Sep 052019
 
 September 5, 2019  Posted by at 8:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Henri Matisse Bathers by a river 1909-16

 

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)
Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)
Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)
Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)
Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)
Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)
John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)
‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)
Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)
US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)
400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)
Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

 

 

Good lines: “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward .. ”

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government abandoned attempts in the upper house of parliament to block a law aimed at stopping the country from leaving the European Union without a deal. The move paved the way for Johnson being required to ask the EU for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline, if he fails to reach a renegotiated transition deal with the bloc by the middle of October. Johnson has said he is opposed to an extension and that he is prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal if necessary. Conservative Party members of the upper house of parliament had tabled a series of amendments in an attempt to run down the clock on the delay bill and prevent it being passed before parliament is suspended on Monday.


But in the early hours of Thursday, the government in the upper house, known as the House of Lords, announced it was dropping its opposition to the legislation. Richard Newby, an opposition member of the Lords, who had taken his duvet to parliament in preparation to spend the night discussing the law, said the government dropped its opposition after suffering heavy defeats on some of the proposed amendments. “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward,” he told BBC Radio.

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OK, what’s next? Friday is the last day Parliament is in session until mid-October.

Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)

The government has said a bill to stop a no-deal Brexit will complete its passage through the Lords on Friday. The proposed legislation was passed by MPs on Wednesday, inflicting a defeat on Prime Minister Boris Johnson. There were claims pro-Brexit peers could deliberately hold up the bill so it could not get royal assent before Parliament is prorogued next week. But the Conservative chief whip in the Lords announced a breakthrough in the early hours after talks with Labour.


The peers sat until 01:30 BST, holding a series of amendment votes that appeared to support predictions a marathon filibuster session – designed to derail the bill – was under way. But then Lord Ashton of Hyde announced that all stages of the bill would be completed in the Lords by 17:00 BST on Friday. He added that the Commons chief whip had also given a commitment that MPs will consider any Lords amendments on Monday and that the government intends that the “bill will be ready” to be presented for royal assent.

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End the Fed.

Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)

Slowing global economies, the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing and a warning sign of recession flashing in the U.S. Treasury market have all fed expectations the Federal Reserve is poised to lower rates at the close of its Sept. 17-18 meeting. But sentiment is much less well-defined within the Fed over whether to reduce borrowing costs for the second time this year, and if so by how much. In remarks this week, their last chance to speak publicly before their next rate-setting meeting, U.S. central bankers broadly agreed that trade policy uncertainty is hurting U.S. businesses. Whether they believe a rate cut is in order appears to hinge largely on their view of the consumer.

John Williams, president of the hugely influential New York Federal Reserve, said on Wednesday consumer spending is “robust” and one reason the U.S. economy is in a “favorable” place.” Still, after his prepared remarks he told reporters: “I don’t see consumer spending really continuing to grow faster into the future like it has been.” Household spending accounts for about 70% of the U.S. economy and surged last quarter despite a drop in business investment. The Fed, he said, is ready to “act as appropriate” to help America avoid an economic downturn, echoing closely language used by Fed Chair Jerome Powell used last month which fed expectations of another quarter-point interest-rate cut in September.

But Williams also told reporters he expects the economy to grow at an above-trend pace of 2.0%-2.5% in 2019. “Doesn’t sound like someone ready to ease 50 basis points. Or at all,” quipped Northern Trust economist Carl Tannenbaum on Twitter. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, who in July opposed the first Fed rate cut since 2008, said on Tuesday there is no reason to cut rates as long as the economy keeps growing at around 2%.

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Because the Fed has blown a gigantic housing bubble and made millenials poorer in the process. That’s why.

Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)

Homeownership eludes millions of millennials. There is a whole host of reasons, including personal preferences and economic disadvantages, that explain why the homeownership rate for the largest generation in U.S. history is lower than that of their parents and grandparents. “In my generation — I’m a baby boomer — you bought a home as quickly as you could,” said Laurie Goodman of the Urban Institute. “You didn’t take a vacation for years to save for the down payment on your first home.” Millennials are in less of a rush to get their hands on house keys, Goodman said. Delayed marriage has one of the biggest impacts on their low homeownership rate, the Urban Institute found. Marriage increases one’s likelihood of owning a home by 18 percentage points.

Yet millennials are wedding later — and less. In 1960, the average age at which women and men first married was in their early 20s. Today, the median age for a first marriage is closer to 30. And millennials are three times as likely to have never married as members of the silent generation — those in their 70s and 80s — when they were young. “Homeownership represents a stable place to live for the rest of my life,” Goodman said. “And a lot of single people think this isn’t the rest of my life — I’m going to find a mate and we’re going to put roots down together.” To be sure, even without saying, “I do,” many young people still want to become homeowners. Unmarried couples accounted for 16% of first-time homebuyers in 2017, the highest share on record, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Single men and women accounted for a quarter of first-time homebuyers. Today, just 57% of first-time homebuyers are married, compared with 75% in 1985. Young people are also in no rush to have kids. The share of married households with children, aged 18 to 34, dropped to 25% in 2015, from 37% in 1990. And having a child increases a person’s chance of owning a house by 6 percentage points, the researchers at the Urban Institute calculated. Millennials are also a far more diverse generation than previous ones, and homeownership rates are lower among Hispanic, black and Asian Americans compared with white Americans. While almost 39% of white millennials, aged 18 to 34, own a house, just 14.5% of those black Americans do, according to the Urban Institute.

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Germany has much less of a housing bubble, but they’re not doing much better. The inequality discussion will have to be had. America’s most prosperous era, the baby boomer boom, took place against a backdrop of 70-80% income taxes for the rich.

Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)

A modest proposal by a small party to reintroduce a wealth tax is rejected by conservatives quietly foaming at the mouth. This shows us a little of what is really going on in Germany. Germany at the end of summer 2019 is a country lacking any perspective. It doesn’t know how to deal with climate change; it lacks any notion of what to do about the obvious recession in its own country; it has no way of tackling the serious shortcomings in its infrastructure; it has no idea how to tame its disrupted agriculture and prevent traffic congestion; it debates this and that, but largely without any sense and without any intellectual or political direction.

What is particularly remarkable is how the plans of a small party to (re)introduce a very small and modest wealth tax have been answered by fuming attacks across almost all media and conservative political parties. Remember, this tax was once disposed of politically simply by doing nothing after a limp ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. It is also worth remembering that inequality in income and wealth has since reached completely new dimensions. Don’t forget that the conservative parties constantly make the average voter believe that they are there for him. The media and political reaction to this modest proposal, which currently has no chance of being implemented, gives an idea of what power-relations in the country really are like and what would happen if one seriously tried to do something about inequality.

The paid scribblers in the dominant media know exactly what they have to do when the interests of those in power in the big media houses are threatened. The fact that a newspaper like Handelsblatt comes up with the headline “Robbery of the rich” on the subject of a wealth tax shows that all reason has been abandoned and all standards set aside when it comes to issues of wealth distribution. The Süddeutsche Zeitung shamelessly characterises the SPD’s initiative as an attempt “to make the discrediting of performance and success socially acceptable”. The newspaper, which still has a liberal image, accuses the SPD of betraying its own goal of “advancement” and “mobilising against high performers” (although, to be fair, the SZ also wrote a commentary in favour of a wealth tax, which I should not conceal from you).

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Christopher Balding on Twitter: “No, she hasn’t formally withdrawn the bill. The video with the subtitles say she hasn’t withdrawn the bill. She will PROPOSE withdrawing the bill in a month when the legislature reconvenes.”

Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill that had sparked widespread protests was an olive branch that leaves demonstrators with no excuse to continue violence, the official China Daily said on Thursday. The withdrawal of the bill on Wednesday came after weeks of protests that had sometimes turned into pitched battles across the former British colony of more than 7 million people. More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested. The bill would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Its withdrawal was one of the five key demands of the protesters.


The state-run China Daily said the decision was “a sincere and earnest response to the voice of the community … (that) could be interpreted as an olive branch extended to those who have opposed the bill over the past few months”. The protests began in March but snowballed in June and have evolved into a push for greater democracy for the city, which returned to China in 1997 as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). It was not clear if pulling the bill – which had been suspended since June – would help end the unrest. The headline of the China Daily’s editorial said “protesters now have no excuse to continue violence”

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Who do we protect, the victims or some John Doe?

John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)

An anonymous man terrified he’s about to be named in court papers related to Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s alleged child sex trafficking ring is begging a judge not to release his name and identities of others accused — because it could tarnish their reputations, according to a surprise motion filed Tuesday. Lawyers for the John Doe filed the letter Tuesday — just a day before Epstein’s self-proclaimed “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre is expected to join her lawyers in court as they continue efforts to unseal thousands of pages of documents related to her civil lawsuit against the dead pedophile’s alleged procuress.

“As a non-party to these proceedings, Doe lacks specific knowledge about the contents of the Sealed Materials,” his lawyers wrote to Manhattan federal court judge Loretta Preska. “But it is clear that these materials implicate the privacy and reputational interests of many persons other than the two primary parties to this action, Giuffre and Maxwell.” The letter goes on to say a prior judge overseeing the case summarized the still-secret documents as containing a “range of allegations of sexual acts involving Plaintiff and non-parties to this litigation, some famous, some not; the identities of non-parties who either allegedly engaged in sexual acts with Plaintiff or who allegedly facilitated such acts.”

Doe’s lawyers do not say in the papers if he is famous, or what accusations he expects to face in the court papers. Meanwhile, Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies told The Post he expects Wednesday’s hearing to determine a roadmap for how to deal with the remaining mountain-range of material. “It’s a whole new set of documents, five to 10 times larger in volume than what has been released so far,” the lawyer said, referring to nearly 2,000 pages of case documents that were made public on Aug. 9 — just a day before Epstein’s death by suicide at a lower Manhattan jail. Boies said the still-sealed tranche contains depositions from never-before-heard witnesses, but declined to provide any names. And he said that while his client is planning to attend, he doubts her legal adversary will appear.

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Why we need Julian Assange. He helped Australian police track down pedophiles, he can do it again in the US.

‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)

Still-secret court filings related to sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell could implicate “hundreds of other people,” Maxwell’s lawyer said Wednesday during a hearing. But finding out who they are will take some time. Maxwell’s lawyer and an attorney for women who claim Epstein, a financier, sexually abused them told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska they have not agreed how the documents should be unsealed. Preska was clearly irritated with their lack of progress on the documents, which are part of a defamation lawsuit that one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, filed several years ago against Maxwell, a British socialite.

