May 122020
 


Edward Hopper Night in the park 1921

 

Letter from Hong Kong to Covid Ravaged UK: What On Earth Are You Doing? (HKFP)
14 Million Wuhan Residents To Be Tested For COVID19 In 10 Days (SCMP)
As US Meat Workers Fall Sick And Supplies Dwindle, Exports To China Soar (R.)
Mexican Border Town Uses ‘Sanitizing Tunnels’ To Disinfect US Visitors (G.)
Tesla’s Musk Says Ready For Arrest As He Reopens California Plant (R.)
The Sum of All Broken Promises (Kunstler) ;
Record Unemployment Drives Forbearances Up (NMN)
The Bailout Is Working — for the Rich (Eisinger)
Bitcoin Goes Through Third ‘Halving’ (R.)
BOJ Will Do ‘Whatever It Can’ To Combat Pandemic Fallout: Kuroda (R.)
Trump And Biden Trade Anti-China Ads (IC)
Jan 5 Oval Office Meeting Key To Entire Anti-Trump Operation (Hemingway)
List Of Obama Officials Involved In Unmasking Declassified (SAC)
Another Former Obama Official Contradicts Her Public Statements (Turley)
2,000 Former DOJ, FBI Officials Demand Barr Resign Over Flynn Case (UPI)

 

 

• US registers less than 900 #coronavirus deaths in 24-hours for second day

• US records 830 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 80,352, according to Johns Hopkins University. The figure followed Sunday’s toll of 776, the lowest daily tally since March,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 4,273,104 (+ 72,174 from yesterday’s 4,200,957)

Deaths 287,621 (+ 3,471 from yesterday’s 284,150)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“At the moment the number of deaths in Hong Kong [..] is four. Not 4,000, not 400, not 40. Four, as in number of gospel writers.”

Letter from Hong Kong to Covid Ravaged UK: What On Earth Are You Doing? (HKFP)

Five years ago I passed a landmark of no significance to anyone else but me: I had spent more than half of my life in Hong Kong. But I still wish you well. [..] And I need to ask, from one crowded island to another, what the hell have you been getting up to. My Facebook feed is bulging with lockdown stories. And it is horrifying to read the news that total deaths from Covid 19 in your place have passed, at the time of writing, 30,000. It seemed to me entirely irrelevant that, the week before, the total casualty toll had passed the tally of British Army deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. When two highly industrialised nations put hundreds of thousands of young men in a field with instructions to kill each other you expect the blood to flow.

But we are all, give or take a few civil wars a safe distance away, at peace at the moment. And the excuse that this massacre is all inevitable, the result of a medical problem which nobody could have foreseen and for which there was no immediate remedy, doesn’t wash because the consequences have been so variable. I understand it is too early to say whether the UK will achieve the unwanted distinction of the highest death rate in Europe. But why is it even in the running for this title? At the moment the number of deaths in Hong Kong, whose government enjoys neither democratic legitimacy nor a reputation for unusual efficiency, is four. Not 4,000, not 400, not 40. Four, as in number of gospel writers.

This is in a territory with a land border to the mainland, where it all started. So we had less warning and more opportunities for imported infections. Taiwan and Thailand, similarly disadvantaged, have also managed strikingly low numbers, and Viet Nam claims to have no cases at all. [..] There is an interesting irony here, at least for the moment. It seems your government is not getting the blame it has richly earned. Ours, which has had a good epidemic so far, is not getting much credit. Partly, this is because of events in the year before the arrival of the new disease. Our Chief Executive has trodden in too many political cowpats to have a shot at the Hong Kong’s sweetheart title, whatever she does about viruses.

It is also partly because the government was propelled towards some precautions, like closing the border, by public agitation. But I think the main reason is because Hong Kong people, while they do not trust the words of their government, and still less those of the government over the boundary on the mainland, did not need to be persuaded to take the whole matter seriously. This made a big difference. Why so serious? We participated extensively in the SARS epidemic in 2003, still fresh in many memories. Indeed I imagine many households, like mine, still had a box of face masks which were tucked away when that epidemic subsided. Hygiene was already a thing.

In countries that have not seen a real epidemic since the Spanish flu in 1918 this awareness would of course be absent. But this is where, in a democratic society with a literate population and free media, public information should have come in. Instead governments dithered, at best, or denied there was a problem, at worst. I do not allow the defence that they were relying on scientific opinion. This is a contradiction in terms. Science, in its slow, tentative way, produces factual observations. The opinions of scientists about matters on which science has not yet determined the facts are not scientific. They are just opinions. You may think they are expert opinions, but expert opinions about the future (see the works of Philip Tetlock) are lamentably unreliable.

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I suggest we call this a test drive.

We can only wish the west would be as thorough. China understands Crush the Curve. It just took them a fateful 5-6 weeks too long to figure it out.

