Aug 102022
 
 August 10, 2022  Posted by at 9:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  45 Responses »


Gustav Klimt Field of poppies 1907

 

Is The US Preparing To Throw Zelensky Under The Bus? (Diesen)
Zelensky Aide: Counterattack Claims Part Of Kiev’s ‘Information Warfare’ (RT)
Welcome To The Third World (Matt Taibbi)
FBI Even Searched Melania’s Wardrobe Inn Trump Raid (Devine)
Judge Who OK’d Mar-a-Lago Raid Once Obama Donor, Jeffrey Epstein Lawyer (NYP)
Trump Ally Rep. Scott Perry Says The FBIs Seized His Cellphone (Fox)
EU Break-up Now Inevitable (Saxty)
Z for Zorro (Batiushka)
Hungary Offers Solution To Resume Russian Oil Supply (RT)
Lies, Damned Lies, and the Jan. 6 Committee (Sperry)
The Global Debt Scam – Day of Reckoning? (Salamah)
How Greece Became Europe’s Worst Place For Press Freedom (Pol.eu)
US Occupation Loots Most Of Syria’s Oil: Ministry (AlMa)
Lockdowns Increases Obesity, And Obesity Increases Covid Risk (DM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia bombshell

 

 

Taiwan

 

 


EU imports of Russian Energy

1. Oil:
Jan – May 21: €25 bn
Jan – May 22: €43 bn
=> +71%

2. Gas:
Jan – May 21: €6 bn
Jan – May 22: €21 bn
=> +260%

3. Coal:
Jan – May 21: €1.5 bn
Jan – May 22: €4.0 bn
=> +170%

 


German front yr power futures have reached 411 €/MWh today.
Germany consumes about 500 TWh electricity annually. So at current prices the economy’s power bill stands at €205bn.
The 2010s average was €20bn.
The German electricity bill went up by €195bn. That’s 5% of GDP.

 

Myocarditis

 

 

 

 

“..there needs to be a fall guy to take the blame for the pending disaster..”

Is The US Preparing To Throw Zelensky Under The Bus? (Diesen)

Until very recently, the US successfully upheld the international image of Zelensky as some sort of reincarnation of Winston Churchill. Washington dominated the information war in which the complexity of the proxy fight was simplified with dichotomous imagery of the two leaders. Zelensky and Putin were successfully portrayed as a virtuous democrat versus a vicious dictator, a victorious David versus a failing Goliath. Presenting conflicts as a struggle between good and evil is an ideal strategy to mobilize public support and to depict the lack of compromise as a moral position. However, when a war is lost and compromise is necessary, the narrative must be changed. President Joe Biden must defend his weak political position at home and allies must be reassured about American resolve, thus there needs to be a fall guy to take the blame for the pending disaster.

While Washington will continue to send more weapons to bleed Russia, it appears to be simultaneously preparing for defeat by no longer shielding Zelensky from criticism. sIt has been a remarkably difficult month, so far, for Zelensky in the Western media, which had previously withheld all criticism. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, closely linked to the White House, reported that “there is deep mistrust between the White House and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine – considerably more than has been reported.” Friedman also detailed Washington’s growing concerns about Ukrainian corruption and mismanagement, a topic that has been denounced as Russian propaganda since February. This is the same media that until recently repeated every line from Zelensky, including labeling the mass surrender in Mariupol as an “evacuation.” No more.

It is seemingly also no longer taboo to report on the internal divisions in Ukraine as a source of failure. The New York Times reports on Zelensky’s reckless purge of the military and security services, while the Washington Post accuses Zelensky of sidelining mayors and centralizing control over all recovery aid “to weaken any future political rivals.” Sky News, a very anti-Russian news agency, also aired a segment with the title “Zelensky ‘not all he’s portrayed as’ by Western media.”An anchor accused Zelensky of dismantling Ukrainian democracy by seizing control of the national media, banning political opposition parties, and arresting the opposition leader. All true, but previously taboo..

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“All public remarks by Ukrainian officials are part of information warfare against Russia..”

“He ruled out Kiev’s military defeat as a possible scenario, predicting that Western nations will funnel weapons to Ukraine regardless of the cost..”

Zelensky Aide: Counterattack Claims Part Of Kiev’s ‘Information Warfare’ (RT)

All public remarks by Ukrainian officials are part of information warfare against Russia, Mikhail Podolyak, an aide to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenksy, claimed in an interview on Tuesday. The comment came as Podolyak was discussing Kiev’s plans to take back the city of Kherson from Russia with the BBC. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly claimed that a major counterattack was looming and that Russia was concentrating its forces in return, suggesting that a major battle in southern Ukraine was about to break out. Speaking to the British broadcaster, Podolyak said that “war is a dynamic process” that entails “a constant correction of tactical goals” and that he preferred to discuss “the possibility of lifting the blockade in broad terms” rather than particular maneuvers.

When pressured on the promises of a counteroffensive, he conceded that they could have been meant to deceive Russia. “Certainly, all public comments are part of information warfare. We need to demoralize the Russian army,” he said. The official erroneously called Kherson the largest city captured by Russia since attacking Ukraine in February, explaining its symbolic importance for Kiev. The port of Mariupol is bigger, the BBC noted in an editorial remark. Zelensky’s adviser claimed that Ukrainian forces were waging a “creative war,” as opposed to Russia, which he believes has little regard for its own casualties. “Russia hates us so much that it is ready to lose 100,000 of its people just to prove that it has the right to kill,” he declared.

Podolyak said that Zelensky will remain in power in Ukraine for as long as the armed conflict continues, dismissing the idea that the country could hold a presidential election before the hostilities end. Responding to the widely-used assertion that the government would fight “to the last Ukrainian,” he said the fight would be “to the last Russian citizen in Ukrainian territory.” He ruled out Kiev’s military defeat as a possible scenario, predicting that Western nations will funnel weapons to Ukraine regardless of the cost. Western nations won’t negotiate a truce with Russia at the expense of Ukraine “because the reputation of President Zelensky is such that no such talks can be held behind his back,”Podolyak said.

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“..you’ll quickly lose track if you try to count the named and unnamed intel spooks appearing in coverage today..”

Welcome To The Third World (Matt Taibbi)

Headline from Politics Insider this morning: “Feds likely obtained ‘pulverizing’ amount of evidence ahead of searching Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, legal experts say.” Pulverizing! Hold that thought. We’ve reached the stage of American history where everything we see on the news must first be understood as political theater. In other words, the messaging layer of news now almost always dominates the factual narrative, with the latter often reported so unreliably as to be meaningless anyway. Yesterday’s sensational tale of the FBI raiding the Mar-a-Lago home of former president Donald Trump is no different. As of now, it’s impossible to say if Trump’s alleged offense was great, small, or in between. But this for sure is a huge story, and its hugeness extends in multiple directions, including the extraordinary political risk inherent in the decision to execute the raid.

If it backfires, if underlying this action there isn’t a very substantial there there, the Biden administration just took the world’s most reputable police force and turned it into the American version of the Tonton Macoute on national television. We may be looking at simultaneously the dumbest and most inadvertently destructive political gambit in the recent history of this country. The top story today in the New York Times, bylined by its top White House reporter, speculates this is about “delayed returning” of “15 boxes of material requested by officials with the National Archives.” If that’s true, and it’s not tied to January 6th or some other far more serious offense, then the Justice Department just committed institutional suicide and moved the country many steps closer to once far-out eventualities like national revolt or martial law.

This is true no matter what you think of Trump. Despite the early reports of “cheers” in the West Wing, the mood in center-left media has already drifted markedly from the overnight celebration. The Times story today added a line missing from most early reports: “The search, however, does not mean prosecutors have determined that Mr. Trump committed a crime.” There are whispers throughout the business that editors are striking down certain jubilant language, and we can even see this playing out on cable, where the most craven of the networks’ on-air ex-spooks are crab-crawling backward from last night’s buzz-words: The hugeness of the story has become part of its explanation. An action so extreme, we’re told by expert after expert, could only be based upon “pulverizing” evidence.

Throughout the Trump years we’ve seen a numbing pattern of rhetorical slippage in coverage of investigations. The aforementioned Politics Insider story is no different. “Likely” evidence in the headline becomes more profound in the text. An amazing five bylined writers explain: Regardless of the raid’s focus legal experts quickly reached a consensus about it: A pile of evidence must have backed up the warrant authorizing the search. They then quoted a “former top official in the Justice Department’s National Security Division” — you’ll quickly lose track if you try to count the named and unnamed intel spooks appearing in coverage today — who said, “There’s every reason to think that there’s a plus factor in the quantum and quantity of evidence that the government already had to support probable cause in this case.”

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Theater. Bad theater, but still..

FBI Even Searched Melania’s Wardrobe In Trump Raid (Devine)

FBI agents scoured Melania Trump’s wardrobe and spent several hours combing through Donald Trump’s private office, breaking open his safe and rifling through drawers when they raided the former First Family’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida Monday morning. The Post has learned that the search warrant used by the FBI to enter the palatial Palm Beach property focused solely on presidential records and evidence of classified information being stored there. A source close to the former president expressed concern that FBI agents or DOJ lawyers conducting the search could have “planted stuff” because they would not allow Trump’s attorneys inside the 128-room building to observe the operation, which lasted more than nine hours.


The raid by over 30 plain clothes agents from the Southern District of Florida and the FBI’s Washington Field Office extended through the Trump family’s entire 3,000-square-foot private quarters, as well as to a separate office and safe, and a locked basement storage room in which 15 cardboard boxes of material from the White House were stored. Feds arrived at 9 a.m. and didn’t leave until 6:30 p.m. An eyewitness to the raid said all of the boxes were confiscated by federal agents Monday, but it is unknown if anything else was taken as no itemized list of items was provided by the FBI.

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Nothing the FBI does can be clean.

Judge Who OK’d Mar-a-Lago Raid Once Obama Donor, Jeffrey Epstein Lawyer (NYP)

The Florida federal magistrate judge who signed off on a search warrant authorizing the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort donated to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — months after he left the local US Attorney’s office to rep employees of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein who had received immunity in the long-running sex-trafficking investigation of the financier. Sources tell The Post that Judge Bruce Reinhart approved the warrant that enabled federal agents to converge on the palatial South Florida estate on Monday in what Trump called an “unannounced raid on my home.”

Reinhart was elevated to magistrate judge in March 2018 after 10 years in private practice. That November, the Miami Herald reported that he had represented several of Epstein’s employees — including, by Reinhart’s own admission to the outlet, Epstein’s pilots; his scheduler, Sarah Kellen; and Nadia Marcinkova, who Epstein once reportedly described as his “Yugoslavian sex slave.” Kellen and Marcinkova were among Epstein’s lieutenants who were granted immunity as part of a controversial 2007 deal with federal prosecutors that allowed the pervert to plead guilty to state charges rather than federal crimes. Epstein wound up serving just 13 months in county jail and was granted work release. According to the Herald, which cited court documents, Reinhart resigned from the South Florida US Attorney’s Office effective on New Year’s Day 2008 and went to work for Epstein’s cohorts the following day.

Epstein, who was found dead in August 2019 of an apparent suicide in the Manhattan Correctional Center while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges, had hired a stable of high-powered lawyers for his defense in the late 2000s, including former independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Ten months after starting work for Epstein’s co-conspirators, according to Federal Election Commission records, Reinhart gave $1,000 directly to the Obama campaign and another $1,000 to its fundraising arm, the Obama Victory Fund. Though the records show the judge made mostly small-dollar donations to his law firm’s political action committee in subsequent years, Reinhart also donated $500 to Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign in November 2015.

Reinhart was later named in a civil lawsuit by two of Epstein’s victims that accused him of violating Justice Department policies by switching sides in the middle of the Epstein investigation, suggesting he had spilled inside information about the probe to build favor with the notorious defendant, the Herald reported in 2018. In a 2011 affidavit, Reinhart denied he had done anything improper and insisted that since he was not involved in the federal investigation of Epstein, he was not privy to inside information about the case. However, in a 2013 court filing, Reinhart’s former colleagues contradicted him, saying that he had “learned confidential, non-public information about the Epstein matter” while employed by the US Attorney’s Office.

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“My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business.”

Trump Ally Rep. Scott Perry Says The FBI Seized His Cellphone (Fox)

Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania says that the FBI has confiscated his cellphone. Perry, in an exclusive statement, told Fox News on Tuesday that while traveling with his family earlier in the day, he was approached by three FBI agents who handed him a warrant and requested that he turn over his cellphone. The confiscation of the congressman’s personal phone comes one day after FBI agents searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. “This morning, while traveling with my family, 3 FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone. They made no attempt to contact my lawyer, who would have made arrangements for them to have my phone if that was their wish.

“I’m outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress,” Perry said in his statement. “My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business.” Perry asserted in his statement that “as with President Trump last night, DOJ chose this unnecessary and aggressive action instead of simply contacting my attorneys. These kinds of banana republic tactics should concern every Citizen — especially considering the decision before Congress this week to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to further persecute law-abiding Citizens.”

Perry, a five-term congressman and loyal Trump ally, is an original member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and took over as the group’s leader at the beginning of the year. Perry was also a strong supporter of Trump’s repeated unproven claims that his 2020 election loss to now-President Biden was due to massive voter fraud. Perry has been a target of interest of the Democratic dominated January 6 House select committee that is investigating the deadly 2021 attack on the Capitol by right wing extremists and other Trump supporters who aimed to disrupt the congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory. Perry was in communication numerous times with the Trump White House in the days and weeks ahead of the storming of the Capitol.

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“Since Orbán returned to power in 2010 marriages in Hungary have doubled, abortions have halved, divorces have hit record lows, and the birth rate has risen by a quarter.”

EU Break-up Now Inevitable (Saxty)

Back in 2020, Dutch Prime Minister – Mark Rutte – asked (perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek as to whether they might have an EU without that troublesome duo of Hungary and Poland? It was a telling moment, hinting at frustration in western Europe with what many there see as recalcitrant ex-communist states. Then in 2021, Rutte said Hungary had no business being in the European Union anymore owing to the banning of LGBT issues to under-18s. While Rutte said he could not push Hungary out of the EU by himself he somewhat candidly added: “The long-term aim is to bring Hungary to its knees on this issue”. Now bad blood is brewing between progressive Brussels and conservative-nationalist central and eastern Europe over the tying of EU cash to rule of law issues, something Hungary and Poland see as a thinly-veiled attempt to impose liberal values upon them.

To some extent, central and eastern Europe got a bait and switch with the EU, believing they were joining an enhanced free trade bloc, they ended up joining a political union with a strong progressive ideology. That said, Hungary and Poland have been in the club long enough by now to know the rules. Budapest and Warsaw must, by now, be aware the EU is not going to change to suit them. Officially, majorities in most central and eastern EU states support EU membership. In reality, however, most back being part of a beefed-up trade alliance, not an ideologically-fixed political union. Plus, the EU cannot chuck the two out. As Brexiteers know, the only way out is Article 50 and it must be triggered by the country in question. Article 7 can impose sanctions, including losing the right to vote in the European Council.

However, this requires unanimity, and Hungary and Poland – not to mention other central and eastern European states – generally have one another’s backs. How much longer then can Hungary and Poland keep doing this dance, and how much longer can both sides of the EU divide ignore the cultural Iron Curtain which has caused a schism on the Continent? Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is not just an irritant to Brussels, he sees the world from an entirely different perspective. Since Orbán returned to power in 2010 marriages in Hungary have doubled, abortions have halved, divorces have hit record lows, and the birth rate has risen by a quarter.

Orbán has also overseen a constitution with references to God and Christianity; funded Christian schools, and banned content deemed to promote LGBT issues to minors. None of this has endeared him to Brussels but has proved extremely popular in central and eastern Europe. But it is almost certainly the case that what Brussels sees as Hungary’s and Poland’s draconian policies is a direct reaction to what Budapest and Warsaw feel is coming their way from Brussels.

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“Today the question is, after the UK, who next? A popular choice is Hungary. But who knows? Apart from the imbecile-afflicted UK, there is already political turbulence in three EU countries, Bulgaria, Estonia and Italy.”

Z for Zorro (Batiushka)

The collapse of the EU has never been a question of ‘if’, only of ‘when’. The decomposition of the Brussels Yoke of unelected bureaucrats has already long been visible and its collapse foretold years ago. First there was Grexit (which was averted at the last moment at huge cost), then Brexit, which actually happened, and then was an alphabet jungle of Frexit, Italexit, Nexit, Dexit, Polexit etc. Today the question is, after the UK, who next? A popular choice is Hungary. But who knows? Apart from the imbecile-afflicted UK, there is already political turbulence in three EU countries, Bulgaria, Estonia and Italy.

It all sounds as if these are only ‘the beginning of troubles’. Winter is coming to Europe on 1 December with probable food riots, looting and mass civil disobedience, caused by the refusal and inability to pay soaring energy bills because of the EU millionaire elite’s refusal to buy Russian gas. The only way out is if European countries free themselves from the shackles of the USA in order to find their natural places as part of the Eurasian, or rather, Afro-Eurasian, world. This liberation deserves a sign. We can think of no sign more topical – or more native to the Western world – than the sign ‘Z’. Let me explain. Z was the sign of a fictional Spanish-Mexican character, El Zorro, created by an American author in 1919. Zorro is portrayed as a masked, nineteenth-century avenger who defends the common people and native peoples of Spanish-run California against an oppressive imperialist dictator in Madrid, his corrupt and tyrannical local servants and other evildoers.

His name Zorro, (in Spanish, ‘The Fox’), comes from his foxlike cunning. Using the tip of his rapier, he leaves his mark, the initial ‘Z’, on his defeated enemies and on objects in order to sign his presence. However, this purely fictional Zorro goes back to several real figures, notably to three main characters, real ones, indeed so real that they have become myths in European history. These are: Eadric was one of many Englishmen, well-known in their day, who lived in the wilder parts of England after 1066 in order to fight back against the barbaric Norman occupiers. Called ‘the Wild’ or ‘the Woodsman’, Eadric was a nobleman (‘Cild’ in Old English) and landowner in the hills of the west of England. (Remarkably, Eadric’s descendants inherited his lands in a place called Acton Scott in the west of England and these lands still belong to his descendants, the Actons, after a thousand years). Here Eadric led the English Resistance to the Norman occupation and was active in 1068–70.

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“Transneft, announced on Monday that attempts to pay Ukraine for transit have been blocked due to EU sanctions.”

Hungary Offers Solution To Resume Russian Oil Supply (RT)

The Hungarian oil and gas company MOL confirmed on Tuesday that Russian crude supplies via the southern branch of the Druzhba pipeline stopped a few days ago, and said it had initiated negotiations to assume obligations to pay for transit. The company responsible for Russian oil supplies to the EU, Transneft, announced on Monday that attempts to pay Ukraine for transit have been blocked due to EU sanctions. According to news outlet Origo, MOL has offered to pay transit fees on behalf of Transneft, but has not received a reply from Ukraine. “Although MOL has enough reserves for several weeks, it is working on a solution and has also initiated negotiations on the assumption of the fee obligation,” the energy company said in a statement.


On Monday, Transneft announced that Ukraine had suspended Russian oil flows to parts of central Europe since August 4 because Western sanctions prevented Moscow from making payments for transit. According to the Russian company, the suspension of pipeline flows has affected Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Transneft said it was working on alternative options for the transfer of funds. Druzhba, which is one of the longest pipeline networks in the world, carries crude some 4,000km from the eastern part of European Russia to refineries in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Russia normally supplies about 250,000 barrels of oil per day via the southern leg of the route. The northern branch of the Druzhba pipeline running through Belarus to Poland and Germany continues to operate as normal, according to Transneft.

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“While in some cases, it lied by omission, in others, it lied outright.”

Lies, Damned Lies, and the Jan. 6 Committee (Sperry)

The Select Committee to Investigate Jan. 6 has adjourned for a well-deserved summer break. Misleading the public is exhausting work. A careful review of the official transcripts of its eight long hearings shows the committee repeatedly made connections that weren’t there, took events and quotes out of context, exaggerated the violence of the Capitol rioters, and omitted key exculpatory evidence otherwise absolving former President Donald Trump of guilt. While in some cases, it lied by omission, in others, it lied outright. It also made a number of unsubstantiated charges based on the secondhand accounts—hearsay testimony—of a young witness with serious credibility problems.

These weren’t off-the-cuff remarks. Panelists didn’t misspeak. Their statements were tightly scripted and loaded into teleprompters, which they read verbatim. In other words, the committee deliberately chummed out disinformation to millions of viewers of not just cable TV, but also the Big Three TV networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—which agreed to preempt regular daytime and even primetime programming to air the Democratic-run hearings. And because Democrats refused to allow dissenting voices on the panel or any cross-examination of witnesses, viewers had no reference points to understand how they, along with the two Trump-hating Republicans they allowed on the committee, shaded the truth.

This charade of an honest investigation appears to have had the desired effect. Polls show the Jan. 6 hearings hurt Trump, who plans to run again, with independents. Unaffiliated voters have grown more likely to blame Trump for the Capitol riot and to show support for Democrats in the midterms, according to a new Morning Consult/Politico survey.

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“..a mere 0.88% (US$ 866 Bill) is owed by Africa comprising 54 countries. And even then, more than half of the African debt is owed by just three countries…”

The Global Debt Scam – Day of Reckoning? (Salamah)

Global debt is now claimed to exceed $300 Trillion, while the poor countries’ debt continues to rise in percentage terms – The Poor are always the culprits. It is all a matter of definition, you set it according to your understanding, objectives, or motives. We can make it a lot more alarming by theoretically adding the liabilities of the derivatives and futures markets which could be considered hypothetical debts should they be allowed to become due; then, global debts would be in the Zillions. Economists just love creating definitions, no matter how practical or impractical they are, or how narrow and rigid they become, and end up wagging the dog! On a closer look, however, it transpires that the US$ 300 Trillion global debt includes the internal and external debts of all countries.


In other words, it probably includes Aunt Jemima’s debt to her local grocer. While this is important and helps understand how deep the world has fallen into the hole it has dug, it is probably of higher priority to address the External Debt of countries; debt owed to parties outside their borders. These are the debts that will immediately impact countries’ currency exchange rates, ability to import especially food and energy, and fund development. They are quicker to trigger inflation and disrupt economies and societies. Accordingly, when we look at the Global External Debts, we are taken aback by their distribution. (Bear in mind that the actual numbers are approximations as they cover different years as well as slightly differ from one compiler to another, however they all point in the same direction):

What is striking here is that approx. 80% of global external debt is owed by the advanced countries (the US, its close Allies, and Europe), while a mere 0.88% (US$ 866 Bill) is owed by Africa comprising 54 countries. And even then, more than half of the African debt is owed by just three countries. As for Asia, it owes 3.62% (US$ 3.5 Trill) distributed among 42 countries with the top 4 countries owing half of it. Similarly, 29 Latin American countries owe just 2.25% (US$ 2.2 Trill) with the top three responsible for more than half. Most financial data, including the World Bank and IMF, kick off with a display of debt as a percentage of GDP (a ratio) and relegate the actual nominal debt figures to links that are harder to find or access. This approach may be useful to assess the size and seriousness of the debt problem in an individual economy, but it is not the only tool.


A country’s ability to pay its debts over a period of time can also be affected by inflation, which could falsely paint a rosy shrinking debt-to-GDP picture and vice versa, at least in the short term. Also, a sudden contraction or bounce up of GDP could occur as a result of multiple causes such as wars, market collapses or spikes, and rebounds in economies after sharp falls such as the ‘post covid’ temporary activity. Hence, the actual debt numbers add an important aspect to any analysis. Not surprisingly, the global Debt-to-GDP percentages/ratios tend to tally with the conclusions of the above table of actual numbers. The ratios of advanced nations and Europe are way, way higher than those of the poorer countries. In fact, quite a few of their ratios make Japan, with its famously excessive ratio, appear to be thrifty.

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I’m not sure this is helpful. The trend is everywhere. The farmers in Holland get very little coverage. But now Rutte can say: Look at Greece, it’s much worse…

How Greece Became Europe’s Worst Place For Press Freedom (Pol.eu)

Reporters across Europe raced to follow up on the piece, which provided evidence of possible criminal behavior. Interview requests poured into Germany’s Der Spiegel, one of the outlets behind the story. One country, however, was noticeably quiet on the matter: Greece. “You’d be hard pressed to find any reference to it in the pro-government press, which dominates, especially the airwaves,” said Giorgos Christides, a reporter at Der Spiegel. “In Greece, there’s two parallel media universes.” The moment illustrated what journalists, media analysts, civil rights groups and EU investigators have been warning about for years. Greece, they say, is now seeing the troubling, violent and oppressive results of a years-long erosion of press freedom in the country.

It’s a problem, they say, born during the Greek financial crisis, which destabilized the country, polarized its politics and sapped media outlets of the profits that helped them stay independent. News organizations became increasingly partisan. Threats, attacks and surveillance targeting journalists rose. The pandemic only made things worse. Press conferences were halted and essentially never came back. Questions arose over whether the government was favoring friendly outlets with taxpayer funds. A new law claimed to curb misinformation but is fueling concerns that journalists could be tossed in jail for critical reporting. And just last week, the spying web that had ensnared journalists blossomed into a full-blown scandal that forced two top officials to resign. “Due to the financial situation, media owners have handed over the keys of their businesses to the government,” said Tasos Telloglou, an investigative reporter in Greece.

“This, combined with a government that believes that it does nothing wrong, is an explosive combination.” The situation reflects a broader trend across Europe. Demonstrators going after reporters. Demonization from officials. Public funds withheld. Countries from Germany to Luxembourg to Slovenia, Poland and Hungary have all slipped in annual press freedom rankings. But Greece fell to the bottom of all European countries on the latest list. The Greek government insists the fears are vastly overblown. Press freedom is enshrined in the country’s constitution and there is no press censorship, officials note, correctly. “Greece is a country where everyone can write and publish whatever they want about anyone, without any censorship and no government control,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the European Parliament in a recent debate, holding up two newspaper front pages featuring negative articles about the government.

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Shameless. The Russians should kick them out.