The case files are known to contain claims by Giuffre that she was sexually abused by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister and other world leaders.” “Did you people not talk about this?” Preska asked the lawyers in federal court in Manhattan when she was told there was no plan in place for reviewing the documents. Preska ended the hearing with a tentative plan to have the attorneys take the next two weeks to hash out a process for categorizing the thousands of pages of sealed documents. After that, the lawyers would have a week to designate which group of documents should be unsealed first, with a rolling week-to-week process thereafter to evaluate the material and argue over how much or how little should be disclosed publicly.

There could be up to 10 categories for the documents. Jeffrey Pagliuca, a lawyer for Maxwell, said the sealed documents include “literally hundreds of pages of investigative reports that mention hundreds of people.” “There are hundreds of other people who could be implicated” in the documents, Pagliuca said.

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Patriotism on steroids.

Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday it was unacceptable for nuclear-armed states to forbid Ankara from obtaining its own nuclear weapons, but did not say whether Turkey had plans to obtain them. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” he told his ruling AK Party members in the eastern city of Sivas. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” Erdogan said. In fact, many developed countries do not have nuclear weapons. Turkey signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1980, and has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear detonations for any purpose.

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“Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail..”

US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)

A senior US official personally offered several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria, the State Department confirmed Wednesday. The Financial Times reported that Brian Hook, the State Department pointman on Iran, sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered “good news” of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1 to a country where it could be seized. “We have seen the Financial Times article and can confirm that the details are accurate,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “We have conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains as well as shipping companies warning them of the consequences of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization,” she said, referring to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.


The Adrian Darya 1 was held for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion that it was set to deliver oil from Iran to its main Arab ally Syria — a violation of European Union sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s iron-fisted regime. Gibraltar released the ship, formerly called the Grace 1, on August 18 over US protests after receiving written assurances that the vessel would not head to countries sanctioned by the European Union. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Hook’s initiative as he pointed to the Financial Times story. “Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail — deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself,” Zarif tweeted.

Read more …

Facebook does not rhyme with privacy.

400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)

Phone numbers linked to more than 400 million Facebook accounts were listed online in the latest privacy lapse for the social media giant, US media reported Wednesday. An exposed server stored 419 million records on users across several databases — including 133 million US accounts, more than 50 million in Vietnam, and 18 million in Britain, according to technology news site TechCruch. The databases listed Facebook user IDs — unique digits attached to each account — the profiles’ phone numbers, as well as the gender listed by some accounts and their geographical locations, technology website TechCrunch reported.


The server was not password protected, meaning anyone could access the databases, and remained online until late Wednesday when TechCrunch contacted the site’s host. Facebook confirmed parts of the report but downplayed the extent of the exposure, saying that the number of accounts so far confirmed was around half of the reported 419 million. It added that many of the entries were duplicates and that the data was old. “The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

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We can not stop ourselves.

Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

Plastic pollution is being deposited into the fossil record, research has found, with contamination increasing exponentially since 1945. Scientists suggest the plastic layers could be used to mark the start of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch in which human activities have come to dominate the planet. They say after the bronze and iron ages, the current period may become known as the plastic age. The study, the first detailed analysis of the rise in plastic pollution in sediments, examined annual layers off the coast of California back to 1834. They discovered the plastic in the layers mirrors precisely the exponential rise in plastic production over the past 70 years.

Most of the plastic particles were fibres from synthetic fabrics used in clothes, indicating that plastics are flowing freely into the ocean through waste water. “Our love of plastic is being left behind in our fossil record,” said Jennifer Brandon, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, who led the study. “It is bad for the animals that live at the bottom of the ocean: coral reefs, mussels, oysters and so on. But the fact that it is getting into our fossil record is more of an existential question. “We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she said. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.”

Many millions of tonnes of plastic are discarded into the environment every year and are broken down into small particles and fibres that do not biodegrade. Microplastics have been found everywhere from the deepest oceans to high mountains and even the Arctic air, showing pervasive pollution of the planet. Research is limited but eating plastic is known to harm marine creatures. Humans are believed to consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year through food and water. The health impact is unknown but microplastics can release toxic substances and may penetrate tissues.

Read more …

 

The Hong Kong government runs ads in the international press:

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 212019
 
 July 21, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong, who’s reflected in his visor

 

 

The Ham of Fate (Fintan O’Toole)
Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)
The Story Began With UK’s Seizure Of Iranian-Flagged Ship In Gibraltar (O.)
Bolton Lured Britain Into A Dangerous Trap To Punish Iran (G.)
British Letter to UN Says Iran Approached Tanker In Omani Waters (R.)
Britain Mulls Sanctions In Response To Iran Tanker Seizure (R.)
UK Too Weak To Address Strategic Threats, Warns MP Committee (O.)
Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)
Mueller Should Be Arrested For Conspiracy To Overthrow Trump (PCR)
Are Libertarians the New Neocons? (Daniel McAdams)
War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex (Orlov)
Final Voyage (Kunstler)

 

 

A lot about Britain today, with a new PM being announced on Tuesday and taking over from Theresa May on Wednesday. And that at a point in time when the country has committed its biggest international blunder in years (though competition’s stiff) with the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker two weeks ago.

The Ham of Fate (Fintan O’Toole)

The Leave campaign that Johnson led to a stunning victory in the Brexit referendum of June 2016 owed much of its success to its carefully calibrated slogan “Take Back Control.” Akrasia, which is discussed in depth by Socrates, Plato, and especially Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, is the contrary of control. It means literally “not being in command of oneself” and is translated variously as “weakness of will,” “incontinence,” and “loss of self-control.” To Aristotle, an akratic is a person who knows the right thing to do but can’t help doing the opposite. This is not just, as he himself seems to have intuited, Boris Johnson to a tee. It is also the reason why he embodies more than anyone else a Brexit project in which the very people who promised to take back control are utterly incapable of exercising it, even over themselves.

To grasp how Johnson’s akratic character has brought his country to a state approaching anarchy, it is necessary to return to the days immediately before February 21, 2016, when he announced to an expectant throng of journalists that he would support the Leave campaign. This was a crucial moment—polls have since shown that, in what turned out to be a very close-run referendum, Boris, as the mayor of London had branded himself, had a greater influence on voters than anyone else. “Character is destiny, said the Greeks, and I agree,” writes Johnson in The Churchill Factor, his 2014 book about Winston Churchill, which carries the telling subtitle “How One Man Made History.”

While the book shows Johnson to be a true believer in the Great Man theory of history, his own moment of destiny plays it out as farce, the fate of a nation turning not on Churchillian resolution but on Johnsonian indecision. For Johnson was, in his own words, “veering all over the place like a shopping trolley.” On Saturday, February 20, he texted Prime Minister David Cameron to say he was going to advocate for Brexit. A few hours later, he texted again to say that he might change his mind and back Remain. Sometime between then and the following day, he wrote at least two different columns for the Daily Telegraph—his deadline was looming, so he wrote one passionately arguing for Leave and one arguing that the cost of Brexit would be too high. (Asked once if he had any convictions, Johnson replied, “Only one—for speeding…”)

Read more …

Nothing wrong with leaving the EU, but everything wrong with how it’s been executed.

Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)

If, during the 2016 referendum campaign, you had told voters that MPs would be scrambling to stop the prime minister shutting down the legislature in order to force through food shortages, mass job losses and a crash in the pound, someone might have needed to change the slogan on the side of that bus. What is happening right now in Britain goes beyond any previously conceivable limits of responsible or accountable governance. Viewed against the country which seemed to exist just a few years ago, it is quite literally unbelievable. It’s not just that Brexit is a case of “I told you so”: the harm to our national political fabric has been more catastrophic than even the most pessimistic Remainer could have contemplated.

Britain is now heading into immediate, unabated crisis, but the consequences could last for years or even decades. Even the most conservative estimates suggest damage to our economy in all circumstances if we leave, contrary to everything campaigners promised. The neutral Office for Budget Responsibility this week forecast a significant recession in the event of no-deal. But the economic damage will almost certainly take less time to repair than the damage to our politics and society. What was billed as a way for people to take back control of democracy has become a systematic attack on every institution which underpins it.

First the Brexiters came for political opponents. Any prominent Remainer who dared question the legitimacy of the referendum or, heaven forbid, suggested a new one in the light of changed circumstances, was branded a traitor, an enemy of democracy, an elitist, a Remoaner, someone who wanted to subvert the will of the people, someone who knew best, someone who hated Britain. It was devastatingly effective. Brexit’s leaders rapidly and comprehensively refigured democratic opposition as opposition to democracy. All potential opponents, particularly in parliament itself, were cowed into affirming “respect for the result.” It became a standard vow of allegiance to a movement they knew to be disastrous, and they had little choice but to make it.

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“The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.”

The Story Began With UK’s Seizure Of Iranian-Flagged Ship In Gibraltar (O.)

The morning after a group of 30 Royal Marines helped seize the Iranian-flagged Grace 1 in Gibraltar, tired Foreign Office officials did not look exactly jubilant. There was not exactly a sense of foreboding, but diplomats were aware of the wider bilateral consequences for British-Iranian relations. Now, with the capture of a British-owned oil tanker in the Gulf, some of their worst fears have been realised. The Stena Impero and its crew of more than 20 are now in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – and the UK has been shown to be unable to protect British shipping going through the waterways of the strait of Hormuz.

The British insist that they only impounded Grace 1 due its suspected destination – a port in Syria – not due to the fact that the ship was carrying Iranian oil. European Union sanctions against the regime of Bashir al Assad regime were there to be enforced and international law upheld, the British argued. There seemed little doubt, given its circuitous route, that the ship was bound for Syria. Yet there were some oddities to the British decision. Few previous shipments of oil to Syria have been impounded. The Spanish claim that the British acted under the instruction of the Americans. The Trump administration is trying to freeze all Iranian oil exports as part of its policy of maximum economic sanctions designed to force the Iranians to reopen talks on the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

But Britain opposes that US policy, arguing that it is counterproductive and only likely to strengthen the hands of hardliners in Tehran. Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and co-chair of the European council on foreign relations, pinpointed the ambiguities of the British action in Gibraltar: “The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.”

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He didn’t lure Britain, but a handful of intellectually challenged posh kids. And anyway it’s far too easy to blame this on Bolton. They did it themselves, May and Hunt et al.

Bolton Lured Britain Into A Dangerous Trap To Punish Iran (G.)

John Bolton, White House national security adviser and notorious Iraq-era hawk, is a man on a mission. Given broad latitude over policy by Donald Trump, he is widely held to be driving the US confrontation with Iran. And in his passionate bid to tame Tehran, Bolton cares little who gets hurt – even if collateral damage includes a close ally such as Britain. So when Bolton heard British Royal Marines had seized an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar on America’s Independence Day, his joy was unconfined. “Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” he exulted on Twitter. Bolton’s delighted reaction suggested the seizure was a surprise.