14 Million Wuhan Residents To Be Tested For COVID19 In 10 Days (SCMP)

Authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic coronavirus was first detected, have ordered fresh Covid-19 tests for all of its 14 million residents after a cluster of new community cases. The Wuhan Covid-19 Epidemic Prevention Headquarters ordered all districts in the city to come up with plans for a 10-day barrage of nucleic tests and submit the plans by noon on Tuesday. The tests should cover both permanent residents and mobile populations, and target residential estates and densely populated areas, the headquarters said in the orders. The unprecedented move came after reports on the weekend of six new coronavirus cases from the same residential compound, known as Sanmin.

The cases were the first in the city since its last local Covid-19 patient was reported on April 3. One Sanmin resident, an 89-year-old man, showed symptoms as early as March but was not confirmed as a coronavirus patient until Saturday. The confirmation prompted authorities to test around 5,000 people from the complex, uncovering five more cases. Zhang Yuxin, who had been serving as the Communist Party secretary in charge of the Sanmin area, was sacked for poor management, state media reported on Monday. A Chinese professor of epidemiology, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said large-scale testing was needed to prevent a new wave of infections.


“The new cases in Wuhan show there is a real risk of a second wave of potential transmission in the community by the asymptomatic carriers or mild symptoms. Covid-19 started with a few after all,” he said. “Tests on such a broad scale can help find these hidden carriers and eliminate that risk.”

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If so many people get infected in meat plants, there appears to be a serious hygiene problem right where your food comes from, and maybe the entire industry should be revised.

Q: what are the similarities between meat plants and care homes, other then they’re all virus clusters?

As US Meat Workers Fall Sick And Supplies Dwindle, Exports To China Soar (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered meat processing plants to stay open to protect the nation’s food supply even as workers got sick and died. Yet the plants have increasingly been exporting to China while U.S. consumers face shortages, a Reuters analysis of government data showed. Trump, who is in an acrimonious public dispute with Beijing over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act on April 28 to keep plants open. Now he is facing criticism from some lawmakers, consumers and plant employees for putting workers at risk in part to help ensure China’s meat supply.

Meat buyers in China ramped up imports from around the world as a pig disease decimated its herd, the world’s largest, and pushed Chinese pork prices to record highs. The supply shock drove China to pay more for U.S. meat than other countries, and even U.S. consumers, since late 2019. “We know that over time exports are critically important. I think we need to focus on meeting domestic demand at this point,” said Mike Naig, the agriculture secretary in the top U.S. pork-producing state of Iowa who supported Trump’s order. Processors including Smithfield Foods, owned by China’s WH Group Ltd, Brazilian-owned JBS USA and Tyson Foods Inc temporarily closed about 20 U.S. meat plants as the virus infected thousands of employees, prompting meatpackers and grocers to warn of shortages.


Some plants have resumed limited operations as workers afraid of getting sick stay home. The disruptions mean consumers could see 30% less meat in supermarkets by the end of May, at prices 20% higher than last year, according to Will Sawyer, lead economist at agricultural lender CoBank. While pork supplies tightened as the number of pigs slaughtered each day plunged by about 40% since mid-March, shipments of American pork to China more than quadrupled over the same period, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

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Makes me think of how the Japanese 500 years ago called westerners dirty pigs.

Mexican Border Town Uses ‘Sanitizing Tunnels’ To Disinfect US Visitors (G.)

Fears of foreigners bringing infectious disease into the country. Enhanced border checkpoints. And the use of disinfectant spray to sanitize human beings. These aren’t notes from one of Donald Trump’s freewheeling press conferences. The United States’ troubled response to the coronavirus pandemic is such that the Mexican border city of Nogales, Sonora, has set up “sanitizing tunnels” to disinfect people leaving the US through Nogales, Arizona. On the Mexican side of two major border crossings, drivers coming from Arizona must exit their vehicles and step into an inflatable tunnel that sprays them with a cleansing solution.

Videos posted to social media by the municipal government of Nogales, Sonora, show people rotate under the vapor, stretch their arms and lean over to allow the disinfectant to reach their entire bodies. In a press release, the Nogales government states that the cleansing solution is biodegradable and protects from “any virus or bacteria, including Covid-19” for up to 24 hours. It adds that the tunnels “reduce the chances that a foreign citizen or citizen of this city who presents symptoms of the disease will infect other people on the Mexican side”.


The border city’s mayor has told Mexican news outlets that a majority of the people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Nogales, Sonora, had recently returned from the US. The Mexican border city plans to install five sanitizing tunnels to disinfect people arriving through its two main ports of entry from Nogales, Arizona. A sanitizing tunnel is also stationed outside a hospital in Nogales, Sonora, where visitors must brush open or duck through clear plastic curtains to be washed with the disinfectant mist.

https://twitter.com/Underground_RT/status/1259856428145278976

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Now talk to the shareholders.