US Occupation Loots Most Of Syria’s Oil: Ministry (AlMa)

The Syrian Oil Ministry revealed that the US occupation loots the majority of Syria’s oil, knowing that the daily production of the eastern oil fields is 80.3 thousand barrels.” During a meeting held to discuss its work plans and the work of its subsidiaries during the first half of this year, the Syrian Ministry of Oil stated that “the amount of oil production during the first half of this year amounted to about 14.5 million barrels, with an average daily production of 80.3 thousand barrels.” The Ministry added that the barrels are delivered to refineries at a rate of 14.2 thousand barrels per day, stressing that the US occupation forces and their mercenaries steal up to 66,000 barrels per day from fields in areas in the eastern region that they occupy.


“Around 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas were produced, with a daily production rate of 11.3 million cubic meters, of which 11.1 million cubic meters is renewable natural gas,” it stated. The Ministry detailed that “82% of the gas produced is delivered to the Ministry of Electricity, 3% to the Ministry of Industry, and 15% to the Ministry of Oil.” It is worth noting that the daily average quantity delivered to the Ministry of Electricity is 8.6 million cubic meters, as per the Ministry. [..] Besides being an occupation force that backs armed groups for its own operations and agenda in the region, the US occupation forces continue to steal Syrian oil by smuggling it from their bases in Syria to their bases in Iraq. Convoys of tens of vehicles, including tankers loaded with stolen oil from oil fields occupied by US forces in Syria, are frequently seen crossing toward northern Iraq, in addition to trucks loaded with military equipment.

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“.. the most important independent risk factor for the development of severe infections in youths..”

Lockdowns Increases Obesity, And Obesity Increases Covid Risk (DM)

One of Australia’s top Covid-19 experts says lockdowns have drastically affected the health of children as a study shows two years of coronavirus restrictions have made people fatter and unhealthier. Professor Peter Collignon, an influential infectious diseases physician with the Australian National University, shared a medical study on his Twitter in which American experts researched the link between the pandemic response and obesity in children and adolescents. ‘Lockdown measures affected healthy lifestyle behaviors through modification of dietary habits, reduction of physical activity and alteration of sleep patterns, and also increased the levels of stress and anxiety, overall promoting weight gain and obesity,’ Prof Collignon wrote on Twitter.

‘Paediatric overweight/obesity—an alarming epidemic of increasing proportions, before Covid-19, has been demonstrated to be the most important independent risk factor for the development of severe infections in youths, requiring admission to hospital/ICUs,’ Prof Collignon said. The paper published by the National Library of Medicine concluded, ‘the dramatic lifestyle changes forced by Covid-19-related lockdown promoted weight gain, with a stronger impact on obese subjects, at higher risk of severe infection.’ The study looked at both the risk factors of lockdown-induced weight increase and the impact of obesity on the risk of hospital admission in children and adolescents. The study also concluded those who were classified as obese had a higher probability of being hospitalised compared to the normal weight population and Covid-19 and obesity represent ‘epidemic conditions with detrimental impact’.

Epidemiologist Professor Catherine Bennett says the full effect of Covid restrictions have had on the obesity epidemic are not yet fully grasped ‘It is one of those things we have been concerned about yet with obesity the challenge is those rates have been rising anyway, so the question is how much can be attributed to the increase from restrictions from Covid?’ Prof Bennett said. ‘Constraints on individual liberties, exercise, organised sport disruption in and outside of schools would all contribute to the nature of the problem. ‘It is really important that we invest in actively understanding the impacts of Covid restrictions. It is crucial so we can put in place things that might help minimise the long term impacts and address the impacts in terms of obesity and chronic illness.’

Read more …

 

 

 

Man

 

 

“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud seeding


 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

Mar 042021
 


J.J. Grandville ‘A Comet’s Journey’, Illustration from ‘Un Autre Monde’ 1844

 

It’s Time for Major Wealth Redistribution (Lee Camp)
Joe Biden Just Yanked Away Stimulus Checks From 17 Million Americans (Week)
COVID Relief Showers States With 600% Of Lost Tax Revs (ZH)
Durham File: A Documentary Roadmap To Special Counsel Probe (JTN)
Trump Eyes 2024 Run Without Mike Pence (ZH)
A Change in the Water (Ben Hunt)
When Does This Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham Finally Implode? (CHS)
No Shots Fired By Rioters, No Firearms Recovered During Siege On Capitol (JTN)
Biden Bans Export Of Defense Articles To Russia, Which Got None Since WWII (RT)
Delusions of Self-Defense: Biden Bombs Syria (OffG.)

 

 

So many articles today, I’ll put up a separate Covid Rattle shortly here: Covid Rattle March 4 2021.

 

 

“Tucker every once in a while has a segment that just completely knocks it out of the park.This is one of those times.”
Tucker Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

 

 

Excess savings, sure, but only among the rich. Who don’t spend it.

 

 

“..the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality has grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018..”

It’s Time for Major Wealth Redistribution (Lee Camp)

[..] we desperately need wealth redistribution. And before anyone starts yelling something about Joseph Stalin, here’s the part that’s going to blow your mind — in the United States we’ve already had wealth redistribution for decades. Fifty trillion dollars has been redistributed from the poorest Americans to the top one percent over the past several decades. That’s right, a new study shows the richest people in the world have stolen trillions from average Americans. To put this in easier to access terms — you know how mad you get when someone takes the last donut? Well, imagine that multiplied by 50 trillion. (Quick reminder: If you make $40,000 a year, it would take you 1.25 Billion years to make $50 trillion.)

The new study reveals, “…that the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality has grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020.” And to be clear, this money has been stolen from nearly every American. Had income distribution and buying power remained the same as it was from the end of World War II to 1975, ” . . . the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is … enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.”

The richest people in America are pilfering over $1,100 from you personally and everyone you know every single month of every single year. Just imagine what each living soul in America could do with an extra $13,700 per year — how many people that would feed, how much less stressful their lives would be, how many fewer foreclosures there would be, and how many more people would get the healthcare they need. Yet every time the most modest tax increases are proposed on the richest Americans, or every time someone so much as mumbles about putting in a public jungle gym or putting in filters to take the metal chunks out of the water or fixing the holes in our bridges that are bigger than the ones in Maria Bartiromo’s head — every time someone brings up these common sense solutions, the elites of our society (who own the media outlets and the levers of the state and the law enforcement and the courts) start screaming from their wine-soaked ski resort orgy balconies, “That’s wealth redistribution! That’s class war!”

Read more …

Sure they’ll all vote for him again.

Joe Biden Just Yanked Away Stimulus Checks From 17 Million Americans (Week)

During the campaign for the two Georgia Senate races, Joe Biden repeatedly promised to pass $2,000 stimulus checks if the Democrats won. After they did, the administration argued that $2,000 really meant $1,400 in addition to the $600 that had already gone out in the December rescue package. Whether that is true or not, now Biden is inarguably breaking his promise. Under pressure from moderate Senate Democrats, he has reportedly agreed to cut down the formula under which the checks will be sent out. In the previous packages, the amount started phasing out at $75,000 in income for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers, and vanished entirely at $100,000 and $200,000 respectively (as of 2019). Now the phase-out will start start in the same place but end at $80,000 for singles and $160,000 for couples.


The $1,400 promise clearly implied at least that the checks would go out according to the previous formula used under Trump. But now singles making between $80,000-100,000 and couples making between $160,000-200,000 will get nothing. The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein reports that roughly 17 million people who previously got checks now will not. The supposed justification here is that moderates want the aid to be more “targeted.” In fact this formula is horribly inaccurate, because the income data the IRS uses is from the year before the pandemic (unless people have already filed their taxes — and by the way, if your income decreased in 2020, you should do that immediately). This formula is therefore doubly wrong — there are no doubt millions of people who have lost jobs and should qualify but won’t, and a smaller number that have gotten raises and shouldn’t qualify but will. And this change will only save a pitiful $12 billion.

Read more …

So the states get what their citizens can’t.

COVID Relief Showers States With 600% Of Lost Tax Revs (ZH)

Joe Biden is giving so much money to states as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that they’re set to receive approximately six times more money than estimated tax revenue shortfalls across the country, according to Bloomberg. While the package carves out nearly $200 billion for state governments, the cumulative tax revenues which have disappeared in the current fiscal year are just $31 billion. “In other words, that money could make up for that loss and be plowed back into states’ economies, such as their own version of relief checks, infrastructure projects and more, depending on the federal guidelines around the aid.”

In short – states, assuming they don’t squander the funds (who are we kidding?), could play a pivotal role in accelerating the recovery – assuming the money actually stimulates jobs and/or ends up in the hands of consumers. The funds would also allow for the unwinding of various budgetary cuts which began last March, and are responsible for the elimination of more than 1.3 million state and local government jobs – which Bloomberg notes is “nearly twice as many as were lost after the last recession.” Republicans, however, argue that some of the stimulus should be cut or shifted to other priorities which could have a more immediate impact than essentially giving states their own giant slush funds.

“If the whole point of this bill is to stimulate economic activity, the federal government has ways of doing that, that may be more efficient than sending checks to state and local governments,” said Moody’s director of public sector research, which estimates that $56 billion is the actual price tag states need to cover shortfalls through 2022 after previously allocated aid is taken into account. Bloomberg also notes that “the financial impact overall has been far smaller than initially feared when Covid last year sent the US economy into the deepest recession since World War II, which left governors nationwide braving for the gravest fiscal crisis of modern times.”

Deficits on that scale were averted after the federal government pushed through stimulus plans in March and again late last year, driving stocks to record highs and promising to increase collections of capital gains taxes. The magnitude of the shortfalls also reflects the unusually uneven nature of the recession: While lower paid service industry employees were thrown out of work, the highest earners who pay far more in state taxes were less affected because they were able to work from home.

Read more …

A lot of information here.

Durham File: A Documentary Roadmap To Special Counsel Probe (JTN)

Freed from his double duty as Connecticut’s chief federal prosecutor, Special Counsel John Durham is zeroing in on the final phase of his far-reaching investigation into whether FBI officials or others committed crimes while conducting the Russia collusion probe, such as misleading federal judges or Congress. All expectations were that Durham would wrap up his probe with final indictments and/or a report last fall after a plea deal was reached with former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted he falsified a document submitted to substantiate an application for a surveillance warrant targeting the Trump campaign.

But FBI Director Chris Wray revealed Tuesday that the entire process — including the bureau’s ability to discipline agents involved in the Russia case — was slowed down at Durham’s request because of continuing concerns about potential criminality. “Because we are cooperating fully with Mr. Durham’s investigation, at his request we had slowed that process down to allow his criminal investigation to proceed,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “So at the moment, that process is still underway in order to make sure we are being appropriately sensitive to the criminal investigation.” Wray’s comments signaling additional crimes are being investigated are consistent with what former Attorney General William Barr said late last year when he upgraded Durham from a U.S. attorney to a special counsel and expanded his investigative staff.

Interviews with a half dozen sources who have had interactions with Durham’s team say he is focused on whether FBI executives knowingly and unlawfully misled the FISA court and Congress by withholding exculpatory evidence, extending an investigation without justification and creating the illusion there was evidence of Russia collusion when most had been debunked or dismissed. The sources said one former senior FBI official has provided invaluable cooperation and context to what decisions FBI leadership and field agents were making in the probe on such consequential matters as what to tell Congress, the courts and Justice Department lawyers about the flaws, political origins and falsehoods in the Russia collusion narrative.

Most of the evidence that supports those concerns is now in the public domain after a series of declassifications that began last year and ended when former President Donald Trump declassified hundreds of pages of the most sensitive evidence during his last 24 hours in office in January. .

Read more …

May be he should let Biden’s blunders grab the spotlight for a while.

Trump Eyes 2024 Run Without Mike Pence (ZH)

Former President Donald Trump is telling allies he’s seriously considering a run for president in 2024, but may do so without former Vice President Mike Pence on his ticket, according to Bloomberg, citing ‘people familiar with the discussions.’ On Sunday, Trump all but announced at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he was running again – while privately, according to two of Bloomberg’s anonymous sources, he’s discussed “alternatives to Pence as he takes stock of who he believes stood with him at the end of his term and who didn’t.” Trump’s advisers have discussed identifying a Black or female running mate for his next run, and three of the people familiar with the matter said Pence likely won’t be on the ticket.

That said, given Trump’s history of choosing the ‘best person for the job’ regardless of color or sex, and notwithstanding obvious establishment picks, we imagine that last bit may be a non-starter for Trump. According to the report, Trump is considering South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem – who Trump Jr. and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle are hosting a Friday fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago. Meanwhile, Trump publicly endorsed South Carolina Senator Tim Scott’s re-election. Scott is the only black Republican in the Senate.Following the 2020 election, Trump was livid after Pence didn’t “do the right thing” and reject Electoral College votes for Joe Biden from several contested states. In response, Trump tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution.”

Pence rejected his boss’s appeals to unilaterally overturn Trump’s re-election defeat when he presided over the congressional count of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. The event turned into an insurrection by Trump’s supporters, who invaded the Capitol, disrupted the count and forced the vice president and members of Congress to flee. Five people died in the melee. The two men didn’t speak for days afterward. Pence hasn’t said whether he’d be interested in running with Trump again, according to person familiar with the situation, who believes it’s doubtful Pence would. -Bloomberg. “President Trump hasn’t made any decisions regarding a potential 2024 run, but the buried lede here is that the media can’t stop talking about him,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. According to the report “there’s been no serious consideration of future vice presidential candidates yet,” and if Trump runs, he won’t likely make a formal announcement until summer 2023, according to the anonymous sources.

Read more …

Inflation?!

A Change in the Water (Ben Hunt)

Every morning, we take the previous day’s financial news – all of it – and run it through the Narrative Machine to see if any interesting clusters pop out as a topic for us to write about in one of these quick Zeitgeist notes. And when I say clusters, I literally mean clusters – the building blocks of a graphical representation of linguistic connectivity. But when I say clusters, what I really mean is patterns. I really mean changes in the narrative structure. We’re not doing this to learn new facts. We’re not really interested in the specifics of what people are saying. We are very interested, though, in how people are saying it. We’re looking for changes in how we talk about what is important in markets and investing. We’re looking for changes in the water in which we swim.

That water is changing today. It’s changing a lot. Increasingly, the common knowledge of our investment world – what everyone knows that everyone knows – is that inflation is a problem and you should be focused on it. For example, today in a popular financial news media aggregator, RealClearMarkets.com, of the 21 articles highlighted on their frontpage aggregator, 6 of them were about inflation … is it here? is it coming? what does it mean for your portfolio? does Bitcoin fix this? etc. etc. Again, I have zero interest in the specifics or the facts or the message or the sentiment of these selected articles (even though one of them was yesterday’s Epsilon Theory note).


What interests me a lot, though, is the CHOICE made by the editors and algorithms of RealClearMarkets.com to select these articles over all of the other financial news stories available to them. What interests me a lot is the recursive ENGAGEMENT that these articles and their shared linguistic structures trigger in readers, such that they will look for more articles on this topic, which means that more articles on this topic will be written. This is how common knowledge happens. This is how the water in which we swim changes.

Read more …

“Wall Street and its vast army of apologists, lackeys, toadies, schemers, scammers, con-artists and profiteers will have us believe that the Everything Bubble is permanent..”

When Does This Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham Finally Implode? (CHS)

The mutually reinforcing crises aren’t in the future, they’re here now, and Jay Powell’s shuck-and-jive has lost its magical powers to cloak the rot with speculative bubbles. How many more times do we have to watch Jay Powell claim his speculative bubble isn’t a bubble, and that his massive expansion of billionaires’ fortunes will magically create jobs for all those living in the real world he’s created of stagnation, social depression and inequality? In other words, when will this travesty of a mockery of a sham finally implode? When will the Universe tire of the lies, fraud, embezzlement and corruption and bring the whole rotten charade down? When will we tire of the stale tale of reflation, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

We all know the Status Quo’s response to the global financial meltdown of 2008 has been a travesty of a mockery of a sham–smoke and mirrors, phony facades of “recovery”, simulacrum “reforms,” serial bubble-blowing and politically expedient can-kicking, all based on borrowing and printing trillions of dollars, yen, euros and yuan, quatloos, etc. and funneling them to financiers, corporations, monopolies, cronies and billionaires. When will the travesty of a mockery of a sham finally come to an end? How many more “saves” does the Ponzi Scheme of central banking possess? Wall Street and its vast army of apologists, lackeys, toadies, schemers, scammers, con-artists and profiteers will have us believe that the Everything Bubble is permanent and its continued expansion will hide all the systemic rot hollowing out America.

On the other hand, maybe manipulation, lies and artifice can no longer keep the Everything Bubble from popping. The chart I prepared back in 2008 (below) give us a flavor of the confluence of crises that are no longer in the future–they’re here now. Cycles are not laws of Nature, of course; they are only records of previous periods of growth/excess/depletion/collapse, not predictions per se. Nonetheless their repetition reflects the systemic dynamic of growth, crisis and collapse, and so the study of cycles is instructive even though we stipulate they are not predictive.

Since each mechanism that burns out or implodes tends to be replaced with some other mechanism, this creates the recurring cycle of expansion / excess / depletion / collapse. Four long-wave cycles are plotted in the chart:

Read more …

“No one has been charged with a firearms violation.”

No Shots Fired By Rioters, No Firearms Recovered During Siege On Capitol (JTN)

No firearms were recovered on the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 during the riot, and no shots were fired by the demonstrators, an FBI official on Wednesday told Congress.”To my knowledge we have not recovered any [firearms] on that day from any of the arrests at the scene at this point,” said Jill Sanborn, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. “No one has been charged with a firearms violation.” Sanborn made her comments during a joint oversight hearing in the Senate to examine the breach of the U.S. Capitol. In addition to Sanborn, witnesses included the commander of the Washington, D.C. National Guard, and civilian officials from the Pentagon.

During testimony, Sanborn responded to questions from Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who asked whether firearms were present or used during the siege. “How many shots were fired that we know of?” Johnson asked. “The only shots fired were the ones that resulted in the death of the one lady,” Sanborn said, referencing Ashli Babbitt, a protester who was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer during heightened tension inside the building. Other testimony examined the timeline of when the National Guard was dispatched to help an overwhelmed civilian police force during the siege on the Capitol.

The National Guard was dispatched to the riot more than three hours after Capitol Police made a desperate call for help with a “dire emergency,” a two-star general testified Wednesday before Congress. Major Gen. William Walker, who commands the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the 1:49 p.m. call for help from the guard on Jan. 6 was approved in a message that reached him after 5 p.m. At that point, troops who were waiting on buses sped to the Capitol, and helped to secure a perimeter, Walker said. Walker made his comments during a hearing to examine the breach of the U.S. Capitol. In addition to Walker, civilian officials from the Pentagon and the FBI are scheduled to testify.

Read more …

“More US sanctions were announced yesterday against our country. In this particular case, with regard to arms exports, they cause bewilderment…”

Biden Bans Export Of Defense Articles To Russia, Which Got None Since WWII (RT)

Russia’s Service of Military-Technical Cooperation has noted its “bewilderment” after Washington imposed an export ban on “defense articles and defense services” to the country, despite Russia not receiving any US arms since 1945. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled new sanctions against Moscow after the alleged poisoning and “attempted assassination of Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny.” “The US government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences,” a press statement from Blinken said. As part of the restrictions, Russia has been included in Section 126.1 of the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which essentially means that any requests from Moscow to buy defense-related items would be flatly rejected.

“More US sanctions were announced yesterday against our country. In this particular case, with regard to arms exports, they cause bewilderment,” the federal service noted. “Arms supplies from the United States to Russia are not carried out and, of course, are not planned.” The government body also noted that the last time any military equipment was delivered to Russia from the US was through the lend-lease program during WWII, which ended on August 21, 1945. Speaking to Moscow daily RBK, Russian International Affairs Council expert Andrey Frolov noted that the new sanctions are likely to be toothless and do not pose any threat to the military-industrial complex, which does not rely on American supplies.

Another expert, Ruslan Pukhov from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies think tank, revealed that restrictions won’t actually prevent any export contracts if the US wants to implement them. In particular, he cited the example of Rosoboronexport, which was removed from the sanctions list to sign a contract to supply the Afghan Army with helicopters, and was put back on the list straight after.

Read more …

Defying credulity, the spokesman suggested that the US had “acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”

Delusions of Self-Defense: Biden Bombs Syria (OffG.)

Every power worth its portion of salt in the Levant these days seems to be doing it. On February 25, President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes against Syria. The premise for the attacks was implausible. “These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq,” claimed Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, “and to ongoing threats to those personnel.” More specifically, the strikes were in retaliation for rocket attacks in northern Iraq on the airport of Erbil that left a Filipino contractor working for the US military dead and six others injured, including a Louisiana National Guard soldier. The targets in Syria were facilities used by Iranian-backed militia groups, including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack left up to 22 people dead.

The Biden administration has resorted to tactics long embraced by US presidents. To be noticed, you need to bomb a country. The measure, more a sign of raging impotence than stark virility, is always larded with jargon and bureaucratic platitudes.“We said a number of times that we will respond on our timeline,” explained Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to reporters keeping him company on a flight from California to Washington. “We wanted to be sure of the connectivity and we wanted to be sure about the right targets.” He was convinced “that the target was being used by the same Shia militants that conducted the [February 15] strikes.”

Seven 500-pound bombs were used in the operation, though Stars and Stripes initially reported that “the type of weaponry used” was not disclosed. The Pentagon had been keen to push a larger range of targets, but Biden was being presidential in restraint, approving, as the New York Times puts it, “a less aggressive option”. Kirby insisted the operation had been the sensible outcome of discussions with coalition partners. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel.” Defying credulity, the spokesman suggested that the US had “acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”

Read more …

 

 

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From Trump’s world to Orwell’s world.

 

 

 

 

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Feb 262021
 


Jean-Francois Millet The flight into Egypt 1864

 

Ivermectin Could Cut Covid Deaths By Up To 75% (DM)
CDC Reports Shocking Data About Asymptomatic Spread (Fed.)
Report Says Spirulina Algae Could Reduce Covid Mortality Rate (JPost)
Latin American Govts ‘Held To Ransom’ By Pfizer During Vaccine Talks (RT)
US Bombs Facilities In Syria Used By Iran-Backed Militia (AP)
Russia Is ‘Existential Threat’ To West That NATO Must Neutralize (RT)
Senate Parliamentarian: Minimum Wage Can’t Be In Covid Relief Bill (CNN)
Secret Memo Shows How Harris Must Now Advance Minimum Wage Hike (DP)
In Final Days, Trump Gave Up on Forcing Release of Russiagate Files |(Maté)
The Great Reset Is Here (Rickards)
Boeing 777 Makes Emergency Landing In Moscow Due To Engine Trouble (ZH)
700+ Children In Detention at US Border, Spike In Unaccompanied Crossings (RT)
Atlantic Ocean Circulation At Weakest In A Millennium (G.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

We need more testing! Only 100s of millions of people have taken it! Who knows if it’s safe?

Ivermectin Could Cut Covid Deaths By Up To 75% (DM)

A cheap and safe drug widely used against parasites cuts Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths by about 75 per cent, a study shows. More than 30 trials across the world found that ivermectin causes ‘repeated, consistent, large magnitude improvements in clinical outcomes’ at all stages of the disease. The peer-reviewed study, to be published in the US journal Frontiers of Pharmacology, says the evidence is so strong that the drug – used to treat head lice and scabies – should become a standard therapy everywhere, so hastening the global recovery.

Study co-author Professor Paul Marik, director of emergency and pulmonary care at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in the US, said: ‘The data is overwhelming – we are in a pandemic, and this is an incredibly effective way to combat it. If we use ivermectin widely, our societies can open up.’ Other medications have been touted as effective treatments for combating coronavirus, only for trials to dash hopes – notably with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug. An earlier study by Professor Andrew Hill of Liverpool University also concluded that ivermectin cuts death rates by around three-quarters. He recommended there should be larger trials before it was approved by UK regulators. A new trial of ivermectin as a Covid treatment is due to start shortly at Oxford University.

Dr Tess Lawrie, director of the Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy in Bath, convened an online summit of international experts last weekend to discuss the new data. It included evidence that widespread use of ivermectin in parts of India and South America has led to a big reduction in infections and deaths. Yesterday Dr Lawrie submitted a 97-page report to the World Health Organisation, urging it immediately to recommend ivermectin to treat Covid. The drug, taken in tablet form or as drops, is licensed in Britain only as a treatment for parasitic worms, head lice and scabies. It has been used by hundreds of millions of patients over the past 30 years, mainly in developing countries, and at around £50 per patient – less in some countries – is far cheaper than other new Covid treatments, such as the rheumatism drug tocilizumab, which costs £1,000 per patient.

Read more …

”If the contagiousness of people without symptoms is not what drives the spread of SARS-COV-2, then no COVID restriction on public life besides staying home when you are clearly sick could be justified..”

CDC Reports Shocking Data About Asymptomatic Spread (Fed.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control slipped in a shocking piece of evidence in a recent report on low in-school COVID-19 transmission that severely undercuts the rationale for most COVID restrictions, including lockdowns. The Jan. 29 report’s conclusion seems to fit the pro-mask narrative, of course: “Schools might be able to safely open with appropriate mitigation efforts [such as masking and not allowing student cohorts to mix] in place.” In the 17 rural Wisconsin schools surveyed, only seven cases were linked to in-school transmission out of 4,876 pupils, and no staff members were infected at school during the study period.

While the report spends ample time explaining the mitigation strategies employed in the schools and the high reported mask compliance (92%) among students, the authors later discuss something you probably have not seen in any of the mainstream media’s coverage of this report . “Children might be more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 than are adults…This apparent lack of transmission [in schools] is consistent with recent research (5), which found an asymptomatic attack rate of only 0.7% within households and a lower rate of transmission from children than from adults. However, this study was unable to rule out asymptomatic transmission within the school setting because surveillance testing was not conducted”

The “recent research” the study authors cite is a meta-analysis of 54 household COVID-19 transmission studies that observed 77,758 participants, which was posted as a pre-print this summer and published in December. The text of the analysis is even more consequential than the CDC’s reference makes it seem: “Estimated mean household secondary attack rate from symptomatic index cases (18.0%; 95% CI, 14.2%-22.1%) was significantly higher than from asymptomatic or presymptomatic index cases (0.7%; 95% CI, 0%-4.9%; P<.001), although there were few studies in the latter group. These findings are consistent with other household studies, reporting asymptomatic index cases as having limited role in household transmission”.