But accumulating evidence suggests the opposite is true, and that Bolton’s national security team was directly involved in manufacturing the Gibraltar incident. The suspicion is that Conservative politicians, distracted by picking a new prime minister, jockeying for power, and preoccupied with Brexit, stumbled into an American trap. In short, it seems, Britain was set up. The consequences of the Gibraltar affair are only now becoming clear. The seizure of Grace I led directly to Friday’s capture by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz. Although it has not made an explicit link, Iran had previously vowed to retaliate for Britain’s Gibraltar “piracy”. Now it has its revenge.

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I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but it doesn’t matter. Moreover, Spain says Gibraltar is not British either.

British Letter to UN Says Iran Approached Tanker In Omani Waters (R.)

Britain told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday that a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action “constitutes illegal interference.” “The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law,” Britain’s U.N. mission wrote to the Security Council. “International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference.” The letter, seen by Reuters, was also sent to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


Friday’s action in the global oil trade’s most important waterway has been viewed in the West as a major escalation after three months of confrontation that has already taken Iran and the United States to the brink of war. It follows threats from Tehran to retaliate for Britain’s seizure on July 4 of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria. “Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran,” the letter read. “But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognized transit corridors.” Britain called on Iran to release the Stena Impero tanker and told the Security Council it was working to resolve the issue through diplomatic means.

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Ha ha. You mean there are sanctions that haven’t been applied yet?

Britain Mulls Sanctions In Response To Iran Tanker Seizure (R.)

British ministers are making plans aimed at targeting Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce on Sunday diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to the report. Britain could push for United Nations and European Union sanctions to be reimposed on Iran after they had been lifted in 2016 following a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Telegraph reported.

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This is about weaponry, but I’d suggest the UK is mentally too weak.

UK Too Weak To Address Strategic Threats, Warns MP Committee (O.)

The government has repeatedly failed to invest in defence and security, leaving the UK struggling to cope with emerging threats, an influential parliamentary committee was due to warn on Sunday in a report thrown into sharp relief by the developing crisis in the Persian Gulf. The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy says the next prime minister will have to tackle major challenges – from growing strains on the UK’s relationship with the US and the EU, to the rise of China – if the UK is to meet its defence ambitions.

“If the Government wants to turn the ‘Global Britain’ concept into a meaningful strategy for a positive and self-assured role for the UK after its departure from the EU, then it needs to be more honest about how it proposes to address these challenges,” said the committee chair, Margaret Beckett MP. “It must also back this up with the necessary funding and resources, especially for defence and diplomacy.”

The report’s publication comes after the former chief of defence staff, Lord Richards, warned that the Royal Navy was “just too small to have a significant effect without being with allies”. Speaking in response to the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iranian authorities, Richards told BBC radio’s Today programme: “The fact is, for whatever reason, our government has invested relatively little against the threat and the risks that we face, particularly more and more in the longer term.” The former first sea lord, Lord West of Spithead, told Sky News that the navy had “too few ships” to escort merchant vessels in dangerous waters.

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@Jack has gone into politics. Bad move.

Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)

A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith. Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure. But Twitter cited what it said was the coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran. It did not name the suspended accounts, and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.


“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules,” read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets’ accounts. Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil. Mehr’s Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists’ Club.

Read more …

Wednesday July 24, big day: Boris becomes British PM and Bob Mueller’s circus comes to town.

Mueller Should Be Arrested For Conspiracy To Overthrow Trump (PCR)

The Mueller report, which had no choice as there was no evidence, but to clear Donald Trump of conspiring with Russian President Putin to steal the last US presidential election from Hillary Clinton, nevertheless managed to keep an aspect of the manufactured hoax known as “Russiagate” alive by indicting some Russian intelligence officers and a Russian Internet clickbait operation for attempting to discredit Hillary with Internet postings. At the time I noticed that Muller’s indictments were based only on his assertion and not on any evidence. As there was no prospect whatsoever of the fake indictments coming to trial, I did not comment on them. I focused instead on Mueller’s statement that Trump might have obstructed justice although he lacked evidence to support the charge.


I noted how corrupt American law has become when it is possible to obstruct justice in the absence of a crime. Democrats and presstitutes were determined to get Trump by any means and remain uninterested in how justice is obstructed when there is no crime. In retrospect, not picking up on Mueller’s indictment-by-hearsay of Russians was a mistake. Not only have the Democrats continued their Russiagate campaign on the basis of the unsubstantiated indictments, but, more importantly, the indictments-by-assertion-alone show Mueller’s total lack of moral character. A prosecutor, indeed a former Director of the FBI, who confuses his unsubstantiated allegation with evidence, is not only a person devoid of any respect for law, but also an extremely dangerous person to have been vetted for the high government positions that he has held.

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Or is that the Liberals?

Are Libertarians the New Neocons? (Daniel McAdams)

There is a disturbing trend in some libertarian circles and among some libertarian organizations to be increasingly enamored with foreign interventionism and US government backed regime change overseas. For those focused on foreign affairs, this is particularly troubling as it is abandoning a key tenet of libertarianism: non-interventionism. Not “your government 6,000 miles away must be changed… but I don’t support the US military doing it.” That is not non-interventionism. Non-interventionism is accepting that others may wish to live in a way you may not approve of. Non-interventionism in your neighbor’s affairs – whether he enjoys reading the Bible or lighting up a marijuana cigarette (or maybe both) – is really the sine qua non of the libertarian mindset: “aint nobody’s business if you do.”

You do not aggress against your neighbor just because you disagree with his life choices that do not infringe on your person or property and you extrapolate that dynamic to where you demand that to the highest extent possible your local, state, and federal governments treat you as you would treat your neighbor. The idea that this critical impulse somehow becomes null and void when it comes to international affairs is truly bizarre. In fact many self-described libertarians full-throatedly cheer when people are in the streets thousands of miles away trying to overthrow their governments. Somehow from this far distant vantage point they are just convinced that the mythical “free state” is about to break out somewhere.

And when someone points out that the semi-hidden hand behind these uprisings is the US government, which seeks to create overseas governments of subservient elites to prop up the (anti-libertarian) US empire, they accuse that person of being an extremist or a conspiracy theorist…or they get really lazy and stupid and just claim you are a “supporter” of the dictator of the day. So, many US libertarians (who knew next to nothing about Venezuela) demanded our support for that great “libertarian” liberator of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, who turned out to be just another crook with zero support from Venezuelans (but a lot of support from the CIA!).

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Dmitry, from a Russian perspective, shining his light on what I’ve repeatedly said: the US makes weapons for profit, Russia makes them to defend itself (from US weapons).

War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex (Orlov)

Within the vast bureaucratic sprawl of the Pentagon there is a group in charge of monitoring the general state of the military-industrial complex and its continued ability to fulfill the requirements of the national defense strategy. Office for acquisition and sustainment and office for industrial policy spends some $100,000 a year producing an Annual Report to Congress. It is available to the general public. It is even available to the general public in Russia, and Russian experts had a really good time poring over it. In fact, it filled them with optimism. You see, Russia wants peace but the US seems to want war and keeps making threatening gestures against a longish list of countries that refuse to do its bidding or simply don’t share its “universal values.”

But now it turns out that threats (and the increasingly toothless economic sanctions) are pretty much all that the US is still capable of dishing out—this in spite of absolutely astronomical levels of defense spending. Let’s see what the US military-industrial complex looks like through a Russian lens. It is important to note that the report’s authors were not aiming to force legislators to finance some specific project. This makes it more valuable than numerous other sources, whose authors’ main objective was to belly up to the federal feeding trough, and which therefore tend to be light on facts and heavy on hype. No doubt, politics still played a part in how various details are portrayed, but there seems to be a limit to the number of problems its authors can airbrush out of the picture and still do a reasonable job in analyzing the situation and in formulating their recommendations.

What knocked Russian analysis over with a feather is the fact that these INDPOL experts (who, like the rest of the US DOD, love acronyms) evaluate the US military-industrial complex from a… market-based perspective! You see, the Russian military-industrial complex is fully owned by the Russian government and works exclusively in its interests; anything else would be considered treason. But the US military-industrial complex is evaluated based on its… profitability! According to INDPOL, it must not only produce products for the military but also acquire market share in the global weapons trade and, perhaps most importantly, maximize profitability for private investors. By this standard, it is doing well: for 2017 the gross margin (EBITDA) for US defense contractors ranged from 15 to 17%, and some subcontractors—Transdigm, for example—managed to deliver no less than 42-45%. “Ah!” cry the Russian experts, “We’ve found the problem! The Americans have legalized war profiteering!”

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“I doubt the former Special Counsel will ever sit in that hot-seat.”

Final Voyage (Kunstler)

[..] the party’s pathetic attempt to revive the walking dead narrative of RussiaGate is not working too well down on Jerold Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee. The chairman apparently discovered that his star witness, Robert Mueller, might have to answer some embarrassing questions about the conduct of his investigation — like, why did it go on for two years when his chief deputy, Mr. Weissmann, was informed from the get-go that the main predicate document was a fraud? So, Mr. Mueller’s turn in the witness chair keeps getting postponed clear into the August recess. I doubt the former Special Counsel will ever sit in that hot-seat. If I was him, I sure wouldn’t do it voluntarily. Oh, did anyone notice the House staged an impeachment vote on Wednesday? It flopped too.


Finally, there is the walking time-bomb known as Jeffrey Epstein, Democratic Party poohbah and impresario of an underage sex racket featuring the “Lolita Express” airplane service to his private “Orgy Island” in the Caribbean, with auxiliary party shacks in New York City and the New Mexico Desert. Rogue reports have been styling Epstein’s doings as an international blackmailing operation associated with the CIA and other Intel outfits, including the UK’s MI6 and Israel’s Mossad, for the purpose of keeping international bigshots on a short leash. Who knows? At the center of it all is former President Bill Clinton, listed twenty-six times on the Lolita Express’s flight manifest — though the ex-Prez said last week in a statement that it was only four times. (Consider the source.) A raft of unsealed documents in the matter has been court-ordered to drop any day, and power-players all over the world — especially in our nation’s capital and on Wall Street — are rumored to be chewing their fingernails down to the nubbins as they wait for it.

