I was going to make this the shortest essay I’ve ever written. “Trump Will Win Because of Energy. Period.” But wouldn’t you know, things start popping up on exactly the topic it was going to be about… The difference in energy between Donald Trump and Joe Biden should be obvious to everyone, including Biden supporters, though they will try to ignore it, as well as the role energy plays in a campaign, as it does in life in general -not just human life either-.
People recognize energy, they feel it. it’s a primal thing, directly linked to survival. It doesn’t get recognized at a rational level, but somewhere much deeper. And it’s not even so much that Trump’s energy levels are above average, for a 74-year old (though they appear to be), but that Biden’s are so far below average – or perhaps exactly what you would expect for a 77-year old, which is why so few of them are running for president of the United States, a job that I think we would all agree requires a lot of energy.
When you take out of the equation which person you like or not, when you disregard their policy proposals, and you only look at energy levels, the difference is vast. And people will catch on to this. The first debate is in 9 days, September 29, and how do you prepare Biden for that? Trump last night suggested his handlers do it by applying ‘big, fat shots in the ass’, but even that wouldn’t do it.
Trump doesn’t need to hammer this point home too hard, it will be obvious no matter what. It may even be better for him to show compassion for Biden. One of the main instructions from his team will undoubtedly be to NOT go after Joe Biden so hard it will make him stutter. Because that would make Trump look like a bully, and give Biden points on compassion from the audience.
But I doubt Trump will be able to help himself. And perhaps, at least from his point of view, he should just be and remain who he is. Because that worked four years ago. Will these be the best-watched debates in history? Quite possibly. Meanwhile, as Trump yesterday worked all day -if we are to believe the reports- and then campaigned all night in Fayetteville NC, Biden was MIA.
That by now is a pattern. As is the mysterious lack of door-to-door campaigning by the Biden team. It may not be impossible to win that way, but it certainly would be a first. And it makes the team look like they have a similar energy level to Biden himself (In another mystery, we see people talk about finding it hard to get yard signs for the Biden campaign).
That leaves you with the impression that the Biden team really has just one message: Orange Man Bad. Not: vote *for* me, but vote *against* the other guy. the racist/rapist who killed 200,000 Americans and offends “our” troops”. That in turn appears to signal that what energy there is, is negative energy. Doesn’t look like a winning formula.
But if the media, including social media, keep on pumping out that same message 24/7, who knows how many people will buy into it? After all, Twitter and Facebook et al are even more important influencers today than they were in 2016. Then again, the Trump people seemed to be much stronger on social media back then, and why would they have squandered that advantage? But then again, again, they weren’t constantly censored and banned then.
Donald Trump has mercilessly taunted Joe Biden, telling supporters that his Democratic nemesis must be taking performance-enhancing substances and should undergo a drug test. Trump reiterated previous casual accusations that Biden is too senile to be a good fit for the US president’s office while talking to a crowd of supporters in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Using his nickname for his Democratic opponent, Trump said that “Sleepy Joe” is appearing conspicuously efficient during debates and public events.
“Don’t underestimate [him], he’s been doing this for 47 years. And I got a debate coming up with this guy,” Trump said as he grinned, before suggesting that performance-enhancing substances were behind Biden’s efficiency. “You never know, they gave him a big, fat shot in the ass and he comes out,” Trump claimed as his audience laughed. “And for two hours he’s better than ever before. The problem is, what happens after that,” the Republican president added. Adding insult to the injury, Trump said offering a drug test to Biden is an option.
Remarkably, this is not the first time the 74-year-old president has accused his 77-year-old rival of being on drugs. Over a week ago, he fanned the claim while speaking to Fox. “I think there’s probably, possibly, drugs involved,” Trump told host Jeanine Pirro. “I don’t know how you can go from being so bad where you can’t even get out a sentence…” he speculated without finishing the sentence.
Trump and Biden are expected to face each other during debates in Cleveland on September 29, in Miami on October 15, and in Nashville on October 22. Their vice-presidential nominees Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will have a one-on-one in Salt Lake City on October 7.
In that same vein, there was also this from Irishman Graham Dockery on August 27:
Trump is 74 years old and Biden 77. If elected, Biden would be the oldest president in history, and would assume office at the same age Ronald Reagan left the White House – himself exhibiting the telltale signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If Trump wins, he’ll beat Reagan’s record by one year. Ten percent of white Americans over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s and related dementias. After 65, the risk of dementia doubles every five years. Even if Biden was speaking coherently, he would have a one-third chance of developing dementia by the end of his first term. Likewise, while Trump may appear sharp, he’s twice as likely to be losing his marbles now than he was in 2016.
Modern drugs can mask the symptoms of cognitive decline fairly well. Donepezil, Galantamine, Memantine and Rivastigmine are all used to boost memory, attention and the ability to perform simple tasks – like using a phone. Aside from these prescription medications, a candidate looking for a quick pre-debate fix could swallow some Adderall, a legal amphetamine that boosts cognition, short term memory and attention span, not to mention whatever experimental cocktails these two might have access to.
I’m not suggesting that either candidate is a chattering speed-freak. Trump’s opponents have beaten that drum before, accusing the president of railing Adderall every time he sniffs in a speech. Biden, on the other hand, looks like a man who could use an infusion from Doctor Feelgood. But it would be nice to know for sure. Most Americans would likely balk at the idea of sending a medicated husk to negotiate with allies and outwit adversaries. Let the two men competing for this position lay their cards on the table, and let the American public use this information to inform their decision.
After all, this is the leader of the free world we’re talking about, the man who, with a flick of his finger, could doom the planet to nuclear holocaust. It’s probably best if this leader remembers where he left the tapioca pudding.
Note that by now Trump’s advantage on energy says little about how the 2020 election will eventually be decided. It’s no longer possible for the US to NOT to sink into a deep quagmire because of mail-in ballots and the many days it may take to count them, the hundreds of lawyers that will be involved in various stages of that process -including many lawsuits-, and the Supreme Court, which will be a major election issue before November 3, and a possible/probable deciding factor sometime after that date.
Add to this that having the most votes, or even the highest numbers in the Electoral College system, no longer guarantees you a victory -because: lawyers and because: states may try to tamper with that system- and you end up with the most godawful mess ever. You would think everyone in Washington has an interest in not letting the city devolve into a circus tent where the clowns end up fighting the lions and tigers, but apparently they all have “more important” things to consider.
And all the time I’m thinking, guys, take care of your country, at least someone take care of it, you’re going to have to live in it together next year and the year after that etc.
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Holland is the first place I’ve seen that anounces fast testing. Second was France?!. In November… They have their experts look at 5 different options. Better late than never, but I do wonder if they do it only because their PCR testing is so screwed up. And still I doubt they will allow people to fast-test themselves at home. Which they should.
Assange Clinton ISIS
Julian Assange: “Clinton and ISIS are funded by the same money.”
In a sane world, Hillary Clinton would be the one locked up for war crimes, and Julian Assange free and celebrated as a hero. pic.twitter.com/Usya4ZKKxZ
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opens a complex partisan chessboard, with competing political calculations affecting the timeline of decision points by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). A key decision is whether Trump and McConnell should push to get a nominee approved by the Senate prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election, a move that could serve as a polarizing catalyst to motivate both Democratic and Republican party bases. Polls show Trump has long maintained a strong edge over rival candidate Joe Biden in party enthusiasm, with thousands of Trump supporters lining up to attend lively rallies at airports, while Biden gatherings are far smaller and more subdued.
Another compelling possibility is whether balloting delays and disputes due to COVID-19 could result in an unclear presidential victor, kicking the outcome to the Supreme Court, just as in the nail-biter 2000 high court ruling in favor of Republican George W. Bush. “You had to know 2020 was going to end with an election that could be decided by a Supreme Court capable of a split 4-4 decision,” Catholic University professor C.C. Pecknold said on Twitter Friday night. The possibility of the Supreme Court stepping in to decide the election creates an added sense of urgency for Trump and McConnell to seat the nominee as quickly as possible. “She was an amazing woman,” President Trump said Friday night after learning about Ginsburg’s death just moments after stepping off the stage at a campaign event in Minnesota.
“Whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m saddened to hear that.” President Trump on Wednesday announced an updated list of Supreme Court nominees ahead of the 2020 election, adding nearly two dozen more possible justices to his list from 2016. Amy Coney Barrett, a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, is considered a leading candidate to replace Ginsburg. Axios political journalist Jonathan Swan noted that he reported in 2019 that during his deliberations over the Kennedy vacancy, Trump told confidants he was “saving her [Coney Barrett] for Ginsburg.”
Just dug up this clip of Obama in 2016:
"When there is a vacancy on the SCOTUS, the President is to nominate someone, the Senate is to consider that nomination… There's no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off-years. That's not in the Constitution text." pic.twitter.com/vrOi3DrkJN
The political battles over who will succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Supreme Court Justice have already begun with some demanding delays, some pushing urgency, others urging more radicalism, and all of this being super-amplified by every mainstream and social media feed, happy to use any old piece of fake news to make their point ever louder, and fearmonger the consequences of “the other side” getting to make their choice. First things first is the Hypocrisy – Obama/Biden Can’t Make Up Their Minds. Former president Obama has called for a delay in the decision until after the election (which presumably he believes Harris – and Biden – will win). All of which is very awkward since it’s 100% the opposite of what he himself said in 2016…
“”When there is a vacancy on the SCOTUS, the President is to nominate someone, the Senate is to consider that nomination… There’s no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off-years. That’s not in the Constitution text.” Obama in 2016: “I’m going to do my job. I’m going to nominate somebody… It’s not as if the Senate calendar is so full that we do not have time to get this done.” JoeBiden in 2016: “I would go forward with a confirmation process as chairman, even a few months before a presidential election, if the nominee were chosen with the advice, and not merely the consent, of the Senate, just as the Constitution requires.” So, Obama calls for a delay (in 2020); Biden says that would be unconstitutional (in 2016)! And President Trump agrees with Biden:
“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” [..] Second, there is the When – Rush Job… or Business As Usual? The mainstream media is already claiming that any nomination process would be a rush now… “The Senate would need to move faster than usual to confirm a nominee before the election 45 days from now. The average time from nomination to Senate vote – after vetting and hearings – is 69.6 days, or about 2.3 months, according to a 2018 report from the Congressional Research Service.”
However, there appears to be something wrong with their math as Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) detailed in a tweet-thread: “A total of 61 SCOTUS justices have been nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court since the turn of the last century (1900) 70% of these (43 Justices) were confirmed in *under 46 days* (the amount of time remaining until the Nov 3 Presidential election)”
President Trump indicated Saturday that he likely select a female nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Ginsburg. “I could see most likely it would be a woman,” he told reporters at the White House on Saturday. The president earlier in the day made clear his intention to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed to the high court to replace Ginsburg, arguing he and fellow Republicans “have this obligation, without delay!” Ginsburg died Friday from complications from cancer. She was 87. Her death immediately created a high-stakes partisan standoff about whether Trump should get to replace Ginsburg, with just 45 days before Election Day, or allow the winner of his presidential race with Democrat Joe Biden to nominate a replacement. Biden himself has pledged to nominate a black woman to the court during his term.
“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. Republicans now control the Senate, in which a nominee is confirmed. However, the GOP is in jeopardy of losing its Senate majority with several races considered a tossup. The GOP has 53 member in the Senate and Democrats have 47 including including two independents.
It’s the Supreme Court, not the Make-A-Wish Foundation. If Ginsburg wanted a left-wing Democrat to pick her replacement, she could have resigned while Obama was president and Democrats controlled the Senate. She chose not to. Tough luck. https://t.co/mbvmXCpa2l
Former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, branded a “Russian asset” by Hillary Clinton for her anti-war views, is again refusing to blindly follow her party’s talking points – this time over fears of election fraud. “Whether in the midst of a pandemic, as we are now, where mail-in voting is likely to drastically increase, or even in a normal election, no one should get in between a voter and the ballot box,” the Hawaii congresswoman said Friday on Twitter. Gabbard joined Thursday with Illinois Republican Congressman Rodney Davis to introduce a bill that would block federal funding to states that allow ballot harvesting – letting paid activists canvass neighborhoods to gather mail-ballots and turn them in on behalf of voters. There have been documented abuses with ballot harvesting, including a North Carolina case that led to an election being nullified and redone.
But Gabbard is running afoul of the Democratic Party’s position on election fraud. The Democrat-controlled House has blocked all efforts to ban ballot harvesting, while party leaders and their mainstream media allies have argued repeatedly that major voter fraud is a myth and that President Donald Trump’s attacks on the susceptibility of mail-in voting to foul play are unfounded. Gabbard directly contradicted that message in her tweet, saying ballot harvesting is “ripe for fraud and poses a serious threat to the integrity of our elections.” She added that abuse “is something we’ve actually seen happen in recent elections.” The stakes are high since a huge increase in absentee and mail-in voting is expected to occur this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gabbard has a history of offending Democrats with unauthorized positions, such as when she embarrassed a party favorite, Senator Kamala Harris, in a presidential primary debate last year, by reminding voters of her record as prosecutor. Last December, the congresswoman voted ‘present’ on both articles of impeachment against Trump. She was out of step again earlier this month, joining conservatives in blasting Netflix for streaming the controversial movie ‘Cuties’, which she called “child porn.” That indiscretion led to her being smeared as a QAnon conspiracy theorist by activist Melissa Ryan. And as in the case of Gabbard’s attack on Netflix, she’s again winning praise from Republicans, this time for her position on ballot harvesting. Conservative author Helena Morrissey called Gabbard “a talented and nuanced politician stopped in her tracks because she doesn’t follow the narrative.” Commentator Blaire White said Gabbard was “the only Dem candidate that mattered.”
You heard it here first: Joe Biden will call in “sick” to the presidential candidates’ debate on Tuesday, September 29, and within days the Democratic Party will be obliged to replace him. Enough said for now. Wait for it…. Onto the election issue du jour: putting out ideological fires set by political arsonists: namely, the “systemic racism” hustle cooked up by “progressive” anarcho-terrorists to provoke hatred and division in a nation sore beset by propaganda, psy-ops, and seditious subterfuge — not to mention Covid-19 and economic collapse, as if those were not enough. This week, President Trump released an executive order halting all federal agency in-service training programs purporting to address “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” “unconscious bias,” and other hobgoblins of Wokesterism, a scam that has become a multimillion-dollar consulting racket funded by taxpayers.
Russell Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent a memo to executive branch agency heads directing them to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any “propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.” When the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attempted to defy the order and go forward with training to “examine the mechanisms of “systemic racism, white supremacist ideology, and systems of structured inequality,” Mr. Vought had to remind the agency to cancel it. So it goes with “the Resistance.”
One consulting outfit, CAST (the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) has received $16-million from the Department of Education. At its August 2020 conference, attendees (including DOE staff) were told the United States has a “racial contract” that “says it’s okay for white people to kill blacks with immunity [sic]” (Did they mean impunity?). They also advocated abolishing prisons. The DOE press secretary says it’s investigating. God knows what kind of swamp creatures lie embedded in the lower mudbanks of that agency, but at the top, at least, the department is cleaning up its act. DOE Secretary Betsy DeVos took aggressive action days ago after Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber sent out an open letter to “the Princeton community” stating that “racism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton” and that “racist assumptions” are “embedded in structures of the University itself.”
Okay, it being the case that Princeton officially claims to be a “racist” institution, the DOE has opened an investigation into Title VI violations under US Civil Rights law so as to recover the $75-million in federal funding Princeton has received since Mr. Eisgruber became president of the institution in 2013. Seems fair, dontcha think? The DOE has required Princeton to produce electronic records of every conceivable type — memoranda, emails, calendars, text messages, telephone logs, you name it — in order to determine whether Princeton has made false representation of its compliance with civil rights law — that is, if it is actually racist as its leadership claims it to be.
