in getting his friend Mueller appointed to investigate the alleged collusion that Strzok was all but certain wasn’t there.

Robert Parry, the late founder and editor of Consortium News whom Solomon described to me last year as his model for journalistic courage and professionalism, was already able to discern as early as March 2017 the outlines of what is now Deep State-gate, and, typically, was the first to dare report on its implications. Parry’s article, written two and a half months before Strzok texted the self-incriminating comment to Page on there being “no big there there,” is a case study in professional journalism. His very first sentence entirely anticipated Strzok’s text: “The hysteria over ‘Russia-gate’ continues to grow … but at its core there may be no there there.”

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And entire article from the Guardian without blaming Russia. Wow. Story still makes little sense. Why does this guy get to talk, when the Skripals are still nowhere to be found?

Novichok Victim Found Substance Disguised As Perfume In Sealed Box (G.)

The British man poisoned with the nerve agent novichok has claimed the substance that killed his girlfriend and left him critically ill came in a bottle disguised as a legitimate perfume in a sealed box. Charlie Rowley claimed his partner, mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, fell ill within 15 minutes of spraying the bottle, which he said he had found, on to her wrists at his home in Amesbury, Wiltshire. In his first interview since he was discharged from hospital, Rowley told ITV News: “I do have a memory of her spraying it on her wrists and rubbing them together. “I guess that’s how she applied it and became ill.

I guess how I got in contact with it is when I put the spray part to the bottle … I ended up tipping some on my hands but I washed it off under the tap. “It was an oily substance and I smelled it and it didn’t smell of perfume. It felt oily. I washed it off and I didn’t think anything of it. It all happened so quick. “Within 15 minutes, Dawn said she had a headache. She asked me if I had any headache tablets. In that time she said she felt peculiar and needed to lie down in the bath. I went into the bathroom and found her in the bath, fully clothed, in a very ill state.”

Counter-terrorism detectives are working on the theory that the poisoning of Rowley and Sturgess at the end of last month is directly linked to the poisoning of the Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury in March. Experts from the top secret research facility at Porton Down in Wiltshire are trying to establish if the novichok was from the same batch. But if Rowley is correct about the perfume bottle being boxed and sealed, it may undermine the line of inquiry that the novichok that he and Sturgess came into contact with had been discarded by the attackers of the Skripals. It also opens up the possibility that there may yet be more novichok that has not been found in Wiltshire.

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“Intelligence”. Always good to see Dmitry.

US Intelligence Community as a Collapse Driver (Dmitry Orlov)

In today’s United States, the term “espionage” doesn’t get too much use outside of some specific contexts. There is still sporadic talk of industrial espionage, but with regard to Americans’ own efforts to understand the world beyond their borders, they prefer the term “intelligence.” This may be an intelligent choice, or not, depending on how you look at things. First of all, US “intelligence” is only vaguely related to the game of espionage as it has been traditionally played, and as it is still being played by countries such as Russia and China. Espionage involves collecting and validating strategically vital information and conveying it to just the pertinent decision-makers on your side while keeping the fact that you are collecting and validating it hidden from everyone else.

In eras past, a spy, if discovered, would try to bite down on a cyanide capsule; these days torture is considered ungentlemanly, and spies that get caught patiently wait to be exchanged in a spy swap. An unwritten, commonsense rule about spy swaps is that they are done quietly and that those released are never interfered with again because doing so would complicate negotiating future spy swaps. In recent years, the US intelligence agencies have decided that torturing prisoners is a good idea, but they have mostly been torturing innocent bystanders, not professional spies, sometimes forcing them to invent things, such as “Al Qaeda.” There was no such thing before US intelligence popularized it as a brand among Islamic terrorists.

Most recently, British “special services,” which are a sort of Mini-Me to the to the Dr. Evil that is the US intelligence apparatus, saw it fit to interfere with one of their own spies, Sergei Skripal, a double agent whom they sprung from a Russian jail in a spy swap. They poisoned him using an exotic chemical and then tried to pin the blame on Russia based on no evidence. There are unlikely to be any more British spy swaps with Russia, and British spies working in Russia should probably be issued good old-fashioned cyanide capsules (since that supposedly super-powerful Novichok stuff the British keep at their “secret” lab in Porton Down doesn’t work right and is only fatal 20% of the time).

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A country in downfall.

Holiday Hunger Should Be The Shame Of This Government And It Isn’t (G.)

As the summer holidays begin, many families look forward to breaks away from home, in the UK and abroad. Yet for thousands of families, the six-week school break is characterised not by play schemes and day trips in the sun, but acute financial stress, hunger and malnourishment, due to the absence of free school meals for children on low incomes that costs a family £30-£40 a week. With three million children at risk of hunger during the school holidays, the Trussell Trust has warned that food bank use spikes each summer. And last year, 593 organisations running holiday clubs across the UK provided more than 190,000 meals to over 22,000 school-aged children.

Feeding Britain, the charity set up by two Labour MPs, Emma Lewell-Buck and Frank Field, expects to provide meals for 27,000 children in 79 clubs across England this summer. In pilots in 2017, it provided a total of 43,314 meals in holiday fun clubs across eight areas, including Birkenhead, South Shields and Cornwall, in the summer holidays and October half term. Feeding Britain works with existing local charities, community groups, councils and others in the community providing funding and toolkits on how to run and roll out pilots, and creates networks for practical support. The clubs run in community centres, church halls, schools, children’s centres, libraries and parks, and they host games and activities for children, alongside breakfast, lunches, and lessons about food and nutrition for the young attendees.

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