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Jul 202019
 


 

‘Looking to Break Status Quo,’ Iran Seizes UK Tanker (Defense One)
Deflationary Bust Baked in the Cake (Mish)
Fed’s Rosengren Doesn’t See The Case For A US Rate Cut (R.)
Market Needs Deep Rate Cut To Prevent Earnings Recession – Bianco (CNBC)
After Williams “Misguidance”, Fed Leaks No 50bps Rate Cut This Month (ZH)
Airlines Delay Boeing Max 737 Return Until November (G.)
Kids Could End Up In Foster Care Over Unpaid School Lunch Bills (USAT)
In a Crisis of Democracy, We Must All Become Julian Assange (Hayase)
Jim Acosta Won’t Condemn Espionage Act Being Used Against Julian Assange (CF)
Trump Was Oddly Reasonable About Plastic Straws (G.)
Germany’s Forests On The Verge Of Collapse (DW)

 

 

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, knows exactly what’s going on, and only narrowly shies away from blaming US and UK for the problems:

“They’re not looking to do something that is going to spiral out of control because war is not what they’re looking for.. But at the same time, their decision calculus is they’ve gotta do something in response.”

‘Looking to Break Status Quo,’ Iran Seizes UK Tanker (Defense One)

Iranian forces have seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, heightening the uncertainty in the region amid the disintegrating Iran nuclear deal and reigniting fears that simmering tensions with Iran could flare into conflict. A Liberian-flagged tanker was also seized, British officials said Friday. None of the captured crew are British citizens and it was not immediately apparent whether there were any casualties. Iran has protested the July 4 British seizure of one of its tankers in Gibraltar, which the U.K. said was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Asked on Friday whether Friday’s incident was a likely retaliation for the detention of their ship, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that Iran typically looks for “things that are proportional in nature” to respond to actions from other nations that it considers a threat. Broadly, Iran is seeking to “break the status quo” of the Trump administration’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign of stifling sanctions, Ashley said. “They’re not looking to do something that is going to spiral out of control because war is not what they’re looking for,” Ashley told a small group of reporters at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “But at the same time, their decision calculus is they’ve gotta do something in response.”

The Trump administration has warned since May that Tehran is carrying out an intensifying campaign of provocative actions. Last month, President Trump ordered and then canceled airstrikes in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone that Iran said was flying in its airspace. (The United States says that the drone was flying over international waters.) On Thursday, U.S. Marines destroyed a drone that the White House said was Iranian (Tehran denies it) and which Pentagon officials said was closing in on an amphibious assault ship operating in the region.


If the United States hadn’t ordered airstrikes in June, this latest episode might not have drawn as much attention, said Mara Karlin, a Brookings Institution fellow and former defense official. But now, she said, Trump’s flirtation with airstrikes in June makes it almost impossible to predict how the White House, which has made constraining Iran a key pillar of its foreign policy, might respond to the seizure of a ship flagged to its closest ally. “We’re now in a totally different landscape,” she said, where both Iran and U.S. allies like the U.K. don’t understand Trump’s “escalation ladder.”

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Rate cuts no longer matter, says Mish.

Deflationary Bust Baked in the Cake (Mish)

A number of Fed governors and economic writers want a big cuts for insurance purposes. These people are economic illiterates. Rate cuts now as economic insurance is like trying to buy insurance on your car after you wrecked it. The bubbles have been blown. Rate cuts cannot unblow economic bubbles any more than they can unblow a horn.The bottom line at this point is an economic recession is baked in the cake. The global economy is slowing and the US will not be immune. It’s possible the US is in recession already, but consumer spending does not point that way, unless it’s revised. It’s all moot. The Fed has been fighting the deflation boogeyman.


Yet, the BIS did a historical study and found routine deflation was not any problem at all. “Deflation may actually boost output. Lower prices increase real incomes and wealth. And they may also make export goods more competitive,” stated the study. In the Fed’s foolish attempt to stave off consumer price deflation, the Fed sowed the seeds of a very destructive set of asset bubbles in junk bonds, housing, and the stock market. The widely discussed “everything bubble” is, in reality, a corporate junk bond bubble on steroids sponsored by the Fed. A 50 or even 100 basis point cut won’t matter now. It’s too late to matter. The debt deflation horn has already sounded.

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But if rate cuts no longer matter, then neither does the Fed. Can’t have that.

Fed’s Rosengren Doesn’t See The Case For A US Rate Cut (R.)

Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren on Friday pushed back against expectations for an interest-rate cut when Fed policymakers meet later this month, saying the U.S. economy does not need a boost the way some other countries might. “It makes sense that if I was in Japan or if I was at the ECB (European Central Bank) that I would seriously be thinking about easing,” Rosengren said in an interview with CNBC. “The U.S. economy is not at that point, the economy is actually quite reasonable at this stage. So, if that were to change, I’d be happy to ease that point. But I don’t want to ease if the economy is doing perfectly well without that easing.”


In a separate interview, conducted Thursday and published Friday, Rosengren told the Wall Street Journal that economic data had improved since the Fed met in June, when it held rates steady. On Thursday, comments by New York Fed President John Williams stoked expectations that the U.S. central bank would cut rates by a half-percentage-point when it meets on July 30-31. But those expectations were deflated just hours later when a New York Fed representative said the comments were not meant to signal policy actions at the upcoming meeting. The Fed is widely expected to cut rates for the first time in a decade at its July meeting. Friday was the last day that investors will hear from Fed officials until they release their policy statement at the close of the July meeting.

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Imagine seeing your self as a ‘market guy’, but failing to see there is no market left.

Market Needs Deep Rate Cut To Prevent Earnings Recession – Bianco (CNBC)

Market researcher James Bianco believes Wall Street is teetering closer to an earnings recession. Unless the Federal Reserve intervenes with a bigger-than-expected 50 basis point cut, he’s worried that year-over-year earnings growth rates for the second and third quarters will go even lower. “The estimates for the third quarter are somewhere just below zero. This is not earnings growth. This is just struggling to stay at zero,” the Bianco Research president told CNBC’s “Trading Nation ” on Wednesday. Bianco is building his case on an ominous trend in the current quarter’s S&P 500 earnings expectations.


“The estimates have just gone negative in the last week or so,” said Bianco. “They’re only down a couple of 10ths, but they are negative. And, they’ve been in a downtrend of several months.” Bianco, who calls himself a “market guy,” has been firmly in the rate-cut camp. He has been calling for the Fed to slash rates four times over the next 12 months. He is concerned the longer the 10-year and 3-month U.S. Treasury yields are inverted, corporate profits could sustain more damage. “It’s telling you that money is too tight for four or five months,” Bianco said. “Better to go 50 [basis point cut] now and you can raise rates later.”

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I see a bunch of spoiled, undereducated and overpaid kids shouting out to hide their ignorance.

After Williams “Misguidance”, Fed Leaks No 50bps Rate Cut This Month (ZH)

How do you put the monetary genie back in the bottle? That is what the Federal Reserve is scrambling to figure out today after a day of unprecedented miscommunication by NY Fed president John Wiliams, who as we reported on Thursday, not only singlehandedly repriced market expectations for a 50bps rate cut on July 31, but went so far as to hint that ZIRP is coming back. The fact that even uber dove, St Louis Fed president James Bullard, afterwards said they were expecting 25bps at best, was their desperate attempt to reset market expectations back to 25bps, but by then it was too late, and as of moments ago, the market was pricing in roughly 40% odds of a 50bps rate cut in two weeks, down from 70% yesterday. In retrospect, Williams made a massive communication mistake.

As Bank of America explained earlier today in a note from chief economist Michelle Meyer titled “The 50bps head fake”, in which she wrote that “on Thursday NY Fed President Williams gave a speech titled “Living Life Near the ZLB” arguing for monetary policy to be proactive and aggressive when confronting an “adverse” outlook. He argued that when short-term interest rates are close to zero, policymakers shouldn’t “keep their powder dry” and that they could not afford to take an “`wait and see’ approach to gain additional clarity about potentially adverse economic developments.” Shortly after, in a TV interview, Vice Chair Clarida strongly argued that it is prudent to take preventative measures with monetary policy when close to the zero lower bound (ZLB). Together, these comments moved markets closer to a 50bp cut at the end of the month.”


However, in an unprecedented move, the NY Fed subsequently released a statement stating that President Williams’s speech on Thursday afternoon was not intended to send a signal that the Fed might make a large interest rate cut this month but rather it was “an academic speech on 20 years of research.” Why did the NY Fed do this? Simple: as BofA explains, “the FOMC was uncomfortable with the market moving toward a 50bp cut and wanted to push the market back to a 25bp baseline.” In other words, as Meyer puts it, “Williams unintentionally misguided the markets”.

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Like they have any say in the matter.

Airlines Delay Boeing Max 737 Return Until November (G.)

The swift return of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft to the skies was put further in doubt this week with airlines signalling that they do not hope to operate the plane any time soon. With more than four months already elapsed since the plane was grounded by regulators, Southwest and American, two of the jet’s main US operators, followed United Airlines in saying they would be taking the Max out of their schedules until November. Ryanair, Europe’s biggest short-haul carrier, also announced it would have to curb expansion plans pinned on the arrival of its 737 Max orders and that some airport bases would have to shut as a result. Making the announcement on Tuesday, its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said he remained committed to the plane: “We’ve described them as gamechangers – and they remain gamechangers.”


But O’Leary admitted even its biggest customers – Ryanair has ordered 135 models – have little visibility on its immediate future: “We’re still operating in the realms of considerable uncertainty … there are no guarantees.” [..] Elsewhere this week, it became clear that restoring trust among passengers could take longer than fixing the plane. In Washington, relatives of passengers who died in the Ethiopian disaster told Congressional hearings that Boeing had focused on profits “at the expense of human life”. In a blistering attack on the manufacturer and the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), Paul Njoroge, who lost five family members including his wife and three children in the crash, warned that, without change, “another plane will dive to the ground, killing me, you”.

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“After complaints, district officials announced they plan to send out a less threatening letter next week.”

Kids Could End Up In Foster Care Over Unpaid School Lunch Bills (USAT)

A Pennsylvania school district is warning children could end up in foster care if their parents do not pay overdue school lunch bills. The letters sent recently to about 1,000 parents in Wyoming Valley West School District have led to complaints from parents and a stern rebuke from Luzerne County child welfare authorities. The district says that it is trying to collect more than $20,000, and that other methods to get parents to pay have not been successful. Four parents owe at least $450 apiece. The letter claims the unpaid bills could lead to dependency hearings and removal of their children for not providing them with food. “You can be sent to dependency court for neglecting your child’s right to food. The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care,” the letter read. After complaints, district officials announced they plan to send out a less threatening letter next week.

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This is good.