The coronavirus pandemic has peaked earlier than expected in many African countries, confounding early predictions, experts have told MPs. Scientists do not yet know why, but one hypothesis is the possibility of people having pre-existing immunity to Covid-19, caused by exposure to other infections. Prof Francesco Checchi, a specialist in epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told MPs it was “broadly” true that coronavirus had not behaved in expected ways in African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and Somalia. “We are certainly observing a pattern that confounds us a little,” he told the UK’s international development committee’s inquiry into the impact of Covid on humanitarian crises. “In a few important case studies – Kenya, for example – what seems to be happening is the epidemic may be peaking earlier than our naive models predicted.”
He said a similar pattern has emerged in Yemen, which is in the middle of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. “Yemen is one of the few countries where to my knowledge there is almost no prevention of Covid transmission,” Checchi said. “The anecdotal reports we’re getting inside Yemen are pretty consistent that the epidemic has, quote unquote, passed. “There was a peak in May, June across Yemen, where hospitalisation facilities were being overwhelmed. That is no longer the case.” It was possible that the population had accrued some sort of “herd immunity” at least temporarily, he said. While that was “very good news”, Checchi said he was unable to say whether it had been less lethal or less severe on a per capita basis. In many developing countries, where testing is poor and deaths are not notified to the authorities, the rate of reported deaths is very low.
A study published on Tuesday from Imperial College London estimated that in Damascus, Syria, reported deaths from coronavirus were as low as 1.25% of the true figure. Checchi and his team are examining satellite images of graveyards in Aden, in the south of Yemen, and early results point to “considerable mortality with a peak in May in that city”. He said there could be up to a million cases in Yemen, based on one data modelling run. He and colleagues are now looking at explanations for the earlier than predicted peak in some low-income countries. “These range from the effect of age, to some sort of role for pre-existing immunity to pre-exposure to other infections, to other hypotheses. It isn’t a simple analysis.”
On Tuesday, a special envoy to the World Health Organization warned that the world was still at the “beginning” of the pandemic. Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, told MPs: “We know deaths are being underreported. We are starting to look at other sources of data, for instance media reports of funerals, to try to get a better handle on it.” The percentage of reported deaths varies from country to country, she said, and determining how the epidemic behaves was vital to answer questions about how countries can recover. “If infections have swept through and if there is a degree of immunity, then it would be possible for those economies to open up a little, but more safely, than if populations were quite naive to infections.”
There are still many Americans who resist, protest against and rant about wearing face masks. But state and county health officials across the country say the stark drop in Covid-19 case counts in their communities before and after mask orders were imposed clearly show how effective they can be in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey announced a statewide mandatory mask order on July 16. Since then, the state saw a significant drop in daily Covid-19 cases, with numbers peaking above 2,000 toward the end of July and hovering over a 1,000 a month later. And now, cases have plummeted to 574 a day.
“The mask absolutely played a very important role and we really have had no other significant limitations or interventions other than the mask,” Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer at the Alabama Department of Public Health, told NBC News this week. Indiana currently has one of the lowest coronavirus transmission rates in the U.S., a significant result of the statewide mask orders, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday. “I don’t want that lost on anyone that what we’re doing is working,” Holcomb said during a briefing. “Masks work. Physical distancing works. And the number don’t lie.” With no federal mandate, 34 governors have ordered statewide mask mandates. Others have left the decision to county officials.
This week, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds described wearing a mask a “feel-good” act. But Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called them “the most powerful public health tool” against the coronavirus. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine,” Redfield said at a Senate hearing Wednesday. South Carolina has no statewide mask requirements, leaving 11 jurisdictions with mask mandates and 61 without. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s latest findings, from mid-August, report that communities with mask mandates saw a drop of 34 cases per 100,000 people for the four weeks after the requirements were implemented, compared to before the orders took effect. In the same period, jurisdictions without mask requirements saw a rise of 24 cases per 100,000 people.
Although they’re slowly backing off on full lockdowns for now, governments have been very careful to maintain that they retain the power to reimpose them—including full-on strict and ruthless lockdown—at any time. In some areas, this has already been done, such as in southern Australia and in New Zealand. In the state of Victoria in Australia, for instance, residents in recent weeks have been subject to strict curfews and even road closures preventing them from traveling more than a few miles form their homes. Those who dissent—such as a pregnant mother who was arrested for merely discussing an upcoming protest—are brutalized. Meanwhile, military personnel enforce martial law, dragging people from their cars and demanding they show their “papers.”
China continues to impose regional and partial lockdowns. Belgium, meanwhile, insists it may yet still impose “total lockdown.” Back in July, the UK’s Boris Johnson told the nation’s residents to follow the social distancing rules now or face harsher lockdowns in the future. Last week Johnson’s government announced strict new social distancing rules, prohibiting any gatherings of more than six people in most cases. Nor have American politicians abandoned these newfound powers. In Utah, which did not impose a lockdown in March or April, the authorities are still threatening a possible future “complete shutdown.” Governors in states including Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, and Michigan have all threatened new lockdowns if the residents don’t do as they’re told.
(Only two governors, to my knowledge, have said they will not impose future lockdowns. Earlier this month, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida vowed “we will never do any of these lockdowns again,” and Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, which has never imposed a lockdown at all, has also said lockdowns are not on the table.) In many cases politicians have substituted face masks and targeted lockdowns (of bars and nightclubs, etc.) in lieu of full stay-at-home orders. This limits public dissent by limiting the number of businesses and industries where people are thrown out of work and business owners are effectively robbed of their property. Fewer destitute or jobless voters likely translates into less active dissent.
This permanent embrace of emergency power is to be expected. Governments have long used crises as an excuse to expand government power, often with the glowing approval of the electorate. After the end of World War II, for example, the party platform of the British Labour Party explicitly sought to extend wartime economic planning indefinitely. The idea was that central planning had won the war and now it would “win the peace.” This meant a host of boards and commissions that would control everything from farming to housing. But that’s just one example. As Robert Higgs has shown in his book Crisis and Leviathan, using wars and other crises to permanently expand state power is just standard operating procedure for countless regimes. It’s what governments do.
Both ends of the Acela Corridor have lost their marbles. This year, Uncle Sam borrowed $4 trillion in six months, the Fed printed $3 trillion in three months, and Wall Street drove the S&P 500 to 52X reported LTM earnings in the context of a deeper economic plunge than occurred in the worst quarter of the 1930s. Therefore, Washington has become disconnected from any semblance of fidelity to sound money and fiscal rectitude, while Wall Street has turned into an outright casino, valuing stocks based on endless Fed liquidity injections and the delusion that momentum chasing is an investment strategy. With respect to the rampant folly in the Imperial City, Treasury Secretary Stevie Mnuchin has always reminded us of Alfred E. Neuman of “Me Worry?” fame at Mad Magazine.
Recently, he more than earned that moniker when, in the context of the current monetary and fiscal lunacy, he proclaimed that, “Now is not the time to worry about shrinking the deficit or shrinking the Fed balance sheet.” That was the so-called Conservative Party speaking, and it is a shrill reminder that the Trumpified GOP has gone utterly AWOL when it comes to its true job in American democracy, namely, resisting the Government Party (Dems) and its affinity for feeding the Leviathan on the Potomac. That is to say, according to even the Keynesian deficit apologists at the CBO, Uncle Sam will spend $6.6 trillion during the current fiscal year (FY 2020) while collecting only $3.3 trillion in revenue. That’s Banana Republic stuff—borrowing 50% of every dollar spent.
Yet the advisory ranks of the potentially incoming Kamala Harris regency are even worse. They are loaded with “deficits don’t matter” ideologues and MMT crackpots who noisily argue that massive monetization of the public debt is not just a virtue, but utterly imperative. Needless to say, this bipartisan commitment to all-in stimulus is financial catnip to the Wall Street gamblers because they are actually capitalizing into today’s nosebleed stock prices, not the present drastically impaired economy on Main Street but a pro forma simulacrum of future prosperity based on the delusional presumption that massive debt and money-pumping actually create economic growth and wealth.
Well-known journalist Glenn Greenwald has once again sparked intense debate on the Left by refusing to conform to any level of group-think. On Friday he mused about the ongoing Julian Assange extradition trial in London, offering an explanation as to why mainstream US media has seemingly dropped Assange from its radar, despite during the early years of the most bombshell WikiLeaks revelations working closely with Assange in terms of corroborating coverage.
If you start from the premise that Trump is a fascist dictator who has brought Nazi tyranny to the US, then it isn't that irrational to believe that anyone who helped empower Trump (which is how they see Assange) deserves to be imprisoned, hence the lack of concern about it.
Greenwald started with a tweet acknowledging that Assange’s plight, which includes the possibility of being extradited to the United States where he faces certain life in prison, has received “little media attention” ultimately because it doesn’t have an easy partisan angle. “But another is that many liberals believe their political adversaries deserve to be in prison,” Greenwald stated, going on the offensive. And that’s where the most famous founding journalist at The Intercept began going off on liberals’ exaggeration of what Trump represents and how he came to power: “If you start from the premise that Trump is a fascist dictator who has brought Nazi tyranny to the US, then it isn’t that irrational to believe that anyone who helped empower Trump (which is how they see Assange) deserves to be imprisoned, hence the lack of concern about it,” Greenwald said.
Earlier this month President Trump shocked many national security state insiders by suggesting be might be open to pardoning Edward Snowden. While the Assange case would no doubt be a much higher hurdle for Trump in terms of the ‘deep state’ fierce pushback that would be sure to follow any similar consideration, it remains a possibility, especially were Trump to take the White House again after November.
Stephen F. Cohen, the leading American Russia expert of his generation and a celebrated historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, who became a vocal critic of Washington’s “new Cold War” with Moscow, has died at the age of 81. Cohen succumbed to lung cancer at his home in Manhattan, on Friday, according to his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel, who is also the part-owner and publisher of The Nation magazine, where he worked as a contributing editor. A native of Kentucky, he was a prolific and prominent scholar in his field, serving as a professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University. As a frequent visitor to Russia, Cohen became well-connected among leading Soviet dissidents, politicians and thinkers in the 1980s, even befriending Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
Cohen also advised former US President George Bush, senior, in the late 1980s, and assisted Anna Larina, the widow of Nikolai Bukharin, to rehabilitate her husband’s name during the Soviet era. He had earlier written a biography of the journalist and politician, which argued that had Bukharin succeeded Vladimir Lenin as Bolshevik leader, rather than Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union would have enjoyed greater openness, and perhaps even democracy. Breaking with many American academics and political commentators, Cohen was highly critical of Washington’s approach to Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He warned of the dangers of NATO expansion and argued that much of the economic devastation seen in Russia during the 1990s could be traced to bad-faith policies and advice from the United States.
His principled, and patriotic stand, led to smears from members of the think tank racket and both liberal and neoconservative interventionists, keen to stoke tensions with Moscow. Cohen was labelled a Putin apologist. He responded by saying that he saw him as being “in the Russian tradition of leadership, getting Russia back on its feet.” After the election of Donald Trump, Cohen found himself in the crosshairs of the mainstream media for challenging the now-debunked Russiagate narrative, which he said was being used to sabotage bilateral relations and trigger a “new Cold War” with Moscow.
The unsubstantiated claim that Trump’s presidential campaign “colluded” with the Kremlin would likely make a US-Russia detente “impossible” and could even help fuel an actual war between the two nations, Cohen argued. He lamented that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the conspiracy theory, which found no evidence of collusion, would do little to tone down the fiery rhetoric and anonymously sourced media hysteria concerning Russia and its alleged influence over the US political system.
As has every American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1943, President Trump held a summit meeting with the Kremlin’s leader—Russian President Putin, in Helsinki on July 16. As with every president since Eisenhower, the underlying and overriding purpose was to reduce the chances of war between the two nuclear superpowers. With the new US-Russian Cold War fraught with possibilities of hot war on several fronts, from Ukraine and the Baltic and Black Sea regions to Syria, Trump had a vital national-security duty to meet in the most august way with Putin.
As with previous summits, details will come later, but the two leaders reached several important agreements: to revive the necessary US-Russian diplomatic process tattered by recent events; to restore decades-long negotiations intended to reduce and regulate nuclear weapons and thus avert a new nuclear arms race; to jointly try to prevent Iran, Russia’s Middle East partner, from threatening “Israeli security,” as Putin formulated it, on that nation’s borders; to jointly relieve the “humanitarian” crisis in Syria, whose suffering was caused substantially by the aid rendered by Washington and its allies to anti-Assad “freedom fighters” and then, as collateral damage, by Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian war, in September 2015, in order to destroy the murderous Islamic State, which was threatening to take Damascus; and to promote American-Russian “business ties,” a nebulous aspiration, considering US and European economic sanctions on Russia. (This was possibly a signal by Trump that he would not object, as President Obama had, if the European Union diminished or terminated its sanctions, as several of its members wish to do and as would be wise.)
Historically, in what were once “normal” Cold War times, these summit achievements would have been widely supported, even applauded, across the American political spectrum, as they were, for example, even under President Nixon. But not Trump’s, which elicited an unprecedented torrent of denunciation by the US mainstream bipartisan (primarily Democratic but far from only) political-media establishment. Idioms varied, from The Washington Post to MSNBC and CNN, but the once-stately New York Times, as is now its nearly daily practice, set the tone. Its front-page headline on July 17 blared: “Trump, At Putin’s Side, Questions U.S. Intelligence on 2016 Election.” Another headline below explained, “Disdain for U.S. Institutions, and Praise for an Adversary.” The “reporting” itself was fulsomely prosecutorial, scarcely mentioning what Trump and Putin had agreed to.
Times columnists competed to indict the American president. An early entry, on July 16, before anything was actually known about the summit results, came from Charles M. Blow, whose headline thundered: “Trump, Treasonous Traitor.” The title of the entry by Michelle Goldberg, on July 17, was less alliterative: “Trump Shows the World He’s Putin’s Lackey.” Much as I predicted in the weeks prior to the summit, the same toxic message bellowed through the realm of mainstream print and cable “news”: Trump had betrayed and shamed America before the entire world. As has been the case for years regarding “the Russia threat”—created mainly by US policy itself—no dissenting voices were included in the “discussions,” apart perhaps from unqualified Trump spokespeople.
The media coverage, not Trump himself at the summit, was shameful. But media were reporting “news,” of the kind they wanted, amplifying leading political figures, also across the spectrum. As usual on this subject, Senator John McCain led the vigilante posse: “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.” He added for personal emphasis: “One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.” Most unusual, given the traditional non-political public role of intel chiefs, however, was former CIA director John Brennan, who quickly appeared as Trump’s prosecutor and judge, declaring that his behavior in Helsinki “exceeds the threshold” for impeachment and indeed “was nothing short of treasonous.”
RIP Stephen Cohen, a friend and guide who spent the last four years of his life standing against a tidal wave of hysterical Cold War hostility with elegance and erudition.
So many things today about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and about how both left and right are adamant to defend their 180º diffferent positions on whether her seat should be filled before November 3. It’s just politics. But tons of people tweet “burn it all down” if the GOP even tries.
I find the argument interesting that if the Supreme Court is called into action past-election, with a 4-4 vote, that could lead to absolute mayhem and chaos, because no decision could be made either way.
Starbuck on RBG
Don’t let Democrats gaslight about the 'Biden rule'. The rule is that there will be no confirmations in an election year when different parties control the Senate and the White House. That’s it. That’s the rule. Republicans control both and are entitled to make the pick. Period.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. She was 87. Ginsburg, a feminist and liberal icon, had been diagnosed with cancer four times and had numerous health scares, including several recent hospitalizations. She died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said. In July, Ginsburg announced that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer. “Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement to the Associated Press. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless and resolute champion of justice.