Tesla’s Musk Says Ready For Arrest As He Reopens California Plant (R.)

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk on Monday said production was resuming at the automaker’s sole U.S. vehicle factory, in California, defying an order to stay closed and saying if anyone had to be arrested it should be him. The move comes as states and cities around the United States experiment with ways to safely reopen their economies after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered businesses and forced tens of millions of Americans out of work. Musk over the weekend threatened to leave California for Texas or Nevada over his factory’s closure. His move has highlighted the competition for jobs and ignited a rush to woo the billionaire executive by states that have reopened their economies more quickly in response to encouragement from U.S. President Donald Trump.

In an email on Monday, Tesla referred to an order on Thursday by California’s governor allowing manufacturers to resume operations and said that as of Sunday, previously furloughed employees were back to their regular employment status. “We’re happy to get back to work and have implemented very detailed plans to help you keep safe as you return,” according to the email seen by Reuters and titled “Furlough Has Ended And We Are Back To Work in Production!” Musk in a tweet said production was resuming on Monday, adding that he would join workers on the assembly line. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” he wrote.


[..] Health officials in Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is based, late on Monday said they were aware that Tesla had opened beyond the so-called minimum basic operations allowed during lockdown, and had notified the company it could not operate without a county-approved plan. In a statement, officials said they expected a proposal from Tesla later on Monday and “hope Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures.”

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People have been getting so used to dire stories about the economy, they can no longer tell when things are really going south.

The Sum of All Broken Promises (Kunstler) ;

[..] one reason the markets may not keep chugging is that money is disappearing into the ol’ black hole of extinction even faster than the Fed can enter keystrokes that magically represent new money. The reason: if, in fact, money is loaned into existence, it is defaulted out of existence when the loans are not paid back. After all, that’s what a loan is: money advanced on a promise to be paid back, generally at interest, interest representing the time-value of money, that is, the duration of the loan. Do you have any idea how many loans are not being paid back, and may now never be paid back?

Start with houses. 63 percent of homeowners pay a mortgage (a loan) every month. The national average outstanding mortgage debt is $148,000. Total mortgage debt is $10.3 trillion. Now cars: There are roughly 260 million passenger vehicles registered in America, with upward of 100 million of them bought on loans that are still active, amounting to $1.2 trillion, enough to buy 53 million Ford Fusions at $23,000 each. Now credit card debt: total for the US is $3.9 trillion with an average carried balance of $9,333. Meanwhile, 45 percent of adult Americans have no savings.


[..] Consider that a trillion is a thousand billion (and a billion is a thousand million). In an ordinary reality, a reality-based reality, that is, with reality-based money, that would be a lot of money (and a lot of debt)! It’s hard to project an exact figure, but with over 20 percent of the US work-force idle, with no income, there’s liable to be a lot of debt that’s not being paid back, will never be paid back, and a lot of money headed into extinction. That will translate into a lot of people with no money. Until all that money they owed is finished not being paid back, and the new money that Fed is busy creating, with no relationship to the production of things of value, overcomes the old money that’s finished disappearing. Then Americans will have plenty of money. The catch is that the money will be worthless. Thus, the two ways of going broke: having no money; or having lots of money that’s too worthless to buy anything. So it goes.

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Oh well, houses are way overpriced anyway.

Record Unemployment Drives Forbearances Up (NMN)

The number of mortgages in coronavirus-related forbearance rose by 37 basis points between April 27 and May 3 as the unemployment rate kept growing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Nearly 4 million mortgages sat in forbearance plans as of May 3. About 7.91% of all outstanding loans went into forbearance, compared to 7.54% the week before. The share of loans in forbearance at independent mortgage bank servicers saw a greater increase than the industry-wide average, growing to 7.54% from 7.13% over that period. At depositories, that share increased to 8.75% from 8.41%.


“With the calendar turning to May, the share of loans in forbearance increased, but the pace of the increase and incoming forbearance requests continued to slow,” Mike Fratantoni, the MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, said in a press release. “The dreadful April jobs report showed a decline of more than 20 million jobs, and a spike in the unemployment rate to the highest level since the Great Depression. It will not be surprising if the forbearance numbers continue to rise.” In April, the largest spike came in the first full week of the month. Some projections show the same could be in store for May. Forbearance requests as a percentage of servicing portfolio volume declined 12 basis points for the week ended May 3 to 0.51 % from 0.63. But call center volume as a percentage of portfolio volume increased to 8.6% from 7.2% the previous week.

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That’s the whole idea. But the rich still live in the same country. Let the economy fail and they’re no longer rich.