In a Crisis of Democracy, We Must All Become Julian Assange (Hayase)

The framers of the constitution wanted to have power over people. As a testimony to this, the original draft of the constitution did not have a Bill of Rights. They were added to the constitution as amendments. This didn’t come about without a struggle. The proponents of the Bill of Rights demanded them in order to safeguard individual liberty and challenged those who seek to preserve levers of control. Even after the constitution was ratified with a Bill of Rights, the existence of this unaccounted power was never truly addressed. The wording of the First Amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Here, the First Amendment was aimed to restrict the governmental power. It was specifically addressing what Congress can’t do. However, the constitution didn’t ensure that corporations would not be able to circumvent laws and restrict freedom of speech. This lack of oversight made the system of governance vulnerable to corruption, as was observed by Thomas Jefferson, when he warned American people about a time when the American system of government would degenerate into a form of “elective despotism”.

The managed democracy relies on secrecy and deception to control the will of the populace. With the infiltration of commercial interests and the consolidation of media, the big business class has found a way to regulate free speech on their terms. The establishment of corporate media turned journalists’ First Amendment protection into a privilege that they can use against the public. Journalists, who have now become a new class of professionals, no longer share interests with ordinary people. They serve the agendas of the powerful state in maintaining an illusion of democracy, by restricting the flow of information and controlling narratives. For instance, the New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.


With the merger of the state and corporations, the power of private companies to influence governments and erode civil liberty has increased. Transnational corporations can now revoke and restrict basic rights at any time, crossing the judicial boundaries on the borderless cyberspace. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter censor free speech online and, without warrant, spy and invade the privacy of users.

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Cassandra.

Jim Acosta Won’t Condemn Espionage Act Being Used Against Julian Assange (CF)

CNN talking head, and resident White House activist, Jim Acosta refused to condemn the Espionage Act being used against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange at an event where he was attempting to portray himself as a defender of the free press. Acosta’s book is titled, “The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America,” but do not let that headline fool you into thinking that he supports the freedom of the press. Acosta was asked about his thoughts on the subject by YouTuber Matt Orfalea at an event at the Newseum over the weekend titled, “The President and the Press: The First Amendment and the First 100 Days.”

The question asked by Orfalea was simple, “what do you think of the Trump administration’s use of the controversial Espionage Act to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified information in the 2010s that exposed war crimes, informed the public, and didn’t harm anyone?” Assange has been charged for his release of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs which were provided to him by Chelsea Manning. He is not currently charged with anything related to the 2016 election, but that did not stop Acosta from trying to make a case for why he wants to see him punished for the 2010 release as payback for the completely unrelated publication of the Democratic National Committee emails.

“I am probably not gonna give you a satisfactory answer,” Acosta correctly began, “but I’m gonna do the best that I can. “I do think, and forgive me if you don’t agree with me on this, I do think what happened with us and my press pass case is slightly different than what happened with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks,” Acosta said. The CNN pundit was correct here, as Assange has published world changing information and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on seven occasions. Acosta simply attempts to insert himself into news cycles to go viral and keep his face on television.


“My understanding about the Julian Assange situation is that, you know, he is being charged not just for trying to speak truth to power, and trying to reveal things. He’s in trouble for other things. What we’ve seen during the 2016 campaign where there were contacts between WikiLeaks and Russian operatives — that I think takes WikiLeaks and Julian Assange into sort of a different category than just a straight news organization — straight publisher of news around the world,” Acosta stammered on, as if he himself is part of a “straight news organization.” Acosta added that he is not “rendering a verdict on Julian Assange” and that he should have his day in court.

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The Guardian struggles to agree with Trump on anything at all.

Trump Was Oddly Reasonable About Plastic Straws (G.)

[..] it was the question from a reporter who piped up after Trump had stonewalled a question on his felonious former fixer that was the last, well … “Are you in favor of banning plastic straws?” the reporter asked. “I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws,” Trump responded. “You know, it’s interesting about plastic straws: so, you have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers, and everything else that are much bigger and they’re made of the same material? So, the straws are interesting. Everybody focuses on the straws. There’s a lot of other things to focus on. But it’s an – it’s an interesting question.”

Trump’s response is largely remarkable for how reasonable it is. Straws are an interesting question that have garnered disproportionate focus, and other single-use plastics, such as cups, plates and wrappers, do need to be part of efforts to address our unsustainable addiction to plastic. [..] Plastic straws only make up about 1% of the plastic waste in the ocean, according to Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions. And while plastic straw bans alone will solve neither climate change nor plastic pollution, they have also been criticized by advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, who often need straws to drink. Kim Sauder, a PhD student in disability studies, has described such bans as “environmental theater”.

[..] Trump’s response is also surprising because, for once, he eschewed fanning the fire of a culture war that his campaign has been attempting to stoke. Plastic straw selfies were a mini-Maga meme last summer, with various rightwing pseudocelebrities photographed themselves wasting plastic for no reason other than to “own the libs” who care about sea turtles and sustainability. This week, Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale attempted to recapture the meme magic with a tweet comparing the efficacy of paper straws to “liberal progress”. “This is exactly what they would do to the economy as well,” he tweeted. “Squeeze it until it doesn’t work.”


The campaign website is also selling packs of 10 plastic straws “laser engraved” with Trump’s name for $15, with the tagline: “Liberal paper straws don’t work.” But if the campaign message was supposed to be “Vote for Trump because the libs are coming for your straws”, Trump himself failed to get the memo.

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Didn’t need the sensationalist headline. Issues are bad enough.

Germany’s Forests On The Verge Of Collapse (DW)

Germany’s forests are undoubtedly suffering as a result of climate change, with millions of seedlings planted in the hope of diversifying and restoring forests dying, warns Ulrich Dohle, chairman of the 10,000-member Bunds Deutscher Forstleute (BDF) forestry trade union. “It’s a catastrophe. German forests are close to collapsing,” Dohle added in an interview with t-online, a online news portal of Germany’s Ströer media group. Low rainfall last summer saw Germany’s rivers reach extreme lows, with some waterways still struggling and forests prone to fire. “These are no longer single unusual weather events. That is climate change,” said Dohle.

Helge Bruelheide, co-director of Germany’s Center for Integrative Biodiversity, warned: “if the trend prevails and the annual precipitation sinks below 400 millimeters (15.7 inches) then there will be areas in Germany that will no longer be forestable.” Lüdenscheid, a densely forested area in central Germany, was no exception, Bohle added. Its precipitation had slumped from one-meter (3.2-meters) in 2017 to only 483 millimeters last year. Catchments in central Europe collected only 10% more rainfall in the first half of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018, a trend exacerbated by uneven wet-then-dry months,Germany’s Institute of Hydrology (BFG) reported Thursday.


Low river levels “remain unchanged” in many parts of Germany, the BFG said, with only the Rhine River currently carrying sufficient water for shipping. It’s expected to fall in the coming weeks as dry, warmer weather returns. What Dohle of the forestry trade union termed “dramatic tree deaths” began with winter snow dumps in early 2018 which broke branches, weakening the trees’ natural defences and letting in fungal infections, “followed by drought and bark beetle infestation” that killed off European spruce trees. One million older trees have since died — not only heat susceptible spruces, but even Germany’s prized European Red Beech which had been widely planted over the past decade in the hope of creating climate stable forests, Dohle added.

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Picture Zero Hedge used with my article yesterday:

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 122019
 


Jack Delano Rebuilt Chicago and North Western Railroad caboose at the Proviso yard in Chicago 1943

 

Making Banking Boring Again: The Decline Of Deutsche Bank (NS)
The Parable of Deutsche Bank and Investment Banking (Wright)
Bank Of England Warns Of Lending Crisis For EU Firms After No-Deal Brexit (G.)
Epstein Sold ‘Lolita Express’ Weeks Before Arrest (ZH)
Did Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Work for Mossad? (Giraldi)
AOC on the 2020 Presidential Race and Trump’s Crisis at the Border (NYer)
Guardian Publishes, Then Censors Jewish Open Letter Defending Labour MP (GZ)
BBC Panorama’s Hatchet Job On Labour Antisemitism (Cook)
Bitcoin Extends Losses After Fed Chief Urges Halt To Facebook’s Libra (R.)
Japan Crypto Exchange Says $32 Million Missing In Hack (AFP)
Iran Calls On Britain To Release Seized Oil Tanker Immediately (R.)
Greek Growth Expected To Recover In The Second Half Of The Year (K.)

 

 

“If Deutsche falls, it could pull many other European banks down with it.” And American banks too.

Making Banking Boring Again: The Decline Of Deutsche Bank (NS)

There once was a time when Deutsche Bank’s central purpose was to expand its investment banking operations to compete with its American counterparts. On Sunday (7 July), its CEO declared those “days of spectacular ambition” over, announcing a major restructuring in a last attempt to save the bank from collapse. In a decade of decline for the once-great European investment banks, Deutsche has fared particularly badly. In the aftermath of the financial crash, it refused a German government bailout. Regulators have since discovered it was only able to do so by fiddling its books, earning it a large fine from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The bank has remained fragile. The IMF called it the “most important net contributor to systemic risks in the global banking system”.


If Deutsche falls, it could pull many other European banks down with it. It has also been breaking rules in pursuit of a return to profitability. It earned big post-crisis fines for its role in the Libor rigging scandal, for laundering Russian money, and for violating US sanctions against a string of countries. The bank’s share price has fallen to below €7, from a pre-crisis peak of €112. The scale of its restructuring has shocked many analysts. Having already squeezed shareholders for huge amounts of capital, Deutsche aims to pay for it by cutting costs. Eighteen thousand jobs will be lost worldwide and the bank will shift away from expensive investment banking and return to its “traditional strengths” in corporate banking.

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Quite obvious what went wrong.

The Parable of Deutsche Bank and Investment Banking (Wright)

I first started writing about Deutsche Bank in the mid-1990s as a cub reporter on a City trade paper and this week’s news made me feel quite nostalgic. My first interview as a reporter in 1996 was on an empty trading floor in the City with someone called Edson Mitchell – the uber-trader hired by Deutsche Bank in 1995 to spearhead its ambitious project. He patiently explained to a clueless reporter why the bank was hiring 500 traders and what they would soon be doing. My first front page splash a few months later was that Deutsche Bank had hired the entire Latin American equities team of about 70 people from ING Barings. Why bother building a business from the bottom up when you can just buy the people from another firm that has already done so?

Those early moves were repeated many times over. You want to build the best trading business? Hire a huge team from Merrill Lynch. You want the best equities and advisory business? Take the best team on the street from SG Warburg. In the early days of the Deutsche Bank project it had the culture of an ambitious start-up: hire large teams of very good people, pay them a ton of money, focus on revenues, scale and market share – and eventually the profits will follow. Throw in as much leverage as your balance sheet can bear, and the numbers started adding up pretty quickly. It was a simple and successful formula. Soon Deutsche Bank graduated from hiring teams to buying entire firms: its acquisition of Bankers Trust in 1998 for $10bn – the biggest ever attempt by a European bank to break into the US market – briefly made it the biggest bank in the world in terms of assets.