President Trump hailed Ginsburg from the campaign trail in Minnesota as “an amazing woman.” Ginsburg’s death opens up an unexpected opportunity for him to nominate a replacement for the seat – less than 50 days before the election. A Trump nomination will almost certainly set off a heated battle over whether he should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, Ginsburg’s replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until after the outcome of Trump’s presidential race against Democrat Joe Biden is decided. The debate and will also energize the close race in its homestretch. Biden said that the person elected should choose Ginburg’s replacement. “There is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters.
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, also an election year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to act on Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the opening. The seat remained vacant until after Trump’s surprising presidential victory. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Friday night that now, unlike in 2016, the White House and Senate are both in the hands of the same party. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said.
Trump on RBG
President Donald Trump reacts to news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. "She led an amazing life." pic.twitter.com/ZUj9CNJVGh
Even though the financial elite of Wall Street had pulled the plug on the system four years earlier, the population had still not been broken sufficiently to accept fascism as the solution which Time magazine told them it was. Instead, the people voted for one of the few anti-fascist presidential candidates available in 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt was elected under the theme of taking the money lenders out of power and restoring the constitution. In his March 4, 1933 inaugural address FDR stated:
“Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish. The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”
During FDR’s famous 100 Days, an all-out war was declared on the “economic royalists” that had taken over the nation. Audits and investigations were conducted on the banks in the form of the Pecora Commission, and the biggest financial houses which had spent billions on fascist parties of Europe were broken up while speculation was reined in under Glass-Steagall. Meanwhile a new form of banking was unveiled more in alignment with America’s constitutional traditions in the form of productive credit and long term public works which created real jobs and increased the national productive powers of labor. Many people remain totally ignorant that even before his March 4, 1933 inauguration, Franklin Roosevelt narrowly avoided an assassination attempt in Florida which saw 5 people struck by bullets and the mayor of Chicago dying of his wounds 3 weeks later.
Within days of the mayor’s death, the assassin Giuseppe Zingara was speedily labelled a “lone gunman” and executed without any serious investigation into his freemasonic connections. This however was just a pre-cursor for an even greater battle which Wall Street financiers would launch in order to overthrow the presidency later that year. This effort would only be stopped by the courageous intervention of a patriotic marine named Smedley Darlington Butler.
Sidney Powell, the lawyer for Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, is on the White House shortlist of candidates to replace FBI Director Christopher Wray, reports Newsmax TV’s Emerald Robinson. During a Friday update on Newsmax TV’s “John Bachman Now,” Robinson said she was exclusively told that the White House “is formulating a list of replacements right now” for Wray. She said the list has been in the works for over a month, but a change won’t be made until after the election. Robinson shared Powell’s name as one being floated for the job. Minutes later, Powell made an already scheduled appearance on the show. She told host John Bachman that she has not been contacted about serving in the position, but said she has “seen comments like that on Twitter.”
“I am honored to be considered for it,” she said of Robinson’s announcement that her name could be on the shortlist, adding “I can only imagine the number of people in Washington, and elsewhere, that would need laundry service upon that announcement.” Powell, a former federal prosecutor, has been critical of Wray, especially when it comes to his handling of the Flynn case. Back in May, she retweeted a post that called for Wray’s firing, according to Axios. During her Friday appearance on Newsmax TV, she said she has “never been favorably impressed” by Wray. According to Robinson, Trump’s advisers are urging him to keep Wray in his role until after the election in order to avoid any fallout similar to what happened after the president fired James Comey from the position.
An explosive detailed report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is expected to be released on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden’s dealings with Ukraine gas company Burisma ‘within days,’ Sen. Ron Johnson told this reporter Friday. Moreover, Johnson’s Senate committee voted on Wednesday to authorize more than three dozen subpoenas and depositions of former senior Obama administration officials’ involved, or who had knowledge of the FBI’s probe into President Donald Trump. The issue, however, says Johnson, is that FBI Director Christopher Wray has refused to cooperate with his panel for information and documents that would aid in questioning witnesses.
The damning report is expected to detail Joe and Hunter Biden’s business connections to the Ukrainian gas giant Burisma, in which Hunter Biden was a paid board member. According to reports Hunter Biden was paid roughly $50,000 plus per month by the energy giant. His position on the gas company’s board has been questioned by both members of the GOP and some Democrats, who have noted that the former Vice President’s son has no experience in energy companies and does not speak Russian. Moreover, as previously reported by SaraACarter.com, Johnson’s committee has been investigating Hunter Biden’s employment to Burisma because it came at the same time his father was heading the Ukraine policy for former President Obama during his tenure.
“My game plan is to get this Ukraine report out as quickly as possible,” said Johnson, who chairs the Senate committee, and wants Americans to understand that there are numerous questions regarding Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden that have not have been answered or investigated. “I’m hopeful our report will turn some heads because my goal is to get the truth out to the American people,” he said. “The truth is a simple and important concept, don’t you think?” [..] the former official added that the connections between the former Vice President, his son and the Ukrainian gas giant are substantial and “shouldn’t be ignored. The real issue is what the Democrats aren’t discussing – if they try to blame Trump without any evidence of compromise with Russia, how can they ignore Biden and his very real connections with a foreign company connected to Ukraine, Russia.”
As for Johnson, he said he is also pushing FBI Director Christopher Wray to produce a slew of documentation that his committee has been requesting throughout the year so that the panel can appropriately question witnesses that are being subpoenaed. The chairman, whose committee has subpoenaed a number of former senior Obama officials, stressed that the FBI has done everything to keep the documents they’ve requested from the lawmakers and from being revealed to the public. Wray has put up roadblocks at every turn and used Attorney General William Barr’s appointed Connecticut Prosecutor John “Durham’s investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Trump Russia probe as an excuse,” said Johnson.
There are three problems that are coming together, so it’s important to understand them individually and how they collectively make a bigger problem. There is a money and credit cycle problem, a wealth and values gap problem, and an emerging great power challenging the existing dominant power problem. What’s going on is an economic downturn together with a large wealth gap and the rising power of China challenging the existing power of the United States. It’s a fact that there has been a weakening of the competitive advantages of the United States over the last couple of decades. For example, the United States lost a lot of the education advantage relative to other countries, our share of world GDP is reduced, the wealth gap has increased which has contributed to our political and social polarization.
But we haven’t lost all of our competitive advantages. For example in innovation and technology, the United States is still the strongest, but China is coming on very strong and at existing rates will surpass the United States. Militarily, the U.S. is stronger but China also has come on very strong and is probably stronger in the waters close to China that include Taiwan and other disputed areas. Finances for both countries are challenging, but for the U.S. more so. The U.S. is in the late stages of a debt cycle and money cycle in which we’re producing a lot of debt and printing a lot of money. That’s a problem. As a reserve currency status, the U.S. dollar DXY, +0.03% is still dominant though its being threatened by its central bank printing of money and increasing the debt production problem.
[..] If you look at the history — for example, the Dutch Empire, the British Empire — both experienced the creation of debt and the printing of money, less educational advantages, greater internal wealth conflict, greater challenges from rival countries. Every country has stress tests. If you look at British history, the development of rival countries led them to lose their competitive advantages. Their finances were bad because they had accumulated a lot of debt. So, after World War II those trends went against them. Then they had the Suez Canal incident and they were no longer a world power and the British pound is no longer a reserve currency. These diseases almost always play out the same way. The United States’ relative position in the world, which was dominant in almost all these categories at the beginning of this world order in 1945, has declined and is exhibiting real signs that should raise worries.
There’s a lot of baggage. The U.S. has a lot of debt, which is adding to the hurdles that typically drag an economy down, so in order to succeed, you have to do a pretty big debt restructuring. History shows what kind of a challenge that is. I just want to present understanding and facts. There’s a life cycle. You’re born and you die. As you get older you can see certain things that are symptoms of being later on in life. To know the life cycle and to know that these symptoms are emerging is what I’m trying to convey. The United States is a 75-year-old empire and it is exhibiting signs of decline. If you want to extend your life, there are clear things you can do, but it means doing things that you don’t want to do.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is “now seeing a second wave” of Covid-19. Expanding “local” restrictions mean more than 13 million people (one-fifth of the UK population) have extra curbs on their lives. And the surge in cases is not contained to just the hotspots, but is widespread across the UK. Local restrictions do not suppress a virus that is spreading outside of those areas. It is against this backdrop the government is deciding what to do next. One idea is a “circuit-break” – a short, sharp period of tightened restrictions for everyone to curb the spread of coronavirus. So why might a circuit break be needed and what could it achieve? Let’s do some rough maths.
Take 6,000 cases a day, double them every week – as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests is happening – and by mid-October you have more than 100,000 infections a day as we did at the peak. That is not sophisticated disease modelling, it is not written in stone and measures such as the “rule of six” should slow the spread. But that simple sum gives a sense of how quickly a small problem can be become a huge one. A circuit break is all about trying to change that trajectory. “The evidence is hospitalisations are increasing, it is a worry and the concern is what happens if we don’t do something,” Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, told me.
He is part of the government’s disease modelling group of scientists, called SPI-M, which has been discussing circuit-breakers this week. Dr Tildesley added: “To be perfectly frank, none of us want this, but we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. “However, with a managed short-term lockdown you buy yourself some time.” A bout of tighter restrictions should result in cases falling instead of rising, but how far they drop is uncertain and will depend on how severe the restrictions are. It is suggested schools and workplaces would remain open, but the hospitality sector (think bars and restaurants) would be hit. This is not Lockdown 2.0.
A Spanish security firm apparently contracted by US intelligence to carry out a campaign of black operations against Julian Assange and his associates spied on several US reporters including Ellen Nakashima, the top national security reporter of the Washington Post, and Lowell Bergman, a New York Times and PBS veteran. To date, Nakashima and her employers at the Washington Post have said nothing about the flagrant assault on their constitutional rights by UC Global, the security company in charge of Ecuadorian embassy in London, which seemingly operated under the watch of the CIA’s then-director, Mike Pompeo. PBS, the New York Times, and other mainstream US outlets have also remained silent about the US government intrusion into reporters’ personal devices and private records.
The Grayzone has learned that several correspondents from a major US newspaper rebuffed appeals by Wikileaks to report on the illegal spying campaign by UC Global, privately justifying the contractor’s actions on national security grounds. US Global spied on numerous journalists were with the aim of sending their information to US intelligence through an FTP server placed at the company headquarters and through hand-delivered hard drives. Nearly all of those reporters have so far ignored or refused invitations to join a criminal complaint to be filed in Spanish court by Stefania Maurizi, an Italian journalist whose devices were invaded and compromised during a visit to Assange.
Proof of UC Global’s illegal spying campaign and the firm’s relationship with the CIA emerged following the September 2019 arrest of the company’s CEO, David Morales. Spanish police had enacted a secret operation called “Operation Tabanco” under a criminal case managed by the same National Court that orchestrated the arrest of former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet years before. Morales was charged in October 2019 by the Spanish court with violating the privacy of Assange and abusing his attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. A mercenary former Spanish special forces officer, Morales also stood accused of illegal weapons possession after two guns with the serial numbers filed off were found during a search of his property.
The documents and testimony revealed in court have exposed shocking details of UC Global’s campaign against Assange, his lawyers, friends, and reporters. Evidence of crimes ranging from spying to robberies to kidnapping and even a proposed plot to eliminate Assange by poisoning has emerged from the ongoing trial. [..] For the past four years, the Washington press corps has howled about Trump’s angry browbeating of the White House press pool, treating his resentful outbursts as a grave threat to press freedom. At the same time, it has reacted with a collective shrug to revelations that a firm that was, by all indications, contracted by the Trump administration’s CIA to destroy Assange had spied on prominent American national security reporters.
Khaled El Masri, a survivor of CIA kidnapping, torture, rendition, and detention, submitted testimony in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his extradition trial. The Central Criminal Court in London was prepared for El Masri to testify. An interpreter was lined up for the ninth day of proceedings. However, technical problems prevented him from addressing the court beyond his written statement. Prosecutors also objected to El Masri giving live testimony. According to Court News UK reporter Charlie Jones, that prompted Assange to stand up and declare, “I will not accept you censoring a torture victim’s statement to this court.”
El Masri’s testimony directly relates to the defense argument that Assange published classified information from the United States in order to reveal abuses and misconduct, such as torture and war crimes. In the United Kingdom, Assange’s legal team has been allowed to enter this evidence into the public record. However, during a potential trial in the United States, it will likely be excluded as irrelevant because the Espionage Act does not allow a public interest defense. Assange is accused of 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime that, as alleged in the indictment, is written like an Espionage Act offense.
The charges criminalize the act of merely receiving classified information, as well as the publication of state secrets from the United States government. It targets common practices in newsgathering, which is why the case is widely opposed by press freedom organizations throughout the world. El Masri declared, “I record here my belief that without dedicated and brave exposure of the state secrets in question what happened to me would never have been acknowledged and understood.” He added threats and intimidation are “not diminishing but expanding for all concerned.” “I nevertheless believe that the exposure of what happened was necessary not just for myself but for law and justice worldwide. My story is not yet concluded.”
As El Masri noted, he submited testimony because “WikiLeaks publications were relied on by the [European Court of Human Rights] in obtaining the redress” he received. While reading parts of El Masri’s statement for the court, defense attorney Mark Summers said that, as a result of cables, it is known that the German government bowed to pressure from the U.S. to not seek the extradition of the CIA rendition team. El Masri also mentioned the WikiLeaks cables similarly showed that the U.S. government interfered in a judicial investigation in Germany and in Spain. (The rendition flight in question traveled from Palma airport in Spain.)
Assange stands up
US lawyer: We see no utility whatsoever in having Mr el-Masri in court. None whatsoever.
Julian Assange stands up: Madam I will not accept you sensoring a torture victim’s statement to this court.
Today, at the #Assange trial, I was struck by a changed mood. Julian's defence is winning hands down, aided by the US prosecution's abuse of witnesses and idiotic attempt to prove journalism is espionage. Even Judge Reaper has gone quiet. Trashing British justice has its dangers.
It has been alleged by members of the Democratic Party and elements of the press that the source of the DNC Leaks published by WikiLeaks is linked to the Russian state, a position that has been consistently denied by both Julian Assange and the Russian state. US President Donald Trump was “aware of and had approved of” US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Mr Charles Johnson meeting with Julian Assange in order to secure the source of the DNC Leaks, in exchange for some form of “pardon, assurance or agreement” which would “both benefit President Trump politically” and prevent a US indictment against and extradition of Mr Assange, the Old Bailey heard on Friday.
The assertions were read into open court on behalf of barrister Jennifer Robinson, who was present at the meeting in the Ecuadorian Embassy on 15 August 2015. This was before any indictment was issued against the WikiLeaks publisher, The US government’s representative told the court that they do not dispute the offer was made during the meeting but do appear that they will contest the truthfulness of the offer itself. Ms Robinson’s statement notes that Mr Rohrabacher and Mr Johnson told Ms Robinson and Mr Assange that they “wanted to resolve the ongoing speculation of Russian involvement in the Democratic National Convention” and that it was “damaging to US Russia relations and reviving old Cold War politics”.
Ms Robinson has represented Mr Assange on numerous matters since 2010, both as a solicitor and a barrister. Ms Robinson states that the Congressman made clear that “the source of the DNC leaks would be of interest value and interest” to the President. Mr Rohrabacher apparently described what would be a “win/win solution” for Mr Assange to leave the embassy and “get on with his life”. Ms Robinson’s notes that Mr Rohrabacher said he would “then return” and see what “would be done” to prevent Mr Assange’s indictment and extradition. Mr Assange did not provide the identity of any source”, the statement said.
Charles Johnson, who accompanied former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, denies that the pair offered Julian Assange a pardon from Trump, but asked Assange to share what he knew about his sources with the US govt.