A bit unreal that the Fed uses the language of MMT.

The Bailout Is Working — for the Rich (Eisinger)

Ten weeks into the worst crisis in 90 years, the government’s effort to save the economy has been both a spectacular success and a catastrophic failure. The clearest illustration of that came on Friday, when the government reported that 20.5 million people lost their jobs in April. It marked a period of unfathomable pain across the country not seen since the Great Depression. Also on Friday, the stock market rallied. The S&P 500 is now up 30% from its lows in mid-March and back to where it was last October, when the outlook for 2020 corporate earnings looked sunshiny. Companies have sold record amounts of debt in recent weeks for investment-grade companies. Junk bonds, historically dodgy during an economic swoon, have roared back.

If you’re looking for investors’ verdict on who has won the bailout, consider these returns: Shares of Apollo Group, the giant private equity firm, have soared 80% from their lows. The stock of Blackstone, another private equity behemoth, has risen 50%. The reason: Asset holders like Apollo and Blackstone — disproportionately the wealthiest and most influential — have been insured by the world’s most powerful central bank. This largess is boundless and without conditions. “Even if a second wave of outbreaks were to occur,” JPMorgan economists wrote in a celebratory note on Friday, “the Fed has explicitly indicated that there is no dollar limit and no danger of running out of ammunition.”


Many aspects of the coronavirus bailout that assist individuals or small businesses, meanwhile, are short-term or contingent. Aid to small businesses comes with conditions on what they can do with the money. The sums allocated by the CARES Act for stimulus and expanded unemployment insurance are vast by historical standards. But the relief they provide didn’t prevent tens of millions from losing their jobs. The assistance runs out in weeks, and the jobless live at the mercy of a divided Congress, which will decide whether that help gets extended and, if so, for how long.


The Nasdaq has put in six consecutive daily gains of 0.50% or more. The last time we saw such a streak was 17 years ago on 9/4/2003

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The Fed props up the stock market, not bitcoin.

Bitcoin Goes Through Third ‘Halving’ (R.)

Bitcoin slid on Monday in volatile trading, after it went through a technical adjustment that reduced the rate at which new coins are created, but the outlook remained upbeat as the increase in supply slows down. Monday’s “halving” cuts the rewards given to those who “mine” bitcoin to 6.25 new coins from 12.5. The next halving will be in 2024. Bitcoin relies on so-called “mining” computers that validate blocks of transactions by competing to solve mathematical puzzles every 10 minutes. In return, the first to solve the puzzle and clear the transaction is rewarded new bitcoins. In late afternoon trading, bitcoin was last down 1.3% at $8,620.43 against the dollar on the Bitstamp platform. It briefly turned higher.

“The incentive is less for miners now to mine bitcoin and they will probably switch to more profitable cryptocurrencies. So in the short term, there’s going to be pressure for bitcoin,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York. “But longer term, you’re probably going to see higher prices. With all the fiscal and monetary stimulus that’s being pumped into the global economy, there’s renewed interest from institutional traders looking for alternatives to modern government-backed currencies.” Bitcoin has gained more than 20% since the beginning of the year. It touched $10,000 last week, a roughly three-month high, after Bloomberg reported that hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones has backed bitcoin as a hedge against inflation.


Traders said the prospect of bitcoin’s halving has fueled gains in the asset this year. Bitcoin two earlier “halvings”— one in November 2012 and the other in July 2016 — had signaled the start of bitcoin’s most dramatic bull runs over a period of several years, although not before a brief sell-off. The previous two bitcoin events propelled rallies of about 10,000% from late 2012 to 2014, and roughly 2,500% from mid-2016 to the currency’s all-time high just shy of $20,000 in December 2017, according to traders.

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Kuroda’s been head of the BOJ for over 7 years. The outcome? “Japan’s economy is in an increasingly severe state…”

BOJ Will Do ‘Whatever It Can’ To Combat Pandemic Fallout: Kuroda (R.)

The Bank of Japan will do “whatever it can” to mitigate the growing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Tuesday, warning that a collapse in global activity has had severe consequences on the the economy. The central bank has various tools at its disposal if it were to ramp up stimulus such as accelerating money printing, increasing market operation tools and cutting interest rates, Kuroda said in a semi-annual testimony to parliament. He signalled that any further steps the BOJ takes will focus on helping cash-strapped firms, rather than stimulating demand. “What’s most important for us is to take steps to smoothen corporate financing and stabilise markets,” Kuroda said.

“We will do whatever we can as a central bank, working closely with the government.” Kuroda ruled out the possibility of adding municipal bonds to the list of assets the BOJ buys, however, saying he saw no need to do so for the time being. The world’s third-largest economy is on the cusp of a deep recession with many analysts projecting a double-digit contraction in the current quarter, as the pandemic forces households to stay home and businesses to shut down. While the government plans to lift the state of emergency for some prefectures that saw infection numbers stabilise, many big cities including Tokyo will likely see current restrictions kept in place at least for the rest of this month.