The 0.7 percent figure includes not just people who never show symptoms of COVID-19, but people who haven’t yet shown symptoms—two groups that have been alleged to be major factors driving the spread of the virus. This is a major data point often underplayed or even challenged in much media coverage of the virus. The key, if not central, rationale for non-pharmaceutical interventions such as masking, distancing, and staying at home is allegedly significant transmission from people who don’t show symptoms. If the contagiousness of people without symptoms is not what drives the spread of SARS-COV-2, then no COVID restriction on public life besides staying home when you are clearly sick could be justified, considering the obvious negative consequences of these restrictions.

Read more …

Anti-inflammatory.

Report Says Spirulina Algae Could Reduce Covid Mortality Rate (JPost)

A team of scientists from Israel and Iceland have published research showing that an extract of spirulina algae has the potential to reduce the chances of COVID-19 patients developing a serious case of the disease. The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Biotechnology, found that an extract of photosynthetically manipulated Spirulina is 70% effective in inhibiting the release of the cytokine TNF-a, a small signaling protein used by the immune system. The research was conducted in a MIGAL laboratory in northern Israel with algae grown and cultivated by the Israeli company VAXA, which is located in Iceland. VAXA received funding from the European Union to explore and develop natural treatments for coronavirus. Iceland’s MATIS Research Institute also participated in the study.


In a small percentage of patients, infection with the coronavirus causes the immune system to release an excessive number of TNF-a cytokines, resulting in what is known as a cytokine storm. The storm causes acute respiratory distress syndrome and damage to other organs, the leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients. “If you control or are able to mitigate the excessive release of TNF-a, you can eventually reduce mortality,” said Asaf Tzachor, a researcher from the IDC Herzliya School of Sustainability and the lead author of the study. During cultivation, growth conditions were adjusted to control the algae’s metabolomic profile and bioactive molecules. The result is what Tzachor refers to as “enhanced” algae.

Read more …

Anyone surprised?

Latin American Govts ‘Held To Ransom’ By Pfizer During Vaccine Talks (RT)

A number of Latin American countries have reportedly experienced extremely aggressive negotiating tactics by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has demanded full immunity from any civil claims and state assets as a guarantee. The questionable negotiating tactics by the pharmaceutical giant have been highlighted in a fresh report by the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ). Officials from Argentina, as well as from another unspecified Latin American country, talked to the outlet, describing Pfizer’s approach to negotiations as “high-level bullying” that made the governments feel like they were being “held to ransom.” Argentina was among the first countries to begin negotiations with the company.

The talks started last June, yet ultimately flopped as Pfizer’s demands became less and less reasonable, an official told the BIJ. The pharmaceutical giant assertively demanded additional clauses that would make it immune against any civil claims citizens might file over side effects from receiving the Pfizer jab. While a new bill regulating the vaccination process was adopted in October, the company was still unhappy with its wording, as it did not grant full immunity to pharmaceutical companies but rather allowed a change of jurisdiction established in advance in the contract. Pfizer ultimately requested a “new law” from the government, then-Health Minister Gonzalez Garcia said in December, describing the demands as “somewhat unacceptable.”

“Argentina could compensate for the vaccine’s adverse effects, but not if Pfizer makes a mistake,” the official, cited by BIJ, said. “For example, what would happen if Pfizer unintentionally interrupted the vaccine’s cold … and a citizen wants to sue them? It would not be fair for Argentina to pay for a Pfizer error.” The company then urged Argentina to take out international insurance to pay for potential future cases against the manufacturer, and ultimately demanded that it put up unspecified sovereign assets as collateral in December. “We offered to pay for millions of doses in advance, we accepted this international insurance, but the last request was unusual: Pfizer demanded that the sovereign assets of Argentina also be part of the legal support,” the official said.

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Who are in reality Iraqi troops fighting ISIS?

US Bombs Facilities In Syria Used By Iran-Backed Militia (AP)

The United States launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting facilities used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. The airstrike was the first known military action undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. “This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures , including consultation with coalition partners,” the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, John Kirby, said in announcing the strikes.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.” Biden administration officials condemned the Feb. 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, but as recently as this week officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out. Officials have noted that in the past, Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for numerous rocket attacks that targeted U.S. personnel or facilities in Iraq. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, had said Tuesday that Iraq is in charge of investigating the Feb. 15 attack.

“Right now, we’re not able to give you a certain attribution as to who was behind these attacks, what groups, and I’m not going to get into the tactical details of every bit of weaponry used here,” Kirby said. “Let’s let the investigations complete and conclude, and then when we have more to say, we will.”

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Syria, Iran, Russia.

Russia Is ‘Existential Threat’ To West That NATO Must Neutralize (RT)

The Cold War ended decades ago, but Moscow is still working to maintain its Soviet-era influence over Eastern Europe, one of Washington’s top generals has claimed, warning that the US must take on Russia to deliver world peace. In a speech published by the Pentagon’s press service on Wednesday, the head of the country’s European Command, Air Force General Tod D. Wolters, claimed that, when it comes to projecting American force abroad, “everything we do is about generating peace.” However, he caveated, “we compete to win … and if deterrence fails, we’re prepared to respond to aggression, primarily through NATO.”

Wolters is also the US-led bloc’s supreme allied commander on the continent, and recent weeks have seen its members stage drills and engage in a series of stand-offs with Russian sailors in the Black Sea. “Beyond exercises,” he added, “we conduct operations and other activities to compete, deter and prepare to respond to aggression,” including maintaining a presence in the disputed region. The general insisted that the West is locked in a struggle for dominance with Moscow, and it has to come out on top. “We’re in an era of global power competition. Winning in this era is ensuring that global power competition does not become a global power war,” he argued. “Despite widespread international condemnation and continued economic sanctions, Russia engages in destabilizing and malign activities across the globe, with many of those activities happening close to home,” he said.

The US Department of Defense has since added a caveat to the transcript to make it clear he meant to refer to shadowy Russian schemes in Europe, rather than, say, an American presidential election. In that context, Wolters claimed, “Russia remains an enduring existential threat to the United States and our European allies,” he said. “Russia… and China – having declared itself a near-Arctic power – continued to militarize the region and seek to establish economic footholds to gain influence over regional governance,” he suggested. This, Wolters said, underlined the need to “maintain a credible Arctic deterrence and ensure vital sea lines of communication remain open by securing the Greenland, Iceland and United Kingdom gap.”

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They’re hiding behind a guy who only gives advice?

Senate Parliamentarian: Minimum Wage Can’t Be In Covid Relief Bill (CNN)

The Senate parliamentarian has ruled against including the increase in the minimum wage in the Covid relief bill. While Democrats had pushed for the increase to be included — and leadership expressed its disappointment in the ruling Thursday evening — its removal may actually make it easier to pass the bill, senior Democratic sources believe, because it’ll avoid a messy fight over whether to strip it out of the bill and whether to compromise. “President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “He respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.”


For now, far from being a defeat, the ruling is viewed as clearing the way for the bill’s passage in the Senate, a Biden administration official told CNN. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday evening the provision will remain in the House bill on which the chamber is voting Friday. However, the parliamentarian ruled that the increase to $15 per hour did not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the Senate’s reconciliation process. That means that the House will pass its bill, the Senate will have to strip the minimum wage provision out, and then eventually the House will have to pass that bill again at the end of the process.

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Well, they can’t. Kamala can do it. And she won’t.

Secret Memo Shows How Harris Must Now Advance Minimum Wage Hike (DP)

On Thursday, a key Senate official advised Democratic lawmakers that the chamber’s rules do not allow them to include a minimum wage increase in President Joe Biden’s first COVID-19 relief legislation. The ruling from the parliamentarian means that Vice President Kamala Harris could decide the fate of one of the Democratic Party’s most significant campaign promises — but it remains unclear what she will end up doing. As the presiding officer of the Senate, Harris — who has long touted her support for a $15 minimum wage — can now use the power her predecessors have used to ignore the advisory opinion and fulfill Biden’s campaign promise to boost the wage. A confidential memo obtained by The Daily Poster now circulating on Capitol Hill spells out exactly how that could be accomplished.

However, White House chief of staff Ron Klain this week declared that Harris will refuse to use that power — a decision that would effectively put the Biden-Harris administration in the position of potentially killing the prospect of minimum wage legislation for the foreseeable future. Immediately after the parliamentarian’s ruling, the White House issued a statement reiterating Klain’s comment, declaring that “Biden respects the parliamentarian’s decision.” Some congressional Democrats have already been arguing that the Biden administration’s refusal to overrule the parliamentarian would be immoral and a political disaster for their party. “It’s been 12 years since we’ve raised the minimum wage, and if we’re going to make those promises, we have to be able to deliver on them,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Wednesday on MSNBC.

“Because, I’ll tell you what, in two years… when people vote in the midterms, you’re not gonna be able to say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, we couldn’t raise the minimum wage because the parliamentarian ruled that we couldn’t do it.’ That’s not gonna fly.” The maddening process conversation surrounding a $15 minimum wage increase is the result of Democrats refusing to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which means Republicans can block most legislation unless Democrats find 60 votes. As such, Democrats are working to pass the COVID bill using the convoluted budget reconciliation process. The process will allow for a simple majority vote on the final legislation, but it also allows Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to recommend tossing certain provisions if she decides they violate the so-called Byrd Rule, which is designed to prohibit extraneous matters outside of federal spending issues to be added to budget legislation.

The minimum wage, however, has budget implications, according to the Congressional Budget Office — which is why proponents had hoped MacDonough would advise that it is in order, especially since the nonpartisan parliamentarian has previously ruled that other less significant budget-related issues were in order. MacDonough, however, refused to do so on Thursday evening. The development is not catastrophic for the $15 minimum wage provision — if Harris simply uses her power to ignore the opinion and clear the path for the measure she has long insisted she supports. The problem is that the White House is signaling she will do the opposite.

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We will never know.

In Final Days, Trump Gave Up on Forcing Release of Russiagate Files |(Maté)

After four years of railing against “deep state” actors who, he said, tried to undermine his presidency, Donald Trump relented to U.S. intelligence leaders in his final days in office, allowing them to block the release of critical material in the Russia investigation, according to a former senior congressional investigator who later joined the Trump administration. Kash Patel, whose work on the House Intelligence Committee helped unearth U.S. intelligence malpractice during the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe, said he does not know why Trump did not force the release of documents that would expose further wrongdoing. But he said senior intelligence officials “continuously impeded” their release – usually by slow-walking their reviews of the material. Patel said Trump’s CIA Director, Gina Haspel, was instrumental in blocking one of the most critical documents, he said.

Patel, who has seen the Russia probe’s underlying intelligence and co-wrote critical reports that have yet to be declassified, said new disclosures would expose additional misconduct and evidentiary holes in the CIA and FBI’s work. “I think there were people within the IC [Intelligence Community], at the heads of certain intelligence agencies, who did not want their tradecraft called out, even though it was during a former administration, because it doesn’t look good on the agency itself,” Patel [said]. Although a Department of Justice inspector general’s report in December 2019 exposed significant intelligence failings and malpractice, Patel said more damning information is still being kept under wraps. And despite an ongoing investigation by Special Counsel John Durham into the conduct of the officials who carried out the Trump-Russia inquiry, it is unclear if key documents will ever see the light of day.

Patel did not suggest that a game-changing smoking gun is being kept from the public. Core intelligence failures have been exposed – especially regarding the FBI’s reliance on Christopher Steele’s now debunked dossier to secure FISA warrants used to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. But he said the withheld material would reveal more misconduct as well as major problems with the CIA’s assessment that Russia, on Vladimir Putin’s orders, ordered a sweeping and systematic interference 2016 campaign to elect Trump. Patel was cautious about going into detail on any sensitive information that has not yet been declassified.

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“Once the cattle (that’s us) have been herded into the digital slaughterhouse, we will be told to “use it or lose it” when it comes to our own money. In other words, either we spend the money, or the government will take it away.”

The Great Reset Is Here (Rickards)

In 1999, the euro replaced the individual currencies of Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy and other major economies in Europe. Today, the number of countries that have joined the euro is up to 19, and more countries are awaiting admission. The euro is the second largest reserve currency asset after the U.S. dollar. The creation of the euro can be thought of as a stepping stone from national currencies to a single world currency. Now, the euro (along with the Chinese yuan) is moving quickly to become a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). A CBDC combines a traditional currency with the blockchain technology of a cryptocurrency. It’s an important move in the direction of eliminating cash and forcing users into a 100% digital system using credit cards, debit cards, and smartphone apps.

Why are China and Europe so focused on eliminating cash? I’ve said all along that you cannot put negative interest rates on consumers until you eliminate cash. Otherwise, savers would just withdraw cash from the banks and stuff it in mattresses to avoid the negative rates. Implicitly, the European Central Bank (ECB) seems to agree. One of the ECB Board members says that negative rates (really confiscation) will be applied as a “penalty” against “hoarding” cash. In plain English, that means they will create digital money, force you to spend it, and if you don’t spend it, they will take it away as a “negative rate.” Now all of the pieces of the global elite plan are converging. The IMF SDR issuance will reliquify global central banks that cannot print dollars. Then CBDCs will be used to eliminate cash.

Once the cattle (that’s us) have been herded into the digital slaughterhouse, we will be told to “use it or lose it” when it comes to our own money. In other words, either we spend the money, or the government will take it away. Of course, the spending can be channeled into politically correct causes by excluding unpopular vendors such as gun dealers or conservative social media platforms from the payment system. This represents total domination of human behavior through world money + digital currencies + confiscation. This is not speculation anymore; it’s happening in front of our eyes. The Great Reset is coming fast. The future is here.

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“designed by clowns…supervised by monkeys”

Boeing 777 Makes Emergency Landing In Moscow Due To Engine Trouble (ZH)

It really has not been a good year for Boeing. Or a good decade for that matter. Just days after a Boeing-777 became the latest symbol of all that is wrong with the once almighty aircraft maker, when the plane’s right engine exploded (with debris striking houses below it in a scene right out of Breaking Bad) and only a miracle prevented a tragedy, moments ago another Boeing-777 made an emergency landing in Russia’s Sheremetyevo airport outside of Moscow, Interfax reports, adding that the plane crew requested the landing after one of left engine control channels failed The news service doesn’t name the airline operator; but said that the plane was flying from Hong Kong to Madrid. Luckily, no injuries were reported.

The latest mishap followed even more bad news for the aerospace giant, which earlier on Thursday agreed to pay $6.6 million to U.S. regulators as part of a settlement with the Federal Aviation Administration over the planemaker’s failure to comply with a 2015 safety agreement including quality and safety-oversight lapses going back years, a setback that comes as Boeing wrestles with repairs to flawed 787 Dreamliner jets that could dwarf the cost of the federal penalty. As Reuters reported, Boeing is beginning painstaking repairs and forensic inspections to fix structural integrity flaws embedded deep inside at least 88 parked 787s built over the last year or so. The inspections and retrofits could take up to a month per plane and are likely to cost hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars, though it depends on the number of planes and defects involved.

The penalties include $5.4 million for not complying with the agreement in which Boeing pledged to change its internal processes to improve and prioritize regulatory compliance and $1.21 million to settle two pending FAA enforcement cases. “The FAA is holding Boeing accountable by imposing additional penalties,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement. But the biggest challenge facing Boeing is whether or not it can find passengers for its 737 MAX now that the infamous deadly airplane which was reportedly “designed by clowns…supervised by monkeys” is set to fly again. While the plane may indeed have gotten a green light from the FAA, a far bigger question is whether Boeing has by now lost the trust of the public for good.

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The “left wing” press will bury it.

700+ Children In Detention at US Border, Spike In Unaccompanied Crossings (RT)

Hundreds of unaccompanied minors have been held at the US border waiting to be processed, Axios reported. Almost a third of them have been lingering in detention for more than two days, as the backlog piles up. Around 700 minors who crossed into the US on their own were kept in Border Patrol Custody as of Sunday, Axios reported on Wednesday, citing an internal Customs and Border Protection document. By that time, around 200 children had already been held up for over 48 hours, and in the case of nine child migrants, for over 72 hours, which exceeds the maximum limit under the Flores Settlement Agreement, which stipulates that CBP cannot hold children for more than three days. Per the same agreement, asylum-seeking children transferred to ICE detention centers cannot spend more than 20 days there, after which they must be released.


The processing system is under increasing strain due to an influx of child migrants. In January, CBP encountered 5,707 child migrants at the southwest border, almost a thousand more than in December (4,855). President Biden, who was promising a U-turn from the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy, has recently come under fire for reopening a child detention facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas. The Biden administration was quick to defend the move as a temporary fix in the times of pandemic, arguing that the infamous Trump facility was reopened since the Office of Refugee Resettlement cannot house as many asylum seekers as before due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

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If you say things like “..could reduce by about 34% to 45% by the end of this century..”, people will think: I won’t be alive by then, so would should I care?

Atlantic Ocean Circulation At Weakest In A Millennium (G.)

The Atlantic Ocean circulation that underpins the Gulf Stream, the weather system that brings warm and mild weather to Europe, is at its weakest in more than a millennium, and climate breakdown is the probable cause, according to new data. Further weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could result in more storms battering the UK, more intense winters and an increase in damaging heatwaves and droughts across Europe. Scientists predict that the AMOC will weaken further if global heating continues, and could reduce by about 34% to 45% by the end of this century, which could bring us close to a “tipping point” at which the system could become irrevocably unstable. A weakened Gulf Stream would also raise sea levels on the Atlantic coast of the US, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who co-authored the study published on Thursday in Nature Geoscience, told the Guardian that a weakening AMOC would increase the number and severity of storms hitting Britain, and bring more heatwaves to Europe. He said the circulation had already slowed by about 15%, and the impacts were being seen. “In 20 to 30 years it is likely to weaken further, and that will inevitably influence our weather, so we would see an increase in storms and heatwaves in Europe, and sea level rises on the east coast of the US,” he said. Rahmstorf and scientists from Maynooth University in Ireland and University College London in the UK concluded that the current weakening had not been seen over at least the last 1,000 years, after studying sediments, Greenland ice cores and other proxy data that revealed past weather patterns over that time.

The AMOC has only been measured directly since 2004. The AMOC is one of the world’s biggest ocean circulation systems, carrying warm surface water from the Gulf of Mexico towards the north Atlantic, where it cools and becomes saltier until it sinks north of Iceland, which in turn pulls more warm water from the Caribbean. This circulation is accompanied by winds that also help to bring mild and wet weather to Ireland, the UK and other parts of western Europe. Scientists have long predicted a weakening of the AMOC as a result of global heating, and have raised concerns that it could collapse altogether. The new study found that any such point was likely to be decades away, but that continued high greenhouse gas emissions would bring it closer.

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Feb 112021
 
 February 11, 2021  Posted by at 10:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  41 Responses »


Ansel Adams Evening at McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park 1942

 

AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Against New Covid Variant May Take 6-9 Months (G.)
CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don’t Need To Quarantine If Exposed To Covid (NBC)
Deaths of Elderly Who Recovered From COVID, but Died After Vaccine (Attkisson)
Dershowitz Destroys Democrats’ Impeachment In Under 2 Minutes (WND)
Dershowitz: Trump Defense Must Avoid ‘Trap’ Of Debating Election Fraud (JTN)
‘Feel Our Pain,’ Politicians Demand (Tracey)
The Disarticulation of Pandemic War Propaganda (MPN)
New US Military Base in Northeast Syria Latest of Biden’s Warlike Moves (MPN)
Facebook New Algorithm Will ‘Reduce Political Content’ On News Feeds (JTN)
Former Republican Officials In Talks To Form Anti-Trump Third Party (R.)
Will Corporation-Owned Smart Cities Come To Nevada? (AN)
Yellen Eyes Innovation To Battle Misuse Of Cryptocurrencies (R.)
Assange Prosecution Will Continue Under Biden (Gosztola)
In Mail-In Impeachment Vote, Senate Convicts Trump 8275 To 3 (BBee)

 

 

 

 

COVID numbers in the UK and US crashed at the exact same moment. How is that possible?

 

 

“About Thatcher’s death: Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out on competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. That’s what she would have wanted.”
– Ken Loach

 

 

What are your plans until 2022? Forget them.

AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Against New Covid Variant May Take 6-9 Months (G.)

AstraZeneca has said that it could take between six and nine months to produce Covid-19 vaccines that are effective against new variants of the coronavirus. The company’s vaccine, developed jointly with scientists at the University of Oxford, remains effective on at least one variant of the virus first discovered in Kent, England, but preliminary findings in a small-scale trial prompted South Africa to limit its use while it ascertains its efficacy. However, a six-month turnaround for an updated vaccine would represent a vast improvement over traditional vaccine development timelines. The vaccine is particularly important for poorer countries, because the company – unlike some of its rivals such as Pfizer – has pledged to sell it at cost price.


The vaccine also does not require very low temperatures during transport, making it cheaper to deliver. Announcing its financial results for 2020 on Thursday, AstraZeneca said: “In collaboration with the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca is focused on adapting C19VAZ to new disease strains if required and hopes to reduce the time needed to reach production at scale to between six to nine months, by utilising existing clinical data and optimising its established supply chain.” AstraZeneca will not incorporate revenues from the vaccine into its financial results, but it said that 2020 performance in its main profit-making business remained strong.

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Pfizer says they don’t know if their vaccine protects you from infections, or those around you. But the CDC now knows better? Or is this true only when wearing 3 masks?

CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don’t Need To Quarantine If Exposed To Covid (NBC)

People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday in updated guidance on its website. Quarantine is typically recommended for healthy people who have been exposed to the virus. During quarantine, people are asked to isolate from others for one to two weeks to see whether they develop symptoms of Covid-19. By not exposing others, quarantining can help stop the spread of the disease. In the updated guidance, the CDC said such quarantining is not necessary for fully vaccinated people within three months of having received their last doses as long as they do not develop any symptoms.

“Fully vaccinated” means that at least two weeks have passed since a person has received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. Other recommendations remain in place for fully vaccinated people. They include wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. The guidance says the risk that fully vaccinated people could spread the coronavirus, to others is “still uncertain.” However, “vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic Covid-19; symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is thought to have a greater role in transmission than purely asymptomatic transmission,” according to the CDC.

The CDC already recommends that people who have had Covid-19 and recovered do not need to quarantine for 90 days after the illness, if newly exposed to someone who is infected; the new guidance for vaccinated people aligns with the earlier recommendations. The guidance “makes sense,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, although he said he was curious about what evidence the CDC was using. Early data from AstraZeneca and Moderna’s Phase 3 clinical trials have suggested that vaccines may slow transmission of the virus, although more work is needed to confirm the findings.

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2 days after 14 infections among fully vaccinated in pensioners’ home in Germany.

Deaths of Elderly Who Recovered From COVID, but Died After Vaccine (Attkisson)

Two small clusters of deaths after COVID-19 vaccination have been reported among nursing homes in Kentucky and Arkansas. In Kentucky, four seniors died the same day of their vaccination on Dec. 30, 2020. Three of the four who passed away reportedly already had had coronavirus prior to getting vaccinated. In Arkansas, four seniors died at a long term care facility about a week after their vaccination. All tested positive for COVID-19 after vaccination. The deaths are reported in a federal database called VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Deaths after vaccination don’t necessarily mean the vaccine is to blame. Of those receiving coronavirus vaccines, many are elderly and frail, or already suffering from serious illnesses. That makes it difficult to know whether there’s a connection.

According to VAERS reports, the Kentucky deaths occurred on Dec. 30 after vaccinations with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. An ill 88-year-old woman who was “14 + days post covid” was given the Pfizer-BioNTech shot while she was “unresponsive in [her] room.” She died within an hour and a half (914961-1). An 88-year-old who was “15 days post covid” got the shot, was monitored for 15 minutes afterward, and passed away within 90 minutes (914994-1). A third report says an 88-year-old woman who was “14 + days post covid” vomited four minutes after receiving her shot, became short of breath, and passed away that night (915562-1). And an 85-year-old woman vaccinated at 5 p.m. was “found unresponsive” less than two hours later and died shortly after (915682-1). In response to questions about the Kentucky cluster, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said its experts noted “no pattern … among the [Kentucky] cases that would indicate a concern for the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Scientists differ on whether people who have had coronavirus, like the Kentucky patients, should receive the COVID-19 vaccination at all. The CDC insists it’s safe for people who have recovered from COVID-19 to get vaccinated and that there’s no minimum interval recommended between infection and vaccination. “Vaccination should be offered to persons regardless of history of prior symptomatic or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] infection,” it states. But other scientists say vaccinating people who are already considered immune after a natural COVID-19 infection wastes valuable doses of vaccines when there are shortages. And neither Pfizer’s nor Moderna’s studies showed any benefit to vaccinating previously infected patients.

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“No. 1 they have no jurisdiction. No.2 it’s a bill of attainder, No. 3 they’re impeaching him for constitutionally protected speech..”

Dershowitz Destroys Democrats’ Impeachment In Under 2 Minutes (WND)

Famed Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz was on President Trump’ defense team during the first impeachment trial one year ago. And while he’s not a member of the team this time, he’s offering a quick, two-minute argument he says should close the case. “You don’t have to listen to me. Listen to James Madison, who’s the father of the Constitution,” Dershowitz said on “The Charlie Kirk Show” podcast. “He said that impeachment is only for somebody who’s still sitting in office. He said it quite clearly in the Federalist Papers,” Dershowitz said of Madison. “There’s no way around that.” The Harvard professor insisted the text of the Constitution is clear as well.

“It says impeachment is for purposes of removing a president. Once a president is removed you can also vote to disqualify him but disqualification doesn’t stand alone as a remedy,” he said. “If it did, then the Congress would have a roving commission to go through the entire United States and decide who to impeach and who not to impeach, and who to prevent from running for office,” said Dershowitz. “Say the Republicans come up with a young vibrant candidate to run against Biden four years from now. All the Democrats would have to do is impeach him, even though he’s never held office, and just disqualify him from running for office. Or find someone … who had a smaller officer earlier, and they can impeach him,” Dershowitz said.

“That’s not what the Framers had in mind. What the Framers had in mind is not allowing the Senate to put people on trial. That’s called a bill of attainder and a bill of attainder is specifically prohibited by the Constitution.” Dershowitz said there are “so many things wrong with this impeachment.” “No. 1 they have no jurisdiction. No.2 it’s a bill of attainder, No. 3 they’re impeaching him for constitutionally protected speech,” he said. Dershowitz said the impeachment itself “is doing a tremendous amount of damage to our Constitution.”