When a US appeals court ruled this week that Texas could prevent physicians from performing abortions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the judges leaned heavily on a 1905 Supreme Court decision against a Massachusetts man who had refused vaccination during a smallpox outbreak. That case could be invoked more in the months ahead. It is the high court’s touchstone for state power during public health crises. But it is a decision with limits. The 1905 court warned against “arbitrary” or “oppressive” regulation and expressly connected mandatory vaccination to ending the spread of smallpox. Today, the question is how bluntly the case, known as Jacobson v. Massachusetts, might be wielded to justify curbing individual liberties without caveat.
In the first decision of its kind during the coronavirus crisis, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals relied wholly on the 1905 case to permit Texas to include abortion clinics in its ban on non-essential medical services and surgeries. The panel, ruling by a 2-1 vote, rejected arguments regarding the right to abortion ingrained by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings. “Jacobson instructs that all constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted to combat a public health emergency,” wrote Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan for the majority. The 5th Circuit has a record of decisions against abortion access, including in a Louisiana dispute over physician regulations, begun long before the current pandemic and now pending at the US Supreme Court.
Dissenting in the new case, Judge James Dennis argued that the majority had taken the Jacobson precedent too far. Unlike in the early 1900s, Dennis wrote, when vaccination would stop the smallpox outbreak, “the thread connecting (the Texas measure) to combatting COVID-19 is more attenuated—premised not on the idea that abortion providers are spreading the virus, but that their continuing operation requires the use of resources that should be conserved and made available to healthcare workers fighting the outbreak.”
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said it’s possible that in the future Americans may carry documents to prove they are immune or not infected with the coronavirus. Fauci, who is one of the public health officials on the administration’s coronavirus task force, said such a system is one of several options they are discussing. “That’s possible,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” “It’s one of those things that we talk about when we want to make sure who the vulnerable people are and not,” Fauci added. “This is something that’s being discussed, I think it might actually have some merit.”
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also said that within a period of “a week or so” there will be a large number of new antibody tests, which allow users to discover whether they possess a unique immune response to the virus. “As soon as they get validated, they’ll be out there for people to use,” Fauci said. “It’s very likely that there are a large number of people out there that have been infected, have been asymptomatic and did not know.”
The World Health Organization has landed in President Trump’s crosshairs for its handling of the coronavirus, yet Dr. Tony Fauci, a senior adviser on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has recently praised the group’s top leader. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under fire for allegedly failing to warn the world about the speedy, lethal nature of the coronavirus originating in China. Multiple U.S. lawmakers, as well as Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, have called for Ghebreyesus’s removal. A Change.org petition has garnered nearly 780K petition signers urging Tedros’ ouster. “Tedros is really an outstanding person,” Fauci said during the March 25 coronavirus task force briefing. “I’ve known him from the time that he was the minister of Health of Ethiopia.
“I mean, obviously, over the years, anyone who says that the WHO has not had problems has not been watching the WHO. But I think, under his leadership, they’ve done very well.” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), praised Ghebreyesus’ handling of the coronavirus epidemic. “He has been all over this,” Fauci said. “I was on the phone with him a few hours ago leading a WHO call.” “The W.H.O. really blew it,” Trump recently tweeted. “For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been the stoic face of the state’s battle against the deadly coronavirus, but he recently acknowledged that his efforts to save residents’ lives and keep the regional economy afloat have been hampered by “100 percent wrong” projections. “All of the projections, by the way, and the statisticians have been 100 percent wrong at this point,” Cuomo on Thursday told former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on his radio show.
The roughly 9-minute interview on WABC-AM was all pleasantries between the longtime New York pols, as the state, now the epicenter of the virus, appears to be near the height of infection cases and related deaths. “Thank you for asking about Chris, Mr. Mayor,” said Cuomo, who now gives daily TV briefings, when Giuliani inquired about his brother, Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor recovering from the virus. Giuliani started the interview by telling his audience that his guest is Gov. Cuomo “who, I think, is known to every American as a person who has supplied great, great leadership for his state and for his country.” Giuliani also added: “You’re doing a great job.”
I have a question. Cuomo is governor of a state where the virus has run way out of hand. But nobody even tries to hold him accountable, it’s as if everything happened beyond his view, or power. It’s everybody’s fault but his. Why is that?
A majority of Democrats want to nominate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for president instead of Joe Biden, according to poll results shared exclusively with The Post. The national poll found 56 percent of Democrats prefer Cuomo, with 44 percent wanting to stick with presumptive nominee Biden — a 12-point margin well outside the 4.8 percent margin of error for the Democratic sample. Hispanic voters, young people, women and self-identified liberals are most likely to favor dumping the former vice president for Cuomo. The poll, conducted April 3-6, was commissioned by the conservative pro-market Club for Growth, which generally supports Republican candidates.
Cuomo denied last month that he wanted to run for president, but some Democrats still are clamoring for an alternative to Biden, who faded from public view during the coronavirus outbreak, which elevated Cuomo in daily press conferences. Club for Growth vice president of communications Joe Kildea told The Post that the results highlight Biden’s weakness as a candidate. “With every major news event, Democrats realize more and more how bad of a candidate Joe Biden is, and Democrats now preferring Cuomo is just another example,” Kildea said.
New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday joined the bipartisan – and international – criticism of the World Health Organization’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “Where were the warning signs?” Cuomo asked at his daily briefing. “Who should have blown the whistle?” President Trump has been among the most vocal of world leaders on the issue of the WHO’s response, which they argue was slow and less than exact in its reporting and guidance. But the backlash against China appears global. Taiwan officials have suggested the WHO excluding it from membership has hurt the country’s response to the pandemic. Trump has vowed to withhold U.S. support for the group and said Friday that he’ll make a decision on the matter next week.
Cuomo pointed out Friday that headlines appeared in December and January about a new virus emerging in China, while the WHO failed to issue formal warnings. “Did we really need to be in this situation where the United States winds up having a higher number of cases than the places that came before?” he asked. Also in the U.S., congressional bills are being proposed by a number of GOP legislators, including Sens. Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), and Rep. Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin), to encourage U.S. companies to source ingredients and goods outside of Chinese markets.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to meet the coronavirus crisis with the urgency it deserves by advancing another sweeping stimulus package that—unlike the previous business-friendly legislation—guarantees economic security for all, protects public health, and ensures election safety. “Our actions now can lay the foundation for a just and resilient recovery, but only if we recognize the scale of this unprecedented crisis and fashion a response that meets that scale,” the two dozen members of the CPC Executive Board wrote in a letter sent to Pelosi on Thursday. With the U.S. economy rapidly deteriorating as the coronavirus continues to spread—nearly 17 million Americans filed jobless claims between March 15 and April 4—the CPC urged Pelosi to quickly assemble a relief package that provides robust assistance to workers and the unemployed until the coronavirus pandemic completely subsides.
To ensure that Americans will not have to wait for further congressional action if the economic and public health crisis deepens, the CPC called for a legislative package that contains automatic triggers so that “assistance continues based on economic conditions throughout the duration of the pandemic.” CPC’s list of specific demands includes: • Monthly direct cash payments of at least $2,000 to every adult in the U.S., and an additional $1,000 for every child for up to a year; • A nationwide moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures; • At least $30,000 in student debt relief; • Suspending collection of all consumer debt, including medical debt; • Opening Medicare to all people who are unemployed and uninsured; • Ensuring that no one in the U.S. faces out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment; • Increasing federal nutrition assistance benefits; • Creating a “federal Paycheck Guarantee program” to stop mass layoffs; and • Guaranteeing nationwide vote-by-mail to make sure elections don’t contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
More than two-thirds of severely ill COVID-19 patients saw their condition improve after treatment with remdesivir, an experimental drug being developed by Gilead Sciences, according to new data based on patient observation. The analysis, published on Friday by the New England Journal of Medicine, does not detail what other treatments the 61 hospitalized patients were given and data on eight of them were not included — in one case because of a dosing error. The paper’s author called the findings “hopeful,” but cautioned that it is difficult to interpret the results since they do not include comparison to a control group, as would be the case in a randomized clinical trial.
In addition, the patient numbers were small, the details being disclosed are limited, and the follow-up time was relatively short. There are currently no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100,000 people worldwide. Gilead last month sharply limited its compassionate use program for remdesivir and is conducting its own clinical trials of the antiviral drug, with results expected in coming weeks. Researchers in China as well as the U.S. National Institutes of Health are also testing the drug in COVID-19 patients. The new analysis includes patients in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan who received a 10-day course of intravenous remdesivir.
Before the treatment, 30 patients were on mechanical ventilators, and four were on a machine that pumps blood from the patient’s body through an artificial oxygenator. After a median follow-up of 18 days, 36 patients, or 68%, had an improvement in oxygen-support class, including more than half of the 30 patients receiving mechanical ventilation who had their breathing tubes removed. A total of 25 patients, or 47%, were discharged from the hospital. Seven patients, 13% of the total, died. Twelve patients, 23%, had serious side effects including multiple-organ-dysfunction syndrome, septic shock and acute kidney injury.
The state on Friday loosened restrictions on using a controversial malaria drug for COVID-19 patients, making it more readily available for people in nursing homes and other facilities. The decision comes amid reports of nursing home residents dying from complications of the disease and after some doctors, politicians and pharmacists had called for a change in the state’s rules. Until Friday’s order, doctors had been barred from prescribing hydroxychloroquine and some other drugs to treat COVID-19 outside of hospitals unless patients tested positive for the virus. Officials have reported that 262 of 375 of the state’s long-term care facilities have had at least one case of coronavirus, with reports of multiple deaths at some homes.
On Thursday, the National Guard arrived at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus to help its staff cope with an outbreak of the virus that has infected 40 veterans and killed 10. The same home has had nearly 30 other deaths over the last two weeks, but a lack of testing for Covid-19 means they might not be attributed to the disease. The new regulations list a number of settings outside of hospitals “where the prescribing limitations” of the old order “do not apply,” according to a statement released Friday evening by the Division of Consumer Affairs. Doctors already had been prescribing hydroxychloroquine to patients in hospitals, where a positive test was not required by the state. The new regulations add post-acute care facilities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, field hospitals and “other locations designated as emergency health care centers by the Commissioner of Health.”
The Guardian left the word ‘Acutely’ out of the headline, That makes all the difference. The article also mentions a “World Health Organization report in February suggesting truly asymptomatic cases were relatively rare”. We now know they could be 50%.
Less than 1% of the Austrian population is “acutely infected” with coronavirus, new research based on testing a representative sample of more than 1,500 people suggests. The government-commissioned study, reportedly the first of its kind in continental Europe, was led by the polling company Sora, which is known for projecting election results, in cooperation with the Red Cross, the Medical University of Vienna, and other institutions. The study made it possible to estimate the prevalence of acute coronavirus infections in Austria among those not in hospital at the beginning of April, and was designed to provide a clearer picture of the total number of infections, given gaps in testing.
The research, if replicated and confirmed elsewhere, would appear to scotch hopes of countries being remotely close to relying on “herd immunity” – where enough of the population is exposed to the virus to build up a combined immunity – as a viable policy option. The study stands in contrast to controversial modelling by researchers at Oxford University who, in one scenario they examined, suggested most people in the UK might already have been infected with Covid-19. The co-founder of Sora, Christoph Hofinger, told a news conference: “Based on this study, we believe that 0.33% of the population in Austria was acutely infected in early April.” Given the margin of error, the figure was 95% likely to be between 0.12% and 0.76%. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, who saw initial findings a few days ago, said on Monday that the rate of infection was around 1%.
This disproved the idea of herd immunity, which requires widespread infection, as a viable policy option, he said. However, researchers, speaking at a press conference to release the results, said the study provided only a “snapshot” and did not account for asymptomatic infections, or people who were immune. “We did not find out how many people are immune, but only how many people in Austria are currently acutely infected,” said Günther Ogris, from Sora. The issue of the proportion of asymptomatic infections in the population remains highly contested, with a World Health Organization report in February suggesting truly asymptomatic cases were relatively rare. However, another small Chinese study, reported in the British Medical Journal earlier this month, posited that up to four-fifths of all infections could be without symptoms
The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France jumped by nearly 987 or 8% to 13,197 as nursing home deaths swelled but fewer people were in intensive care as the effect of nationwide confinement started to show. The total number of confirmed and probable coronavirus infections in the country rose by 7,120 to 124,869, although the ministry does not provide a total, splitting the number instead between cases in hospitals and cases in nursing homes. That total number is set to increase as just under 5,000 out of 7,400 homes so far have reported coronavirus cases to the government, a ministry official told Reuters.
The health ministry said on Friday that 7,004 people were in intensive care, a fall of 62 or 0.9% following a 1% fall on Thursday. “We seem to be reaching a plateau, albeit a high level,” health ministry director Jerome Salomon told a daily press briefing by video. But the death toll picked up again, with the number of people dying in hospitals up by 554 or 7% to 8,598 on Friday, after increasing 5% on Thursday. The number of people who died in nursing homes – according to incomplete data that cover several days and do not include all nursing homes – went up by 433 or 10% to 4,599 and now make up more than a third of the total toll.
Thousands of care homes across Britain were locked down last month to stop COVID-19 from spreading among their frail and elderly residents. For Jamshad Ali, 87, it came anyway. Ali and six other residents at Hawthorn Green Care Home in east London died with “symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” with 21 others also possibly infected, said a spokesman for the home. With growing reports of COVID-19 deaths and cases at other homes, experts fear the disease, caused by the new coronavirus, which has already ripped through the care sector in the United States and the rest of Europe is now doing the same in Britain. Care workers and advocacy groups are calling for more equipment to keep themselves and their residents safe, and for testing to get self-isolating staff back to workplaces already understaffed when the pandemic struck.
They’re also calling for more support for a sector whose workers are, like Britain’s National Health Service, fighting the coronavirus up close, but with less pay, training and recognition. Jamshad Ali’s daughter, Luthfa Hood, is heartbroken but also angry that care homes are considered such a low priority. “Young people, if they get the virus, they can fight it,” she said. “But (with) older people, it just seems like we’re saying, ‘We don’t care about you – you’re too old.’” Reporting delays and lack of testing make the death toll in care homes hard to pinpoint. Over 9% of them had reported cases and the number would continue to rise, said England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Tuesday.
“If you have a virus this infectious in a setting with lots of vulnerable older people, then it’s very bad news,” said Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, which supports older people. “The mortality rate is likely to be very high.” On Monday, France announced there had been more than 2,400 deaths in its care homes. About 433,000 people live in Britain’s 11,000 care homes, which have over 450,000 beds – three times more than the National Health Service.
The Netherlands suffered 2,000 more deaths than usual during the first week of April, the country’s statistics office has said. The spike suggests the Covid-19 toll might be significantly higher than officially registered. Figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on Friday show that around 5,100 deaths were registered across the country in the week ending April 5. The number is abnormally large and exceeded expectations, which were based on an average taken of the past several years, by some 2,000 people. Over the same period, the country’s National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) registered 881 coronavirus deaths – and the extra deaths overall in early April may also be due to the dreaded disease.
“The rising mortality rate coincides with the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in the Netherlands,” the organization said. A more complete picture emerges by looking at the total weekly number of deaths as based on the data received by CBS, regardless of the cause of death. In some municipalities, the weekly death toll exceeded the average twofold and even fourfold, the CBS said. The abnormally large figures alone, however, cannot conclusively show that Covid-19 is to blame, and the spike may be “coincidental and not necessarily related to the coronavirus crisis,” the statistics body noted.