Kuroda said Japan did not face an imminent risk of a sharp credit contraction, as many financial institutions have sufficient buffers to weather the pain from the pandemic. But he warned the outlook for Japan’s economy was “highly uncertain” and dependent on when the pandemic is contained, with risks skewed to the downside. “Japan’s economy is in an increasingly severe state. The outlook will remain severe for the time being,” he said.

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When will Biden start up the anti-Putin ads?

Trump And Biden Trade Anti-China Ads (IC)

As coronavirus deaths mount, President Donald Trump’s China-bashing has evolved from a short-term political tactic into a full-fledged election strategy. Take the ad “Travel Ban,” which was unveiled last week by pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action. The spot is one of several anti-China ads released by the group over the past few weeks, and it revisits some standard Trump campaign tropes: There are images of Biden from the Obama years, clips of the former vice president stumbling over his words, and allusions to the decades Biden spent in Washington. But the ad, which is part of a larger attempt to dub the presumptive Democratic nominee “Beijing Biden,” reserves its greatest ire for Biden’s purported ties to China, zooming in on a shot of him shaking hands with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“China is killing our jobs and now killing our people,” a male voice intones ominously. Instead of taking the high road, the Biden campaign has offered its own version of xenophobic hype. A Biden campaign spot released in mid-April juxtaposes Chinese medical workers in Tyvex suits with lines of Americans waiting to get tested for the virus. “Trump rolled over for the Chinese,” a narrator says. Both ads have angered Asian American activists. The Biden spot in particular has upset people who view him as a potential ally at a time of rising xenophobia.


They worry that even without going to extremes like calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” and the “kung-flu” — terms used by Trump and officials in his administration over the past few months — images of Asian faces and offhanded mentions of “the Chinese” are just a slightly subtler form of racist dog-whistling, and harmful at a moment when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise. “There’s a clear link between the rhetoric that’s being used and the increased harm to our community,” said John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC. “We are equally concerned about both parties. We are concerned that there will be a race to the bottom.”

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I don’t think the DOJ will go after Obama, only Sidney Powell would.

Jan 5 Oval Office Meeting Key To Entire Anti-Trump Operation (Hemingway)

Information released in the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case it brought against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn confirms the significance of a January 5, 2017, meeting at the Obama White House. It was at this meeting that Obama gave guidance to key officials who would be tasked with protecting his administration’s utilization of secretly funded Clinton campaign research, which alleged Trump was involved in a treasonous plot to collude with Russia, from being discovered or stopped by the incoming administration. “President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,”

National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote in an unusual email to herself about the meeting that was also attended by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, and Vice President Joe Biden. A clearer picture is emerging of the drastic steps that were taken to accomplish Obama’s goal in the following weeks and months. Shortly thereafter, high-level operatives began intensely leaking selective information supporting a supposed Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, the incoming National Security Advisor was ambushed, and the incoming Attorney General was forced to recuse himself from oversight of investigations of President Trump. At each major point in the operation, explosive media leaks were a key strategy in the operation to take down Trump.

Not only was information on Russia not fully shared with the incoming Trump team, as Obama directs, the leaks and ambushes made the transition chaotic, scared quality individuals away from working in the administration, made effective governance almost impossible, and materially damaged national security. When Comey was finally fired on May 9, in part for his duplicitousness regarding his handling of the Russia collusion theory, he orchestrated the launch of a Special Counsel probe that continued his efforts for another two years. That probe ended with Mueller finding no evidence of any American colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election, much less Trump or anyone connected to him.

An analysis of the timeline from early 2017 shows a clear pattern of behavior from the federal officials running the collusion operation against the Trump campaign. It also shows how essential media leaks were to their strategy to sideline key law enforcement and intelligence officials and cripple the ability of the incoming Trump administration to run the country. Here’s a timeline of the key moments and news articles of the efforts, per Obama’s direction, to prevent the Trump administration from learning about the FBI’s operation against it.

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Can I get this straight? Susan Rice was Obama’s national security advisor. She unmasked US officials while she was no longer at the job. Even if individuals are unmasked, their identities remain highly classified. But they were leaked in substantial numbers. Which is in turn highly illegal.

Samantha Power was United Nations Ambassador. She also unmasked Trump officials. In fact she made 260 requests for unmasking. Only, she didn’t. Someone else did in her name.