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“This is not the forum in which any evidence of election fraud is going to be seriously considered,” Kline said. “They have no interest in it…”

Dershowitz: Trump Defense Must Avoid ‘Trap’ Of Debating Election Fraud (JTN)

Key legal allies of former President Trump say his defense team must avoid the “trap” of debating election fraud during his Senate impeachment trial. House impeachment managers Tuesday cited Trump statements challenging the integrity of the 2020 election in arguing that the former president engaged in a “months-long effort to incite” an “insurrection” which culminated on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob forced its way past police lines into the U.S. Capitol. House Democrats’ move to frame Trump’s electoral fraud claims as incitement in their impeachment narrative created an opening for Trump’s defense to, in effect, put the 2020 election itself on trial before a nationwide viewing audience, as many of his supporters have urged.

Some Trump allies say his electoral fraud case has never received a full public airing due to legal challenges being tossed out on grounds of standing, timeliness and other technical issues rather than on merit. But former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who helped lead the successful defense that gained Trump’s acquittal in the 2020 impeachment trial, said this move would be “a terrible mistake” for Trump. “It’s a trap that the Democrats are trying to set for the Trump lawyers,” Dershowitz told Just the News in an interview Wednesday. “It’s a trap to have them talk about electoral fraud, because if they do, they’ll lose [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and other senators.” The “absolute trap,” Dershowitz said, “was being set by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who is leading the Democrats’ impeachment case. Raskin studied law under Dershowitz, who called his former student “a smart guy.”

[..] Attorney Phill Kline, a Trump supporter and director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, has litigated many cases involving claims of electoral fraud during the 2020 election. He told Just the News that while he thinks a national conversation about electoral fraud should continue, he doesn’t believe that the impeachment forum is ideal. “This is not the forum in which any evidence of election fraud is going to be seriously considered,” Kline said. “They have no interest in it. They refuse to acknowledge clear facts. And so it’s the wrong audience and the wrong time.” Kline said the Trump defense team should focus on the former president’s First Amendment right to speak openly and raise questions about election fraud. “They have been trying to criminalize thought for some time now,” Kline said. “This is just the fruit of their belief that if you do not think as they do, you’re a threat to the nation.”

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It’s become quite theatrical.

‘Feel Our Pain,’ Politicians Demand (Tracey)

Congress is increasingly not a place where the average member partakes in what’s generally understood as legislative activity, but rather engages in a variety of elaborate self-promotional exercises. The diminishment in the power of average House Members (as opposed to Party leaders who run their respective caucuses like fiefdoms) has been amply documented. One consequence of this trend is that “comms” has become far more of an all-consuming focus for a certain type of Member, particularly those who are most adept at social media. One “comms” strategy that appears highly effective at the moment in generating outsized public attention is extreme, heavily-personalized emotional exuberance.

With the “trauma” of the MAGA goofball mob intrusion still apparently dominating their psyches, members of Congress have taken it as a solemn duty to claim “space” for the “sharing” of their “lived experience” relating to this event. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a true pioneer in importing the rhetoric of therapeutic trauma jargon, already the lingua franca of an ascendant activism-minded cultural and media cohort, into the mainstream of the Democratic Party. At her direction, it will only become more ubiquitous. And given that such rhetoric deliberately inverts the normal epistemology of contested political claims — it’s deemed incumbent on the listener not to critically evaluate the veracity of such claims, but instead uncritically believe them — the new mode of public argument she’s popularizing is likely to prove highly effective, as it inherently forecloses the prospect of any argument at all.

Per this framework, arguments are replaced with subjective assertions that must be presumptively accepted, lest one be guilty of “minimizing” or “belittling” the elected official’s experiences and thus compounding their trauma. Jamie Raskin, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, took a page from this playbook during the opening presentation of Donald Trump’s trial Monday, breaking down in tears at one point as he wove a narrative about the terror of January 6 with his own personal turmoil. Raskin’s son died on December 31, and the pain he felt from that experience was integrated seamlessly with the pain that he posited all members of Congress must have felt during the goofball riot.

Of course, everyone who’s not a psychopath would sympathize with Raskin for having lost a son to suicide. But to invoke this tragedy in the context of an impeachment trial has an obvious political intent. The intent was to heighten the emotional resonance of the prosecution’s case for convicting Trump, as according to Raskin, he feared that his daughter might also face untimely death because she happened to be in the Capitol with him on January 6. The more intense the “pain” that can be conveyed to the juror-senators, the more likely they are to vote to convict Trump — or so the calculation seemingly goes.

Fellow impeachment manager David Cicilline charged that every single member of Congress nearly avoided being slaughtered in a mass execution-style attack that day — “They could have killed all of us,” he said — although no real evidence has ever been presented to substantiate this dramatic theory, which seems only to be professed by partisan Democrats. A number of basic facts stemming from the Capitol intrusion which could provide clarity are still mysteriously absent from the public record, such as whether any of the rioters brandished or discharged firearms. You’d think this would be helpful information to know before proclaiming, as Cicilline did, that what occurred was an “armed insurrection.” It would be a very curious “armed insurrection” for no firearms to have been deployed over the course of the “insurrection.”

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“The study Fauci funded at the WIV in 2014 was done so in contravention to the [Obama] moratorium then in effect.”

The Disarticulation of Pandemic War Propaganda (MPN)

A now-deleted fact sheet published by the U.S. State Department on January 15, 2021, claimed that for over a year, “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin.” The official release of that fact sheet focuses on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV); a controversial research lab in the Hubei province of China which has been the target of well-earned suspicions over its work on bat-borne zoonotic diseases like SARS-CoV-2, better known as the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Missing from the State Department’s missive is the intimate bond that this particular laboratory has to American scientific institutions and to a tight-knit group of individuals with direct links to the U.S. intelligence apparatus and the biodefense establishment. National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci’s funding of gain-of-function (GoF) research in 2014 at the Chinese lab is just one example. The highly polarizing GoF studies, which entail turbo-charging a pathogen’s virulence through the “generation of viruses with properties that do not exist in nature” present considerable biosafety hazards, which led the Obama administration to issue a federal moratorium on GoF research. The study Fauci funded at the WIV in 2014 was done so in contravention to the moratorium then in effect.

Deeper and more disturbing ties to outfits like USAID-funded Ecohealth Alliance have been covered by independent journalists like Same Husseini and others, revealing the WIV’s close relationship to people like David R. Franz – former commander of Fort Detrick, the pre-eminent biowarfare and biodefense facility in the U.S. and the source of the anthrax spores used in the infamous 2001 anthrax attacks. In July 2020, this author carried out an investigation into the nexus between the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), USAID and zoonotic disease research in Asia.

Recently, some of these facts have seeped into mainstream news outlets as the “lab-leak” hypothesis, which suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen escaped from a laboratory in China. Careful to avoid drawing attention to links between American scientific institutions and their Chinese counterparts, a narrative is gathering momentum as the idea of a ‘cover-up’ by Chinese authorities is promulgated on prime time television news magazine shows like “60 Minutes,” which ran an expose the promoted the idea that China is “weaponizing” the pandemic. The narrative is not new and has been lingering in the background since the pandemic was declared.

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“this new center [is being built] with the aim of observing Russian forces..”

New US Military Base in Northeast Syria Latest of Biden’s Warlike Moves (MPN)

The U.S.-government funded outlet Voice of America has confirmed rumors that a new military base is being built in northeastern Syria. A convoy of 40 troop carriers and other vehicles arrived and began setting up shop in the city of Hasakah near the Turkish and Iraqi borders over the weekend. “The U.S. flag is now raised over a building,” said journalist Jindar Berekat, a native of the city, “it is not clear how many American soldiers will be stationed at this location, but their armored military vehicles are here and it looks like they are still constructing parts of it.”

“Many here believe that the building of a U.S. base inside Hasakah could be a response to the growing Russian presence in the city,” a local reporter told Voice of America, “this new center [is being built] with the aim of observing Russian forces in Hasakah.” Russian military units have been present in Syria since 2015, intervening on behalf of the government of Bashar al-Assad. The two foreign superpowers have come close to armed confrontation in Syria many times, including in 2017, when President Trump ordered the bombing of a Russian airbase near the Lebanese border. Already, the American presence has prevented the Russian military from carrying out patrols in northeastern Syria.

While the United States has presented its role in Syria as a counter terrorism operation, Assad’s government has accused it of plundering its resources, “condemn[ing] in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company to steal Syria’s oil under the sponsorship and support of the American administration.” Around 500 American troops have been guarding the country’s oilfields for months, and last summer, Senator Lindsay Graham confirmed that the U.S. had indeed signed a deal with the SDF to “modernize” the country’s oil industry. Damascus considers the agreement “null and void.”

The new base at Hasakah is the latest in a string of actions that suggest the United States wishes to bolster or expand its presence in the war-torn country. Last month, American forces reinforced another base along the M4 highway, which runs from the city of Aleppo through the north of the country and towards the Iraqi border in the east. At the same time, its ally Israel was conducting a series of major airstrikes across the east of the country, reportedly targeting Iranian or pro-Iranian forces.

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Only the good stuff?!

Facebook New Algorithm Will ‘Reduce Political Content’ On News Feeds (JTN)

Facebook announced on Wednesday the social media platform will in the coming weeks start limiting the amount of political content viewers see on their news feeds. The company is aware that “people don’t want political content to take over their News Feed,” Product Management Director Aastha Gupta wrote in a blog post on the site. The change will begin with Facebook temporarily reduce the distribution of political content in News Feed for a small percentage of people in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week. Gupta said the process will begin in the U.S. in the coming weeks.


The initial rollout will allow the company to explore different methods of ranking political content prior to its deciding on a permanent solution. Facebook has in recent months and years attempted to reducing political content, include no new political ads in the final week of the 2020 presidential campaign. However, the company and other social media giants have meanwhile faced growing scrutiny of what third-party content they choose to censure or block. “Our goal is to preserve the ability for people to find and interact with political content on Facebook, while respecting each person’s appetite for it at the top of their News Feed,” Gupta said.

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They’ve lost their party. Might as well start another one.

Former Republican Officials In Talks To Form Anti-Trump Third Party (R.)

Dozens of former Republican officials, who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former President Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, are in talks to form a center-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters. The early stage discussions include former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump, ex-Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists, the people involved say. More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of “principled conservatism,” including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law – ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump.

The plan would be to run candidates in some races but also to endorse center-right candidates in others, be they Republicans, independents or Democrats, the people say. Evan McMullin, who was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election, told Reuters that he co-hosted the Zoom call with former officials concerned about Trump’s grip on Republicans and the nativist turn the party has taken. [..] Call participants said they were particularly dismayed by the fact that more than half of the Republicans in Congress – eight senators and 139 House representatives – voted to block certification of Biden’s election victory just hours after the Capitol siege.

Most Republican senators have also indicated they will not support the conviction of Trump in this week’s Senate impeachment trial. “Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy,” McMullin told Reuters. “The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new.”

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Why is the idea of surrendering control of parts of the US to Facebook, Google etc. not shot down on sight?

Will Corporation-Owned Smart Cities Come To Nevada? (AN)

With plans reportedly still moving forward for Blockchains, LLC, to break ground on a Tom Wiscombe Architecture and Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC)-designed smart city in Nevada in 2022, Governor Steve Sisolak is looking to give it, and similar developments across the state, the power to form their own governments. According to documents acquired by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sisolak has floated a draft proposal to create “Innovation Zones” across the state in a bid to draw technology companies, and giving them the power to set up their own governments. In exchange for this autonomy, the Nevada state government would forgo the tax abatement or incentive packages typically used to encourage big businesses to relocate.

Sisolak first mentioned the idea during his January 19 State of the State address but later confirmed that a draft bill was in the works on February 4 via Twitter. According to the text reviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal (subject to change before a final bill is submitted), such an “alternative form of local government” is needed to entice big tech companies, and that over time, the administration of those zones would gradually take over governmental duties from their respective counties. Each zone would be overseen by a three-person board of supervisors, with the company behind the development having the majority of the say in who gets appointed.

It should be noted that the governor’s proposal only extends to companies doing “innovative” work; relating to blockchains, healthcare, robotics, renewable energy research, biometrics, autonomous vehicles, and similar cutting-edge research. Any company applying to set up an Innovation Zone through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development would need to own and be intent on developing at least 50,000 acres not already part of a city or town, $250 million on hand, and a plan to invest at least $1 billion in the area over the next 10 years.


Tom Wiscombe Architecture and EYRC revealed their design for the Blockchains city in 2018, and now the project’s developer may get the power to form its own government there. (Courtesy EYRC Architects and Tom Wiscombe Architecture)

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No. What Yellen eyes is control.

Yellen Eyes Innovation To Battle Misuse Of Cryptocurrencies (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday warned about an “explosion of risk” from digital markets, including the misuse of cryptocurrencies, but said new financial technologies could also help fight crime and reduce inequality. In remarks to a financial sector innovation roundtable, Yellen said such technologies could be used to stem the flow of dark money from organized crime and fight back against hackers, but also to reduce digital gaps in the United States. She said passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in December would allow the Treasury Department to rework a framework for combating illicit finance that has been largely unchanged since the 1970s.


“The update couldn’t have come at a better time,” Yellen told policymakers, regulators and private sector experts. “We’re living amidst an explosion of risk related to fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, and data privacy.” The COVID-19 pandemic had triggered more – and more sophisticated – cyberattacks aimed at hospitals, schools, banks, and the government itself, she said. Cryptocurrencies and virtual assets offered promise, but they had also been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers and to finance terrorism. Innovation in the sector could help address these problems while giving millions of people access to the financial system, she said.

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“..the Biden Justice Department is effectively signaling his administration is not all that serious about press freedom..”

Assange Prosecution Will Continue Under Biden (Gosztola)

The Justice Department under President Joe Biden plans to continue the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that was launched under President Donald Trump. “We continue to seek his extradition,” Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi told Reuters, days before February 12, the deadline for the United States government to submit its “grounds for appeal.” The statement represents a departure from President Barack Obama’s administration, which declined to prosecute Assange. Justice Department officials were reportedly concerned about the threat it would pose to press freedom.

On January 4, British district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the U.S. government’s extradition request and concluded Assange’s mental condition was “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.” She accepted that Assange would likely be imprisoned at a supermax prison in the U.S. under special administrative measures (SAMs) and would find a way to commit suicide. “I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange’s mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the ‘single minded determination’ of his autism spectrum disorder.” However, the Biden Justice Department plans to contest the judge’s conclusion that Assange should not be extradited because he would likely commit suicide.

[..] During Biden’s first foreign policy speech on February 4, he proclaimed, “We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential. A free press is essential to the health of a democracy.” However, in Trump’s last year in office, he signed a counterintelligence strategy document that lumped in “leaktivists” and “public disclosure organizations,” like WikiLeaks, with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and terrorist groups, which U.S. security agencies view as “significant threats.” That strategy document, which covers 2020-2022, sharply conflicts with Biden’s assertion that the U.S. government believes the free press is not an adversary. Indeed, it shows U.S. security agencies believe they should monitor, neutralize, and even target dissident media organizations that may employ practices pioneered by WikiLeaks.

While the tone of the new administration may sound more polite toward elite journalists, by refusing to abandon this dangerous political case, the Biden Justice Department is effectively signaling his administration is not all that serious about press freedom and what officials have to say are empty platitudes that should not pacify people aware of what is at stake if Assange is brought to the U.S. and put on trial.

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“The Senate then moved on to other business, passing universal healthcare by a margin of 320,000 to 4.”

In Mail-In Impeachment Vote, Senate Convicts Trump 8275 To 3 (BBee)

In a historic move, the U.S. Senate decided to switch to voting by mail for Trump’s second impeachment trial. After all the votes were counted by an intern in a back room with no cameras, the Senate ruled to convict President Trump of incitement to violence by a vote of 8275 to 3. “Our holy democracy has spoken,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “Do not ask any questions or you are a blasphemer against the sacred sacredness of our vote. Everyone can go home now!” A couple of troublemaking Senators attempted to overthrow the Constitution by bringing up the point that there are only 100 Senators, making it impossible to arrive at a tally of 8275 to 3, but they were quickly removed from the Senate Chambers and condemned for “attempting to suppress the votes of people of color.” The Senate then moved on to other business, passing universal healthcare by a margin of 320,000 to 4.

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Jan 222021
 


Vincent van Gogh Laboureur dans un champ 1889

 

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)
Words of Division (MacDonald)
Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)
Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)
The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)
State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)
12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)
Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)
Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)
Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)
Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)
Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

 

 


The 21st second of the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century.

 

 

All good now, but what a blunder.

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)

Thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed back into the Capitol Thursday night, hours after U.S. Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facilities, sending them outdoors or to nearby parking garages after two weeks pulling security duty after the deadly riot on Jan. 6. One unit, which had been resting in the Dirksen Senate Office building, was abruptly told to vacate the facility on Thursday, according to one Guardsman. The group was forced to rest in a nearby parking garage without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, the person said. Temperatures in Washington were in the low 40s by nightfall. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service.

Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” the Guardsman said. All National Guard troops were told to vacate the Capitol and nearby congressional buildings on Thursday, and to set up mobile command centers outside or in nearby hotels, another Guardsman confirmed. They were told to take their rest breaks during their 12-hour shifts outside and in parking garages, the person said. Top lawmakers from both parties took to Twitter to decry the decision and call for answers after POLITICO first reported the news Thursday night, with some even offering their offices to be used as rest areas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.”

And Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) noted that the Capitol complex remains closed to members of the public, “so there’s plenty of room for troops to take a break in them.” By 10 p.m., Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said the situation was “being resolved” and that the Guardsmen would be able to return indoors later in the night. “Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight,” added Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both of her legs in combat. “I’ll keep checking to make sure they are.”

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“This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists.”

Words of Division (MacDonald)

It’s an odd way to seek national unity: call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists. Welcome to the Biden presidency. Joe Biden’s inaugural speech as 46th president is predictably being hailed for its “unifying” message. And just as predictably, his invocations of the divisive bromides of the identitarian Left are being swept under the rug. According to Biden, we are a “great nation” and a “good people.” But we also oppress minorities with an ever-rising fervor. “Growing inequity” is among the greatest challenges facing the country, according to Biden, along with the “sting of systemic racism” and encroaching “white supremacy.” Only now are we confronting “a cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making.”

One might have thought that more than 50 years of civil rights legislation; the banishing of Jim Crow segregation; the ubiquity of racial preferences throughout corporate America, higher education, and government; trillions of dollars of tax dollars attempting to close the academic achievement gap; and the election of black politicians by white voting districts would have reduced inequity, not increased it. But to Biden’s speechwriters, steeped in academic victimology, racial inequity is always with us, requiring constant remediation from government. Biden rattled off a litany of white America’s sins: the “harsh, ugly reality” of “racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization”; “anger, resentment, hatred, [and] extremism.” He did not name white Americans as such, but he did not need to. That qualifier is inherent in the language he chose to adopt.

This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists. They are au courant, shallow terms of the moment, lacking depth or weight. In fact, such terms are so overused today that it is easy to tune them out. But that would be a mistake. The “systemic racism” conceit means that every American institution is illegitimate and needs to be reconstructed. Biden’s cabinet nominees, whether in health, finance, environmental policy, or education, have declared that eradicating systemic racism is their top priority. How this agenda will play out has already been adumbrated in the CDC’s initial priority list for Covid vaccinations: hold off on vaccinating the elderly, despite their higher risk levels, because the elderly are disproportionately white. Racial quotas will become even more the order of the day than now.

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“The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016.”

Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)

Donald Trump has slunk off the national stage for the time being, but we must remember who made him a contender for president in the first place: the Democrats and their corporate media. As Wikileaks revealed , the Clinton campaign encouraged friendly media to boost Trump’s Republican primary prospects, hoping to set up a straw man that could easily be knocked down in November, 2016. By Election Day, the corporate press had lavished $5 billion in free media on Trump – more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and all of Trump’s Republican presidential competitors, combined. If you are desperate to flush the stink of four years of Trump out of your brain, remember who put it there, through constant, daily repetition.

How long will the Orange Menace stay gone? Not long; soon either Trump will make a comeback or the corporate media will inflate another racist straw man to run against. The only way the corporate Democrats can mobilize their base to eek out slim national victories while keeping Joe Biden’s promise to the rich that “nothing would fundamentally change ,” is to position themselves as the sole defense against the racist hordes. That’s how Bill Clinton succeeded in completing Ronald Reagan’s quest to “end welfare as we know it,” while vastly expanding the structures of mass Black incarceration (Sen. Joe Biden proudly “wrote the bill”), gutting safeguards against bankers blowing up the economy, and facilitating the exodus of good jobs to sweatshops overseas. Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America confederacy stampeded Blacks and “progressives” into the corporate Democratic corral, where they were politically neutered.

The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016. [..] When Blacks and progressives rallied behind Bill Clinton to defeat Gingrich, the corporate rulers were enabled to plunge the society into a great leap backward that wiped out the last vestiges of the New Deal, condemned another generation of Black youth to the Gulag, and set the stage for two economic catastrophes that rivaled the Great Depression, while the U.S. military vastly intensified its rampages around the world, the national security state penetrated every digital device on the planet, and huge corporations perfected the tools of public self-surveillance.

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MICIMATT

Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)

But, don’t go away, Russia, not just yet. The MICIMATT still finds you convenient as the kind of “threat” it can cite to justify spending untold billions of dollars on defense, enriching the already rich. The way the U.S. system is structured, it matters little in the grand scheme of things on where the money is spent – whether a Republican or Democrat sits in the Oval Office. In short, the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex rules the roost (MEDIA in all caps, as the linchpin). Clinton wonders aloud who Trump “is beholden to”. Well, speaking of beholden, Joe Biden enters office with zero vaccination against being beholden – to the MICIMATT. It is fair to say that, without that the MICIMATT’s blessing, candidates end up like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.

There are just enough straws in the wind to make the MICIMATT and its clients and supporters nervous. What would happen, should Putin and Russia become less demonized? Could there be a thaw in the unnecessarily chilly relations with Moscow? What could that mean for bloated defense spending – particularly at a time when those funds are so desperately and demonstrably needed at home? It appears likely that strategic arms negotiations with Russia will be high on President Joe Biden’s agenda, as will cooperation with Russia and the other parties to the Iran nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew. Assuming William Burns, former ambassador to Russia, is confirmed as CIA director, Biden will have at his beck and call a straight-speaking, highly experienced expert who has dealt with President Putin. Burns was also one of the chief US negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal.

In my view, it is also significant that President-elect Biden has held back from explicit condemnation of Russia by name amid the recent flurry of accusations of Russian hacking of several US institutions over the past several months. Yes, he has referred to what Secretary of State Pompeo and Attorney General Barr have said blaming Russia, and it can be argued that he has indirectly implicated Russia in the context of his sparse statements on this issue. In my experience, though, the Kremlin is likely to have taken note of the caution that Biden has exercised on this neuralgic issue. Nor has this likely escaped the attention of the MICIMATT and induced some worry about the long-term viability of the portrayal of Putin as villain.

Oliver Stone told me recently that, in one of his conversations in Russia, Mr. Putin, somewhat exasperated, said something along the lines of, “Now Russians are thought of like Jews before World War II”. Think about that. Amid the Russia Russia Russia over the past four-plus years, Putin has kept his voice down – and his powder dry – while staying open to negotiations to reduce arms competition, cyber warfare, and other facets of bilateral tension. If past is precedent, he is likely to see opportunities to take a fresh look at US intentions under President Biden – especially during the traditional “honeymoon” period normally accorded a new president. But clearly, Putin is also aware of the parallels between the demonization of him and Russia and how Jews were blamed for just about everything during the Thirties. Evidence-free accusations by the likes of Pelosi and Clinton will make the task of restoring a modicum of trust an uphill battle.

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“It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair.”

The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)

The US military is routinely shown to be one of the most trusted institutions in American life — so it wasn’t as though their mere presence on the streets of Washington automatically provoked universal horror. After the massive nationwide riots last summer, virtually everyone I spoke to expressed satisfaction with the National Guard’s handling of the chaos. Similarly, the vast number of soldiers deployed to DC this week to ward off a potential “insurrection” were greeted with plentiful selfies and free cheeseburger deliveries. But this operation, which reportedly consisted of 25,000 military personnel — not including the innumerable federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on the ground — was another thing altogether. Downtown DC had been transformed into a brazenly fortified, militarised zone unlike anything in living memory.

Roads were blocked off by oversized armoured vehicles which had been stationed for maximum visibility. The boarding-up of endless storefronts — a result of both the Covid-related economic downturn and prolonged riot-induced anxiety — added to the sense of dystopia. Soldiers patrolled with large rifles slung around their shoulders, directing traffic and checking the “papers” of motorists. One Guardsman from Pennsylvania told me that “legitimate business” was the standard by which they were to adjudicate whether cars would be allowed to pass through. The rifles brandished by many of the troops were conspicuously without a magazine loaded. This is not uncommon for a peacetime mission. The aim was evidently not to subdue any kind of imminent, actionable threat that would require live ammunition, as many politicians and journalists had frantically warned was the case, but to simply act as a gigantic deterrent.

That objective was apparently accomplished. I did not see a single protester anywhere in the city on Inauguration Day, much less any “insurrectionists” or “armed rebels” trawling around, as had been so gravely forecast. The FBI (then still technically under the jurisdiction of Donald Trump) had warned that all 50 state Capitols were at severe risk, and therefore also needed to fortify their defences with military deployments and obtrusive fencing and barriers. Then the day came and went, and… nothing. In both Albany, NY, and Sacramento, CA a total of one Trump hat-wearing man showed up at each.

And so Joe Biden was sworn in without incident, appealing for “unity”, while the city surrounding him was essentially under full-scale military occupation. The night before, I saw multiple platoons marching the streets in two-by-two formation — en route to who knows where. The general public couldn’t get anywhere close to the Inauguration site, the interior of which had been cordoned off with barbed wire. The few stragglers who hopelessly tried to enter the outskirts of the National Mall — mostly foreign media desperate for a story — were fooled by the Secret Service into standing in a line-to-nowhere that never moved.

It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair. It confirmed that journalists will uncritically accept extravagant shows of intrusive state force, so long as the political incentives are correctly aligned. During the riots in the summer, the US media generally reacted with horror to the prospect of the American military being deployed to allay “civil unrest,” with many claiming that it would be tantamount to white supremacy for soldiers to deter arson attacks against small minority-owned businesses and private residences. But place DC under complete military occupation as a final rebuke to Trump and his shameful supporters, and the show of state force is to be celebrated rather than adversarially probed. Particularly with Democrats now controlling the House, Senate, and Presidency, the wisdom of this occupation is probably never going to be examined in any meaningful way. Will we ever learn how much it cost taxpayers? Doubtful.