It snapped up Scudder Investments a few years later, and Russian investment bank UFG a few years after that. The danger was that this ambitious start-up culture became the de facto culture of the investment bank. As a business model it worked when regulators around the world were more generous with how much leverage banks could have and when everyone was printing money in the years running up to the financial crisis. In 2007 the investment bank at Deutsche generated a shade under €20bn in revenues of a balance sheet that was just shy of €2 trillion. Two thirds of that revenue came from its huge sales and trading business. Pretax profits topped €5bn and its return on equity – a measure of profitability – was just under 20%. The Deutsche Bank project had worked.

The problem with this culture and business model – or rather, collection of businesses that had been rammed together over the previous decade – was that when the music stopped in 2008 it left Deutsche Bank with a huge and unproductive balance sheet, a cost-base that was nowhere near as flexible as it should have been, and a toxic culture in which many people’s expectation of how much they should be paid had become disconnected from the reality of the day-to-day business.

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“Britain has enabled UK companies banking with EU institutions located in Britain to keep on trading in the same way, even in a no-deal scenario, under special rules legislated for by the government. However, Brussels has not taken similar steps, the Bank warned.”

Bank Of England Warns Of Lending Crisis For EU Firms After No-Deal Brexit (G.)

The Bank of England has warned that a no-deal Brexit could trigger a material shock to the UK economy while causing widespread disruption for EU companies by cutting them off from London-based banks. Stating that the risk of Britain crashing out without a deal had risen, the Bank said the City of London was ready to withstand such a scenario and avoid banks failing, as they did in the financial crisis. However, there would still be major disruption for companies. Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said: “The perceived likelihood of no-deal Brexit has increased since last year. Although the degree of preparedness for such a scenario has improved, material risks still remain.”

He said the absence of further action by Brussels to get ready for Brexit could leave the door open to disruption for banks and their customers in the EU, while warning that the UK would face “material economic disruption” from a no-deal departure. “Although such disruption would primarily affect EU households and businesses, it could amplify volatility and spill back to the UK in ways that cannot be fully anticipated or mitigated,” he said. Against the backdrop of a rising threat of a no-deal Brexit, the central bank used its twice yearly financial stability report to say that UK, EU and international banks operating in London had made progress planning for a disorderly departure.

However, it warned that about half of EU companies using banks registered in Britain could be cut off from their banking services after the Halloween Brexit date, as they had yet to fully prepare. Britain has enabled UK companies banking with EU institutions located in Britain to keep on trading in the same way, even in a no-deal scenario, under special rules legislated for by the government. However, Brussels has not taken similar steps, the Bank warned.

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If they let him out on bail there’ll be riots.

Epstein Sold ‘Lolita Express’ Weeks Before Arrest (ZH)

A curious footnote has appeared in a court filing by Jeffrey Epstein’s attorneys suggesting that the registered sex offender sold his infamous Boeing 727-200 weeks before his Satuday arrest on suspicion of sex-trafficking minors. While arguing for why Epstein should be allowed to remain under house arrest pending trial, his attorneys made the case that the wealthy financier would “deregister or otherwise ground his private jet,” with the footnote reading “Mr. Epstein owns one private jet. He sold the other jet in June 2019,” placing the sale just weeks before his July 6 arrest upon his return from Paris in his Gulfstream G550 according to Bloomberg.

In other words, it looks like the financier unloaded the potentially ‘evidence-rich’ aircraft – said to have had a bed installed where passengers reportedly had group sex with young girls – right before the hammer came down. According to investigative journalist Conchita Sarnoff – who first revealed the former president’s extensive flights on Epstein’s “lolita express” in a 2010 Daily Beast exposé – former president Bill Clinton flew on the ‘lolita express’ no fewer than 27 times.

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Still just a theory. I would be careful with that.

Did Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Work for Mossad? (Giraldi)

Questions about Epstein’s wealth also suggest a connection with a secretive government agency with deep pockets. The New York Times reports that “Exactly what his money management operation did was cloaked in secrecy, as were most of the names of whomever he did it for. He claimed to work for a number of billionaires, but the only known major client was Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of several retail chains, including The Limited.” But whose intelligence service? CIA and the Russian FSB services are obvious candidates, but they would have no particular motive to acquire an agent like Epstein. That leaves Israel, which would have been eager to have a stable of high-level agents of influence in Europe and the United States.

Epstein’s contact with the Israeli intelligence service may have plausibly come through his associations with Ghislaine Maxwell, who allegedly served as his key procurer of young girls. Ghislaine is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, who died or possibly was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in 1991. Maxwell was an Anglo-Jewish businessman, very cosmopolitan in profile, like Epstein, a multi-millionaire who was very controversial with what were regarded as ongoing ties to Mossad. After his death, he was given a state funeral by Israel in which six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence listened while Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said”

[..] It will be very interesting to see just how far and how deep the investigation into Epstein and his activities goes. One can expect that efforts will be made to protect top politicians like Clinton and Trump and to avoid any examination of a possible Israeli role. That is the normal practice, witness the 9/11 Report and the Mueller investigation, both of which eschewed any inquiry into what Israel might have been up to. But this time, if it was indeed an Israeli operation, it might prove difficult to cover up the story since the pedophile aspect of it has unleashed considerable public anger from all across the political spectrum. Senator Chuck Schumer, self-described as Israel’s “protector” in the Senate, is loudly calling for the resignation of Acosta. He just might change his tune if it turns out that Israel is a major part of the story.

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Yes, the US needs to improve conditions at the border, no doubt about it. But calling it Trump’s crisis while it plays out in Obama facilities is a step too far. At least get some stories about what went on there before January 2017.

And AOC saying Trump called migrants “animals” is simply false. He was referring to MS-13 gang members (see video), and it’s very hard to believe she doesn’t know that. And then he compliments her. Maybe it’s time she pays him a compliment in return. Varoufakis said it very well:

“Come on, wake up! You can not say to Trump voters that they are idiots, and Putin duped them. You can say that, but then that’s it – you lose them forever. And it’s also not true.”
– Yanis Varoufakis

AOC on the 2020 Presidential Race and Trump’s Crisis at the Border (NYer)

So, we walked in and in one of the cells, the cell is just all concrete. There were just women on a concrete floor, and then there were two concrete slabs where they could sit, and then in the back there was a toilet, and a concrete slab in front of the toilet, but no door. And these women were just in these sleeping bags on the floor over each other. There’s no way that they could all sleep at once. Almost no way. And [..] it was, it was the physical manifestation of Trump’s rhetoric in calling migrants animals.


Caption: “[Trump] was responding during a White House event to a point made by a California sheriff about the MS-13 gang, which was started in the 1980s by immigrants from Central America.”

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The UK looks to be dissolving into complete chaos. Corbyn sympathizes with the Palestinians, and this is what happens.

Guardian Publishes, Then Censors Jewish Open Letter Defending Labour MP (GZ)

Britain’s leading newspaper The Guardian, which has relentlessly attacked Jeremy Corbyn and his leftist allies, published but then quickly removed an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky defending Labour MP Chris Williamson from “anti-Semitism” smears. Britain’s leading newspaper The Guardian has censored an open letter published by prominent Jewish intellectuals, writers, and activists that defended leftist Labour Party Member of Parliament Chris Williamson from “anti-Semitism” smears. The Guardian printed, but then quickly removed the letter without explanation. Meanwhile, the paper has refused to retract a wholly discredited article that maligned journalist and political prisoner Julian Assange which has remained on the website for more than seven months.

WikiLeaks says this piece is completely false, and has pledged to sue the newspaper over it. The retracted open letter was a defense of Chris Williamson emphasizing that the socialist and anti-imperialist MP “has a longer record of campaigning against racism and fascism than most of his detractors,” and “stands as we do with the oppressed rather than the oppressor.” Among the more than 100 signatories on the missive are world-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky, accomplished scholar Norman Finkelstein, anti-war activists Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold, legal expert and former UN special rapporteur Richard Falk, Holocaust survivors, Israeli dissidents, and leaders of progressive Jewish organizations in the United Kingdom.

Chris Williamson has been a key Corbyn ally in Parliament, advancing a staunchly progressive anti-war and anti-imperialist politics at a time when many Blairite holdovers in the Labour Party are pushing for more aggressive and bellicose policies against Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria. Williamson was suspended in February after making comments which were later misrepresented by anti-Corbyn activists. He lamented that the Labour Party, which had “done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.” “I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion,” the MP added. “We’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

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Britain has a whole bunch of right wing papers, and then there’s the Guardian that has the same agenda phrased slightly differently, and then there’s the BBC. The media environment is perfect for smear jobs. Watch Assange.

There’s no way out anymore.

BBC Panorama’s Hatchet Job On Labour Antisemitism (Cook)

It is difficult to describe as anything other than a hatchet job the BBC Panorama special this week that sought to bolster claims that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become “institutionally antisemitic”. The partisan tone was set from the opening shot. A young woman whose name was not revealed tearfully claimed to have been abused with antisemitic taunts at a Labour Party conference. The decision not to disclose the interviewee’s identity is understandable. It would have discredited the whole narrative Panorama was trying so hard to build. The woman’s name is Ella Rose, a senior official in the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), an organisation representing Jewish and non-Jewish members of Labour at the forefront of attacks on Corbyn.

Rose has a secret past too: she once worked at the Israeli embassy in London. Two years ago she and other JLM officials were exposed collaborating with Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy official. He had to be hurriedly removed from the UK after an undercover Al Jazeera documentary showed him plotting with activists in the Labour and Conservative parties to discredit British politicians seen as a threat to Israel. Most observers believe that Masot was operating within the embassy, as part of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which in turn has been running black ops against western critics of Israel. Corbyn, we can safely assume, is high on that list. Rose is on record as saying she was a close friend of Masot’s.

[..] Why, one can reasonably ask, did Panorama ignore Jewish Voice for Labour in this supposed “investigation” of Labour and anti-semitism? The group was specifically set up by Jewish members to counter the claims being made by activists like Rose. Groups like the Jewish Labour Movement have implied that Jewish supporters of Corbyn are the “wrong kind of Jews” – an extremely ugly insinuation that Panorama appeared to endorse by entirely sidelining them. This was one of the reasons the Labour leadership censured the programme-makers in a 50-page document presented to BBC boss Tony Hall, in which it argued that Panorama had “pre-determined the outcome of its investigation”.

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Trump doesn’t like crypto either. He thinks there should be banking charters required.

Bitcoin Extends Losses After Fed Chief Urges Halt To Facebook’s Libra (R.)