List Of Obama Officials Involved In Unmasking Declassified (SAC)

In 2017, information published by this reporter and John Solomon, then with Circa, a online news organization under Sinclair Media, exposed that former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice had unmasked a number of U.S. officials connected to then President Donald Trump’s campaign. On Monday night, reports surfaced, first with ABC News and then others, that the acting Director Of National Intelligence Richard Grenell had authorized the declassification of the list of senior Obama officials that had unmasked Americans exponentially in the last months of the Obama administration. A U.S. official familiar with the declassification process confirmed to SaraACarter.com that the list of officials has been declassified and should be made public shortly.

In May, 2019 President Donald Trump authorized the Department of Justice to declassify the list, as well as all the other documentation pertaining to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance warrant used to spy on short term campaign volunteer Carter Page. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed in several recent reports that the FBI and DOJ failed to validate the evidence used to obtain the warrants to spy on Page and omitted evidence that would have stopped the secret court from authorizing the warrant to spy on the campaign. The most egregious unmasking was that of Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whose prosecution has now been overturned by the Justice Department.

In January, 2017 Flynn’s name and the contents of his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was revealed to a Washington Post reporter by a senior official in the Obama administration. The contents of the conversation were later outed in a column by Washington Post writer David Ignatius. The highly classified information led to the false allegations that Flynn and the Trump campaign were conspiring with Russia. Still, no one has been held accountable for the highly classified leak. However, sources tell this reporter there has been an ongoing DOJ investigation into the matter.

Rice, who hid her role in unmasking Trump officials, eventually admitted that she had requested unmasking of officials in the campaign. However, it was in April, 2017, when Trump White House lawyers were informed that Rice had requested the identities of U.S. persons in the raw intelligence reports. Usually in the raw reports Americans are identified as U.S. Person 1 or U.S. Person 2. Those identities are considered top secret and are limited to only a few persons. Further, there was an abundance of evidence that former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, unlike any former U.N. Ambassador before her, was also unmasking American’s identities in these highly classified reports at an extraordinary rate.

Then, in October, 2017, House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy revealed that Power had admitted under testimony that not all the “unmaskings” attributed to her were made by her but instead were done by someone else who signed in her name. She allegedly made 260 requests to “unmask” Americans who had been in communication with non-U.S. citizens that were under surveillance. Recent testimony, declassified by Grenell has shown that to be the case and Power’s testimony coincides with Gowdy’s recollection of the events. “I think if she were on your show, she would say those requests to unmask may have been attributed to her, but they greatly exceed by an exponential factor the requests she actually made,” said Gowdy, in October 2017 to Fox News.

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There are now quite a few people known who said completely different things in public from what they said under oath.

Another Former Obama Official Contradicts Her Public Statements (Turley)

The long-delayed release of testimony from the House Intelligence Committee has proved embarrassing for a variety of former Obama officials who have been extensively quoted on the allegedly strong evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign and the Russians. Figures like James Clapper, who is a CNN expert, long indicated hat the evidence from the Obama Administration was strong and alarming. However, in testimony, Clapper denied seeing any such evidence.

One of the most embarrassing is the testimony of Evelyn Farkas, a former Obama Administration official who was widely quoted in her plea to Congress to gather the evidence that she knew was found in by the Obama Administration. In her testimony under oath Farkas repeatedly stated that she knew of no such evidence of collusion. Farkas, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, was widely quoted when she said on MSNBC in 2017 that she feared that evidence she knew about would be destroyed by the Trump Administration.

She stated: “..was urging my former colleagues, and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill… Get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration, because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior people that left. So it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy . . . the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their, the staff, the Trump staff’s dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence. So I became very worried, because not enough was coming out into the open, and I knew that there was more.”

MSNBC never seriously questioned the statements despite the fact that Farkas left the Obama Administration in 2015 before any such investigation could have occurred. As we have seen before, the factual and legal basis for such statements are largely immaterial in the age of echo journalism. The statement fit the narrative even if it lacked any plausible basis. Not surprisingly, the House Intelligence Committee was eager to have Farkas share all that she stated she “knew about [“the Trump folks”], their staff, the Trump’s staff’s dealing with Russian” and wanted to get “into the open.” After all, she told MSNBC that “I knew that there was more.”

She was finally put under oath in the closed classified sessions and there was nothing but classified crickets. Farkas was repeatedly asked to share that information that electrified the MSNBC hosts and audience. She repeatedly denied any such knowledge, telling then Rep. Trey Gowdy (R, S.C.), “I didn’t know anything.” Gowdy noted that Farkas left the Obama administration in 2015 and asked “Then how did you know?” She repeated again “I didn’t know anything.”

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“If any of us [..] were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation..”

Isn’t that exactly the point? Barr said it was not properly predicated?!