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Fear rules fear.

State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)

Elly Page had never seen anything like what’s happened in recent days. A senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Page has been tracking the proliferation of anti-protest bills across the U.S. since Donald Trump became president in 2017. “The number of bills we have seen in the past three weeks is unprecedented,” she said. Since the day of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, at least nine states have introduced 14 anti-protest bills. The bills, which vary state by state, contain a dizzying array of provisions that serve to criminalize participation in disruptive protests. The measures range from barring demonstrators from public benefits or government jobs to offering legal protections to those who shoot or run over protesters. Some of the proposals would allow protesters to be held without bail and criminalize camping. A few bills seek to prevent local governments from defunding police.

The pushes by close to a fifth of state legislatures are part of a pattern that began to pick up speed after the summer’s uprisings in response to the police killing of George Floyd, which in many communities included significant property damage. In a handful of states, lawmakers did what they often do: introduced new legislation — however unnecessary — to show that they were responding to their constituents’ concerns. The rate of new bills being offered sped up dramatically this month as lawmakers kicked off their legislative sessions at the very moment that Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Bills quickly arose in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.

“There has generally been an uptick at the beginning of odd-numbered years, when most states begin their biennial legislative sessions. But this year beats prior recent years,” Page said in an email. Since January 1, she noted that 11 state legislatures have introduced 17 bills, including those filed before the Capitol insurrection. “Compare that to 0 during the same period in 2020, 9 in 2019, 5 in 2018, and 13 in 2017,” she said, adding that the 2017 spike was mostly due to North Dakota responding to that winter’s Standing Rock protests.

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That’s a lot, no matter how you see it.

12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)

More than 12,400 people in Israel have tested positive for coronavirus after being vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, including 69 who had received their second dose, the country’s Health Ministry said. Some 189,000 people were tested for Covid-19 after being vaccinated, with 6.6 percent getting a positive result, according to ministry data reported by Israeli outlets. The majority were apparently infected shortly after receiving the first jab of the two-part vaccine – a period when the inoculation isn’t expected to have kicked in yet. However, 1,410 people tested positive two weeks after their first injection, by which time partial immunity should have already taken effect.

Moreover, 69 patients became infected with the novel coronavirus despite already having been administered both shots of the vaccine, the ministry said. Israel began administering the second doses almost two weeks ago, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being the first to complete the course. Pfizer has said that a spike in immunity occurs between Day 15 and Day 21 after the first jab, when the effectiveness of its vaccine increases from 52 to 89 percent. According to earlier trials, the protection offered by the vaccine reaches the 95 percent level a week after the second dose is administered, the pharma giant said. When it comes to vaccines, the results of clinical trials may differ from how the immunization performs in the field, where it’s administered to a much greater number of people.

On Tuesday, Israel’s coronavirus tsar, Nachman Ash, reportedly complained to Israeli ministers about the insufficient protection provided by the first shot of the American vaccine. It turned out to be “less effective than we had thought” and “lower than Pfizer presented,” Ash said, as cited by Army Radio. However, the head of the infection unit at Sheba Medical Center – where Netanyahu got his jabs – told Israeli media that the Pfizer vaccine “works wonderfully” after two shots. According to Professor Gili Regev-Yohai, 102 of the medics at the center were tested a week after completing the vaccination course, and all but two of them showed antibody levels between six to 20 times higher than seven days earlier.

[..] Despite already vaccinating more than 20 percent of its own population, Israel doesn’t seem as eager to share immunization with Palestinians in the occupied territories. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization expressed its “concerns” over unequal access to vaccines between Israelis and Palestinian. A WHO representative for Palestine said that the UN body has been in discussions with Israeli authorities on the possibility of allocating vaccines to the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israeli Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, has said her department may offer the Palestinian Authoritiy surplus doses after Israelis have received their jabs.

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Scientist Angela’s not liking what she sees..

Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union must find common ground in fighting coronavirus and stopping the spread of new strains that have already swept through the UK and Ireland recently. On Tuesday, Merkel warned that Germany could close its borders unless neighboring states acted together. “We need to make sure that everyone around us is doing the same. Otherwise we have to look at measures such as entry restrictions.” “The EU is one area,” Merkel said in Berlin on Thursday morning, hours before she was scheduled to join a video summit of EU leaders focused on Covid-19. The chancellor warned about the dangers from the spread of the new mutant virus and that they need to be “taken very seriously.”


“We act out of precaution for our country,” Merkel said, adding that everything is now about getting the getting the pandemic under control. EU leaders are to consider whether to approve vaccine passports, which would allow for inoculated people to travel more freely, and whether to apply travel restrictions. Merkel said Germany is at a difficult stage of the pandemic. “On the one hand, the number of daily infections is gradually going down,” she told a press conference. “But the virus is still very dangerous. We have a shockingly high death count, more than 1,000 people today.” On Wednesday, Germany extended its national lockdown until February 14 and brought in new rules making it mandatory to wear medical-grade masks in shops and on public transport. So far, Germany has recorded 50,010 deaths and 2.1 million cases of coronavirus.

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Has anyone seen any reported evidence of vaccine efficacy?

Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)

New data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective in guarding against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday. A handful of new strains of the coronavirus have emerged overseas that have given scientists some cause for concern. Some variants that have been identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil appear to be more transmissible than previous strains but not necessarily more deadly. While it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed lifesaving vaccines and therapeutics against the disease.

Some early findings that were published in the preprint server bioRxiv, which have yet to be peer reviewed, indicate that the variant identified in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of available vaccines. “Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralising antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” researchers with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases wrote. Their conclusions, they said, “highlight the prospect of reinfection … and may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”

Even if the drugs are less effective, they will still likely provide enough protection to make the vaccines worth getting, Fauci said during a White House press briefing. Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have proven to be highly effective, creating a “cushion effect” that would allow for some dip in their effectiveness. “We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle,” Fauci said.

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Stimulus arriving in the wrong places.

Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)

Margin debt – the amount of money that individuals and institutions borrow against their stock holdings – spiked by 56 billion in December, after having already spiked by 63 billion in November, by far the two largest month-to-month increases on record, to $778 billion, according to FINRA which regulates brokers and exchanges. Since March, this measure of margin debt surged by nearly $300 billion, or by 62%. Margin debt as tracked by FINRA at its member firms isn’t the only form of stock market leverage, but it’s the only form that is disclosed monthly. There are many other forms of stock market leverage by institutions and individuals that are not disclosed, or are only disclosed voluntarily in SEC filings by the brokers and banks that lend to their clients against their portfolios, such as “securities-based loans” (SBLs). We don’t know how much total stock market leverage there is, but margin loans indicate the trends, and we had another WTF moment:

High margin balances tend to precede epic stock market sell-offs, as annotated in the chart above. With these two-decade charts, the long-term changes in the dollar amounts are less relevant since the purchasing power of the dollar has dropped over the period. But on a short-term basis, the movements are very indicative about rising or falling leverage in the stock market. On a year-over-year basis, margin debt surged by nearly $200 billion in December, by far the most ever. Stock market leverage is an accelerator. When stocks already rise, and investors feel confident, they borrow money to buy more stocks, and they can borrow more against their stocks because their value has risen. And this additional borrowed money is then chasing after stocks and thereby creating more buying pressure, and prices surge further.

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Aaannd …we’re baaack!

Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)

A large U.S. military convoy was seen entering northeastern Syria on Thursday, marking the first time since Damascus issued its letter to the United Nations Security Council demanding the immediate withdrawal of American forces from the Arab Republic. According to a field report from northeastern Syria on Thursday, the U.S. military convoy entered the Al-Hasakah Governorate from neighboring Iraq, as they were observed entering the Arab Republic via the Al-Waleed Crossing. The report said the U.S. military convoy consisted of a large amount of weapons and logistical equipment, which were transferred to their bases inside the Al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor Governorates east of the Euphrates River.


They would add that the U.S. military convoy consisted of over 40 trucks and armored vehicles that were escorted by helicopters until they reached their destinations. These movements by the U.S. military have become routine, with the latter often moving troops and equipment back and forth from neighboring Iraq.

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Oz threatens to make them pay for news, they threaten to limit/cut their “services”, and then decide themselves what constitutes news. Major legal battle.

Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants’ efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google “news source”, making it the country’s first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a “news source” tag. Bundaberg also has the country’s only confirmed council-run Facebook page tagged as a “News & Media Website”. The designation shows the gaps left in the country’s traditional news market as smaller publications wither and disappear.


Bundaberg Council’s news website says it does not publish court and crime reports, politics, “investigative journalism” or “negative stories”. “It’s just another example of the way these tech giants are allowed to operate outside any accountability framework at all,” said Denis Muller, an Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism. “If they want to classify a council PR website as a news website, well, they can, and there’s nothing stopping them.” Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook are fighting an Australian federal government plan to make them pay media outlets for original content that appears on their platforms, telling a Senate inquiry that the new rules may lead them to cancel some core services in the country.

Read more …

 

 

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Walter Langley Never morning wore to evening but some heart did break 1894

 

One In Six Covid-19 Deaths In Vermont Came From A Single Nursing Home (IC)
Possible HHS Pick Shielded Nursing Homes From Liability In COVID Outbreak (DP)
First In Line For Covid Vaccine? Some US Health Care Workers Say No (Y!)
Obama, Bush and Clinton Volunteer To Get Coronavirus Vaccine Publicly (CNN)
10 Fatal Flaws In The Main Test For COVID (RT)
Study Finds 98% Of COVID Patients Still Have Antibodies 6 Months Later (ZH)
Fed and Treasury Urge Congress To Approve More Virus Relief (AP)
Trump Demands Social Media Giants’ Liability Shield Be Scrapped (JTN)
CNN Caught Burying The Post’s Hunter Biden Exposé (NYP)
Congress Passes Bill To Target Foreign Businesses Blocking US Auditors (JTN)
Here Comes the Trucking Boom in the Weirdest Economy Ever (WS)
Assad’s Syria Is Starving Like Saddam’s Iraq (FP)
Humans Waging ‘Suicidal War’ On Nature – UN Chief Antonio Guterres (BBC)

 

 

CNN Democrats’ corona hypocrisy

 

 

“The nursing home has about 90 residents…”

One In Six Covid-19 Deaths In Vermont Came From A Single Nursing Home (IC)

One in six Covid-19 deaths in Vermont have come from a single nursing home, owned by a troubled for-profit chain, Genesis HealthCare. The novel coronavirus began to spread like wildfire in Burlington Health and Rehab in March, leading to 12 deaths in the first wave of the virus. The pandemic arrived just a few weeks after the state’s attorney general, T.J. Donovan, a Democrat, had settled an investigation into the facility for “allegations of neglect that resulted in serious injury to three residents and the death of a fourth.” The nursing home has about 90 residents. Federal nursing home staffing records reveal that registered nurse staffing in the facility failed to meet minimum levels even after the settlement, suggesting that the settlement failed to protect nursing home residents.


Lobbyists for the chain have donated to Donovan’s reelection campaign, as they have for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, whose administration collaborated with Donovan on the settlement. The Covid-19 outbreaks in these facilities showcase not just the failed national approach to nursing home oversight, but a cozy relationship between state regulators and nursing homes. As another wave of Covid-19 hits the state, a massive outbreak has occurred at another Genesis facility in Rutland, Vermont, with 41 cases. Seven more cases have appeared at another Genesis facility in Berlin, Vermont. Nationwide, over 100,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from Covid-19, accounting for 40 percent of the total. The new wave of nursing home Covid-19 cases is not unique to Vermont; many other states are again seeing significant outbreaks at their nursing homes.

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Things will be so much better under Biden…

Possible HHS Pick Shielded Nursing Homes From Liability In COVID Outbreak (DP)

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has presided over one of the deadliest COVID outbreaks in the country — and new documents obtained by The Daily Poster detail how she helped nursing home lobbyists shield health care companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Now, Raimondo — a former Wall Street executive — is reportedly being considered for the nation’s top health care policy job in the incoming Biden administration. Politico reported last week that Raimondo, who made her name slashing state workers’ pensions, is one of the finalists to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President-elect Joe Biden. Raimondo was also previously considered for Treasury Secretary, according to the American Prospect.

As governor, Raimondo has slammed proposals to expand Medicare to cover everyone. Amid the pandemic in August, her administration approved health insurance companies’ steep premium increases that were criticized by the state’s Democratic attorney general as “unnecessary and ill-advised.” Health insurers have been raking in record profits, with fewer people seeking care because of the pandemic. Raimondo has also pushed for Medicaid cuts that nursing home workers warned would result in unsafe staffing levels — and in April, she issued an executive order sought by health care industry lobbyists that shielded nursing homes from lawsuits when their business decisions injure or kill people. The order was later expanded to shield nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care providers.


While the Biden transition is reportedly considering Raimondo for HHS Secretary, residents and workers in Rhode Island’s nursing homes have faced deadly consequences. Documents obtained by The Daily Poster show that Raimondo quickly responded to lobbyists’ demands for an executive order granting them legal immunity during the pandemic. “What immunity has done is allow nursing homes to act unreasonably without accountability,” one personal injury lawyer told the Providence Journal last month.

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“They failed miserably with PPE (personal protective equipment) and testing and now they want you to be guinea pigs for the vaccine..”

First In Line For Covid Vaccine? Some US Health Care Workers Say No (Y!)

They can move to front of the line for a Covid-19 vaccine if they want, but some US health care workers are skeptical about taking a vaccine that was developed in record time — even as the pandemic rages on. Some want more time, despite assurances from experts that they trust the vaccine vetting process carried out by the US Food and Drug Administration. “I think I would take the vaccine later on, but right now I am a little leery of it,” nurse Yolanda Dodson, 55, told AFP. Dodson works at the Montefiore Hospital in New York City and spent the spring in the heart of the deadly fight against the virus. Vaccine studies so far “look promising but I don’t think there is enough data yet,” Dodson said.

“We have to be grateful to those who are willing to subject themselves to take that risk” to participate in the studies, she said. “It is a very personal decision.” Diana Torres is a nurse at a Manhattan hospital who saw several of her co-workers die of the novel coronavirus this spring. She is particularly suspicious of vaccines rushed for approval under the Trump administration, which she says has handled the entire pandemic like “some sort of joke.” “This is a vaccine that was developed in less than a year and approved under the same administration and government agencies that allowed the virus to spread like a wildfire,” Torres said. “They didn’t have enough time and people to study the vaccine,” she said. “This time around I will pass and watch how it unfolds.”


Data from clinical trials have shown that two vaccines — one developed by Pfizer and BioNtech, the other by Moderna and the US National Institutes of Health — are about 95 percent effective. Normally the FDA requires six months of follow up, but if no adverse reactions appear in the first two months, it is rare to see anything in the next four — and the raging pandemic has altered the risk-benefit calculations. There were 44,000 volunteers in the Pfizer trial, and 30,000 in Moderna’s, and the data was firewalled from the companies and analyzed by experts free from political pressure. Fellow nurses commenting on Torres’s Facebook page seemed just as skeptical. “They failed miserably with PPE (personal protective equipment) and testing and now they want you to be guinea pigs for the vaccine,” one friend wrote.

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So not the health care workers, but the presidents do.

Obama: “I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting Covid”

Maybe someone should tell him the vaccine doesn’t protect him from getting COVID. It was never meant to do that.

Obama, Bush and Clinton Volunteer To Get Coronavirus Vaccine Publicly (CNN)

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are volunteering to get their Covid-19 vaccines on camera to promote public confidence in the vaccine’s safety once the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes one. The three most recent former presidents hope an awareness campaign to promote confidence in its safety and effectiveness would be a powerful message as American public health officials try to convince the public to take the vaccine. Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff, told CNN that the 43rd President had reached out to Dr. Anthony Fauci — the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert — and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, to see how he could help promote the vaccine.

“A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated,” Ford told CNN. “First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.” Clinton’s press secretary told CNN on Wednesday that he too would be willing to take the vaccine in a public setting in order to promote it. “President Clinton will definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials. And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same,” Angel Urena said.


Obama, in an interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison scheduled to air Thursday, said that if Fauci said a coronavirus vaccine is safe, he believes him. “People like Anthony Fauci, who I know, and I’ve worked with, I trust completely,” Obama said. “So, if Anthony Fauci tells me this vaccine is safe, and can vaccinate, you know, immunize you from getting Covid, absolutely, I’m going to take it. “I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it,” he said. “I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting Covid,” he added. CNN has reached out to representatives for former President Jimmy Carter to see if he would be willing to take the vaccine publicly as well.

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“It’s cheap, fast – and absolutely useless.”

10 Fatal Flaws In The Main Test For COVID (RT)

A peer review from a group of 22 international experts has found 10 “major flaws” in the main protocol for such tests. The report systematically dismantles the original study, called the Corman-Drosten paper, which described a protocol for applying the PCR technique to detecting Covid. The Corman-Drosten paper was published on January, 23, 2020, just a day after being submitted, which would make any peer review process that took place possibly the shortest in history. What is important about it is that the protocol it describes is used in around 70 percent of Covid kits worldwide. It’s cheap, fast – and absolutely useless. Among the fatal flaws that totally invalidate the PCR testing protocol are that the test:

• is non-specific, due to erroneous primer design • is enormously variable • cannot discriminate between the whole virus and viral fragments • has no positive or negative controls • has no standard operating procedure • does not seem to have been properly peer reviewed. Oh dear. One wonders whether anything at all was correct in the paper. But wait – it gets worse. As has been noted previously, no threshold for positivity was ever identified. This is why labs have been running 40 cycles, almost guaranteeing a large number of false positives – up to 97 percent, according to some studies. The cherry on top, though, is that among the authors of the original paper themselves, at least four have severe conflicts of interest. Two of them are members of the editorial board of Eurosurveillance, the sinisterly named journal that published the paper.

And at least three of them are on the payroll of the first companies to perform PCR testing! The 22 members of the consortium that has challenged this shoddy science deserve huge credit. The scientists, from Europe, the USA, and Japan, comprise senior molecular geneticists, biochemists, immunologists, and microbiologists, with many decades of experience between them. They have issued a demand to Eurosurveillance to retract the Corman-Drosten paper, writing: “Considering the scientific and methodological blemishes presented here, we are confident that the editorial board of Eurosurveillance has no other choice but to retract the publication.’’ Talk about putting the pressure on.

It is difficult to overstate the implications of this revelation. Every single thing about the Covid orthodoxy relies on ‘case numbers’, which are largely the results of the now widespread PCR tests. If their results are essentially meaningless, then everything we are being told – and ordered to do by increasingly dictatorial governments – is likely to be incorrect. For instance, one of the authors of the review is Dr Mike Yeadon, who asserts that, in the UK, there is no ‘second wave’ and that the pandemic has been over since June. Having seen the PCR tests so unambiguously debunked, it is hard to see any evidence to the contrary.

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Since the vaccines are useless, maybe getting infected is the only protection available?!

Study Finds 98% Of COVID Patients Still Have Antibodies 6 Months Later (ZH)

In another example of how COVID-19 research has painted a complex, and sometimes conflicting, picture of the virus and the ability of the human immune system to fight it off, a team of researchers at Japan’s Yokohama City University published research showing that antibodies in COVID-19 patients persist for six months or more, even amid a preponderance of reports warning about the risk of reinfection for many particularly vulnerable patients. A Japanese research team said Wednesday that it has detected neutralizing antibodies in 98% of people six months after they were infected with SARS-CoV-2. Another study performed in the UK found that antibodies found evidence that antibody levels start to degrade within six months.


The team, led by Yokohama City University professor Takeharu Yamanaka, is already planning to conduct a follow-up study to see whether these people will still have such antibodies a year after their infections. But in the survey data released Wednesday, researcher checked blood samples from 376 people who had already recovered – the largest study of its type in Japan. The samples were collected six months after the patients were infected. According to a report on the study published by Nippon, Yamanaka said that “in general, people with neutralizing antibodies are believed to carry a low risk of reinfection…This gives some hope” for the effectiveness of the vaccines that are soon to be delivered to the public. As the west prepares to roll out the first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations, scientists will be watching closely for more data to try an ascertain whether COVID-19 can truly be defeated, or whether it might morph into a flu-like seasonal infection.

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Yes, but: horse, barn.

Fed and Treasury Urge Congress To Approve More Virus Relief (AP)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged Congress to approve COVID-19 relief funds without further delay, though Democrats continued to attack a decision by Mnuchin to allow five Fed lending programs to expire during the pandemic. In his most direct comments so far, Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday that it’s “very important” for Congress to provide economic support. New funding would serve as a “bridge” for the economy to get from the current environment in which virus infections are spiking, to next year when vaccines should be widely available, Powell said.

“We are trying to get as many people across that bridge as we can,” Powell said. Without more assistance, Powell said, people will lose their homes and small businesses will fail. “You could lose parts of the economy,” which would slow any recovery next year, he said. “We are hearing from all over that small businesses are really under pressure,” Powell told lawmakers. For a second day a number of Democratic lawmakers on the committee challenged Mnuchin’s decision to allow five Fed lending programs to expire at the end of this year, contending that his reading of the law was incorrect. They say it’s a political maneuver to hobble the incoming Biden administration financially.

[..] In a rare split with Treasury last month, the Fed issued a statement saying that it believed it was important to continue providing an economic backstop after Mnuchin said he was terminating the programs. Mnuchin has repeatedly insisted that he was just following the CARES Act law. When Powell was asked if he agreed with that interpretation, Powell deferred to Mnuchin. Powell did say Wednesday that the Fed had issued its statement to make it clear that the central bank was committed to providing further support to the economy. “We were concerned that the public might misinterpret (Mnuchin’s action) as the Fed stepping back and thinking our work is done,” Powell said.

Asked what Congress should put in a relief bill that could pass in the lame-duck session this month, Mnuchin said his priority would be an authorization allowing the Treasury to use $140 billion in left-over funds to provide small businesses with a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans.

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Again: Yes, but: horse, barn.

Trump Demands Social Media Giants’ Liability Shield Be Scrapped (JTN)

President Trump said in a Tuesday night tweet that he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act if it does not eliminate Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act. Section 230 protects companies like Twitter from a range of laws and being held liable for what is said on their platform, as long as they don’t attempt to censor or enforce what speech is acceptable and what isn’t. “Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to “Big Tech” (the only companies in America that have it – corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” the president tweeted. “Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand.”


“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk,” Trump wrote. “Take back America NOW. Thank you!”

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“On no planet is that not news.”

CNN Caught Burying The Post’s Hunter Biden Exposé (NYP)

The collusion of mainstream media and Big Tech to censor The Post’s Hunter Biden story now is laid bare in leaked recordings of CNN’s news meetings from the time. CNN boss Jeff Zucker is heard instructing his staff to downplay the bombshell story which implicated Joe Biden in a shady foreign-influence peddling scheme, according to audio released Tuesday by undercover news outlet Project Veritas. On the morning of Oct. 14, the day we published an e-mail from Hunter’s abandoned laptop in which a top executive from corrupt Ukrainian energy company Burisma thanked Hunter for arranging a meeting with his then-VP father, CNN political director David Chalian is heard telling Zucker and his underlings that the news network would not cover the story.

“Obviously, we’re not going with the New York Post story right now on Hunter Biden,” said Chalian. “We’ll just continue to report out this is the very stuff that the President was impeached over . . . that Senate Committees looked at and found nothing wrong in Joe Biden’s interactions with Ukrainians.” Chalian, who oversees all CNN’s political coverage, was not being straight with his colleagues. This was new evidence reflecting on Joe Biden’s integrity, suggesting that despite repeated denials, he had met with an executive of the company which was paying his wayward son up to $83,000 a month to sit on its board, at a time when Burisma was looking for favors from the US government and he was vice president.


This was the first concrete link between Joe and his family’s shady foreign business deals and there was much more to come over the next few days, all ignored or pooh-poohed by CNN in a naked bid to protect the Biden campaign from legitimate scrutiny. Most of the rest of the media followed suit. Twitter locked the Post account for two weeks and Facebook throttled our audience reach. What made our story all the more compelling that first day was the feeble response from Joe’s campaign. Initially, they said there was no record of any such meeting on his “official schedule” but finally admitted that an “informal” meeting with Burisma may have occurred. On no planet is that not news.

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Makes sense.

Congress Passes Bill To Target Foreign Businesses Blocking US Auditors (JTN)

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would boot businesses from China and other foreign countries from U.S. stock exchanges if they failed to give American auditors access to examine financial reports. The legislation would obligate foreign businesses to give access to U.S. auditors to scrutinize financial reports or be in danger of getting barred from trading on an American stock exchange or over-the-counter market. Politico described the bill as an aspect of a larger crackdown regarding Chinese engagement with Wall Street that has been building steam in the U.S. legislature, the White House and the financial industry.


The bill calls for the Securities and Exchange Commission to make rules to block trading the stock of businesses that have barred inspectors for three years in a row, the outlet said. “Communist China is right now using U.S. stock exchanges to exploit American workers and families—people who put their retirement and college savings in public companies,” U.S. Sen. John Kennedy said in a statement. “U.S. policy is letting China flout rules that American companies play by, and it’s dangerous.” During a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying expressed opposition to the U.S. bill, stating that it demonstrates “the United States applies discriminatory policies to Chinese companies and launches political oppression against them.”

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Odd consequences.

Here Comes the Trucking Boom in the Weirdest Economy Ever (WS)

Boom and bust cycles are guaranteed in this business. And now, this is the Weirdest Economy Ever, powered by the $3 trillion the Fed threw at the markets, and by $3 trillion in government stimulus and bailout spending, and by a huge shift to work-from-home and learning-at-home that required all kinds of spending on laptops, network equipment, office chairs, desks, and, well, hot-tubs, and powered also by huge shifts on what consumers actually spent their money on. Spending shifted from services, such as plane tickets, hotels, gyms, haircuts, manicures, rent (encouraged by eviction bans), and mortgage payments (made possible by forbearance), to stuff.