Bitcoin dipped almost 8% on Thursday, extending losses the day after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called for a halt to Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project until concerns ranging from privacy to money-laundering were addressed. The original cryptocurrency initially fell 7.7% to $11,164 in early morning trade, following a 3.8% slide on Wednesday after Powell’s testimony on monetary policy before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. It was last down 4.5%. Other major cryptocurrencies including Ethereum and Ripple’s XRP fell by similar levels.


“This is a direct response to the Powell testimony and comments on Facebook’s Libra and the implications that could have for the entire cryptocurrency space,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at FX trading platform OANDA. “Libra raises many serious concerns regarding privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability,” Powell told the committee, adding that he did not think the project could proceed unless those concerns were addressed.

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Hot wallets appear weak.

Japan Crypto Exchange Says $32 Million Missing In Hack (AFP)

A Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange said Friday it had halted all services after losing cryptocurrency worth more than $32 million in the latest apparent hack involving virtual money. Remixpoint said its subsidiary BITPoint Japan discovered overnight that about 3.5 billion yen ($32.3 million) in various digital currencies had gone missing from its management. The apparent hack was discovered after an error appeared in the firm’s outgoing funds transfer system on Thursday night. It said the cryptocurrency went missing from a so-called “hot wallet”, which is connected to the internet, but that currency held in “cold wallets” that are offline was not affected.


BITPoint Japan handles various virtual currencies, including bitcoin, ethereum and ripple. Remixpoint said the firm was still analysing the loss and offered no further details. It said it would compensate customers for the losses. Around 2.5 billion yen worth of the missing currency was customer funds, with the rest owned by the firm. Remixpoint shares plunged 18.6 percent following the announcement.

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It’s like Venezuela. Aggression gone completely wrong.

Iran Calls On Britain To Release Seized Oil Tanker Immediately (R.)

Iran called on Britain on Friday to immediately release an oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency IRNA. “This is a dangerous game and has consequences … the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest,” the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said. Iran has warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker is not released.


Britain said on Thursday that three Iranian vessels tried to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz, which controls the flow of Middle East oil to the world, but backed off when confronted by a Royal Navy warship. Iran denied that its vessels had done any such thing. Tension between Iran and the West has increased a week after Britain seized the tanker and London said the British Heritage, operated by oil company BP, had been approached in the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula. Mousavi accused Britain of seizing the tanker under U.S. pressure. “Such illegal measures could increase tensions in the Persian Gulf,” he told IRNA.

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Oh, sure, the new right wing government will make things look like they recover. But the EU squeeze is still on and growth will only be a mirage. Watch the poor get poorer. As long as Greece has to have a 3.5% budget surplus, taking all that direly needed money out of its economy, growth is mathematically impossible.

Greek Growth Expected To Recover In The Second Half Of The Year (K.)

The Greek economy is expected to regain its growth momentum in the second half of the year, after a slowdown in the previous quarters, as a result of increased confidence and favorable monetary conditions, a report by the financial analysis department of the National Bank of Greece argues. The report projects that after a drop in the growth rate in late 2018 and at the start of 2019, economic activity is set to rebound in July-December, with the main indexes reflecting a trend for strengthening consumption and for increased investments.


Nevertheless, the NBG report adds that increased exports are making the economy more vulnerable to the slowdown of the European economy. This, it says, is also reflected in the stagnation of international tourism arrivals over the first four months of the year, on a year-on-year basis. The bank’s baseline scenario provides for a zero increase to tourism revenues in 2019 from the record year of 2018.

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Mexico wants out of the EU

 

 

 

 

Jul 112019
 
 July 11, 2019  Posted by at 8:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Guernica 1937

 

Dollar Slips After Powell Bolsters Rate Cut Bets (R.)
AOC Is Making Monetary Policy Cool (and Political) Again (NYM)
Trump Tasks Aides To Find A Way To Weaken The US Dollar (CNBC)
Lock Him Up (Pinkerton)
Schumer Got Thousands In Donations From Jeffrey Epstein (NYP)
Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett To Donate Epstein Campaign Contributions (CNBC)
US Probing Deutsche Bank’s Dealings With Malaysia’s 1MDB (ZH)
Obama the Conservative vs Trump the Revolutionary (EH)
Former UK PM Major Vows To Block Brexit Parliament Suspension (R.)
OPCW’s New Chemical Weapons Team To Launch First Syria Investigations (R.)
UK, US Claim Iranian Boats Attempt To Seize Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz (ZH)

 

 

I’m getting so sick of this. Powelll wants to cut rates but it makes no sense if he’s to uphold Trump’s claim of a great US economy. So what does his spin team come up with? Cut rates because other countries are not doing so well. Cut the crap.

Dollar Slips After Powell Bolsters Rate Cut Bets (R.)

The dollar eased on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell set the stage for a rate cut later this month, vowing to “act as appropriate” to ensure the world’s biggest economy will be able to sustain a decade-long expansion. In testimony to Congress, Powell pointed to “broad” global weakness that was clouding the U.S. economic outlook amid uncertainty about the fallout from the Trump administration’s trade conflict with China and other nations. “Chairman Powell sounded dovish on most dimensions. This is slightly surprising given benign trade developments following last month’s G20 meeting and the recent rebound in nonfarm payrolls,” said Michael Swell, co-head of global fixed income portfolio management at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.


“Overall, his comments around slowing growth against a backdrop of muted inflation and elevated uncertainties is consistent with ‘insurance rate cuts’ this year.” Adding to a generally dovish tone in his testimony, the minutes from the Fed’s previous policy meeting showed many policymakers thought more stimulus would be needed soon, reviving speculation of an aggressive rate cut.

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And AOC also wants low interest rates. Everyone wants the same thing, and nobody says: Wait a minute?!

AOC Is Making Monetary Policy Cool (and Political) Again (NYM)

Ocasio-Cortez : In early 2014, the Federal Reserve believed that the long run unemployment rate was around 5.4 percent. In early 2018, it as estimated that this was now lower, around 4.5 percent. Now, the estimate is around 4.2 percent. What is the current unemployment rate today?
Powell : 3.7 percent.

Ocasio: 3.7 percent…Unemployment has fallen about three full points since 2014 but inflation is no higher today than it was five years ago. Given these facts, do you think it’s possible that the Fed’s estimates of the lowest sustainable unemployment rate may have been too high?
Powell : Absolutely.

This exchange may sound dull and technical. But the congresswoman’s point has real human stakes. America’s central bank has a dual mandate: to promote full employment and price stability. How the Fed chooses to balance those two objectives has redistributive implications. The wealthy have far more to lose from inflation than they do from modest levels of unemployment. In fact, many business owners may actually prefer for the U.S. economy not to achieve full employment, since workers tend to be less demanding when jobs are scarce. By contrast, the most vulnerable workers in the U.S. — such as those with criminal records or little experience — will struggle to get a foothold in the labor market unless policy makers err on the side of letting unemployment fall “too low.”

And this is what AOC’s questions are implicitly about. If the Federal Reserve believes that the U.S. economy cannot sustain unemployment below 5 percent without suffering high inflation, then it will raise interest rates to cool off investment, thereby preventing too many workers from getting jobs. Ocasio-Cortez’s implication is that, by raising interest rates out of a fear of illusory inflation, the Fed may have needlessly hurt American workers. Powell’s concession on that point is significant, and suggests that the central bank will be less inclined to err on the side of hurting the vulnerable in the future.

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We’re all of us in the gutter… (but apparently there’s no-one left looking at the stars).

Trump Tasks Aides To Find A Way To Weaken The US Dollar (CNBC)

President Donald Trump has reportedly tasked aides to find a way to weaken the U.S. dollar in an effort to boost the economy ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The president also asked about the greenback while interviewing Federal Reserve board nominees Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. Those individuals also told Bloomberg that Trump’s chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disapprove of the idea of government tampering to weaken the dollar. Traditionally, past administrations have always maintained publicly they were for a strong dollar because dollar assets like Treasurys are so widely held around the globe.


Trump has often bemoaned the relative strength of the U.S. dollar in foreign exchange markets, blaming foreign nations for devaluing their currencies and thereby inflating the American trade deficit. Last week, the president said in a tweet that the U.S. should match China and Europe’s “currency manipulation game.” “China and Europe playing big currency manipulation game and pumping money into their system in order to compete with USA,” Trump said on Twitter. “We should MATCH, or continue being the dummies who sit back and politely watch as other countries continue to play their games – as they have for many years!”

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About Epstein, but with a historical twist.

Lock Him Up (Pinkerton)

One landmark of American reform was the White-Slave Traffic Act, signed into law in 1910 (“white slavery,” we might note, is known today as “sex trafficking”). That law, aimed at preventing not only prostitution but also “debauchery,” is known as the Mann Act in honor of its principal author, Representative James R. Mann, Republican of Illinois, who served in Congress from 1897 to 1922. Mann’s career mostly coincided with the presidential tenures of two great reformers, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. And it’s hard to overstate just how central to progressive thinking was the combatting of “vice.” After all, if the goal was to create a just society, it also had to be a wholesome society; otherwise no justice could be sustainable.

Thus when Roosevelt served as police commissioner of New York City in the mid-1890s, he focused on fighting vice, rackets, and corruption. Of course, Mann, Roosevelt, and Wilson had much more on their minds than just cleaning up depravity. They saw themselves as reformers across the board; that is, they were eager to improve economic conditions as well as social ones. So it was that Mann also co-authored the Mann-Elkins Act, further regulating the railroads; he also spearheaded the Pure Food and Drug Act, creating the FDA. It’s interesting that when Mann died in 1922, The New York Times ran an entirely admiring obituary, recalling him as “a dominating figure in the House…[a] leader in dozens of parliamentary battles.” In other words, back then, the Times was fully onboard with full-spectrum cleanup, on the Right as well as the Left.

To be sure, the Mann Act hardly eradicated the problem of sex-trafficking, just as Mann’s other legislative efforts did not put an end to abuses in transportation and in foods and drugs. However, we can say that Mann made things better. Of course, the Mann Act has long been controversial. Back in 1913, the African-American boxer Jack Johnson was convicted according to its provisions. (Intriguingly, in 2018, Johnson was posthumously pardoned by President Trump.) In 1944, film legend Charlie Chaplin, too, found himself busted on a Mann Act rap. Chaplin was accused of transporting a young “actress” across state lines; he was acquitted after a sensational trial, but not before it was learned that he had financed his lover’s two abortions. Chaplin’s career in Hollywood was effectively over.

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Schumer telling others what to do, but doing dick all himself. How much did the Clinton Foundation get?