2,000 Former DOJ, FBI Officials Demand Barr Resign Over Flynn Case (UPI)

Almost 2,000 former federal prosecutors and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation published an open letter Monday calling for the resignation of Attorney General William P. Barr over the dropping of the Michael Flynn case in federal court. Former U.S. Department of Justice and FBI officials, identifying themselves as both Republicans and Democrats, said Barr’s decision to drop prosecution of Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security advisor, was a case of using “the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests,” the letter said. “Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented,” the letter added.

“If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.” Last week, Barr’s prosecutors asked a U.S. District judge to dismiss the charge of making false statements to the FBI with prejudice against Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Co-signers of the letter said Barr earlier overruled sentencing recommendations to seek favorable treatment for President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, showing that Barr was doing the president’s bidding as Attorney General.


[..] “[Barr’s actions flout] the core principle that politics must never enter into the Department’s law enforcement decisions and undermined its mission to ensure equal justice under the law,” the letter said. Co-signers included former federal prosecutors and some former presidential appointees. The highest-ranking signee was Stuart Gerson, who served during the Clinton administration as acting attorney general, NBC News reported. The letter urged District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who’s in charge of the Flynn case, to examine the DOJ’s rationale for dismissing the charges, and to hold hearings with witnesses if necessary, then to “deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.” Along with urging Barr’s resignation, the group urged Congress to reschedule a House Judiciary Committee meeting to censure Barr, “and demand that he answer for his abuses of power.”

Read more …

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Feb 172020
 


Jack Delano Discarded oil cans at truck service station on U.S. 1, New York Avenue, Washington, DC 1940

 

Japan Braces For Hundreds More Cases Onboard Cruise Ship (G.)
Taiwan Confirms First Coronavirus Death On Island, Cases At 20 (R.)
Pay Attention To Shanghai, Beijing, Japan Infection Rates (F.)
Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Fastest Rate Since 2014 (BBC)
Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China, Recession Looms In Japan, Singapore (R.)
Americans Disembark From Virus-Hit Cruise; China Says New Cases Slow (R.)
Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers After Virus Case Found (R.)
‘Animals Live For Man’: China’s Appetite For Wildlife To Survive Virus (R.)
Armed Robbers Steal Hundreds Of Toilet Rolls In Hong Kong (BBC)
Devin Nunes Says Trump ‘Has To Tweet’ To Combat ‘Hard Left’ Media (Fox)
1,100 Former DOJ Employees Call On Barr To Resign (NPR)
German Court Halts Work On New Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ (BBC)
Australia Broadcaster Loses Newsroom Raid Case (BBC)
Breakdown or Breakthrough? Degrowth and the Great Transition (NC)
US Peach Grower Awarded $265 Million From Bayer, BASF In Weedkiller Suit (R.)

 

 

Well, we do have some numbers:

 

• Cases 71,330, up 2,076 from yesterday

• Deaths 1,775, up 106 from yesterday

• 760 million Chinese under quarantine

 

We also have plenty confusion. For instance, Reuters has two headlines that say Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China and China Says New Cases Slow. That clears things up.

But the most dramatic event over the weekend must be the repatration of various nationalities to their homelands. About 400 Americans were evacuated from the Diamond Princess, with Australian Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers set to follow soon. 44 of these Americans are infected with the virus, and they won’t be going home. The rest will, though.

This is happening while “Japan is bracing for the possibility of hundreds of additional cases of the coronavirus onboard the stricken Princess Diamond”, says the Guardian. So the Americans that are flown home go into quarantine, right? Well… Some Diamond Princess passengers face another two weeks in isolation if they have shared a cabin with someone who tests positive.”

Remember, as of the start of the evacuation, there were 3,711 people on board. 1,219 had been tested of which 355 have been confirmed positive for the virus (among them the 44 Americans). Ergo, 2,492 people were not tested, among them the remaining 356 Americans. Who will only go into isolation if they shared a cabin with a positive case. The rest can do what they want.

We see the issue here, don’t we? How many of those 356 Americans may be infected? How many of the other nationalities which will fly home? There have been suggestions that the onboard air circulation system on the ship may have played a role in spreading the virus. If so, it could be everywhere. And yes, there could be “hundreds of additional cases”.

Then there’s the Werkendam cruise ship, from which hundreds were allowed to spread all over the world, taking off from Cambodia and/or Malaysia, before a positive case was found. Now it’s a “Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers”. Sort of like a modern version of the biblical “Go Forth and Multiply”. Where were these decisions made? Anyone ask the WHO, or China?

 

Meanwhile, China keeps trying. In Hubei province, Xiaogan city – with a population of nearly 5 million people, 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the second highest number in China, and 70 deaths, “all vehicles including motorcycles, electric bikes, bicycles and tricycles are prohibited from driving on the road”. Try that in NYC, LA, Paris, Moscow, name a major city.