And ecommerce is booming, and this stuff needs to be transported, much of it from overseas, and so imports are booming, and all this stuff has to then be shipped by truck or rail, and so all heck has broken loose in the container shipping business. Trucking companies, which had cut their equipment orders to the bone during the two-year-long freight recession, are now grappling with the notion of equipment shortages. And starting in September, they started ordering large numbers of class-8 trucks that haul the goods across America, and in November, orders for class 8 trucks exploded to 52,600 orders, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence, matching the prior two historic records of July and August 2018:

“The tremendous volume reflects several large fleets placing their requirement orders for the entirety of 2021 to lock up build slots, which they perceive could be in short supply next year,” FTR said in the note. Truckers are dealing with the current flood of consumer-oriented freight. And they expect the industrial-oriented freight, which is still lagging, to hopefully pick up soon. “Fleets are placing big orders anticipating needing more trucks throughout next year,” FTR said. This boom in orders was triple the number of orders in November last year, the biggest year-over-year percentage gain (199%) in years. This chart of percentage changes from the same month a year earlier also depicts the whiplash-inducing boom-and-bust nature of the industry:

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Huh, what? “..much of Syria’s infrastructure was destroyed by the blind bombing of the regime and its Russian allies..”

Assad’s Syria Is Starving Like Saddam’s Iraq (FP)

Thirty-year-old Ayman fled Damascus, Syria, for Beirut at the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Over the last year, while Lebanon’s economy collapsed and it became harder for him to find work, the conflict back home seemed to be subsiding. So he called several of his friends, all living in regime-controlled territory, to inquire if it was time to return. They were unequivocal. “They said, ‘Stay wherever you are, there’s not even enough to eat here,’” Ayman said, on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. During the nine-year civil war, much of Syria’s infrastructure was destroyed by the blind bombing of the regime and its Russian allies, as well as front-line fighting. Food production, power generation, and other industries fell by the wayside.

Syria’s economy, tethered to Lebanon’s, hobbled on for a while. However, early this year, as Lebanon’s monetary policy unraveled and capital controls were imposed to avoid a run on the banks, billions of dollars of deposits by Syrian businesses were also blocked. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims Lebanese banks hold at least $20 billion of Syrians’ earnings, which, if they were accessible, would resolve the Syrian economic crisis all at once. The currencies of Lebanon’s neighbors plummeted simultaneously as prices of basic commodities skyrocketed, in Syria by more than 200 percent. Life became hard for the Lebanese, but harder still for war-ravaged Syrians.


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Does he still fly, drive, buy stuff wrapped in plastic? If so, what’s the message here exactly?

Humans Waging ‘Suicidal War’ On Nature – UN Chief Antonio Guterres (BBC)

“Our planet is broken,” the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has warned. Humanity is waging what he describes as a “suicidal” war on the natural world. “Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury,” he told a BBC special event on the environment. Mr Guterres wants to put tackling climate change at the heart of the UN’s global mission. In a speech entitled State of the Planet, he announced that its “central objective” next year will be to build a global coalition around the need to reduce emissions to net zero. Net zero refers to cutting greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible and balancing any further releases by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

Mr Guterres said that every country, city, financial institution and company “should adopt plans for a transition to net zero emissions by 2050”. In his view, they will also need to take decisive action now to put themselves on the path towards achieving this vision. The objective, said the UN secretary general, will be to cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels. Here’s what Mr Guterres demanded the nations of the world do: • Put a price on carbon • Phase out fossil fuel finance and end fossil fuel subsidies • Shift the tax burden from income to carbon, and from tax payers to polluters • Integrate the goal of carbon neutrality (a similar concept to net zero) into all economic and fiscal policies and decisions


Help those around the world who are already facing the dire impacts of climate change It is an ambitious agenda, as Mr Guterres acknowledged, but he said that radical action is needed now. “The science is clear,” Mr Guterres told the BBC, “unless the world cuts fossil fuel production by 6% every year between now and 2030, things will get worse. Much worse.” Climate policies have yet to rise to the challenge, the UN chief said, adding that “without concerted action, we may be headed for a catastrophic three to five-degree temperature rise this century”. The impact is already being felt around the world. “Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are the new normal,” he warned. “Biodiversity is collapsing. Deserts are spreading. Oceans are choking with plastic waste.”

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Aug 232020
 


Paul Cézanne Les (Grandes) Baigneuses 1905

 

Send in the Clowns for the Circus Is in Town (Curtin)
Biden Says Trump Seeks To ‘Defund The Police’ (Fox)
House Passes $25 Billion Post Office Bailout As Trump Rages On Twitter (ZH)
My Discussion With John Durham’s Lead Investigator, William Aldenberg (CT)
John Brennan Was Put in a Completely Legitimate Perjury Trap (RS)
550,000 Primary Absentee Ballots Rejected In 2020, Far Outpacing 2016 (NPR)
US Spies’ Obsession With RT Comes Full Circle In Senate Report (RT)
Navalny Was Not Poisoned (MoA)
US Sanctions Devastate Syria’s People And Post-War Reconstruction (Maté)
The Real Huge Jobs Numbers Will Make Your Blood Run Cold (Snider)
Governments Are Faking It, and Copying Each Other (AIER)

 

 

Global new cases and deaths remain stubbornly high. US new cases are trending down, wonderful, now bring down deaths numbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Smith
https://twitter.com/i/status/1297350692357668865

 

 

The Society of the Spectacle.

Send in the Clowns for the Circus Is in Town (Curtin)

Don’t bother, they’re here, already performing in the center ring under the big top owned and operated by The Umbrella People. Trump, Biden, Pence, Harris, and their clownish sidekicks, Pompeo, Michelle Obama, et al., are performing daily under the umbrella’s shadowy protection. For The Umbrella People run a three-ring circus, and although their clowns pop out of separate tiny cars and, acting like enemies, squirt each other with water hoses to the audience’s delight, raucous laughter, and serious attentiveness, they are all part of the same show, working for the same bosses. Sadly, many people think this circus is the real world and that the clowns are not allied pimps serving the interests of their masters, but are real enemies.

The Umbrella People are the moguls who own the showtime studios – some call them the secret government, the deep-state, or the power elite. They run a protection racket, so I like to use a term that emphasizes their method of making sure the sunlight of truth never gets to those huddled under their umbrella. They produce and direct the daily circus that is the American Spectacle, the movie that is meant to entertain and distract the audience from the side show that continues outside the big top, the place where millions of vulnerable people are abused and killed. And although the sideshow is the real main event, few pay attention since their eyes are fixed on the center ring were the spotlight directs their focus. The French writer Guy Debord called this The Society of the Spectacle.

For many months now, all eyes have been directed to the Covid-19 propaganda show with Fauci and Gates, and their mainstream corporate media mouthpieces, striking thunderbolts in the storm to scare the unknowing audience into submission so the transformation of the Great Global Reset, led by the World Economic Forum and the International Monetary Fund, can proceed smoothly. Now hearts are aflutter with excitement to see the war-loving Joe Biden boldly coming forth like Lazarus from the grave to announce his choice of a masked vice-presidential running mate who will echo his pronouncements. And the star of the big top, the softly coiffured reality television emcee Trump, around whom the spectacle swirls, elicits outraged responses as he plays the part of the comical bad guy. Punch and Judy indeed.

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Defending the mass incarceration policies? You sure?

Biden Says Trump Seeks To ‘Defund The Police’ (Fox)

President Trump is the one who wants to “defund the police,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden asserted during an interview Friday. “I don’t want to defund police departments. I think they need more help, they need more assistance,” Biden told ABC News for a wide-ranging interview airing Sunday that also includes Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Biden accused the president of proposing cuts to programs that support local police, in sharp contrast to the Republican incumbent’s campaign-trail rhetoric. Harris also stressed that voters should watch the president’s actions rather than listen to his words. “There is so much about what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth that is designed to distract the American people from what he is doing,” Harris told ABC.

Instead of slashing funding, police departments should focus on forcing out officers who abuse their authority, the former vice president said. “There are unethical senators, there are unethical presidents, there are unethical doctors, unethical lawyers, unethical prosecutors, there are unethical cops. They should be rooted out,” Biden told interviewer Robin Roberts. Racial injustice protesters across the country have been calling for the defunding of police departments in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 death in police custody in Minneapolis and other cases of alleged police brutality. Biden told Roberts that if elected president he would call for national standards for police departments and would make police misconduct records more easily accessible for public scrutiny.

He said Trump plans to cut “half a billion dollars of local police support,” referring to proposed cuts to a federal program aimed at hiring more local officers. Biden said he would call for more resources and social service support for police. “We have to make it clear that this is about protecting neighborhoods, protecting people, everybody across the board,” he said. “The only guy that actually put in a bill to actually defund the police is Donald Trump,” Biden added, after defending the 1994 crime bill he backed while a U.S. senator from Delaware.

That legislation, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, called for community-based policing efforts – but has been criticized for leading to mass incarceration of African Americans and other minorities. “Everybody forgets a third of that bill that I wrote was to put more cops in the street, not in their automobiles, but getting out and knowing the community – knowing who owns the local grocery store, knowing everybody in the community, and crime will drop,” he said.

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If it really needs $25 billion (or more), the problem doesn’t seem to be where critics currently locate it.

House Passes $25 Billion Post Office Bailout As Trump Rages On Twitter (ZH)

Despite the fact that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has delayed his most controversial cost-saving measures until after the November vote, and endured a shellacking at the hands of Senate Democrats on the Homeland Security Committee, House Speaker and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi forged ahead with the help of 26 defecting Republicans to pass a bill calling for $25 billion in financial assistance for the Post Office. As more states announced plans to hold their elections largely by mail in November (a system that some used for the primaries) the Postal Service announced earlier this month that too much voting by mail could delay the arrival of some votes. Pelosi called a special session of the House during recess and on a Saturday to lend this piece of political theater even more impact.

The vote is the culmination of a Democratic crusade about late mail – literally, a few people complained about their mail being late, a few others posted some context-free photos of mail sorting machines being destroyed, and – boom – Democrats suddenly had an army of twitter trolls shrieking about veterans dying because their medication came a day late. One Connecticut family even complained that USPS had lost the cremated remains of a loved one and veteran (they were found 12 days later thanks to one dedicated worker who supposedly delivered the remains personally). They blamed DeJoy personally for the mistake, and ever since, the state’s AG William Tong has seized every opportunity to draw attention to “out of service” mail sorting machines.

DeJoy is due for round two before the House Oversight Committee on Monday, which should be even more brutal than Friday’s pile-on (at least, for DeJoy’s sake, the Senate is controlled by Republicans). But in the latest transparent bit of political theater organized by “political mastermind” Nancy Pelosi – and surely this is right up there with her wardrobe choices during the unveiling of the Dems’ police reform bill – is the victorious vote on Saturday, which has almost no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate. As we mentioned above, 26 Republicans defected to help Democrats pass the bill 257 votes to 150. In addition to the money, the bill called for reversing certain operational changes imposed under DeJoy. Six states are also suing USPS and DeJoy personally (along with the chairman of the USPS board) claiming these changes infringe on states ability to hold free and fair elections.

[..] Now, get ready for some strongly worded statements from Pelosi when Mitch McConnell inevitably refuses to call it for a vote. The Senate has introduced its own, scaled down, plan to help USPS as part of a proposed COVID relief bill that thanks to Democrats, likely will never become a reality.

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The conservative press has a few very clever and educated people writing on the Russiagate fall-out. They’re going to be needed. This is “sundance” at The Last Refuge.

My Discussion With John Durham’s Lead Investigator, William Aldenberg (CT)

On June 7, 2018, an indictment against Senate Intelligence Committee Security Director James Wolfe was unsealed. Approximately six weeks later, July 21, 2018, the DOJ mysteriously declassified and publicly released the Carter Page FISA application. That’s when I noticed the first two documents were related. The FISA application was the “top secret classified document” described in the Wolfe indictment. Immediately I recognized it wasn’t just any copy of the FISA application that was released by the DOJ; but rather a very specific copy of the FISA application. What the DOJ released was the exact copy used in the leak investigation of James Wolfe. The ramifications of this specific copy being publicly released were immediately noted, although almost everyone seemed to gloss over the issue in favor of discussing the content.

Over the course of the next several months the ramifications became more clear. Despite overwhelming evidence James Wolfe was never charged with leaking the FISA application on March 17, 2017. Quite the contrary, even to this day the official position of the FBI, DOJ and U.S. government is that Wolfe *did not* leak the FISA application. There’s a very big reason for that; as both myself and special agent William Aldenberg discussed. First, in order to fill in another corner of the interview foundation it must be remembered the goal of the DOJ under former AG Jeff Sessions, despite his recusal on all things Trump, was the removal of political influence in the DOJ. That same objective has been repeated ad infinitum by current AG Bill Barr.

This approach is why everyone in/around any issue that skirts on the investigative tissue keeps saying: “a very delicate balance is being navigated”, and “very sensitive approaches” are needed. None of the former -and some remaining embed- officials in the FBI, DOJ, or Special Counsel actors, had any aversion to the use of weaponized politics in their corrupt investigations of President Trump. However, in the current investigation of the former weaponized political investigations the primary avoidance filter is politics. As expressed by almost everyone in and around the issue, any evidence that comes from inside the political silo is considered unusable. This sets up a rather challenging approach… hence the overused “delicate balances” etc. This overlay, the aggressive need not to use political information, is also frustrating.

Some are beginning to question whether it is actually a shield to justify a lack of accountability or institutional preservation. Keep up the pressure, the concerns are valid. The public doesn’t draw distinctions from the origin of evidence. Regardless of whether information comes from HPSCI ranking member Devin Nunes; and/or Senators Grassley, Johnson or Graham (political silo); or from the DOJ itself via John Bash, Jeff Jensen or John Durham; the public is absorbing all it. However, the current AG Barr instructions imply the non use of evidence emanating from the political silo in very direct terms.

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And here is lawyer/prosecutor “Shipwreckedcrew” at Red State.

John Brennan Was Put in a Completely Legitimate Perjury Trap (RS)

Shapiro’s statement claims that Brennan was told by Durham that he is neither a “target” nor “subject,” and that he is only a witness to events under review. Maybe that’s true, but it does not sound true to me. And the statement does not say that comment was made to Brennan yesterday before the interview took place. I can say that I had several occasions during my career as a prosecutor where criminal defense lawyers asked me similar questions about their client in response to an interview request. I can’t say that I always refused to answer, but as a general matter my response was something that I learned when I was starting out from more experienced federal prosecutors —

“Counsel, this interview today is voluntary. Your client is free to leave right now, and answer none of the questions we have. He’s free to stop answering questions at any time while the interview is underway. He’s free to ask to take a break, step outside the room with you, and then return to answer the question or not answer the question. What does he want to do?” John Brennan could have been questioned before a grand jury, without the presence of his attorney in the room. That would be true IF, as suggested by Shapiro’s statement, Brennan was only a “witness”. To explain that, let’s take a moment to address the whole “Target” v. “Subject” v. “Witness” construct the press is so happy to report about.

Labeling an individual a “target” has a clear meaning in federal criminal prosecutions. It refers to someone about whom the prosecutor believes there is already sufficient admissible evidence to seek an indictment from a grand jury, and obtain a conviction at trial. The investigation is ongoing, but the grand jury already has identified a “target” for eventual prosecution. Anyone who is “not a target” is — “not a target”. There is no other “classification” of individuals with meaning. Many people in the business toss around the term “subject”, but that is a “made-up” classification that does not exist. I have received “Subject” letters from prosecutors on behalf of clients, but those all involve a request to interview my client.

A “Target” letter is different. When you receive a “Target” letter it advises you that a federal grand jury has already received evidence upon which criminal charges may be issued in the future. It advises the “Target” that they should seek counsel, and if they cannot afford counsel they should contact the Federal Defender’s Office in their district for legal representation. Once they have secured counsel, their lawyer should contact the prosecutor to discuss the matter. The purpose behind a “subject” letter is merely to instill fear in the recipient and to “encourage” them to talk about others before others talk about them — as information from others might push them closer to the “target” category. Unwitting lawyers think there is meaning behind the “subject” designation but there is not.

Fear is a great motivator. “Doing unto others before they do unto you” is sort of a universal maxim among the idiot criminal class. So if you are not a “target” — meaning there isn’t sufficient evidence at this time to charge you with a crime — then by default you are a “witness.” But “witnesses” can, and often do talk themselves into being “targets” during such interviews. That was the purpose of the interview, Mr. Brennan, not because you have some wonderful insights to provide Mr. Durham and his investigators to make their job easier.

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This is not even about the mail-in votes yet. There better be a very clear winner in November, or else.

550,000 Primary Absentee Ballots Rejected In 2020, Far Outpacing 2016 (NPR)

An extraordinarily high number of ballots — more than 550,000 — have been rejected in this year’s presidential primaries, according to a new analysis by NPR. That’s far more than the 318,728 ballots rejected in the 2016 general election and has raised alarms about what might happen in November when tens of millions of more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, many for the first time. Election experts said first-time absentee voters are much more likely to make the kinds of mistakes that lead to rejected ballots. Studies also show that voters of color and young voters are more likely than others to have their ballots not count. Most absentee or mail-in ballots are rejected because required signatures are missing or don’t match the one on record, or because the ballot arrives too late.

“If something goes wrong with any of this, that’s a problem writ large, but it’s also going to be one that hits some populations of the United States a bit harder than others, potentially disenfranchises different groups of folks at higher rates,” said Rob Griffin of the Democracy Fund, which is conducting a sweeping survey of the 2020 electorate with researchers at UCLA. Griffin said, so far, about a quarter of those who voted in person in the last election say they plan to vote by mail this November. The same is true for those who have never voted before and will be casting their first ballots in this year’s election. The numbers compiled by NPR are almost certainly an underestimate since not all states have made the information on rejected mail-in ballots available.

Even with limited data, the implications are considerable. NPR found that tens of thousands of ballots have been rejected in key battleground states, where the outcome in November — for the presidency, Congress and other elected positions — could be determined by a relatively small number of votes. For example, President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by almost 23,000 votes. More than 23,000 absentee ballots were rejected in the state’s presidential primary in April. More than 37,000 primary ballots were also rejected in June in Pennsylvania, a state Trump won by just over 44,000 votes.

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US intelligence and the Wolfowitz/Brzezinski neocon cabal have severely compromised US national security for decades, only to funnel trillions towards US arms manufacturers, who today produce second rate weapons to boot. It is high time to stop this. Security is much better served by dialogue.

US Spies’ Obsession With RT Comes Full Circle In Senate Report (RT)

Reading the final Senate Intelligence Committee report on ‘Russian meddling’ in US elections, it’s obvious they believe RT is the Christmas tree at its center, with WikiLeaks, troll bots, third parties etc. merely the ornaments. The US establishment’s obsession with RT dates all the way back to March 2011, when then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton complained about the US “losing… the information war.” The infamous Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on ‘Russian meddling’ from January 2017 devoted more than a quarter of its total volume to RT – seven out of 25 pages, to be precise. It was so obvious, even reporters with intimate inside knowledge of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) were skeptical.

The ICA was based on the CIA-FBI-NSA-ODNI claim that “RT is the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” Yet the bulk of its ‘evidence’ consisted of 2012 ‘open source’ research that was entirely irrelevant to the 2016 election. That pattern is now repeated in the latest SSCI report, in which RT is referenced more than 100 times. Published on Tuesday, the 966-page behemoth almost seems intended to discourage reading. It’s not difficult to see why: the report basically regurgitates every single assertion made over the past four years of ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy-mongering, with insinuation and innuendo doing a lot of the heavy lifting. For example, the word “likely” appears nearly 140 times throughout the report, while “almost certainly” appears 21 times.

One such assertion is that WikiLeaks and its senior leadership “resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors,” which is backed by circular reasoning: media reports, and then US laws based on them. This is followed by the assertion that RT has “provided both beneficial coverage of WikiLeaks and a formal, compensated media platform for [Julian] Assange.” Assange hosted a 12-episode interview show for RT in 2012, called World Tomorrow. This is the sole basis for the SSCI to assert the existence of an “alliance between RT and WikiLeaks” that is somehow “part of the Russian government’s overall strategy to use its state-controlled media to undermine US democratic institutions.”

Straining to prove the existence of this ‘alliance,’ the SSCI literally resurrects the completely debunked conspiracy theory that during the October 2016 release of the Podesta emails, “RT announced WikiLeaks releases on Twitter prior to WikiLeaks making that announcement itself.” As both WikiLeaks and RT have repeatedly clarified, the content of Podesta6 and Podesta15 releases had been posted on the website, but not yet announced on Twitter. RT journalists were monitoring the website, saw the upload, and reported on it – as journalists are supposed to do. That hasn’t stopped Western media, pundits and politicians from making a crazy conspiracy theory out of it, obviously.

The committee doesn’t stop there, however. They also argue that RT’s “efforts to impugn the US democratic process involve its support for third-party candidates and pushing messaging that ‘the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’” You heard it right, reporting on the existence of parties beyond Democrats and Republicans is somehow impugning democracy. Never mind that this quote is actually from the 2012 annex of the ICA, though it is used here to discuss RT’s “support” for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in 2016. That alleged support consisted of hosting a Green Party debate on a RT America show, and inviting Stein to RT’s anniversary receptions in New York and Moscow.

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An unnecessary step too far, if you ask me. It should have said the odds that he was poisoned are very slim. Other than that, yes, Navalny is a dimwitted CIA puppet whom Putin doesn’t mind at all having around.

Navalny Was Not Poisoned (MoA)

On Thursday morning the Russian rightwing and racist rabble rouser Alexey Navalny fell ill during a flight from Tomsk in Siberia to Moscow. He eventually went into a coma. The plane had to be rerouted for an emergency stop in Omsk. Navalny was brought into a clinic and put on a ventilator. Meanwhile his spokeswomen Kira Yarmysh claimed, without evidence, that Navalny had been poisoned: Yarmysh believes Navalny, who showed no symptoms prior to the flight, was “poisoned with something mixed into his tea” as it was “the only thing he drank this morning.” In the middle of the journey, she wrote later, he began sweating, went to the toilet, and apparently lost consciousness for a period. RIA Novosti reported that Navalny did not eat or drink anything on the flight.

The doctors in the intensive care unit in Omsk had difficulties to stabilize Navalny. A number of tests were made but no poisons were found. Yesterday evening the patient had stabilized. On request of his family he was transported to Germany where he is currently undergoing treatment. The hospital in Omsk said that Navalny had experienced severe hypoglycemia: The head physician of the Omsk emergency hospital, Alexander Murakhovsky, said that Alexei Navalny’s condition was caused by a sharp drop in blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is also known as diabetic shock: “When a person experiences diabetic shock, or severe hypoglycemia, they may lose consciousness, have trouble speaking, and experience double vision. Early treatment is essential because blood sugar levels that stay low for too long can lead to seizures or diabetic coma.”

Hypoglycemia can sometimes happen rapidly and may even occur when a person follows their diabetes treatment plan. A diabetic shock happens when someone with diabetes has taken too much insulin or has eaten too little. My father had diabetes and I have seen him experiencing this problem several times. He always carried a piece of sugar with him to use it as soon as he felt the first symptoms. My mother taught me the basic first aid I would have to to apply should my father be unable to help himself. Thankfully I never had to use it. It is important that the measures are taken immediately. A prolonged coma can lead to brain damage. As Navalny was on a plane up in the air it took quite a while to get him into a hospital. His prolonged coma may have created additional damage to his body.

People with diabetes usually learn how to control their blood sugar level. I have found no information that Navalny actually has diabetes but that does not say much as it is not something people usually talk about. I am not aware of any medication or poison that rapidly lowers the blood sugar level and can be applied secretly. It would also be stupid to use such in an attempt to kill someone as the attacked person simply has to eat something to negate the effect. The ‘western’ media jumped onto the ‘Navalny was poisoned’ claim to heap the usual trash on Russia. They also claimed that Navalny is the ‘opposition leader’ in Russia even as he polls at 2% which is lower than the leader of the communist party and several other real opposition politicians. Nor is Navalny a ‘liberal’. He is a rightwing nationalist and racist who sees Cechen and other non-Russian people as cockroaches that should be killed.

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Start talking to Russia and this, too, can be over.

US Sanctions Devastate Syria’s People And Post-War Reconstruction (Maté)

JOSHUA LANDIS: Well, the sanctions are…the stated reason for the sanctions is that they are to…they’re to force the Assad regime to accept UN resolutions, which call for free elections—free and fair elections—to end the sectarian form of government, and to start a political process that the Special Envoy to the United States, James Jeffrey, has said would lead to Assad leaving power. So, in a sense, this is regime change. He has said it’s not about regime change, and the Trump administration people say we don’t insist on regime change; we want a radical change of regime behavior. But we know that’s not going to happen. Assad has won the war, and these sanctions end up, you know, immiserating the Syrian people, is what it…you know, Assad is going to be able to eat three square meals a day, he can fly it in if he has to, he’s not going to be made miserable.

There are a lot of Syrian opposition members that see this as a way to punish Assad. James Jeffrey has, in his downtime, has said this…his job is really about turning Syria into a quagmire for Russian and Iran. So, those are the three different agendas, really, to punish Assad, to try to carry out some kind of regime change, and perhaps ignite this UN sanct…you know, these UN resolutions that are supposed to bring about a political process, and then also turn Syria into a quagmire so it becomes a millstone around the necks of Russia and Iran. And those, you know, those policies are not going…are not really going to be achieved. Russia has made Syria a key factor in its foreign policy. It’s not going to abandon Syria, and Syria doesn’t cost them that much.

There’s not going to be a public uprising against Assad. Many people have said, oh, some Druze were demonstrating this and that, but Assad has put down the opposition and has won a civil…very bloody civil war. He’s not going to be overthrown by some demonstrations today, and he’s not going to be moved by Western sanctions. So, this…the result of these policies is going to be to starve Syrians, increase instability in Syria, send Syrians [as] more refugees…waves of refugees out into the West, and probably to promote terrorism, because their people will be so poor and unhappy. So, it’s not good for American foreign policy, I think, in the long run. It’s not good for Syrians. It’s not good for humanitarian interests.

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This is going to take a very long time to resolve in any possible way. What’s going to happen to these people in the meantime?