Most of continental Europe using the euro is in lockdown. The economic shockwaves caused by a lockdown do not care what currency we use. Just as in the United Kingdom, the United States or Japan, the precipitous falls in private incomes must be counterbalanced by substantial increases in public expenditure. If governments fail in this, the sum of private and public expenditure (which equals aggregate income) will crash even faster, bankruptcies will burgeon and government tax revenues will collapse further in the medium turn. The challenge facing the 19 countries of the eurozone is unique. The massive boost in public debt that is now so necessary is hampered by the quaint arrangement of sharing a central bank that, on the one hand, has no common treasury to lean against and, on the other, is banned from backing directly the 19 treasuries that must borrow in euros to fight the crisis.
The euro crisis that began in 2010 stretched this monetary architecture to its limits. The coronavirus recession is now pushing it beyond them. With the countries worst hit by Covid-19, such as Italy, being the most indebted and thus the least able to shoulder the necessary new debt, an impossible conundrum emerges: the new debt needed to revive the private sector will push the state into default, so destroying the banks whose capital is mostly government debt and, in short order, the rest of the private sector. The only way out of this trap is for the new debt not to fall on the weak shoulders of the most indebted eurozone countries but to be shared across the eurozone. Except that this debt-sharing is banned by the treaties that created the eurozone, at the insistence of the northern european countries running a trade surplus with the rest.
[..] The message today to Italians, Spaniards and Greeks is: your government can borrow large amounts from Europe’s bailout fund. No conditions. You will also receive help to pay for unemployment benefits from countries where employment holds up better. But, within a year or two, as your economies are recovering, huge new austerity measures will be demanded to bring your government’s finances back into line, including the repayment of the monies spent on your unemployment benefits.
In the corkscrewing anguish of the social sequester, with careers, savings, futures, and dreams whirling down the drain, voices rise above the din of conflicting statistics to ask: what is going on here? To some, it looks like a deliberate attempt to demolish what’s left of the economy for political advantage. Clouds of suspicion gather over the two medical superstars of the Daily Briefing show, Doctors Fauci and Birx, as they somewhat sheepishly revise their numbers for contagion and death downward and attempt to “balance” the formula of modeled projections versus mitigation efforts. Was the stay-at-home panic necessary, after all? Will it save the day or kill off modern life as we knew it? Well, everyplace else in the world was shutting down, weren’t they? Did they all go off their rockers, too?
At least a hundred doctors died in Italy heroically tending the stricken, so they say. South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore opted for flat-out medical Gestapo action. Britain, Spain, France, and Germany about the same, but minus testing at the grand scale and tracing of contacts. Honestly, how is it possible the whole planet punked itself? I certainly don’t know the answer to all this, though readers are twanging on me to declare the whole Covid-19 story “a hoax,” which I’m not ready to do. I do know this: America has become utterly intolerant of uncertainty. And in the absence of certainty, that age-old human cognitive skill called pattern recognition, which has made us such a successful species, kicks into high gear scanning the field-of-view for answers. Any string-of-dots that affords even the slimmest plausibility goes on the table for review, including a lot of stories tagged as “conspiracy theories.”
[..] And meanwhile, the American public sequesters and festers, waiting for those $1,200 checks that will fix… everything! Let’s face it: this is a twilight zone between stupor and fury. Nobody is paying anything to anyone. All obligations are suspended: salaries, rents, mortgages, bills, loans, bets, and vigs, all up in the air somewhere, but definitely not moving to their assigned destinations. The velocity of money is zero and all the various new term facilities and structured vehicles conjured by the Federal Reserve and Congress amount to a mere shadow of money moving – even though they are represented by trillions of brand-new alleged dollars.
As I think of my good friend Julian, what comes to mind are the desperate words of Willy Loman’s wife Linda in “Death of a Salesman”: “He’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.” (On the chance you are wondering, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal — as well as National Public Radio — have paid zero attention to the extradition hearing in recent weeks — much less to Judge Baraitser’s Queen of Hearts-style, “off-with-his-head” behavior.)
The pitiable Baraitser, of course, is simply a cog in the imperial machinery, a self-impressed, self-interested, rigid functionary aping the role of Caiaphas, the high priest beholden to an earlier Empire. “It’s better that one man die,” he is said to have explained, when another nonviolent truth-teller dared to expose the cruelties of Empire to the downtrodden of his day — including the despicable accessory role played by the high priests. Here is how theologian Eugene Peterson’s renders Caiaphas’s words in John 11: “Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man die … rather than the whole nation be destroyed.” (“Nation” in that context meant the system of privilege enjoyed by collaborators with Rome — like the high priests and the lawyers of the time.)
The lesson meant to be taken away from Assange’s punishment are as clear — if less bloody — as the crucifixion that followed quickly after Caiaphas explained the rationale. The behavior of today’s empire pretends to be more “civilized” as it manufactures stories of rape, leans on ratty satraps in Sweden, England, and Ecuador, and ostentatiously thumbs its nose at official UN condemnations of “arbitrary detention.” And, if that were not enough, it also practices leave-no-marks torture.
Turkish authorities suspect that missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared four days ago after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, was killed inside the consulate, two Turkish sources told Reuters on Saturday. “The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate,” one of the sources, a Turkish official, said. A senior Turkish police source told MEE that Khashoggi had been “brutally tortured, killed and cut into pieces. Everything was videotaped to prove the mission had been accomplished and the tape was taken out of the country”.
Khashoggi’s disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Reuters said. Relations were already strained after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar last year in a show of support after its Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha. Police said about 15 Saudis, including officials, came to Istanbul on two private flights on Tuesday and were at the consulate at the same time as the journalist. They left again the same day, according to AFP. Their diplomatic bags could not be opened, a security ource told MEE, but Turkish intelligence was sure that Khashoggi’s remains were not in them.
Interpol has made a formal request to China for information about its missing Chinese president who seemingly vanished on a trip home. The agency said in a statement it “looks forward to an official response from China’s authorities to address concerns over the president’s well-being.” Interpol said it used law enforcement channels to submit its request about the status of Meng Hongwei. Meng’s wife says she hasn’t heard from him since he left Lyon at the end of September. French authorities say he boarded a plane and arrived in China, but the 64-year-old’s subsequent whereabouts are unknown. France has launched its own investigation.
“France is puzzled about the situation of Interpol’s president and concerned about the threats made to his wife,” its foreign ministry said, without providing any details. Meng is also a vice minister for public security in China, which has yet to comment. Previously, Interpol had said that reports about Meng’s disappearance were “a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China.” The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, has suggested that Meng may have been the latest target of an ongoing campaign against corruption in China.
The newspaper said that upon landing last week Meng was “taken away” for questioning by what it said were “discipline authorities.” The term usually describes investigators in the ruling Communist Party who probe graft and political disloyalty. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s secretive internal investigation agency, had no announcements on its website about Meng and couldn’t be reached for comment. Meng is the first from his country to serve as Interpol’s president, a post that is largely symbolic but powerful in status. Because Interpol’s secretary general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the agency’s operations, Meng’s absence may have little operational effect.
The drama of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court finally ended on Saturday afternoon, when without any last-minute surprises, the US Senate voted Kavanaugh to become the 114th Justice to the US Supreme Court in a major victory for both the Republican party and President Trump. Kavanaugh was confirmed as expected in a 50-48 vote, the narrowest margin for any justice since the 19th century. In a rare move, Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican senator to oppose Kavanaugh on Saturday, but she formally voted “present” to offset the absence of GOP Sen. Steve Daines who left Washington, D.C., on Friday to fly to Montana for his daughter’s wedding.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who is up for reelection in a state Trump won by more than 40 points in 2016, was the only Democratic senator to support Kavanaugh’s nomination. As The Hill reports, republicans used Manchin’s support to tout Kavanaugh’s nomination as “bipartisan,” but the razor-thin vote margin marks the closest successful Supreme Court vote since Stanley Matthews was confirmed in a 24-23 vote in 1881. In the ends, it doesn’t matter how they got there: Kavanaugh’s confirmation will be a crowning victory for Trump and McConnell, fulfilling a top campaign promise for the president and a critical priority for the Kentucky Republican. Kavanaugh’s ascension to the high court will ensure a conservative majority for decades to come, an outcome that McConnell especially has focused on during his long tenure as the top Senate Republican.
There’s a growing risk that trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies may converge with other factors to disrupt the global economy — and knock the historic U.S. stock market rally off its stride, according to one of the world’s leading authorities on Asia. Yale University senior fellow Stephen Roach is worried the US-China trade war is putting sand in the gears of global supply chains, which has been playing a vital force in keeping price pressures in check. Roach referred to the threat as one of the “more destructive” layers of the trade war for stocks.
“You’ve got potentially a lethal combination between a hot labor market in an unwinding of the supply chain effects on the global front which could give you a surprising surge in inflation that the Fed is not positioned to really address with its still very, very low federal funds rate,” he warned Friday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” He added: “For every point of slack in advanced economies, the value chains hold down overall inflation by about 9/10s of a point.”
Roach, who served as Morgan Stanley Asia chairman for five years, believes Wall Street and policy makers are largely underestimating the impact of the trade tensions. Despite the new deal to replace the North America Free Trade Agreement, Roach isn’t optimistic the U.S. is any closer to a resolution with China. “The whole hope from the Trump administration is that China will be quickly beaten into submission as they did with supposedly Mexico and Canada,” said Roach. “The odds of a long disruption are high.”
Former Fed governor Kevin Warsh warned on Thursday that the US-China relationship is “probably as poor as” it has ever been since former President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger developed strategic relations between both countries in the early 1970s. “We’re at the risk of a real cold war” between the world’s two largest economies, said Warsh who had been on President Trump’s list for Fed chairman before Jerome Powell was chosen. “The last 30 years we’ve been living and breathing globalization as if it’s an inevitable force,” but now, it seems the six-decade-long bubble has finally popped.
Bank of Americas says trade wars and deteriorating relations with China have been some of the reasons for the decline in globalism. Especially, US tariff duties collected, % of total imports have surged under the Trump administration. “Protectionism has cross-party support in the US, and nationalist parties continue to gain in Europe. Further action on China ($200bn), autos ($350bn), NAFTA ($690bn) could raise US tariff revenue as % total imports to levels not seen since 1946,” said BofA. During the CNBC interview, Wash used the term “cold war” to describe the economic standoff, not the decades-long “mutually assured destruction” nuclear stalemate with Russia. “We are probably on the precipice of a brand new relationship with the Chinese,” Warsh told CNBC. He asked: “Could we be at the beginning of a 10- or 20-year cold war?” If so, an economic cold war between the countries could have major implications for the global economy like causing a global growth scare and repricing risk assets.
China has slashed the amount of cash some of its banks must hold in reserve as Beijing’s leadership seeks to bolster a flagging economy. As higher US interest rates and fears of a trade war piles pressure on economies around the world, China’s central bank said on Sunday that it was cutting the reserve requirement ratios (RRRs) by 1% from 15 October to lower financing costs and spur growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. The reserve cut, the fourth by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) this year, came after Beijing pledged to speed up plans to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects as the economy shows signs of cooling further.
Investment growth has slowed to a record low and net exports have been a drag on growth in the first half of ther year. China releases a snapshot of its services sector on Monday, which will be closely watched for signs of slower growth. The injection of cash into the economy, which will be 750bn yuan ($109.2 billion), will also boost hopes that the negative impact of higher US tariffs on Chinese exports can be eased. The cut, which was announced on the last day of China’s week-long national day holiday, showed the central bank was probably worried about the impact of “external shocks” to markets such as a speech last week by US vice president Mike Pence criticising Beijing, said Zhang Yi, chief economist at Zhonghai Shengrong Capital Management.
Theresa May today delivers an extraordinary appeal to wavering Labour supporters to switch to the Conservatives as she attempts to portray her party as the only option for moderate and patriotic voters. Writing exclusively in today’s Observer the prime minister says that if people who have previously backed Labour look again at her government’s programme, including pledges to increase house building and manage markets where necessary, they will find that it is not driven by ideology, but by beliefs and values that the vast majority could support. Seeking to reclaim the One Nation mantle for the Tories, May writes: “I want voters who may previously have thought of themselves as Labour supporters to look at my government afresh. They will find a decent, moderate and patriotic programme that is worthy of their support.”
She argues that in an era in which traditional political allegiances count for less, the Tories now have a responsibility “on our shoulders” to offer a home to millions of former Labour voters who are unhappy with the party’s move left under Jeremy Corbyn. May’s pitch for the centre ground will enrage many Labour supporters who see her as a supporter of eight years of Tory austerity and the architect of the hostile environment for immigrants. It comes amid rumours in Westminster that disgruntled groups of Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs could try to form a new party on the centre ground to appeal to voters who regard the Tories as too pro-Brexit and right wing, and dislike the leftwing agenda of Corbyn.
[..] Reacting to her initial pitch for centre ground voters in her conference speech last Wednesday, former Labour home secretary David Blunkett said May was clearly laying a trap for his party. “This is a well tried tactic, attempting to achieve two things at the same time,” Blunkett said. “The first is to appear to move sufficiently on to Labour territory to seem reasonable and moderate while at the same time trying to push Labour further from the mainstream. We must avoid this trap, because it is a trap. “We need to be much more sure-footed in demonstrating where the Conservatives have stolen our clothes. And we need to reassure people that we won’t allow these blatant Conservative tactics to push Labour into adopting policies even more extreme and outside the mainstream.”
As tensions between Rome and Brussels escalate, and uncertainty grows about Italy’s economic future, investors are dumping Italian debt, causing bond values to fall and yields to rise. That, in turn, is hitting banks’ funding costs and their capital cushions. On average, banks are estimated to already have lost 40 basis points of their core capital in the second quarter and another 8 bps in the third.As their capital base shrinks, banks are less able to write down bad loans — of which there are still frighteningly many — or issue new loans. According to analysts at Morgan Stanley, Banco BPM SpA, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) SpA and UBI Banca SpA are the most vulnerable of Italy’s largest lenders due to the size of their holdings of government debt.
It is this outsized exposure of Italian banks to Italian debt that makes any sudden deterioration in the value of Italian bonds so dangerous. The banking sector hold around 18% of all of the nation’s public debt. It’s the reason why, as investors abandon Italian bonds en masse, the shares of Italy’s banks are also nose-diving, with the stock of recently rescued Monte dei Paschi di Siena leading the way down having lost more than half its value year-to-date. The chart below shows how the FTSE Italy Banks Index has plunged 29% since early May (black line), while the Italian government 10-year yield (red line) has nearly doubled from 1.8% to 3.4%, practically in tandem:
In 2009, shortly after his re-election as mayor and several years after he embarked on a policy of welcoming migrants as a means of reversing depopulation in his town, Domenico Lucano was shot at through the window of a restaurant where he was eating with friends. As if to ram home their opposition to his plans, the local mafia also poisoned two of his dogs. Unperturbed, Lucano responded by installing a billboard at the entrance of the town, saying: “Riace – a town of hospitality.” The sign remains today, as does one on the main square that lists the 20 countries people have come from – Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan, to name a few. Riace, a tiny hilltop town in Italy’s southern Calabria region, has become famous for its much-lauded model of integration, which began in the late 1990s and continues to this day.
But last week, Lucano, the man credited with changing the lives of Italians and foreigners through an initiative that breathed new life into a dying economy, was put under house arrest for allegedly abetting illegal immigration. On Saturday, lending their support to a man dismissed by far-right politician Matteo Salvini as worth “zero”, hundreds of people turned out in support of the mayor and his leadership. Invariably described as altruistic and honest, they struggle to comprehend how Lucano, 60, can have his liberty stripped from him while people belonging to the mafia, a scourge of Italy’s south, roam free. “Mafiosi kill, yet a mayor who does good is arrested? It doesn’t make any sense,” said Elisabetta, who asked for her surname not to be used.
The leading international body of climate change researchers is preparing to release a major report Sunday night on the impacts of global warming and what it would take to cap warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels, a goal that looks increasingly unlikely. The report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international consortium of hundreds of climate researchers convened by the United Nations. Authors are meeting this week in Incheon, South Korea, to finalize their findings, but Climate Home News obtained an early leaked draft.