Schumer Got Thousands In Donations From Jeffrey Epstein (NYP)

Sen. Chuck Schumer — who called on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign and said President Trump should “answer” for his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein — accepted thousands of dollars in donations from the alleged pedophile throughout the 1990s, The Post has learned. Federal Election Commission records show that Schumer received seven $1,000 donations from Epstein between 1992 and 1997, first as a U.S. congressman from New York and then when he was vying to be the state’s senator in 1998, an election he won. Epstein — who was arrested Saturday and charged with sex trafficking and a related conspiracy count for allegedly sexually abusing a vast network of underage girls — also gave $10,000 to “Victory in New York,” a joint fundraising committee established by Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Epstein gave an additional $5,000 to “Win New York,” a Schumer-associated joint committee that benefited the Liberal Party of New York State. Both of Epstein’s donations to the committees came in October 1998 — and look to have primarily benefited the DSCC and the Liberal Party of New York, as Epstein would have already met the $2,000 limit of donating individually to Schumer. At the time, donors could give $1,000 to a candidate per election — once in the primary and again in the general. That means Schumer and Schumer-linked entities received a combined $22,000.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Schumer made three Epstein-related demands. He first called on Acosta to resign. [..] “Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy,” Schumer said on the floor. “This is not acceptable. We cannot have, as one of the leading appointed officials in America, someone who has done this.” Schumer also asked that the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility make public its review of Acosta’s handling of the case. Finally, Schumer said that Trump should paint a fuller picture of what he meant when he called Epstein a “terrific guy” in a 2002 article for New York Magazine.

An April 2011 court filing shows that Trump eventually barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago “because Epstein sexually assaulted a girl at the club,” the documents allege. Trump didn’t officially launch a political career until June 2015. No FEC records show that Epstein was ever a Trump donor.

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So when will Schumer follow suit? And the rest of them?

Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett To Donate Epstein Campaign Contributions (CNBC)

Democratic congresswoman Stacey Plaskett has decided to reverse course and will give away the contributions she has received from Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of child sex trafficking. The move comes a day after her team told CNBC that she was unlikely to return the campaign donations after Epstein’s arrest. “In light of new information and allegations that have been made against Jeffrey Epstein I have decided to make contributions to Virgin Islands organizations that work with women and children in the amount of his previous contributions,” Plaskett said in a statement Tuesday.

“My litmus test for accepting campaign contributions has been based on whether the donor’s money was made legally or by ill-gotten means and that the contributor will not ask of me or my Congressional office for any special favors. All my contributions have passed that test. In this case however, I am uncomfortable having received money from someone who has been accused of these egregious actions multiple times,” said Plaskett, who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands in the House as a delegate. Her spokesman Mike McQueery later noted the Epstein donations will be given to The Women’s Coalition and The Family Resource Center.

Her initial announcement led to an outcry on social media, with prominent Democratic strategists such as Adam Parkhomenko calling on Plaskett to give the money over to a nonprofit organization such as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Since Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday, Plaskett is the first politician to say she is giving away donations from Epstein.

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Deutsche severed ties with Epstein just months ago.

US Probing Deutsche Bank’s Dealings With Malaysia’s 1MDB (ZH)

When it rains inside the halls of Deutsche Bank, the flood is biblical. Just when it seemed that the biggest (if not for long) German bank, already reeling from the biggest mass layoffs since Lehman, couldn’t possibly bear any more bad news, along comes the US government with yet another potentially criminal investigation, this time over Deutsche Bank’s involvement with the sprawling, multibillion-dollar Malaysian development fraud scandal that toppled a prime minister, crippled Goldman Sachs stock and stretched from Hollywood to Wall Street. According to the WSJ, the DOJ is investigating whether the German bank violated foreign corruption or anti-money-laundering laws in its work for the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. fund, or 1MDB, which included helping the fund raise $1.2 billion in 2014 as concerns about the fund’s management and financials had begun to circulate.

So how did Deutsche Bank get thrown into yet another scandal? It turns out that DB was snitched out by former Goldman banker, Tim Leissner, the man who was ground zero in the original 1MDB scandal, and who ended up costing Goldman billions in dollar in market cap as its stock tumbled last year as its role in the biggest Malaysian corruption scandal got exposed, and according to some, cost Lloyd Blankfein his job. As it turns out, Leissner is now cooperating with authorities, and among his “good Samaritan” duties decided to throw the one bank that has more dirt on it than Goldman: Deutsche Bank. As we have reported extensively in the past, prosecutors have been investigating similar issues at Goldman, where Leissner, a former managing director, pleaded guilty last year and admitted to earlier helping siphon off billions of dollars from the fund.

[..] But wait, there’s more! Because roughly at the same time as DB’s potential role in the 1MDB scandal was exposed by the WSJ, both the NYT and Bloomberg reported that the German bank had extended relations with yet another, even more scandalous figure: Jeffrey Epstein. According to NYT, Epstein “appears to have been doing business and trading currencies through Deutsche Bank until just a few months ago.” But as the possibility of federal charges loomed, the bank ended its client relationship with Epstein. It is not clear what the value of those accounts were at the time they were closed. Bloomberg confirms, reporting that “Deutsche Bank severed business ties with Jeffrey Epstein earlier this year, just as federal authorities were preparing to charge the financier with operating a sex-trafficking ring of underage girls [..] “

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Nice take by Ed Harrison. I’m no big fan of these alleged sharp divisions between generations, though.

Obama the Conservative vs Trump the Revolutionary (EH)

I would argue that [Obama] ran for President in 2008 on a slogan – Change You Can Believe In – which very much fits his generation, late baby boom reaching across to the early Gen X’ers. “Change you can believe in” is a moniker designed to evoke a sense of technocratic tweaking, of taking a good system and making it more efficient and more fair for all citizens. It is not a call for revolution. What Obama was saying was essentially, “I am going to take the system we have – the best that man has created – and make it better.” He was not saying, “the system is rigged. The system is broken. And I’m going to burn it down and build up something better.”

Obama’s message was a conservative message. It was a message that was steeped in the status quo, with the change coming only at the margin. It meant continuity in policy and a bevy of tried and trusted policymakers to get us to the next destination. Even Obamacare is a tweak of the existing policy. It is not a fundamentally different healthcare system controlled by different healthcare providers. [..] Donald Trump doesn’t think that way. Norms only matter to him to the degree they move his personal agenda forward. He’s a pretty simple guy in this sense. If a policy choice or a norm helps Donald Trump, then he’s for it. If it hurts him, he’s against it. It’s as simple as that. But, that’s not conservative …at all. Trump may message “Make America Great Again”. But, his process is more about bending and breaking rules, damn the consequences.

None of this is to say that Millennials would support Trump over Obama because they want change. It’s more that Obama’s ‘change you can believe in’ approach was a very incremental, status quo-oriented conservative approach that has disappointed Millennials. They want still more change – not a bend and break the rule kind – but a fundamental systemic change. What does that mean about the next economic downturn? Personally, I think it means that — when people living in precarious at-will employment, with insufficient healthcare coverage, saddled by student debt, unable to purchase homes to build wealth feel the full bore of an economic downturn — they will be willing to burn the system down. They will have no allegiance to the status quo and will vote accordingly.

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Oh, c’mon, wouldn’t it be highly fitting if the Queen were to hammer the final nail into British democracy?

Former UK PM Major Vows To Block Brexit Parliament Suspension (R.)

Former British prime minister John Major vowed on Wednesday to go to court to block his party colleague Boris Johnson from suspending parliament and dragging the queen into a constitutional crisis to deliver a no-deal Brexit. Johnson, the favourite to win a Conservative leadership election and so become the next prime minister, has refused to rule out suspending, or proroguing, parliament to ensure Britain leaves the European Union on Oct. 31 — with or without a deal. That could provoke a constitutional crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most stable democracies because parliament is opposed to a disorderly exit, lacking a transition deal to ease the economic dislocation of leaving the bloc.

While it is essentially up to the prime minister to make the decision, Major, an opponent of Brexit who has not shied away for criticising his party on the issue, said it would require the queen’s blessing. “In order to close down parliament, the prime minister would have to go to Her Majesty the Queen and ask for her permission to prorogue,” he told BBC Radio. “If her first minister asks for that permission, it is almost inconceivable that the queen will do anything other than grant it. “She is then in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the queen in the middle of. If that were to happen, there would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review. I for one would be prepared to go and seek judicial review.”

Major accused Johnson of hypocrisy for backing Brexit to secure more power for Britain’s parliament, only to propose to sideline lawmakers when it suited him. He said parliament had not been suspended since King Charles I did so during the English Civil War. Charles was eventually executed, in 1649.

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The OPCW killed its own credibility, thoroughly. Disband it.

OPCW’s New Chemical Weapons Team To Launch First Syria Investigations (R.)

A new team established by the global chemical weapons watchdog to attribute blame for the use of banned munitions in Syria will investigate nine alleged attacks during the country’s civil war, including in the town of Douma, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was created in 1997 as a technical body to enforce a global non-proliferation treaty. Until now it had been authorised only to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them. Last June, the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) was established by the OPCW’s member states during a special session, a move that has brought deeper political division to the U.N. -backed agency.


Now it has identified the locations of its first investigations to be conducted in the coming three years. A document circulated to OPCW member states, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the team “has identified a non-exhaustive provisional list of incidents on which it intends to focus its investigative work” between 2014 and 2018. The British-led proposal creating the 10-member team was supported by the United States and European Union, but opposed by Russia, Iran, Syria and their allies. Syria has refused to issue visas to the team’s members or to provide it with documentation, OPCW chief Fernando Arias said in comments to member states published last month.

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Where’s the credibility in this case?

UK, US Claim Iranian Boats Attempt To Seize Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz (ZH)

With the Persian Gulf uncharacteristically quiet in recent days, without any material provocation either real or staged, late on Wednesday CNN reported that five armed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. There was no independent verification of the report, but instead it was once again sourced to those who stands to gain the most from a way with Iran, namely “two US officials with direct knowledge of the incident.” According to the report, the British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by the Iranian boats.


The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials. A US aircraft was overhead and recorded video of the incident, although so far a video has not been released. In addition to the US aircraft escort, the UK’s Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose had been escorting the tanker, and during the confrontation, it trained its deck guns on the Iranians and gave them a verbal warning to back away, which they did. Montrose is equipped on the deck with 30 mm guns specifically designed to drive off small boats. The frigate was in the region performing a “maritime security role” according to a prior notification from UK officials.

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Seen at the inane Defend Media Freedom conference in the UK.

 

 

 

‘Man goes to a psychiatrist. He says, “I keep thinking I’m a dog.” Psychiatrist says, “OK, let’s get you on the couch.” Man says, “I’m not allowed on the couch.”‘