The Real Huge Jobs Numbers Will Make Your Blood Run Cold (Snider)

There is simply no way to spin these figures as anything good. Not just the usual ones were talk about here, but more so some new data that you probably haven’t seen before. Beginning with the regular, it doesn’t matter that the level of initial jobless claims has declined substantially over the past few weeks. The fact of the matter is after 22 weeks of dislocation, at least eleven of them under reopening, these continue to rip along at around 1 million per week. One million. We’d never seen so much as 700k before (though the labor market is getting into the top range of 1981-82 adjusting for population, as if that’s some good thing). Forget about the first half of the contraction (which the shutdown caused) and just focus on this second set of weeks since early May.

There’s no way to describe them, more than double anything we’ve ever seen before. Not shutdown but the visible display of economic damage. The rebound isn’t being very bouncy, for one thing, no matter how many gigantic gobs of purported “stimulus” has been thrown at the economy. It ain’t stimulating. The number of jobs still being lost this late into it is unthinkable; historic. I wrote a couple days ago about another key factor which appears to be what the productivity estimates have revealed; the terrifying possibility that though there’s been more job losses than at any time in history there may not yet have been enough of the longer-run variety to balance business perceptions of far lower post-GFC potential.

“Before even getting to July, this divergence between hours and headline payrolls had already suggested that companies may have been holding on to more workers than the decline in output would’ve demanded. In other words, the level of output and actual work performed had declined more than the reduction in headcounts, by a lot more, leaving us to suspect businesses were holding back a sort of reserve of their own workers (who were still on the books but idle nonetheless) having them at-the-ready for when reopening got started.”

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Jeffrey A. Tucker at the American Institute for Economic Research gets a lot right, but some things awfully wrong (common flu is a coronavirus?! That hurts!).

In a world with zero preparedness and zero competence, politicians hide behind each other and state they only follow science, because that is an even better shield against criticism.

Governments Are Faking It, and Copying Each Other (AIER)

A mystery for months is how it is that so many governments in so many different places on earth could have adopted the same or very similar preposterous policies, no matter the threat level of the virus, and without firm evidence that interventions had any hope of being effective. In the course of two weeks, traditional freedoms were zapped away in nearly all developed countries. In a seriously bizarre twist, even the silliest policies replicated themselves like a virus in country after country. For example, you can’t try on clothing in a store in Texas or in Melbourne, or in London or in Kalamazoo. What’s with that? We know that the COVID bug is least likely to live on fabrics unless I have symptoms of it, sneeze on my handkerchief and then I stuff it in your mouth.

[..] I invite you to examine a very interesting study published by the National Academy of Sciences: Explaining the homogeneous diffusion of COVID-19 nonpharmaceutical interventions across heterogeneous countries. A clearer title might be: how so many governments behaved so stupidly at once. The theory they posit seems highly realistic to me:

“We analyze the adoption of nonpharmaceutical interventions in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries during the early phase of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Given the complexity associated with pandemic decisions, governments are faced with the dilemma of how to act quickly when their core decision-making processes are based on deliberations balancing political considerations. Our findings show that, in times of severe crisis, governments follow the lead of others and base their decisions on what other countries do. Governments in countries with a stronger democratic structure are slower to react in the face of the pandemic but are more sensitive to the influence of other countries. We provide insights for research on international policy diffusion and research on the political consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This seems to fit with what I’ve seen anecdotally. These guys in charge are mostly attorneys with specializations in bamboozling voters. And the “public health authorities” advising them can get credentials in the field without ever having studied much less practiced medicine. So what do they do? They copy other governments, as a way of covering up their ignorance. As the study says: ” While our paper cannot judge what an “optimal” adoption timing would be for any country, it follows, from our findings of what appears to be international mimicry of intervention adoptions, that some countries may have adopted restrictive measures rather sooner than necessary. If that is the case, such countries may have incurred excessively high social and economic costs, and may experience problems sustaining restrictions for as long as is necessary due to lockdown fatigue.”

Which is to say: the closures, lockdowns, and imposed stringency measures were not science. It was monkey see, monkey do. The social psychology experiments on conformity help explain this better than anything else. They see some governments doing things and decide to do them too, as a way of making sure they are avoiding political risk, regardless of the cost. ” Why did so many governments go so nuts at once, disregarding their own laws, traditions, and values by bludgeoning their own people with the excuse of science that has turned out to be almost completely bogus? Some people claim conspiracy but a much simpler answer might be that, in their ignorance and stupor, they copied each other out of fear.”

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Feb 262020
 


‘Daly’ Somewhere in the South, possibly Miami 1941

 

First US Soldier Stationed In South Korea Tests Positive For Coronavirus (CNN)
China Outbreak Could Cause Critical Shortages Of Medical Products In US (CNN)
Larry Kudlow: US Has Contained Coronavirus, Economy Holding Up Nicely (CNBC)
Coronavirus Wipes Out $1.7 Trillion In US Stock Market Value In 2 Days (CNBC)
US Could See A Similar Death Rate To China If The Virus Spreads – Fauci (CNN)
Japan Now Aims to Limit, Not Prevent Virus Deaths (ZH)
UK Schools Close Doors Over Coronavirus Threat As NHS Steps Up Testing (Ind.)
EU Keeps Borders Open As Virus Spreads Across Continent (RT)
How The British Invented The Syrian “Opposition” (MEE)
Assange Tried To Call White House, Hillary Over Data Dump – Lawyer (R.)
Julian Assange Handcuffed 11 Times And Stripped Naked After 1st Court Day (G.)
US Mulled ‘Kidnapping, Poisoning, Killing’ Assange – Lawyer (RT)
Acting DNI Chief Grenell ‘Was Taking Orders’ From Trump On Assange Arrest (RT)
Thread For Day 2 Of Julian Assange’s Week-Long Extradition Hearing (Gosztola)
Trump’s Betrayal of Julian Assange (Ron Paul)

 

 

Cases 81,229 (+ 901 from yesterday’s 80,328).

Deaths 2,769 (+ 62 from yesterday’s 2,707)

 

• China has fewer deaths today, but many more new cases, + 901 from yesterday’s +621

• Japan gives up on defeating virus., moves to mitigation, With “only” 171 cases and one death.
– That does not include the Diamond Princess’s 691 cases and four deaths.
– Tokyo Olympics still supposedly on

• First US soldier stationed In South Korea tests positive, 18 South Korean soldiers infected

• One week ago 51 people were reported infected in South Korea. Today, there are 1,146. 169 new cases today.

• Italy 322 cases, 11 deaths. The new infections include three in southern Sicily, 1,200km from Milan
– one of the victims is just 4 years old

• EU borders stay open despite Italy cluster(s)

• Spain has 7 confirmed cases

• Taiwan 32 cases

• Thailand 40 cases

• Neighboring countries try to close borders with Iran

• Brazil reports first case in South America

• Large international gatherings in Vatican for Ash Wednesday

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate is down to 8%)

 

 

 

 

This is the military. They live in barracks. All you need to know.18 South Korean soldiers infected

First US Soldier Stationed In South Korea Tests Positive For Coronavirus (CNN)

Public health officials warned Wednesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus is inching closer toward meeting the definition of a global pandemic, as the number of cases outside mainland China continues to grow, including in South Korea where a US soldier has tested positive for the virus. [..] a top official from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the United States could see the virus spread within its borders. “Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

South Korean authorities are attempting to contain an outbreak that has gone from just 51 people infected last week to at least 1,146 as of Wednesday. The outbreak began in the southern city of Daegu and was centered around the Shincheonji religious group, but the virus appears to have spread now beyond practitioners. Eighteen South Korean soldiers have been confirmed infected, and the country’s defense ministry has placed significant restrictions on soldiers leaving their bases due to fears surrounding the virus. On Wednesday, it was announced that a US service member stationed in South Korea tested positive for the virus, according to US Forces Korea statement.

The soldier, who is stationed at Camp Carroll which is approximately 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the city of Daegu, is the first US service member to test positive for the novel coronavirus. “The patient, a 23-year old male, is currently in self quarantine at his off-base residence. He visited Camp Walker on 24 February and Camp Carroll 21-25 February. KCDC and USFK health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the statement said. The virus’ spread also prompted South Korea and the United States to scale back joint military drills, according to three US officials.

The three officials said this would be the first major impact of coronavirus on US military readiness, according to the officials. Without the full exercise, the US could lose ground in being able to quickly conduct future operations in a coordinated and highly synchronized manner with South Korea against North Korea in the event of a crisis, one of the officials said.

Read more …

Pretty much a sure thing by now. Question is how bad it will get.

China Outbreak Could Cause Critical Shortages Of Medical Products In US (CNN)

No drug manufacturers have reported that they anticipate shortages of particular drugs due to the novel coronavirus, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, but the agency and experts in the pharmaceutical industry are paying close attention to the potential challenges the virus might pose. “FDA is keenly aware that the outbreak will likely affect the medical product supply chain, including potential disruptions to suppliers [and] shortages of critical medical products in the US,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told reporters Tuesday. The US relies heavily on Chinese-made medical devices, drug ingredients and drugs for humans and animals, and, with heavy Chinese investment in the industry in recent years, its share of the global market has steadily grown.


As of 2018, China ranked second among countries that exported drugs and biologics to the United States, and first for medical devices, according to the FDA. The FDA said Monday it has been in touch with 180 drug manufacturers to remind them of their regulatory obligation to notify the FDA if they do anticipate any disruption in drugs supplies. The agency asked companies to evaluate their supply chain in light of the coronavirus outbreak and what potential challenge the virus may pose to the global drug supply, the agency said. The FDA said it has identified about 20 drugs that either solely source their active pharmaceutical ingredients or produce finished drug products from or in China.

Read more …

Oh Larry, why say such things when you don’t have to?

Larry Kudlow: US Has Contained Coronavirus, Economy Holding Up Nicely (CNBC)

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow tried on Tuesday to assuage concerns over the cornavirus and its impact on the U.S. economy. “We have contained this. I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight,” Kudlow told CNBC’s Kelly Evans on “The Exchange.” He added that, while the outbreak is a “human tragedy,” it will likely not be an “economic tragedy.” “There will be some stumbles. We’re looking at numbers; it’s a little iffy,” Kudlow said. “But at the moment … there’s no supply disruptions out there yet.” Kudlow’s comments came as the stock market tanked for a second straight day amid worries that the coronavirus outbreak would lead to a prolonged global economic slowdown.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average was more than 700 points lower Tuesday, down 2.7%. On Monday, the 30-stock average had its worst day in two years, dropping more than 1,000 points. Investors dumped equities in favor of U.S. Treasurys, which are traditionally seen as a safe haven during volatile stretches for the stock market. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield dropped to 1.32% to reach an all-time low. The 30-year also traded at a record low. Yields move inversely to prices. Still, Kudlow said the U.S. is “holding up nicely,” adding, “All I can do is look at the numbers.”

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European markets are falling again today. US futures down as well.

Coronavirus Wipes Out $1.7 Trillion In US Stock Market Value In 2 Days (CNBC)

The S&P 500 just wiped out about $1.737 trillion of its value during its two-day market sell-off, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. The equity benchmark lost $810 billion in value on Tuesday, adding to its $927 billion loss on Monday, according to the firm s Senior Index Analyst Howard Silverblatt. It s down $2.138 trillion since last Wednesday s high, according to S&P Dow Jones. Stocks cratered again on Tuesday as investors fled riskier assets amid intense fears about a slowdown in global growth caused by the deadly coronavirus. The S&P 5002 s two-day loss of 6.3% was the largest for the benchmark since August 2015, when the Chinese government devalued the yuan amid the U.S.-China trade war. Tuesday’s 900 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average added to Monday’s stunning 1,000 point plunge.


The Nasdaq Composite fell 2.8% on Tuesday and joined the S&P 500 and Dow in turning negative for the year. Bond yields also plunged as investor sought safer havens. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to a record low of 1.32%. The spreading deadly virus, that has infected more than 80,000 and killed more than 2,700, has sent shock waves through the markets. Companies like Apple, Nike, United Airlines and Mastercard have all raised flags about the coronavirus and its impact on their earnings. Chip stocks, which rely heavily on revenues from China, are being abandoned by Wall Street as it becomes more apparent supply chain disruption will persist until the epidemic is contained.

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Anthony Fauci is director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Wonder if he means the real or the “official” rate.

US Could See A Similar Death Rate To China If The Virus Spreads – Fauci (CNN)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN the US needed more resources to fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected 53 people in the US. “We’ve had a pandemic preparedness plan that we really developed in preparation for pandemic influenza, that we can extrapolate to this. We certainly need more resources, and that’s what you heard today with the supplemental request. Because we can only go a certain way with the resources we have,” Fauci said.


Death rate: Fauci added that the fatality rate of the outbreak could reach the same levels in the US as in China because there is no vaccine or cure available. “I mean, the people who are dying who require intensive care, for example in an intensive care unit – maybe even intubation for respiratory assistance in breathing – the Chinese have that. They have a pretty good system, and yet you’re still seeing the 2% mortality. So it isn’t a question of, ‘they don’t have as good care as we have.’ So if, in fact, we do get a pandemic that does impact us in this country, I think you’re going to see comparable types of morbidity and mortality,” he said.

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I think this is a milestone. Japan admits they can’t handle it. With just 171 cases and one death. That, admittedly, does not include the Diamond Princess’s 691 cases and four deaths.

Japan Now Aims to Limit, Not Prevent Virus Deaths (ZH)

Overwhelmed by a flurry of ‘unsolved’ cases (that is, cases with no obvious connection to the outbreak in China, or anywhere else), Japanese health authorities announced on Tuesday a new plan intended to focus the country’s precious medical resources on the most serious cases, while advising those with mild symptoms to treat themselves at home. The approach differs markedly from the heavy handed tactics employed by Beijing, which at its peak had 760 million – roughly half the country – under some form of lockdown restriction. According to the Washington Post, the “basic premise” of the Japanese plan is that the virus can’t be stopped. That’s right: The Japanese are essentially acknowledging that the thesis proposed by Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch – ie that 70% of the world’s population might someday contract the virus – has at least some legitimacy.


Japan has at least 160 confirmed cases of the virus outside the ~700 people who caught it aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’. Japanese health officials claim that a large-scale outbreak hasn’t taken hold; rather, small clusters of the disease have broken out around the country. One senior advisor who spoke with WaPo put it the starkest of terms: We can’t stop it, so the best we can do is keep the body count as low as possible. “We shouldn’t have illusions,” said Shigeru Omi, a senior government adviser. “We can’t stop this, but we can try to reduce the speed of expansion and reduce mortality.” In keeping with this maxim, hospital space will be reserved for patients with the most serious symptoms, while those with simple colds and fevers have been asked to rest at home. They’re only to contact health authorities if a fever persists for four days. Or two for the elderly, people with chronic diseases or pregnant women .

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In certain areas.

UK Schools Close Doors Over Coronavirus Threat As NHS Steps Up Testing (Ind.)

Schools across the UK have closed their doors to students at risk of coronavirus while all patients are to be routinely tested for the disease in a dramatic escalation of screening by health officials Cransley School in Cheshire and Trinity Catholic College in Teeside have both closed while Brine Leas School in Cheshire has shut its sixth form unit after pupils and staff returned from a ski trip in the Lombardy region of Italy, which has been badly hit by coronavirus. Elsewhere at least 10 schools in Cornwall, Yorkshire, Pembrokeshire, Guernsey, Co Antrim, Co Derry and Co Down have sent pupils home to self-quarantine after returning from similar trips.

It comes as England’s top doctor warned the UK could be forced to quarantine families and reduce transport if the virus becomes a global pandemic. NHS bosses have also expressed concerns about the impact any surge in cases could have on an already under pressure health system. Public Health England said flu patients in intensive care units and respiratory wards at eight NHS hospitals would be tested for coronavirus as well as at 100 primary care centre such as GP surgeries. Up to now tests have only been carried out on those suspected of being infected but this new regime is designed to identify whether the virus, which originated in China, is spreading throughout the country without being detected.

PHE said it did not believe this was currently happening but widening the testing would allow it to spot any circulation and act immediately to prevent it spreading further. Medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle said this was about taking a “belt-and-braces approach”, adding: “There is no change in risk for the public but taking this preparatory step now will enable us to better detect and contain the spread of the virus.”

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To keep the EU idea alive. And the economy.

EU Keeps Borders Open As Virus Spreads Across Continent (RT)

Italy’s health minister has said that neighboring countries will not close their borders, amid an outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus. It comes as Rome confirmed 11 people dead in the epidemic, with hundreds infected. “We agreed to keep borders open, closing borders would be a disproportionate and ineffective measure at this time,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters in Rome on Tuesday. Four more people infected with the deadly virus died in northern Italy on Tuesday, bringing the death toll in the Mediterranean country to 11. Three of the dead were in their eighties and came from Lombardy, the worst affected region of Italy, Civil Protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters. The fourth was from the Veneto region.

Alongside the three fatalities, Italian authorities confirmed more than 90 new cases of the illness on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in Italy to 322. Nearly a dozen towns have been quarantined across the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto, and supplies across the north have run low. Public events have been cancelled, and panicked shoppers have stripped supermarket shelves of provisions. Though Speranza insisted that Italy’s international borders will remain open, the disease has already begun to spread into mainland Europe. A hotel in Spain’s Canary Islands remains locked down after a guest and his wife were found to be infected, and mainland Spain reported its first case – an Italian woman living in Barcelona – on Tuesday.

Since then, another two people have been diagnosed with the virus in mainland Spain – a man from the city of Villarreal in the east of the country and a 24-year-old man in Madrid who travelled to Italy. This brings the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Spain to 7. Before that, a German tourist and a British man tested positive for the virus on the Canary Islands and in Mallorca, respectively, but both have since been discharged from hospital.

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What Putin is up against.

How The British Invented The Syrian “Opposition” (MEE)

The British government covertly established a network of citizen journalists across Syria during the early years of the country’s civil war in an attempt to shape perceptions of the conflict, frequently recruiting people who were unaware that they were being directed from London. A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria. Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria.

These journalists, many of them young, were commissioned to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and even children’s comics. While many Syrians turned spontaneously to media activism from the start of the war, the documents describe the way in which the British government sought to guide some of their output, seeing citizen journalism as a way of covertly influencing Syrian audiences. The papers also make clear that those people who were recruited were often unaware that they were part of a British propaganda initiative.

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The Guardian denies everything. It even claims: “The Guardian has made clear it is opposed to the extradition of Julian Assange.” The paper that published a fully fake piece on Manafort repeatedly visiting Assange, without ever retracting it. Their people knew exactly what they did, and forced Assange into late night redacting of names. Now HE stabns accused of what THEY did.

Assange Tried To Call White House, Hillary Over Data Dump – Lawyer (R.)

Julian Assange tried to contact Hillary Clinton and the White House when he realised that unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables given to WikiLeaks were about to be dumped on the internet, his lawyer told his London extradition hearing on Tuesday. On Monday, the lawyer representing the United States told the hearing that Assange, 48, was wanted for crimes that had endangered people in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan who had helped the West, some of whom later disappeared. U.S. authorities say his actions in recklessly publishing unredacted classified diplomatic cables put informants, dissidents, journalists and human rights activists at risk of torture, abuse or death.

Outlining part of his defence, Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers said allegations that he had helped Manning to break a government password, had encouraged the theft of secret data and knowingly put lives in danger were “lies, lies and more lies”. He told London’s Woolwich Crown Court that WikiLeaks had received documents from Manning in April 2010. He then made a deal with a number of newspapers, including the New York Times, Britain’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel, to begin releasing redacted parts of the 250,000 cables in November that year. A witness from Der Spiegel said the U.S. State Department had been involved in suggesting redactions in conference calls, Summers said.

However, a password that allowed access to the full unredacted material was published in a book by Guardian reporters about WikiLeaks in February 2011. In August, another German newspaper reported it had discovered the password and it had access to the archive. A spokesman for The Guardian said the authors were told the password was temporary and the book contained no details about the whereabouts of the files. Summers said Assange attempted to warn the U.S. government, calling the White House and attempting to speak to then- Secretary of State Clinton, saying “unless we do something, people’s lives are put at risk”. Summers said the State Department had responded by suggesting that Assange call back “in a couple of hours”.

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Beyond shame.

Julian Assange Handcuffed 11 Times And Stripped Naked After 1st Court Day (G.)

Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and had his case files confiscated after the first day of his extradition hearing, according to his lawyers, who complained of interference in his ability to take part. Their appeal to the judge overseeing the trial at Woolwich crown court in south-east London was also supported by legal counsel for the US government, who said it was essential the WikiLeaks founder be given a fair trial. Edward Fitzgerald QC, acting for Assange, said the case files, which the prisoner was reading in court on Monday, were confiscated by guards when he returned to prison later that night and that he was put in five cells.


The judge, Vanessa Baraitser, replied that she did not have the legal power to comment or rule on Assange’s conditions but encouraged the defence team to formally raise the matter with the prison. The details emerged on the second day of Assange’s extradition hearing, during which his legal team denied that he had “knowingly placed lives at risk” by publishing unredacted US government files. The court was told Wikileaks had entered into a collaboration with the Guardian, El País, the New York Times and other media outlets to make redactions to 250,000 leaked cables secret cables in 2010 and publish them. Mark Summers, QC, claimed the unredacted files had been published because a password to this material had appeared in a Guardian book on the affair. “The gates got opened not by Assange or WikiLeaks but by another member of tha partnership,” he said.

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Make it look like an accident.

US Mulled ‘Kidnapping, Poisoning, Killing’ Assange – Lawyer (RT)

The US government plotted to kidnap or kill Julian Assange while he was holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, a UK court was told yesterday during the WikiLeaks publisher’s extradition hearing. Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told Judge Vanessa Baraitser that the US wanted to make the WikiLeaks founder’s death look like an accident and that US intelligence agencies worked with Spanish company UC Global to extensively spy on Assange inside the embassy. Fitzgerald claimed that recordings were collected every 14 days and handed over to US intelligence services. The surveillance even included footage of Assange meeting with his legal team, breaching attorney-client privilege, he said.

“There were conversations about whether there should be more extreme measures contemplated, such as kidnapping or poisoning Assange in the embassy,” Fitzgerald told the court. Assange’s lawyers have long-warned that kidnapping or extraordinary rendition could be on the table for Washington if the US could not get to him any other way. The source of the claim heard in court on Monday is a whistleblower known only as ‘witness two’, responsible for exposing UC Global owner David Morales and his role in the surveillance operation for “the dark side” — meaning the US government. The witness described the Americans as “desperate.”

One suggestion was that the embassy door could be left open, which could make a kidnapping look like an “accident.” There wasn’t as much information given about the poisoning claim. This was not the first time claims had been made that the US considered such extreme measures for dealing with Assange. In a 2019 presentation on the technical aspects of the surveillance operation, German hacker Andy Muller-Maguhn, who had visited Assange inside the embassy, claimed that kidnapping and poisoning were options for the US government and that all doors and windows in the embassy were documented so various options could be explored. The surveillance was so intense that bugs were even implanted in a fire extinguisher and in a bathroom that Assange used, he said.

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Cassandra to the rescue.

Acting DNI Chief Grenell ‘Was Taking Orders’ From Trump On Assange Arrest (RT)

A GOP operative, known as the Trump family ‘fixer,’ appears to have admitted in a recorded call that the new US spy chief acted on the president’s orders when he allegedly secured the arrest of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. The contents of the call between GOP operative Arthur Schwartz and journalist Cassandra Fairbanks – which could turn Julian Assange’s UK extradition trial upside down – were reported on Tuesday by several US media outlets citing nonprofit transparency group Property of the People. The recording itself was later released by Fairbanks on Twitter. In the call, dated September 2019, Schwartz pleads with Fairbanks to delete a September 10 tweet in which she says that Richard Grenell, then a controversial US envoy to Germany, “was the one who worked out the deal for Julian Assange’s arrest.”

Initially, Fairbanks refused to budge, arguing that her tweet was based on an ABC News report from last April alleging that Grenell was instrumental in persuading Ecuador to let British police into its London embassy, where Assange spent some seven years under political asylum. The report suggested that Grenell promised Quito that the US would not pursue the death penalty for the self-exiled publisher if it gave the go-ahead for the raid. Schwartz, however, insisted that Fairbanks must scrub the tweet, accusing her of publishing “classified information.” Schwartz, however, insisted that Fairbanks must scrub the tweet, accusing her of publishing “classified information.” Sounding increasingly frustrated with Fairbank’s unwillingness to pull the post, the Trump fixer says he could go to jail over the information he had apparently shared with her.

“Rick’s role is classified… You can’t do that… you are posting things that are classified, that no one knows, that has not been reported… I know what’s been reported, I see what you’re tweeting, what you’re tweeting is not what was reported. Someone’s going to go to jail. You need to stop this.” Fairbanks then reminded him that it is Assange who was imprisoned due to his work to expose US war crimes, but Schwartz only doubled down on his request. At the same time, Schwartz appears to confirm that Trump himself had pulled strings behind the covert diplomatic op to nab Assange, reportedly orchestrated by Grenell. “Please. I’m begging you… They look at you, they see that we speak, that’s bad. He’s [Grenell] is taking orders from the president. OK? So you’re going to punish me because he took orders from the president? I’m begging you, I’m begging you, please.”

https://twitter.com/CassandraRules/status/1232466714098466816

A source privy to the Assange defense team’s strategy told Politico the call would be only “one piece of the argument,” part of a larger trove of evidence to be unveiled in court on Wednesday. The materials are intended to prove that the request for the publisher’s extradition was based on a desire for vengeance, rather than on any legal basis. Schwartz himself attempted to dismiss the bombshell as a nothingburger, telling the outlet that he “highly doubts” he would have told the journalist anything of substance, describing her as “not someone that I trust.”

Read more …

Thread of Kevin Gosztola tweets from the courtroom.

Thread For Day 2 Of Julian Assange’s Week-Long Extradition Hearing (Gosztola)

Defense raises issue of alleged mistreatment of Assange. He was handcuffed 11 times, strip searched multiple times, and moved between cells yesterday. Judge is, once again, insisting no authority to do anything about it. “Powers are very limited in this respect.” Prosecutor won’t speak into the microphone. Keeps it off to the side, and we in the press annex cannot hear a word. #Assange Defense is going over what they claim are examples of Zakrzewski abuse, which means offenses in extradition request are false or outlined inaccurately as proffered by the prosecution #Assange Defense: “False allegation” “Provably wrong.”