Why examine the prospects for limiting global warming to 1.5°C? Because under the Paris agreement, countries agreed that the goal should be to limit warming to below 2°C by 2100, with a nice-to-have target of capping warming at 1.5°C. According to the drafts, the report finds that it would take a massive global effort, far more aggressive than any we’ve seen to date, to keep warming in line with 1.5°C — in part because we are already en route to 3°C of warming. And even if we hit the 1.5°C goal, the planet will still face massive, devastating changes. So it’s pretty grim. But this is also a thunderous call to action, laying out what tools we have at our disposal (we have plenty) to mitigate global warming and to accelerate the turn toward cleaner energy. Let’s walk through the basics.
– Global equities are retreating materially today on fears of a commensurate escalation in the burgeoning trade war between the U.S. and China. Specifically, the Trump administration released a list of goods that it may target w/ sanctions totaling some $200 billion, while China’s Commerce Ministry described the move as “totally unacceptable bullying”, and promised to lodge complaints at the WTO without detailing what its retaliatory steps would be. Are trade wars bad for growth? Of course they are. Does anyone really possess a reliable framework for quantifying the ultimate impact ex ante? Probably not.
This we do know, however: prior to the last Friday’s tit-for-tat escalation targeting $34 billion in Chinese goods and a list of [mostly] U.S. agricultural products, Export growth was trending lower in 70% of the near-50 economies we maintain detailed predictive tracking algorithms for, while 77% of Manufacturing PMI series were trending lower. This figures reflect data through MAY and JUN, respectively, and are supportive of our view that trade tensions aren’t the driving force behind Global #Divergences; they are merely adding fuel to the fire. Global equities peaked in late-JAN for a reason.
Life insurers invest heavily in high-grade corporate bonds to fund annuities, life insurance policies and other products. Here’s a look at the possibility that the issues might be affected by credit rating grade inflation… Much has been made of the degradation of the $7.5 trillion U.S. corporate debt market. High yield offers too little, well, yield. And “high grade” now requires air quotes to account for the growing dominance of bonds rated BBB, which is the lowest rung on the investment-grade ladder before dropping into “junk” status. And then there’s the massive market for leveraged loans, where covenants protecting investors have all but disappeared.
How does that break down? Corporate bonds rated BBB now total $2.56 trillion, having surpassed in size the sum of higher-rated debentures, which total $2.55 trillion, according to Morgan Stanley. Put another way, BBB bonds outstanding exceed by 50% the size of the entire investment grade market at the peak of the last credit boom, in 2007. But aren’t they still investment grade? At little to no risk of default? In 2000, when BBB bonds were a mere third of the market, net leverage (total debt minus cash and short term investments divided by earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) was 1.7 times. By the end of last year, the ratio had ballooned to 2.9 times.
Given the marked deterioration in fundamentals, bond powerhouse PIMCO worries that “This suggests a greater tolerance from the credit rating agencies for higher leverage, which in turn warrants extra caution when investing in lower-rated IG names, especially in sectors where earnings are more closely tied to the business cycle.” [..] why not treat the BBB portion of the bond market for what it is: a high-risk slice of the corporate debt pie. Keeping count of “fallen angels,” or those investment-grade bonds that are downgraded into junk territory, will become a spectator sport.
If you study the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers on wages for nonsupervisory workers over the past few decades, you will notice that wage growth has been strangely slow to pick up. Hot economies usually drive wages up pretty promptly; this recovery has been running since 2009 and it has barely moved the needle. It’s even more perverse on the other side of the Atlantic. According to a 2017 story in the Financial Times, Britain was “the only big, advanced economy in which wages contracted while the economy expanded” – an amazing achievement if you think about it. And UK thinktank the Resolution Foundation has said this decade is “set to be the worst for pay growth since the Napoleonic wars”.
How could such a thing happen in this modern and enlightened age? Well, for starters, think of all that whining we’re hearing from the US’s management, who will apparently blame anyone and do anything to avoid paying workers more. Every labour-management innovation seems to have been designed with this amazing goal in mind. Every great bipartisan political initiative, from free trade to welfare reform, points the same way. When Republicans are in charge, it’s open season on working-class organisations. And you can forget about increases in the minimum wage, regardless of who’s in the White House.
Of course it’s happening the same way in the UK; be it Thatcher’s war on unions or New Labour’s “third way”, Britain has followed the US model closely. Political decisions within both countries have had highly predictable results, and we are now fated to live with them. Good times aren’t really all that good for ordinary people any more, only for the people on top – the owners of companies, of real estate, of stocks. Except in the very tightest labour markets, workers simply don’t have the power to demand their fair share. If you ask me, this is the thing to panic about: not the possibility that workers might prosper, but that they’re not prospering yet.
Britain will face a “state of emergency” if no Brexit deal is reached by February, Dominic Grieve has warned at an exclusive event for Independent subscribers. Appearing on a stage with other key Brexit figures, including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Gina Miller, the leading Tory rebel said “ordinary life will grind to a halt” if the talks are still deadlocked as D-Day nears. The warning came as Mr Rees-Mogg launched his most outspoken attack yet on big businesses opposing a hard Brexit, claiming they have “got everything wrong in the whole of their history”. Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, suggested she would not accept any further “compromises” beyond the deal struck at Chequers by Theresa May – preferring a no-deal outcome. [..]
Last month, Mr Grieve, a former attorney general, led an aborted revolt to guarantee MPs a “meaningful vote” to prevent Britain crashing out of the EU without an agreement. In his most dramatic language yet, to underline the high stakes, Mr Grieve told the audience: “If by the end of February or early March it is clear that there is no deal on anything, there will be a declaration of a state of emergency in this country. “Actually, ordinary life will grind to a halt. That is the extent to which our lives are intermeshed with the lives of our European partners, and that is what will happen if there is no deal on anything.” Mr Grieve said hardline anti-Brexit MPs had “abdicated” their responsibilities to the public by boasting that they will do “absolutely nothing while we skated off the edge of the cliff into this major national crisis”. “That is the madness that has crept into some of the discourse in parliament,” he added.
Donald Trump left the opening day of the Nato summit in Brussels in disarray on Wednesday after making a surprise demand for members to raise their defence spending to 4% of GDP, and clashing with German chancellor Angela Merkel over a proposed pipeline deal with Russia. Trump left the assembled presidents and prime ministers floundering, unsure whether he was serious about the 4% target, double the existing Nato target of 2%, which many do not meet, or whether it was just a ploy. After making the announcement, Trump walked out.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, confirmed the 4% figure. “During the president’s remarks today at the Nato summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2% of their GDP on defence spending, but that they increase it to 4%,” she said. Sanders added: “President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and, at a very minimum, meet their already stated obligations.”
Germans would actually welcome the withdrawal of American troops stationed in their country, a new poll has found – as Donald Trump threatens to pull the plug on military support. The finding comes on the first day of a Nato summit in which the US president is urging Europe to spend more on defence if it wants to continue to receive American military protection. But far from being seen as a threat, a YouGov poll for the dpa news agency found that more Germans would welcome the departure of the 35,000-strong American force than would oppose it.
42% said they supported withdrawal while just 37% wanted the soldiers to stay, with 21% undecided. Last month the US media reported that the US government was in the process of assessing the cost of keeping troops in Germany ahead of a possible withdrawal, citing Pentagon sources. But the policy of actually pulling out of the country has not actually reached the negotiating table in his week’s Brussels summit and is not expected to be discussed as a possibility – for now.
Under the radar, away from World Cup frenzy and the merger and acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo Inc. and Fiat, the eighth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), established in 2004, sailed on in Beijing, hosted by President Xi Jinping. Amid the torrential pledge of loans and aid, China committed to invest right across the Arab world in transportation infrastructure, oil and gas, finance, digital economy and artificial intelligence (AI). Significantly, Beijing will offer $15 million in aid for Palestinian economic development, as well as $91 million distributed among Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
A China-Arab bank consortium will be set up, with a dedicated fund of $3 billion tied up with the financial aid and loan package. Beijing also foresees importing a whopping $8 trillion from Arab states up to 2025. Predictably, once again Xi fully connected the whole Arab world with the expansion of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And careful to navigate the geopolitical minefield, he urged “relevant sides” to respect the international consensus in the Israel-Palestine confrontation, calling for justice. That may indicate a gradual, but sure departure from trademark Chinese passive or reactive policy across the Arab world, focused exclusively on energy and political non-interference.
Xi is now openly tying up Chinese financial aid and deals with nations across the Global South to an overall economic development drive; the only roadmap to solve intractable political and religious conflict. And that includes full respect of international deals. As much as the Arab world, Iran is in Southwest Asia. A day before the China-Arab forum, Premier Li Keqiang, in Berlin, was warning of “unforeseeable consequences” if the Iran nuclear deal, known as JCPOA, were to be discarded, as the Trump administration wants.
The current frenzy over the vacancy on the Supreme Court in the wake of Justice Kennedy’s retirement highlights just how much power has been centralized in the hands of a small number of people in Washington, DC. The left has grown positively hysterical over the thought of yet another Trump-appointed judge being installed, who could potentially serve on the court for decades. Right-wingers who claim the left is overreacting, however, are unconvincing. One can only imagine the right’s reaction were Hillary Clinton president. She would have already had the opportunity to appoint Scalia’s replacement, and we might now be talking about her nominee to replace Justice Ginsberg.
The right-wing media would be filled with article after article about how the new court would be a disaster for health-care freedom, private gun ownership, and, of course, the unborn. But, as it is, we live in a country where five people on a court decide what the law is for 320 million people. And for some reason, many people think this is entirely normal. It’s our own American version of the Soviet politburo, but few are even bothering to ask whether it’s a good idea. After all, if it makes sense for a small handful of people to decide law for the entire country, why even bother with a House of Representatives? Even the Senate — composed primarily of multimillionaires living full-time in Washington, DC, is [by comparison] extravagantly “democratic.”
Hospitals in New Zealand have cancelled elective surgeries and discharged patients early after 30,000 nurses walked off the job in the first such nationwide strike in 30 years. The 24-hour strike began on Thursday, and comes after months of negotiations between the government and nurses broke down on Wednesday, leaving hospitals to battle winter illnesses without crucial staff. Long delays at hospital emergency departments are expected around the country. Striking nurses held rallies in major cities, chanting “be fair to those who care” in the largest public demonstrations by the health sector ever seen on the country’s streets. Nurses said they were overworked and underpaid, with unsafe working conditions leading to burnout and exhaustion.
Patient care and staff wellbeing were routinely compromised, they said. Acting prime minister Winston Peters said the government was “very, very disappointed” that its latest offer of a 12.5% increase had been rejected, and that it would take time to address nine years of neglect under the previous National government. Although the May budget delivered a surplus, Peters said the extra funds were needed to handle unforeseen spending, such as managing the spread of mycoplasma bovis, a cow disease. “We are saying give us some time … it’s not that we’re not willing to, we haven’t got the money,” said Peters. “We’ve gone as far as we can go as a government. We got hold of a negotiated arrangement which we inherited – the nurses have had a raw nine years.”
The European Commission on Wednesday said Greece will remain under an “enhanced surveillance framework” to ensure that it meets ambitious budget targets through 2022. The country will still be subject to quarterly inspections from creditors after the bailout program ends in late August. “Greece is now able to stand on its own two feet but that doesn’t mean it has to stand alone … The reform era has not ended,” EU Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said. “Enhanced surveillance is not a fourth program: it involves no new commitments or conditions. It is a framework to support the completion and delivery of ongoing reforms,” he added.
Despite returning to growth after a massive recession, Greece leaves the program still facing major difficulties. Banks are struggling to deal with a high rate of bad loans. At over 20%, Greece has the highest unemployment rate in the euro currency union. Government bonds remain below investment grade even though their yields have fallen to manageable rates. And to help reduce its debt, Greece has committed to punishingly high primary budget surpluses — that is, the budget excluding the cost of debt servicing — of above 3.5% through 2022. “Enhanced surveillance is there to help Greece build confidence with markets, investors and companies,” Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said. “They all want stability and predictability.”
For months, a major recycling facility for the greater Baltimore-Washington area has been facing a big problem: it has to pay to get rid of huge amounts of paper and plastic it would normally sell to China. Beijing is no longer buying, claiming the recycled materials are “contaminated.” For sure, the 900 tons of trash dumped at all hours of the day and night, five days a week, on the conveyor belts at the plant in Elkridge, Maryland – an hour’s drive from the US capital – are not clean. Amid the nerve-shattering din and clouds of brown dust, dozens of workers in gloves and masks – most of them women – nimbly pluck a diverse array of objects from the piles that could count as “contaminants.”
That could be anything from clothes to cables to tree branches to the bane of all recyclers: plastic bags, which are not supposed to go in recycling bins because they snarl up the machinery. “We’ve had to slow our machinery, and hire more people” to clean up the waste, says Michael Taylor, the head of recycling operations for Waste Management, the company that runs the plant. At the end of the sorting line is the end product — huge bales of compacted waste containing paper, cardboard or plastics. These have been bought up for decades by businesses, most of them based in China, which clean them up, crush them and transform them into raw materials for industrial plants.
Last year, China bought up more than half of the scrap materials exported by the United States. Globally, since 1992, 72% of plastic waste has ended up in China and Hong Kong, according to a study in the journal Science Advances. But since January, China has closed its borders to most paper and plastic waste in line with a new environmental policy pushed by Beijing, which no longer wants to be the world’s trash can, or even its recycle bin. For other waste products such as cardboard and metal, China has set a contamination level of 0.5% — a threshold too low for most current US technology to handle. US waste handlers say they expect China will close its doors to all recycled materials by 2020 — an impossibly short deadline.
With each passing day, it becomes increasingly evident that US President Donald Trump’s administration cares less about economics and more about the aggressive exercise of political power. This is obviously a source of enormous frustration for those of us who practice the art and science of economics. But by now, the verdict is self-evident: Trump and his team continue to flaunt virtually every principle of conventional economics. Trade policy is an obvious and essential case in point. Showing no appreciation of the time-honored linkage between trade deficits and macroeconomic saving-investment imbalances, the president continues to fixate on bilateral solutions to a multilateral problem – in effect, blaming China for America’s merchandise trade deficits with 102 countries.
Similarly, his refusal to sign the recent G7 communiqué was couched in the claim that the US is like a “piggy bank that everybody is robbing” through unfair trading practices. But piggy banks are for saving, and in the first quarter of this year, America’s net domestic saving rate was just 1.5% of national income. Not much to rob there! The same can be said of fiscal policy. Trump’s deficit-busting tax cuts and increases in government spending make no sense for an economy nearing a business-cycle peak and with an unemployment rate of 3.8%. Moreover, the feedback loop through the saving channel only exacerbates the very trade problems that Trump claims to be solving.
With the Congressional Budget Office projecting that federal budget deficits will average 4.2% of GDP from now until 2023, domestic saving will come under further pressure, fueling increased demand for surplus saving from abroad and even bigger trade deficits in order to fill the void. Yet Trump now ups the ante on tariffs – in effect, biting the very hand that feeds the US economy.
In Sydney, Australia’s largest property market and Petri dish for one of the world’s biggest housing bubbles, home prices fell 4.6% in June compared to a year ago, with house prices down 6.2%, and prices of condos (“units” as they’re called) down 0.7%, according to CoreLogic. The most expensive sector got hit the hardest: in the top quartile of home sales, prices fell 7.3%. In the nine months since the peak in September, the overall Daily Home Value Index has fallen 5.0%. But it had been one heck of a boom in Sydney, where home prices had jumped over 80% from the end of 2009 through the peak in September last year. Even during the big-bad Global Financial Crisis, they’d only dipped 4.6%.