That Assange enabled Manning to log on to secret network with databases of information known as SIPRnet Defense also says it is “provably false” that “Assange knowingly put people’s lives at risk.” He mentions this is what US argues to get around First Amendment issues implicated in “pure publication counts.” Defense: “The case has lies, lies, and more lies.” #Assange Defense refers to Chelsea Manning’s plea statement. This is the key statement she made about her disclosures, which prosecutors desperately want to undermine. This is part of why she was subpoenaed to appear before grand jury and is still in jail. #Assange

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No kidding: “The deep state Trump is serving by persecuting Assange is the same deep state that continues to plot Trump’s own ouster.”

Trump’s Betrayal of Julian Assange (Ron Paul)

Donald Trump upset the Washington apple cart as presidential candidate and in so doing he set elements of the deep state in motion against him. One of the things candidate Donald Trump did to paint a deep state target on his back was his repeated praise of Wikileaks, the pro-transparency media organization headed up by Australian journalist Julian Assange. More than 100 times candidate Trump said “I love Wikileaks” on the campaign trail. Trump loved it when Wikileaks exposed the criminality of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, as it cheated to deprive Bernie Sanders of the Democratic Party nomination. Wikileaks’ release of the DNC emails exposed the deep corruption at the heart of US politics, and as a candidate Trump loved the transparency. Then Trump got elected.

The real tragedy of the Trump presidency is nowhere better demonstrated than in Trump’s 180 degree turn away from Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. “I know nothing about Wikileaks,” he said as president. “It’s really not my thing.” US pressure and bribes to the Ecuadorian government ended Assange’s asylum and his seven years in a room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. After his dramatic arrest by London’s Metropolitan Police last April, he has been effectively tortured in British jails at the behest of the US deep state. Today, Monday the 24th of February, Assange faces an extradition hearing in a UK courthouse. The Trump Administration – led by a man who praised Assange’s work – seeks a show trial of Assange worthy of the worst of the Soviet era. The US is seeking a 175 year prison sentence.

The Trump Administration argues that the Australian Assange should be tried and convicted of espionage against a country of which he is not a citizen. At the same time the Trump Administration argues that the First Amendment does not apply to Assange because he is not an American citizen! So Assange is subject to US law when it comes to publishing information embarrassing to the US deep state but he is not subject to the law of the land – the US Constitution – which protects all journalists and is the backbone of our system of government. It is ironic that a President Trump who has been victim of so much deep state meddling has done the deep state’s bidding when it comes to Assange and Wikileaks.

President Trump should preempt the inevitable US show trial of Assange by granting the journalist blanket pardon under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The deep state Trump is serving by persecuting Assange is the same deep state that continues to plot Trump’s own ouster. Free Assange!

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20 years of Pluto:

 

 

 

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Jan 032020
 
 January 3, 2020  Posted by at 11:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Alfred Palmer New B-25 bomber at Kansas City plant of North American Aviation 1942

 

America Just Took Out The World’s No. 1 Bad Guy (CNBC)
US Strike That Killed Iranian Commander Starkly Divides US Lawmakers (CNN)
Erdogan Questions Europe As 250,000 Flee Idlib (ZH)
US Dollar as Global Reserve Currency vs Euro, Yen, Renminbi, & Others (WS)
China Cuts US Dollar Weighting In Key Index To Boost Fortunes Of Yuan (SCMP)
China’s Central Bank Frees Up $115 Billion To Support Growth (SCMP)
What the Fed Did to Calm Year-End Hissy-Fit of its Crybaby Cronies (WS)
Greece, Israel, Cyprus: Turkey’s Libya Troops Bill Dangerous Escalation (R.)
Leaders Of Greece, Israel, Cyprus Ink Deal For Pipeline (K.)
The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative (Craig Murray)

 

 

Inevitably, the killing of Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad leads to the confirmation of US party lines’ divide. While the GOP stands behind the decision, the Dems have a hard time reconciling their own contradictions. They are a war party, if you look past Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders, but they can’t be seen to agree with Trump. So the likes of Schumer and Pelosi say that while Soleimani won’t be mourned by any American since he was a really terrible person, Trump should have asked for their permission.

The logic being that this could lead to WWIII, a theme that’s all over the internet, so much it makes one think independent thought is under threat. Be that as it may, the president needs permission to declare war, not to hit an individual. Moreover, since they agree killing the man might have been a good idea, they surely realize that he was in a spot where they could get at him, for a limited amount of time, so asking for permission would heve risked losing the opportunity. Weak.

The following two tweets are worth citing:

Nicole Alexander Fisher: “Pelosi voted for Trump’s NDAA which stripped a provison that would have prevented unauthorized war with Iran. She sided with Trump and warhawks on this, as did 188 other Democrats. 41 Dems like AOC, Ilhan Omar, Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, and Joe Kennedy voted no.”

Soleimani fought ISIS, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda etc., along with the US.

Sara Abdallah: “The “no. 1 bad guy” who led the counter-terrorism campaigns that defeated ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; the “no. 1 bad guy” who prevented a jihadist takeover of the Middle East.”

I’m still wondering how CNBC became the no. 1 warmonger for the MSM. This is some headline. As for the Dems and GOP, one would be inclined to say: pick your side. But if you look just a little bit closer, you see there is only one side.

 

America Just Took Out The World’s No. 1 Bad Guy (CNBC)

So, just who is this top Iranian general the U.S. just eliminated? For many of us who watch and analyze news out of the Middle East daily, he was the world’s number one bad guy. Qassim Soleimani has been in control of Iran’s Quds Force for more than 20 years. His current greatest hits include helping Bashar al Assad slaughter hundreds of thousands of his own people in the Syrian civil war, stoking the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war, and overseeing the killing of hundreds of Iraqi protesters recently demonstrating against Iranian influence in their country. But most importantly for Americans, Soleimani was behind the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers during the Iraq War. Last year, the U.S. State Department put the number of Americans killed by Iranian proxies in Iraq at 608 since 2003.


The killing of Soleimani doesn’t have the emotional power of the takedown of Osama bin Laden, and he wasn’t even as well-known to Americans as ISIS founder Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. But in many ways, taking him out means much more in terms of saving current lives. Remember that bin Laden and al Baghdadi were mostly out of business and in hiding at the time of their deaths. Solemani was busier than ever, directing mayhem all over the Middle East and beyond. For example, these last few days have made it clear to the whole world just how much Iran controlled just about all of Iraq and Iraq’s Shia population. It appears Solemeini not only felt justified in being the likely mastermind behind Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, he also was comfortable enough to travel to Iraq personally to oversee it. But this time, he got too comfortable.

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No, it doesn’t.

US Strike That Killed Iranian Commander Starkly Divides US Lawmakers (CNN)

The US airstrike that killed Iran Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani generated starkly different reactions along party lines Thursday night, with Republicans heaping praise on President Donald Trump and Democrats expressing concerns about the legality and consequences of the attack. The Pentagon confirmed in a statement that Trump had ordered the strike, saying Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

[..] Some key members of Congress — such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who is a member of the congressional Gang of Eight leaders, who are briefed on classified matters — had not been made aware of the attack ahead of time. It’s not clear how many other lawmakers had advance notice of the strike. The Pentagon added that “this strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans” and the US “will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

[..] Democrats pushed back on Republican sentiments about the attack, stressing the potential consequences and lambasting the decision to carry out the strike without congressional authorization. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut emphasized that Soleimani “was an enemy of the United States” in a tweet before stating, “The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?” In a more explicit statement, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said, “President Trump is bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran without any congressional approval as required under the Constitution of the United States.”

[..] On the campaign trail, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden said “no American will mourn” Soleimani but that the strike that killed him is a “hugely escalatory move.” “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “I’m not privy to the intelligence and much remains unknown, but Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East. I hope the Administration has thought through the second- and third-order consequences of the path they have chosen.”

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This situation is not likely to improve after the assassination:

Erdogan Questions Europe As 250,000 Flee Idlib (ZH)

As Russian and Syrian jets have dramatically stepped up their bombardment of jihadist-held Idlib over the past three weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again warned a massive wave of refugees is headed into Turkey, but that his country is without help and thus is seeking to prevent the new influx. “Right now, 200,000 to 250,000 migrants are moving toward our borders,” Erdogan said while addressing a conference in Ankara. “We are trying to prevent them with some measures, but it’s not easy. It’s difficult, they are humans too.” This after the UN on Monday said that of Idlib province’s some 3 million civilian population, up to 284,000 are currently on the move.


International reports commonly put the current numbers of Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey at about 3.7 million, which Erdogan has of late constantly reminded Europe of as he seeks support for foreign military intervention in places like northeast Syria and now even Libya. During his latest comments, Erdogan actually put the number of refugees across all provinces of Turkey at a whopping 5 million — which would be larger than many small countries. Crucially, during his speech on Thursday, he alluded to his prior threats to “open the gates” and allow refugees to flood into Europe, starting with Greece and other Mediterranean nations:

“Although they [the West] have more resources than we do, why don’t they accept them, why don’t they open the gates?” Erdogan asked. While also slamming Arab League member states for not acting, he answered his own question with, “We are Turkey. Alone this gives us a power and superiority that nobody has.” In late December, Erdogan reiterated prior provocative threats underscoring that “Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped,” as Reuters summarized of the statement.

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Remarkably stable, really.

US Dollar as Global Reserve Currency vs Euro, Yen, Renminbi, & Others (WS)

The US economy and financial system – including being able to maintain and fund the gargantuan trade deficits and fiscal deficits – has become reliant on the dollar being the dominant global reserve currency. And the IMF just released its next installment on how this status has been changing. Total foreign exchange reserves in all currencies combined declined 0.6% in the third quarter from the second quarter to $11.66 trillion, according to the IMF’s quarterly COFER data. US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves – such as Treasury securities, US corporate bonds, etc. held by foreign central banks – ticked down 0.4% to $6.51 trillion. But holdings denominated in other currencies fell faster, and the share of dollar-denominated reserves edged up to 61.8% of total exchange reserves.


The US dollar’s share of total global reserve currencies declines when central banks other than the Fed proportionately reduce their dollar-denominated assets and add assets denominated in other foreign currencies. Over the long term, the recent moves in the dollar’s share are relatively small. There have been huge moves from 1977 through 1991, when the dollar’s share plunged from 85% to 46%, and then huge moves as the share rose again to 70% by 2000:

In October 2016, the IMF included the Chinese renminbi in the currency basket of the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), and the renminbi became officially a global reserve currency. But since then, progress of the currency has been exceedingly slow, and there are no signs the RMB would dethrone the US dollar anytime soon.The creation of the euro came with a lot of hopeful rhetoric that it would reach parity with the US dollar in every way, including as global trade currency, global financing currency, and global reserve currency. [..] During the initial phase of the conversion of European currencies to the euro, the euro’s share of global reserve currencies rose and the dollar’s share fell from 71.5% in 2001 to 66.5% in 2002.

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Wait, so China is desperate for dollars, and then decides dollars are becoming less important? Yeah, we’ll all believe it.

China Cuts US Dollar Weighting In Key Index To Boost Fortunes Of Yuan (SCMP)

China’s decision to cut the weighting of the US dollar in a basket of foreign currencies used to determine the strength of the yuan will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to weaken the international dominance of the American currency, economists said. The China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS), a unit of the Chinese central bank, trimmed the weighting of the US dollar on Wednesday to 21.59 per cent from 22.40 per cent in a key yuan exchange index to make it “more representative” of current trade conditions. The new version of the index will be based on 2018 trade data, rather than data from 2015, when the CFETS was first established. The move, which comes amid heightened trade tensions between China and the United States, will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to create an alternative international payments system, economists said.


“The yuan hopes to become a reserve currency, to prevent the situation where the US dollar dominates the global financial system – or the so-called hegemony of the US dollar. This is a longer-term goal … and an inevitable trend,” said Shen Jianguan, vice-president and chief economist at JD Digits, although he added that the adjustment also reflected changes to China’s trading environment. His remarks were echoed by Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at China Industrial Bank, who said the cut would give the yuan marginally more independence against the US dollar. “The yuan should live its own way – now there is too much shadow from other [currencies] hanging over it,” he said.

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The amount is symbolic.

China’s Central Bank Frees Up $115 Billion To Support Growth (SCMP)

China’s central bank has announced a move to unleash 800 billion yuan (US$115 billion) from the banking system to support the economy, sending a pro-growth message on the first day of 2020. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) will reduce the deposit reserve ratio in financial institutions by 0.5 percentage points from January 6, mainly to offer sufficient funding to the real economy, according to a notice published on the bank’s website. The announcement on Wednesday came after growth continued to weaken while China and the United States prepared to sign an interim trade deal in mid-January. The central bank said this round of funding was partially to offset cash withdrawals before the Lunar New Year, and would not change its stance on monetary policy.


From Monday, the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for big banks will be lowered to 12.5 per cent, while the ratio for medium and small banks will be reduced to 10.5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. In 2019, the central bank cut the RRR rate three times. “The RRR cut will help boost investor confidence and support the economy, which is gradually steadying,” said Wen Bin, an economist at Minsheng Bank in Beijing, who also expects another cut in China’s new loan prime rate this month. After 18 months of the trade war between China and the United States, the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest, is facing external and domestic headwinds, with growth slowing to 6 per cent in the third quarter, the lowest since 1992. By value of goods, China’s export growth fell 0.3 per cent between January and November 2019, while import growth was down 4.5 per cent for the same period.

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End the Fed. They lost control a decade ago.

What the Fed Did to Calm Year-End Hissy-Fit of its Crybaby Cronies (WS)

The big fear was that the repo market would blow out again at the end of 2019, as banks would be window-dressing their balance sheets by building up reserves to certain levels. In the process, they would refuse to lend to the repo market. And borrowing pressure on the other side – such as hedge funds or mortgage REITs that borrow cheaply in the repo market to fund long-term bets – would drive up repo rates. At the end of 2018, repo rates blew out, but quickly settled down without the Fed’s involvement. In September 2019, repo rates blew out again. At this point, the rattled Fed started dousing the market with hundreds of billions of dollars to calm the repo market and prevent another year-end blowout.


To do this, the Fed engaged in repo operations and also began purchasing short-term Treasury bills. This calmed the repo market, and at the end of December, repo rates didn’t blow out. But on January 1, the Fed did a huge $64 billion reverse repo, the opposite of a repo, thus draining overnight $64 billion in liquidity from the market. This astounding spike in reverse repo balances showed up on its balance sheet for the week ended January 1, released today:

In a reverse repo, the Fed sells securities and takes in cash, under an agreement to buy back those securities at a fixed price on a set date. A reverse repo drains liquidity from the market. When the reverse repo unwinds on the maturity date, as the Fed buys back those securities, it adds liquidity to the market. Reverse repos are liabilities on the Fed balance sheet. In a normal repo, the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, under agreements to repurchase them at a fixed price on a specific date, such as the next day or in a longer period. This adds liquidity to the market for the duration of the repo.


When the repo matures and unwinds, the liquidity gets drained. But a new repo can roll this over. Repos are assets on the Fed’s balance sheet. Total repos on the Fed’s balance sheet on January 1 rose to $256 billion, up $48 billion from a month earlier (as of Dec 4 balance sheet):

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Erdogan is not sitting pretty.

Greece, Israel, Cyprus: Turkey’s Libya Troops Bill Dangerous Escalation (R.)

Turkey’s bill allowing troop deployment in Libya marks a dangerous escalation in the North African country’s civil war and severely threatens stability in the region, a joint statement by Greece, Israel and Cyprus said late on Thursday. “This decision constitutes a gross violation of the UNSC resolution…imposing an arms embargo in Libya and seriously undermines the international community’s efforts to find a peaceful, political solution to the Libyan conflict,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in the statement.


Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that allows troops to be deployed in Libya, in a move that paves the way for further military cooperation between Ankara and Tripoli but is unlikely to put boots on the ground immediately. Turkey’s move comes after Ankara and the internationally recognized government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj signed two separate agreements in November: one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, infuriating Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.

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The exact same countries want to cut a pipeline straight through an area claimed by Turkey. Think there’s a connection?

Leaders Of Greece, Israel, Cyprus Ink Deal For Pipeline (K.)

The intergovernmental agreement signed on Thursday by Greece, Israel and Cyprus for the construction of the EastMed pipeline sent out multiple diplomatic messages. The first of these relates to the endurance of the trilateral cooperation itself. In the 10 years since its inception, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the prime ministers of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, confirmed that the relationship between the three countries is not circumstantial. Skepticism concerning the situation in Jerusalem after three consecutive national elections which will have been held by March is reasonable. However, it will be very difficult for any Israeli government to roll back years of planning.

The second message concerns Turkey, as the pipeline will link Israel’s reserves with Cyprus, then Crete and mainland Greece through an area that Ankara says belongs to Turkey, according to the pact it signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government. The EastMed agreement is essentially a legal act stemming from international law as it expresses the will of three sovereign and elected governments (in contrast to that in Tripoli) to deepen their cooperation. At the same time it is a message of cooperation which leaves the door open for Ankara to take part if it decides so. However, signs Thursday were not encouraging as a pair of Turkish F-16s fighter jets made six overflights over Oinousses and the nearby island of Panagia, while the presence of the Turkish fleet around Cyprus remains emphatic.

Moreover, the Turkish Parliament decided on Thursday to approve the deployment of troops to Libya, if deemed necessary. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said any project that ignores the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the region will fail, while Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said the pipeline is an obstacle to efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem. The third message is to countries such as Italy and Egypt. With the signing of the deal, Athens, Nicosia and Jerusalem showed they were not willing to wait for the perfect conditions to prevail before moving ahead.

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“..the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government.”

The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative (Craig Murray)

The ruling Establishment has learnt a profound lesson from the debacle over Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. The lesson they have learnt is not that it is wrong to attack and destroy an entire country on the basis of lies. They have not learnt that lesson despite the fact the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government. No, the lesson they have learnt is never to admit they lied, never to admit they were wrong. They see the ghost-like waxen visage of Tony Blair wandering around, stinking rich but less popular than an Epstein birthday party, and realise that being widely recognised as a lying mass murderer is not a good career choice.

[..] The security services outlet Bellingcat would publish some photos of big missiles planted in the sand. The Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times, BBC and CNN would republish and amplify these pictures and copy and paste the official statements from government spokesmen. Robert Fisk would get to the scene and interview a few eye witnesses who saw the missiles being planted, and he would be derided as a senile old has-been. Seymour Hersh and Peter Hitchens would interview whistleblowers and be shunned by their colleagues and left off the airwaves. Bloggers like myself would be derided as mad conspiracy theorists or paid Russian agents if we cast any doubt on the Bellingcat “evidence”.

Wikipedia would ruthlessly expunge any alternative narrative as being from unreliable sources. The Integrity Initiative, 77th Brigade, GCHQ and their US equivalents would be pumping out the “Iraqi WMD found” narrative all over social media. Mad Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council would be banning dissenting accounts all over the place in his role as Facebook Witchfinder-General.

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Oct 292019
 
 October 29, 2019  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Palm trees on Martinique 1887

 

 

A few -seemingly?!- contradictory items I noticed this morning. First, the oil the US is smuggling, stealing -take your pick- from Syrian oil fields.

On the one hand, we have U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper claiming that the revenue from the stolen oil goes to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which partly uses it “guard prisons that hold captured Islamic State fighters.”

US Military Envisions Broad Defense Of Syrian Oilfields (R.)

The United States will repel any attempt to take Syria’s oil fields away from U.S.-backed Syrian militia with “overwhelming force,” whether the opponent is Islamic State or even forces backed by Russia or Syria, the Pentagon said on Monday. The U.S. military announced last week it was reinforcing its position in Syria with additional assets, including mechanized forces, to prevent oilfields from being taken over by remnants of the Islamic State militant group or others. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper offered some of his most detailed remarks to date about the mission at a news briefing on Monday.


“U.S. troops will remain positioned in this strategic area to deny ISIS access those vital resources. And we will respond with overwhelming military force against any group that threatens the safety of our forces there,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. Pressed on whether the U.S. military mission included denying any Russian or Syrian government forces access to the oilfields, Esper said: “The short answer is, yes, it presently does.” He noted that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, relied on that oil income to fund its fighters, including the ones guarding prisons that hold captured Islamic State fighters. “We want to make sure that SDF does have access to resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat-ISIS mission,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

But on the other hand, the Saker quotes “official representative of the [Russian] Defense Ministry” Igor Konashenkov saying “the income of smuggling goes to the personal accounts of US PMCs and special forces.” (PMC=Private Military Company)

Russian Defense Ministry Shows Evidence Of US Oil Smuggling From Syria (Saker)

As the official representative of the Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov noted, the Americans are extracting oil in Syria with the help of equipment, bypassing their own sanctions. Igor Konashenkov: “Under the protection of American military servicemen and employees of American PMCs, fuel trucks from the oil fields of Eastern Syria are smuggling to other states. In the event of any attack on such a caravan, special operations forces and US military aircraft are immediately called in to protect it,” he said.


According to Konashenkov, the US-controlled company Sadcab, established under the so-called Autonomous Administration of Eastern Syria, is engaged in the export of oil, and the income of smuggling goes to the personal accounts of US PMCs and special forces. The Major General added that as of right now, a barrel of smuggled Syrian oil is valued at $38, therefore the monthly revenue of US governmental agencies exceeds $30 million.

You be the judge. Which of the two accounts is more credible? The Saker report also says the US has been stealing the oil for a very long time. At $30 million a month. So is it the benign “guarding ISIS prisoners” or the less benign Blackwater et al?

 

 

Secondly, Pelosi’s sudden shift towards legitimizing the 34 day old “impeachment inquiry”, which comes in a document that at the same time says it already is perfectly legit. So why the move? Is it to assure Trump is provided with his “due process rights”? Can he subpoena witnesses now, is that what this means?

Or does this have to do with the lawsuit former deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, Charles Kupperman, filed on Friday, and on which a federal judge has yet to rule? Do the Dems have the idea they’ll lose that one?

Do note House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) saying the vote would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward”. 34 days of operating in secret in a basement and then you have the gall to talk about transparency? 34 days of selective leaking to friendly media but now we’re getting a “clear path forward”? I would tend to agree with Kevin McCarthy that “this process has been botched from the start”. Nothing partisan about that, just imagine what the NYT and WaPo would be writing if the GOP would be doing secret testimonies of Obama-era FBI, CIA and White House staff.

Oh, wait a minute, Schiff may have opened the door to just that! Is that a factor in Pelosi’s 180º?

‘We Will Not Legitimize The Sham Impeachment’ (ZH)

Update: House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) responded to Monday’s announcement, tweeting “It’s been 34 days since Nancy Pelosi unilaterally declared her impeachment inquiry. Today’s backtracking is an admission that this process has been botched from the start. We will not legitimize the Schiff/Pelosi sham impeachment.”

[..] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday that a vote will be held this Thursday “that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees” as part of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to the Washington Post. House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said the vote would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward” as their investigations continue. The resolution will authorize the disclosure of deposition transcripts as well as set forth due process rights for President Trump, according to Pelosi. It will also establish a procedure for open hearings.

[..] The announcement comes after former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman – who served as a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton – filed a Friday lawsuit seeking guidance from a federal judge as to whether he should follow the advice of the executive branch, which has instructed him not to attend, or Congress, according to the Post. As the judge has yet to rule on his request, Kupperman declined to appear.

“House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), meanwhile, said that a former deputy national security adviser had “no basis in law” to skip a deposition Monday and that his failure to appear was further evidence of Trump’s efforts to obstruct Congress.” -Washington Post. Kupperman was on the line when President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky held a July 25 discussion in which Trump requested investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden, as well as allegations of Ukrainian election meddling in 2016 to benefit Hillary Clinton.

There’s another case, that of former Trump lawyer Don McGahn, who is in the same legal split between the Dems subpoena and the White House order not to comply with it. Several people have testified in Adam Schiff’s secret basement despite the order. McGahn has his lawyers talking to the DOJ -for quite some time too-, and Kupperman’s lawsuit asking a judge to decide seems to make sense.

DOJ Negotiating With Democrats To Allow Don McGahn To Testify (RS)

According to Politico, lawyers from the Department of Justice have been in talks with the House committee responsible for drafting articles of impeachment, about the possibility of letting former White House Counsel Don McGahn testify — despite the fact that the current White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, has stated the administration will not cooperate with the investigation.


“In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” Cipollone wrote to House Democrats on October 8, in a letter that was loaded with political rather than legal arguments. But that same day, Justice Department lawyers were in talks with the House Judiciary Committee about McGahn possibly testifying. And they subsequently held four more meetings on October 11, 15, 21 and 24.

 

 

Lastly, a curious item from the Sydney Morning Herald. It notes that the Australian government has figured out that Julian Assange has “high-profile and loyal supporters”. But highly curiously, Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance.

What? Jennifer Robinson, the lawyer is question, has been banging on Australian political doors for years in order to get assistance. And now this statement? Who are these people? Some people over there are belatedly waking up, but it may all largely be posturing. Until we see actual help on its way, don’t believe a word they say.

Assange Legal Team Asks For Australian Government Help Amid Growing Health Fears

Julian Assange’s British legal team has requested Australian diplomatic help as fears grow for his health and mental state in a London prison. [..] Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance. The 48-year-old is fighting US attempts to extradite him to face 17 counts of spying and one of computer hacking in relation to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified Pentagon files regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Barrister Greg Barns, an adviser to the Australian Assange campaign, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald his UK lawyers on Friday requested consular assistance following a recent inquiry from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “Julian’s lawyers are asking for the Australian government’s assistance in dealing with their client’s inhumane conditions in Belmarsh prison which has led to, and is continuing to cause, serious damage to Julian’s health,” Mr Barns said. [..] The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) passed a motion at its national conference on Saturday calling for the Australian government to do “all it can” to bring Assange home and resist US attempts to extradite him.

ALA national president Andrew Christopoulos said it was an important issue about the rule of law and protecting an Australian in a vulnerable position overseas. “This is about standing up for the rule of law, fairness and the freedom to expose wrongdoing,” he said. “The reported decline of Julian Assange’s physical and mental health heightens the need for urgent government intervention. The government has intervened in cases like this before and should do so in this circumstance.” If the case goes to a series of appeals, Assange could remain in a UK jail until at least 2025.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week acknowledged the publicity around the case and that Assange had high-profile and loyal supporters. She said it was important to let the legal process run its course. “He has been offered consular services … like any other Australian would,” Senator Payne told the Senate committee. “I think it’s important to remember that as Australia would not accept intervention or interference in our legal processes, we are not able to intervene in the legal processes of another country.”

 

 

 

Obviously, this map is far from complete.