So the market is changing, and the denying has stopped. Australian banks are getting put through the wringer by the Royal Commission with ongoing revelations of an ever longer list of misdeeds, particularly in the mortgage sector. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (ARPA), which is supposed to regulate the financial services industry, put in place some macroprodential measures to tamp down on the housing bubble, and they’re finally having an impact. Banks are suddenly focusing on borrowers’ debt-to-income ratios and other specifics, rather than just the assurance that home prices will always rise. They’re under investigation, and they’re tightening credit. And investors – a huge force in the market – have suddenly lost their appetite for property speculation, and banks have lost their appetite for funding them.
The European Union has warned the United States that imposing import tariffs on cars and car parts would harm its own automotive industry and likely lead to counter-measures by its trading partners on $294 billion of U.S. exports. In a 10-page submission to the United States Commerce Department sent last Friday, the European Union said tariffs on cars and car parts were unjustifiable and did not make economic sense. he Commerce Department launched its investigation, on grounds of national security, on May 23 under instruction from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticised the EU over its trade surplus with the United States and for having higher import duties on cars. The EU has a 10% levy, compared to 2.5% for cars entering the United States.
Trump said last week that the government was completing its study and suggested the United States would take action soon, having earlier threatened to impose a 20% tariff on all EU-assembled cars. The bloc exported 37.4 billion euros (33.10 billion pounds) of cars to the United States in 2017, while 6.2 billion euros worth of cars went the other way. The European Union says that for some goods, such as trucks, U.S. import duties are higher. In its submission, the EU said that EU companies make close to 2.9 million cars in the United States, supporting 120,000 jobs – or 420,000 if cars dealerships and car parts retailers are included. [..] Assuming counter-measures along the lines of those taken in response to existing U.S. import tariffs on steel and aluminium, up to $294 billion of U.S. exports – 19% of overall U.S. exports – could be affected, the submission said.
The future of Germany’s coalition government is hanging in the balance after the country’s interior minister reportedly announced his intention to resign over a migration showdown with Angela Merkel. Horst Seehofer, who is also leader of the Christian Social Union, on Sunday night offered to step down from his ministerial role and party leadership in a closed-door meeting in which he and fellow CSU leaders had debated the merits of the migration deal Merkel hammered out with fellow European Union leaders in Brussels. But with CSU hardliners believed to have tried to talk the combative interior minister into staying, a press conference was postponed until Monday, with Seehofer seeking to go back to Merkel in search of a final compromise.
At a 2am media conference, Seehofer said he had agreed to meet again with Merkel’s party before he made his decision final. “We’ll have more talks today with the CDU in Berlin with the hope that we can come to an agreement,” Seehofer said. “After that, then we will see.” In the short term, Seehofer’s resignation would appear to be a let-up for a beleaguered Merkel, removing a politician who has become the chancellor’s biggest nemesis inside her own government since taking up his post at the interior ministry in March. But if Seehofer were to resign and his replacement continue an adversarial approach, it would threaten to bring an end to the historic alliance between Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, and the Bavarian CSU, pushing the chancellor’s coalition government to the brink of collapse.
[..] three competing visions have emerged. The first is Merkel’s idea of a “competitive” Europe. Under her “leadership” since the euro crisis began in 2010, the EU has increasingly become a vehicle for imposing market discipline on member states. It is in the name of this idea of a competitive Europe that, led by Germany, austerity has been imposed on debtor countries in the eurozone. In other words, although it is expressed in pro-European terms and involves further integration, it is essentially a neoliberal vision.
The second vision is the French president Emmanuel Macron’s idea of a “Europe qui protège”, a Europe that protects. Macron envisages an EU in which there would be greater solidarity between citizens and between member states. In practice, this means more redistribution and risk-sharing in the eurozone – the “transfer union” that Germany and other creditor countries fear. This is a centre-left vision of Europe – although in France, because Macron has implemented structural reforms in an attempt to gain credibility in Berlin, he is himself increasingly perceived as neoliberal.
The third vision is the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s idea of a “Christian” Europe of sovereign states. His vision first emerged in response to the attempt, led by Germany, to force EU member states to accept mandatory quotas of refugees in 2015, but it has developed into a broader critique of the European project. Orbán defines himself as an “illiberal democrat” in opposition to what he sees as the undemocratic liberalism of the EU. His vision is shared not just by the Law and Justice party government in Poland but also by far-right parties in other EU member states.
Anti-establishment leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador swept to victory in Mexico’s presidential election Sunday, in a political sea change driven by voters’ anger over endemic corruption and brutal violence. The sharp-tongued, silver-haired politician known as “AMLO” won 53% of the vote, according to an official projection of the results. It is the first time in Mexico’s modern history a candidate has won more than half the vote in a competitive election, and a resounding rejection of the two parties that have governed the country for nearly a century. “This is a historic day, and it will be a memorable night,” Lopez Obrador said in a victory speech in Mexico City’s Alameda park, as thousands of ecstatic supporters flooded the capital’s central district, chanting “Yes we did!” and partying to mariachi music.
Lopez Obrador, 64, sought to downplay fears of radicalism, after critics branded him a “tropical Messiah” who would install Venezuela-style policies that could wreck Latin America’s second-largest economy. “Our new national project seeks an authentic democracy. We are not looking to construct a dictatorship, either open or hidden,” he told cheering supporters, promising to safeguard freedoms, respect the private sector and work to reconcile a divided nation. He also vowed to pursue a relationship of “friendship and cooperation” with the United States, Mexico’s key trading partner – a change in tone from some comments during the campaign, when he said he would put US President Donald Trump “in his place.”
Following the close of a second quarter that will be best remembered by President Trump’s vacillations on trade, Axios has dropped a Sunday night bombshell that may spook markets hoping for a respite from the daily escalating trade war rhetoric as the second half of the year begins: White House reporter Jonathan Swan has obtained a copy of a draft bill, purportedly ordered by Trump himself, that would allow the US to “walk away” from its commitments to the World Trade Organization. If passed, the bill (entitled the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act”) would effectively blow up the WTO, an organization that the US helped create back in the 90s, by allowing Trump to unilaterally ignore the two most important principles:
The “Most Favored Nation” (MFN) principle that countries can’t set different tariff rates for different countries outside of free trade agreements; “Bound tariff rates” — the tariff ceilings that each WTO country has already agreed to in previous negotiations. “It would be the equivalent of walking away from the WTO and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal,” one anonymous source reportedly told Axios. The bill asks Congress to hand over to Trump unilateral power to ignore WTO rules and negotiate unilateral trade agreements. The leak of the draft bill follows another WTO-related scoop from Axios, published last week, where Swan reported that Trump has repeatedly badgered his aides about pulling the US out of the WTO, which the president has famously criticized as a “disaster”.
The bill’s chances of making it through Congress are extremely low. However, if Trump has taught us anything about his trade agenda, it’s never say never. “The good news is Congress would never give this authority to the president,” the source added, describing the bill as “insane.” “It’s not implementable at the border,” given it would create potentially tens of thousands of new tariff rates on products. “And it would completely remove us from the set of global trade rules.”
Downing Street has produced a third model for handling customs after the UK leaves the EU, the BBC understands. Details of the new plan have not been revealed publicly but senior ministers will discuss it at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat, on Friday. Ministers have been involved in heated discussions recently as they tried to choose between two earlier models. Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg says the PM risks a revolt if the type of Brexit she promised is not delivered. Theresa May hopes to resolve cabinet splits on the shape of Brexit at this week’s cabinet meeting. The prime minister has said the UK will then publish a White Paper setting out “in more detail what strong partnership the United Kingdom wants to see with the European Union in the future”.
It follows last week’s summit in Brussels where European Council president Donald Tusk issued a “last call” for the UK to agree its position on Brexit, saying the “most difficult” issues were unresolved and “quick progress” was needed if agreement was to be reached by the next meeting in October. BBC political correspondent Chris Mason says Downing Street hopes it has now found its way out of a bind on customs, the issue central to the practicalities of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, and a significant part of finding a solution to maintaining an open border with the Republic of Ireland.
“It’s not just that justice Kennedy’s successor is likely going to move the court to the right,” Vladeck said. “It’s that knowing that there are five conservative justices surely emboldens states and conservative interest groups to bring to the supreme court legal theories that they might have been reluctant to leave in justice Kennedy’s hands.” If that picture of the country’s jurisprudential future has left liberals distraught, it has also raised questions about the court’s increasingly politicized nature, its power to shape society and the erosion of its independence as one branch of government meant to balance the other two – Congress and the presidency – and to be checked in turn itself.
While past courts have had liberal or conservative bents, since the Bush v Gore decision that decided the 2000 election, the court has taken on a more explicitly political feel. “People say the founders would roll over in their graves – I think the founders would hang themselves”, said Mickey Edwards, vice-president of the Aspen Institute think-tank and formerly a congressman for 16 years. “The whole idea of the court being a separate and independent branch has totally disappeared. It is now a third branch of the policymaking process.” Extreme partisanship in Congress has led the legislature to relinquish its power to the presidency and the court, Edwards said.
“We now have become so accustomed to thinking of things – whether it’s foreign policy or trade policy or other things that the Congress has constitutional authority over – we now look at them all as presidential powers,” Edwards said. “So the presidency has grown much stronger. “I would also say that the supreme court has grown stronger and it’s become more partisan, which is very disturbing.”
Supermarket staff in Australia have faced abuse and violence from shoppers angry at the removal of plastic bags as a ban comes into force. Customers rebelling against the end of free single-use bags have taken out their frustration on staff, prompting warnings to them to be considerate. In Western Australia, a shopper put his hands around the throat of an employee at Woolworths, which had stopped giving out free plastic bags days before the ban came into force. It was one of dozens of cases of shop staff being abused as Australia moves to reduce the amount of non-decomposing synthetic materials going into rivers and seas.
In a survey of supermarket workers this week, out of 132 who responded, 57 (43 per cent) said they had suffered abuse because of the plastic bag ban. “I work at Woolies and have already been abused countless times; it’s not our fault,” staff member Lauren McGowan told News.com.au. There have also been reports of customers stealing handfuls of bags before the ban. As of today, major retailers in Western Australia and Queensland face fines if they supply single-use plastic bags – which are already banned in Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
Seabirds are more at risk of dying due to plastic in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world, new research presented to parliament has shown. New Zealand is considered “the seabird capital of the world”, according to the country’s Department of Conservation, with the northern royal albatross raising their chicks on the Otago Peninsula, unique species of oystercatchers on the Chatham Islands and more penguin species than any country in the world. There are 36 seabird species that breed only in New Zealand. Mexico is a distant second with just five. More than a third of all seabird species are known to spend time in New Zealand’s waters.
Karen Baird from conservation group Forest & Bird, which produced the report, said: “Rubbish that ends up in our seas has a far worse effect on seabird species than anywhere else in the world.” “Even though we don’t have the most plastic pollution, we are unique in the world in having so many seabirds species. We also have the most threatened seabird species, many of which are found nowhere else.” Seabirds are particularly vulnerable to eating plastic because they are surface feeders, spotting food from the air and swooping down on it, scooping it up and swallowing it before the mistake is realised. Seabird chicks and adults face starvation when their stomachs fill up with plastic rather than food.
Forest & Bird called on the government to ban single-use plastic bags and commit to further research into how marine life is affected by plastic in New Zealand waters. One in three turtles that are found sick or dead in the country are caused by the animals eating plastic, Forest & Bird found, with marine mammals such as seals and sea lions also at risk. In neighbouring Australia, nine out of 10 fledglings in some shearwater colonies surveyed had eaten significant quantities of plastic, Baird said. New Zealand’s 10 shearwater species could be in for the same fate if plastic pollution wasn’t urgently addressed, Baird said.
The next step is for briefs to be filed by both sides for a formal review of Judge Robart’s suspension on Monday. The Justice Department could have appealed directly to the Supreme Court on an emergency basis, but it chose not to since the appeal court is moving fairly quickly. If the appeals court decides the stay is valid – perhaps as early as next week – then a Supreme Court appeal is almost certain. In the meantime, everything is on hold. US immigration processes continue as they did before Mr Trump issued his executive order. If it looks like this is bogging down, the president might eventually decide to modify the order rather than try to defend its legality. That’s probably the most prudent course, but he’s a stubborn man.
“I think the court’s going to feel every reason to stay on the sidelines as long as possible..” If there is no swift decision, and it doesn’t look that way, the order will have to be significantly changed, perhaps so much it largely becomes moot.
U.S. President Donald Trump faces an uphill battle to overcome a federal judge’s temporary hold on his travel ban on seven mainly Muslim countries, but the outcome of a ruling on the executive order’s ultimate legality is less certain. Any appeals of decisions by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart in Seattle face a regional court dominated by liberal-leaning judges who might not be sympathetic to Trump’s rationale for the ban, and a currently shorthanded Supreme Court split 4-4 between liberals and conservatives. The temporary restraining order Robart issued on Friday in Seattle, which applies nationwide, gives him time to consider the case in more detail, but also sends a signal that he is likely to impose a more permanent injunction.
The Trump administration has appealed that order. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said late on Saturday that it would not decide whether to lift the judge’s ruling, as requested by the U.S. government, until it receives briefs from both sides, with the administration’s filing due on Monday. Appeals courts are generally leery of upending the status quo, which in this case – for now – is the suspension of the ban. The upheaval prompted by the new Republican administration’s initial announcement of the ban on Jan. 27, with travelers detained at airports upon entering the country, would potentially be kickstarted again if Robart’s stay was lifted. The appeals court might also take into account the fact that there are several other cases around the country challenging the ban.
If it were to overturn the district court’s decision, another judge somewhere else in the United States could impose a new order, setting off a new cascade of court filings. If the appeals court upholds the order, the administration could immediately ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. But the high court is generally reluctant to get involved in cases at a preliminary stage, legal experts said. The high court is short one justice, as it has been for a year, leaving it split between liberals and conservatives. Any emergency request by the administration would need five votes to be granted, meaning at least one of the liberals would have to vote in favor. “I think the court’s going to feel every reason to stay on the sidelines as long as possible,” said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
On a visit to Tokyo and Seoul last week, the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (a) reaffirmed security guarantees to Japan and South Korea, (b) set the stage for an integrated American, Japanese and South Korean political, economic and military alliance, (c) opened the way for President Trump to knock heads together in Tokyo and Seoul to set aside their divisive historical grievances if they wanted Washington’s umbrella and (d) told Pyongyang that our nuke operators knew the return address for a swift and devastating response if they ever saw a wrong move on their X-band radar. That is a major breakthrough because no previous administration succeeded in binding these three countries in such a strong and integrated alliance. Japan was repeatedly blamed for scuttling these efforts by its allegedly defiant attitude toward Korean grievances.
Japan also wanted to make money in China while leveraging American protection in its territorial disputes with Beijing. As recently as 2014, a quarter of Japan’s exports and a third of its foreign direct investments were going to the Middle Kingdom. But Tokyo would run for cover in Washington whenever the Chinese navy and air force would challenge Japan’s presence on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. At the same time, Japan was enjoying annual trade surpluses with the U.S. of $67-$70 billion. And just a week ago, the Japanese were telling Washington that they could not buy American cars because the steering wheel was on the wrong side. [..] That has to stop. And it, apparently, will stop. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is coming to Washington next Friday (Feb. 10) with trade and investment initiatives.
But, true to form, whatever that is will probably fall far short of a trade deal Washington needs to address its excessive and structural trade imbalances with Japan. We have an even worse trade record with South Korea. Since the free-trade agreement became effective in early 2012, our trade deficit with Seoul has nearly doubled to an estimated $30 billion in 2016. Maybe we have to take a look at that, too. Building on last week’s accords, Washington has an opportunity to conclude an appropriate trade arrangement with Japan and South Korea. That would cover nearly 25% of the global economy and would represent by far the world’s largest free-trade area. Such an agreement would attract other Asia-Pacific countries to permanently anchor a decisive American political, economic and security presence in that part of the world. Washington’s bargaining power with China would be greatly strengthened by these events in a negotiating process that is apparently already under way.
[..] we find ourselves in the paradoxical situation where a reform being presented by deluded right-wing American politicians as a way of sticking it to cheating foreigners actually represents the world’s best chance for lancing the boil of rampant tax evasion by multinational companies. It is the right thing being pushed for the wrong reasons. To understand why, we need to look at the plan in more detail. The Republican plan would replace the US corporation tax, an annual levy on a firm’s reported profits, with a new levy on a company’s domestic cash flow. It means taxing a company’s domestic sales at a certain rate, probably 20%, after it has subtracted its domestic costs such as workers’ wages and the amount the firm has spent on investment in new factories and equipment.
The objective would be to tax a company’s economic activity in America, which means that it would be able to reduce its tax bill by the value of its exports, while imports would be part of its taxable liability via a “border adjustment tax”. That probably sounds mind-numbingly complicated, but the principle is actually quite simple: it means taxing the firm’s value-adding and substantive economic activity in the country where that activity actually takes place. This is most people’s idea of what a tax on corporate income is supposed to do. Many have objected that US firms that import heavily will be placed at a major tax disadvantage. Yet this impact would be entirely offset by a rise in value of the US dollar, which would follow the implementation of the reform, and which would increase the purchasing power of importers proportionately.
And for all Brady’s rhetoric and the protectionist-sounding border tax, the effect of the reform would actually be neutral on America’s terms of trade with the rest of the world. But the great advantage of this reform is that it would eliminate the incentive for multinational firms to dodge their US corporate taxes through accounting tricks, such as registering profits at subsidiaries abroad and relocating their corporate headquarters to tax havens. No matter where they based their headquarters, multinationals would be liable for a hefty US tax bill if they sold plenty of products and services in America. And if America, the world’s largest economy, were to institute this reform, there would be a powerful incentive for other countries – including Britain – to implement a similar reform.
Analysts and talking heads have an awful lot of opinions. Are we in a bubble or aren’t we? Rather than offer another opinion, I’ll offer the relationship of US economic activity (GDP) against the Wilshire 5000 (representing US equities) and the Federal Reserves gauge of American wealth, Z1 Household Net Worth series. These are the preferred establishment gauges, so take a look and then you decide. GDP is a monetary measure of the market value of all final goods and services produced annually in the US. The chart below shows the annual real GDP growth decelerating since 1950.
GDP vs. US Household Net Worth Given the sharp rise in asset values, I thought it worthwhile to view the total increase, as shown by the Fed’s US Household Net Worth data, versus the growth in GDP. The chart below shows US household net worth (all inclusive with real estate, equities, and all asset classes) is fast approaching $92 trillion against US GDP of $18.6 trillion. A simple division of GDP as a % of HHNW (maroon line in the chart below) shows household net worth (asset values) is growing significantly faster than economic activity supporting those valuations.
[..] from 1950–>2000, the average GDP to HHNW ratio was somewhat consistent around 28%…if the HHNW and GDP ratio are to come back to their 50 year norm (before they were warped by long periods of near Zero Interest Rate Policy and actual ZIRP)…there are two basic options: Either, GDP rapidly rises $7 trillion (a 38% increase)… Or, the other option is a 28% decline in HHNW, or a contraction of $25 trillion. A $25 trillion decline in HHNW would equate to an average $200,000 decline in net worth for every household in America.
For many Americans, Hillary Clinton personified the corruption and self-dealing of the elites. But Trump’s election wasn’t just a rejection of Clinton, it was a rejection of politics as usual. If the media and political establishment see Trump’s first couple of weeks in office as a whirlwind of chaos and incompetence, his supporters see an outsider taking on a sclerotic system that needs to be dismantled. That’s precisely what many Americans thought they were doing eight years ago, when they put a freshman senator from Illinois in the White House. Obama promised a new way of governing – he would be a “post-partisan” president, he would “fundamentally transform” the country, he would look out for the middle class. In the throes of the great recession, that resonated.
Something was clearly wrong with our political system and the American people wanted someone to fix it. After all, the Tea Party didn’t begin as a reaction against Obama’s presidency but that of George W Bush. As far as most Americans were concerned, the financial crisis was brought on by the excesses of Wall Street bankers and the incompetency of our political leaders. Before the Tea Party coalesced into a political movement, the protesters weren’t just traditional conservatives who cared about limited government and the constitution. They were, for the most part, ordinary Americans who felt the system was rigged against them and they wanted change.
But change didn’t come. What they got was more of the same. Obama offered a series of massive government programmes, from an $830bn financial stimulus, to the Affordable Care Act, to Dodd-Frank, none of which did much to assuage the economic anxieties of the middle class. Americans watched as the federal government bailed out the banks, then the auto industry and then passed healthcare reform that transferred billions of taxpayer dollars to major health insurance companies. Meanwhile, premiums went up, economic recovery remained sluggish and millions dropped out of the workforce and turned to food stamps and welfare programmes just to get by. Americans asked themselves: “Where’s my bailout?”
At the same time, they saw the world becoming more unstable. Part of Obama’s appeal was that he promised to end the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, restore America’s standing in the international community and pursue multilateral agreements that would bring stability. Instead, Americans watched Isis step into the vacuum created by the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. They watched the Syrian civil war trigger a migrant crisis in Europe that many Americans now view as a cautionary tale. At home, Isis-inspired terrorist attacks took their toll, as they did in Europe. And all the while Obama’s White House insisted that everything was going well.
[..] the transformative potential championed by UBI advocates has particular appeal in a country such as India, where one in five people lives below the $1.90 (£1.51) poverty line, 1 million join the workforce each month, and a clunky, corrupt bureaucracy oversees nearly 1,000 separate welfare schemes. There have already been Indian trials. Three years ago, in nine villages in Madhya Pradesh state, 6,000 people were each given a monthly payment of up to 300 rupees an adult, and half that much for every child, over a period of 18 months. Every six months, the impact of the payments was assessed against 12 villages that received no income, just the usual government welfare. “What we saw were huge improvements in nutrition, health, schooling and sanitation,” said Guy Standing, a British economist who helped run the trials.
Results published afterwards showed the consumption of lentils, chickpeas and other pulses increased tenfold. Villagers ate six times more meat and the uptake of fresh vegetables grew 888%. That meant residents of the village were healthier, worked harder and attended school more often. Equity between more socially dominant members of the community – traditionally the gatekeepers to resources – and the less powerful also improved, Standing said. “Women benefited more than men, the disabled benefited more, and scheduled [lowest] castes benefited more than others.” India’s government is clearly enamoured by the idea. Subramanian suggested even Gandhi would approve. He praised the basic income’s potential to reduce poverty “in one fell swoop”, to relieve the grinding stress of hunger, and empower Indians to make their own life choices.
Criticisms – such as the idea people would fritter the money on alcohol or drugs, or drop out of the workforce – he dismissed based on past research. On paper, the sums also add up. Subramanian calculates that the annual income required to enable all but the very poorest Indians to escape penury is about 7,620 rupees (£90) a year. If that sum were given to 75% of India’s billion-plus population, it would cost about 5% of GDP. India’s vast welfare schemes and subsidies for food, petrol and fertilisers are notoriously wasteful and poorly targeted. Cutting them entirely would save about 2% of GDP. Reducing “middle class” subsidies on things such as railway tickets and gold would save another 1%. The rest of the savings might be found in scrapping other government schemes, which altogether cost 3.7% of GDP.
It would be even cheaper if the basic income were targeted at women, for example, or if the wealthy – those who own cars or air conditioners – were excluded, or asked to opt out. Giving Indian women a minimal basic income would cost just over 1% of GDP, but have “large multiplier effects” on the entire society, Subramanian said.
The Scottish government is under growing pressure to replace its private finance programme with a publicly funded bank to build new schools, roads and hospitals. The Common Weal, a pro-independence thinktank, said it should also replace the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), the government agency that champions private financing projects such as a new Aberdeen bypass contract, which is worth £1.5bn to the private consortium building it. Common Weal said there was an urgent requirement to set up a Scottish national investment bank that would use £1.35bn in public funding for construction projects and another £2bn from investors to replace more expensive private financing.
The SFT would be replaced by a new publicly owned investment company and the two bodies would fund national infrastructure projects, new low-carbon energy schemes and local council programmes, as well as offering low-cost loans to small businesses, it said. The thinktank’s campaign to push for the changes has the backing of the Unison and Unite unions, the thinktank New Economics Foundation and the London-based campaign Debt Resistance UK. It has won support from Labour MSPs as well as Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader told an audience in Glasgow last month that his party would set up a national investment bank at UK level and regional banks for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They would focus on “fast tracking infrastructure spending to building essential transport and digital links to realise our potential”, he said.
Common Weal’s call for a Scottish national investment bank is to be debated at the SNP’s spring conference in March, an indication of growing unease within the the party about the private finance model being used by Nicola Sturgeon’s government. The motion from an SNP branch in Angus near Dundee says leaving economic growth and environmental protection “solely in the hands of our private banking and financial sector will be detrimental to present and future living standards of our citizens”.
Put three people in a room who can’t get on with each other. Condemn them to stay there for all eternity while they torture each other. Sit and watch as the gruesome story plays out. And what do you have? One answer is the 1944 existentialist play by Jean-Paul Sartre, Huis Clos. Another is the story of the neverending Greek debt crisis in which the three main characters are Alexis Tsipras, Wolfgang Schäuble and Christine Lagarde. [..] Tsipras plays one of the three lead parts in the play. Elected as a leftwing firebrand two years ago, Tsipras has had a rapid fall from grace. He caved in when pressure was put on him by the Europeans in the summer of 2015 and having run for office on an anti-austerity programme eventually agreed to even more draconian bailout terms than the previous centrist governments.
For an increasing number of Greeks, Tsipras is no longer an iconoclast; he is just another man in a suit. With public support waning, Tsipras is once again hanging tough. He aroused the ire of the Europeans by giving a Christmas bonus to pensioners and free school meals to poverty-stricken families. Europe responded by suspending the limited debt relief it has previously granted. Tsipras says Greece has already done enough and will suffer no more. Europe is played by Schäuble, the German finance minister. He too is facing political pressures. The German public thinks enough aid has already been given to Greece, a country it considers is not doing enough to help itself. Opposition to further debt relief is strong and a general election is looming. The third cast member is Lagarde, a former French finance minister and now managing director of the IMF. Under its own rules, the IMF is forbidden from putting money into a bailout if it thinks debt is unsustainable.
There have been reports coming out of Washington that the Fund believes Greece’s debt will rise to 275% of national income by 2060, which would undoubtedly put it into the “unsustainable” category. The latest act in this play takes place in Washington this week when the IMF’s governing executive board discusses Greece. One factor complicating the issue is that time is running out to get matters sorted before the first in a series of European elections kicks off in in the Netherlands in March. A second is that the drama has a new character in the form of Donald Trump. There is little evidence that the US president gives a fig about whether Greece gets debt relief but he may have more than a walk-on role because the US is the biggest shareholder at the Fund and has the power to veto any decision it doesn’t like.
Trump has expressed strong – and not exactly positive – views about the European Union in general and Germany in particular. Causing consternation in Brussels, the new American president has said the EU has become a vehicle for German interests. His trade adviser Peter Navarro has accused Germany of being a currency manipulator, using a ”grossly undervalued” euro to run up a massive current account surplus. Navarro’s specific criticism about currency manipulation is wide of the mark. Germany is part of the eurozone and doesn’t always agree with the monetary policy decisions taken by the ECB. The euro’s recent weakness has nothing to do with a deliberate attempt by the Germans to reduce its value and everything to do with the fact that Europe has been loosening monetary policy at a time when the US has started to raise interest rates.
When the European Union and Turkey reached a deal last year to lessen the flow of refugees into Greece, the priority was on defending borders, not the humanitarian crisis. Sadly, that remains Europe’s priority as it turns its attention to halting the flow of people from Libya to Italy. More than 180,000 people crossed the Mediterranean to arrive in Italy last year, and more than 5,000 died on the journey. The European Council met in Malta on Friday with the urgent task of preventing large numbers of people from setting out from Libya for Italy as soon as the weather improves this spring. The problem is twofold: Thousands risk drowning in rickety smugglers’ boats and another wave of migrants risks putting even more pressure on Italy and other European Union members where anti-immigrant populism is on the rise.
While the European Union is assisting in rescuing migrants at sea and in training the Libyan Coast Guard, its priority remains to “ensure effective control of our external border and stem illegal flows into the E.U.” That effectively means leaving people stranded in Libya, where migrants are subject to rape, beatings and torture in overcrowded camps. Europe hopes to enlist the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations’ refugee agency to ensure that migrants in Libya are detained in humane conditions. But these organizations in a joint statement warned that, given the situation in Libya, “it is not appropriate to consider Libya a safe third country, nor to establish extraterritorial processing of asylum seekers in North Africa.” Europe is also investing in improving conditions in Africa that compel people to flee, but that is a long-term solution that does little to address the immediate crisis.
On Wednesday, Libya’s United Nations-backed prime minister, Fayez Serraj, offered to allow NATO or European Union ships to pursue smugglers in Libyan waters. Putting smugglers out of business is important. But if NATO or the European Union sends migrants back to Libya, it “would violate the law, not to mention basic decency, and betray the values on which the E.U. and its member states were built,” said Judith Sunderland, the associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Ahead of the Malta meeting, the European Council president, Donald Tusk, and Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, warned that, with populism on the rise, the “E.U.’s key values are in danger, if we don’t act now.” But counting on Libya to keep migrants from leaving for Europe also puts those values in danger. The obvious immediate answer to the plight of African migrants is to open more legal channels for people to reach Europe, and to ensure that every member country assumes its fair share of new arrivals so that Italy is not overwhelmed.
European Union leaders placed a bet on Libya’s fragile government to help them prevent a new wave of African migrants this spring, offering Tripoli more money and other assistance to beef up its frontier controls. Meeting in Malta – in the sea lane to Italy where more than 4,500 people drowned last year – the leaders addressed legal and moral concerns about having Libyan coastguards force people ashore by pledging to improve conditions in migrant camps there. “If the situation stays as is now, in a few weeks we will have a humanitarian crisis and people will start pointing fingers, saying Europe has done nothing,” said Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, which currently holds the presidency of the bloc. “With this agreement… there is one first decent shot in trying to get a proper management of migration flows across the central Mediterranean.”
Aid groups, however, accused the EU, of abandoning humanitarian values and misrepresenting conditions in Libya, where the U.N.-backed government of Fayez al-Seraj has only a shaky and partial hold on the sprawling desert nation. Medecins Sans Frontieres, which works on the ground, said the summit proved EU leaders were “delusional” about Libya. “Today was not about saving lives; it’s clear that the EU is ready to sacrifice thousands of vulnerable men, women and children in order to stop them reaching European shores.” The chaos in Libya has thwarted any hope of a quick fix in the way that a controversial EU deal with Turkey a year ago led to a virtual halt to a migrant route to Germany via Greece along which more than a million asylum-seekers traveled in 2015.
Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Monday visited the state-run reception facility for migrants at Elliniko, south of Athens, amid reports that some of the residents have started a hunger strike against substandard conditions but was prevented from entering the site by protests. Dozens of protesting migrants formed a human chain at the entrance to the site, keeping out police and the minister, as child refugees sat on top of a barbed wire fence, shouting at the officers. The minister, who initially arrived at the site alone, was subsequently allowed to enter by migrants keen to discuss their demands. Migrants launched their hunger strike on Monday morning, calling for improved conditions at the site which authorities have pledged to clear soon to allow for a planned real estate project.