And the economic effects get increased attention as well. “Barclays analysts estimate that real [Japan] GDP contracted 3.2% on a quarterly basis, a little better than market consensus of -3.8%. This is all pre-coronavirus…] Take it from there. At this point hearing from economists, bankers, investors is pretty useless, because they have little idea what goes on, and, like politicians, they won’t consider really bad scenarios until it’s too late.

But it’ll come trickling through. Served in a sauce of “we’ll be fine”.

UPDATE: 99 additional people tested positive aboard the Diamond Princess. 14 American evacuees who tested positive made the flight anyway, in a separate compartment

 

 

 

 

“Xiaogan, 70km from the city of Wuhan, has 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has recorded 70 deaths.”

Japan Braces For Hundreds More Cases Onboard Cruise Ship (G.)

Japan is bracing for the possibility of hundreds of additional cases of the coronavirus onboard the stricken Princess Diamond, as experts warned the country was still in the “early stages” of the outbreak. The passengers evacuated from the ship face further uncertainty too, with the US and Australian citizens set for a further two weeks of quarantine after arriving homeHundreds of American passengers have flown back to the US and Australia said it would follow suit on Wednesday. Onboard the Diamond Princess, 355 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 out of an original total of about 3,600 passengers and crew, and after testing 1,219. Forty American passengers who were diagnosed with the virus have been transferred to hospitals in Japan.

Some Diamond Princess passengers face another two weeks in isolation if they have shared a cabin with someone who tests positive. The total number of people infected around the world climbed to more than 71,000 on Monday, including a further 2,048 confirmed cases in China, where the total number of deaths stands at 1,770. Five people have died outside China. Of the 105 deaths reported in China on Monday, 100 were in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak. Cities in Hubei have stepped up measures to stop the virus’s spread.


Xiaogan city – which has a population of nearly 5 million people and the second highest number of confirmed cases in China – ordered residents to stay in their homes or face detention of up to 10 days. State media reported that “all vehicles including motorcycles, electric bikes, bicycles and tricycles are prohibited from driving on the road”. Xiaogan, 70km from the city of Wuhan, has 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has recorded 70 deaths.

Read more …

Fifth location outside China.

Taiwan Confirms First Coronavirus Death On Island, Cases At 20 (R.)

A taxi driver has died from the coronavirus in Taiwan, marking the first such death on the island and the fifth fatality outside mainland China from an epidemic that has curbed travel and disrupted global supply chains. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said during a news conference on Sunday that the deceased person was a 61-year-old man who had diabetes and hepatitis B. Taiwan has to date accumulated 20 confirmed cases. The deceased person had not traveled abroad recently and was a taxi driver whose clients were mainly from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, the minister said. One of his family members was also confirmed to have the virus.

The pair constituted Taiwan’s first local transmission cases, the minister said, adding that authorities were trying to find out as soon as possible the source of contraction. “So far, we are not able to gather his contact history, so we are actively making investigations, hoping to find out the source of the contraction,” Chen said. The island will on Monday start testing all patients who show symptoms associated with coronavirus and had traveled abroad recently, the health ministry said.


The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the central Chinese province of Hubei, has killed 1,665 people in China with latest figures showing 68,500 cases of the illness. Taiwan has banned entry to Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China and suspended most flights to its giant neighbor. Many schools have also extended their Lunar New Year holiday to late February to curb the spread of the virus. In a response to panic buying of masks on the island, the government scrambled to build several mask production lines and Premier Su Tseng-chang has vowed to more than double its daily mask production to 10 million by early March.

Read more …

Economic consequences. Japan was doing awful under Abenomics already.

Pay Attention To Shanghai, Beijing, Japan Infection Rates (F.)

Beijing and Shanghai have under 1,000 reported cases and only four deaths, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Their data is sourced from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the European Center for Disease Control and two China health agencies. China is the main source of the numbers. There are many people outside of China who doubt Beijing and Shanghai’s low case load. Watch for those numbers to rise in the weeks ahead. [..]

Covid-19 remains a mystery pathogen. It can be deadly. It’s like a bad pneumonia. Scientists believe it came from a species of bat. There is also concern that it escaped a virology research lab in Wuhan. There is no vaccine for Covid-19 yet, so those who have it are being treated with a variety of anti-viral medications and have to wait for the virus to work its way out of the body. Markets are repricing everything China related. Barclays Capital analysts released a 20-page report on the coronavirus on Friday where they said they were pushing out the recovery period, and think Japan heads into a technical recession because of it. Japan will release its fourth quarter GDP numbers on Monday.

Barclays analysts led by Tetsufumi Yamakawa in Tokyo estimate that real GDP contracted 3.2% on a quarterly basis, a little better than market consensus of -3.8%. This is all pre-coronavirus and mostly due to domestic tax matters. Yamakawa does see an increasing risk in first quarter weakness due to the Covid-19 impacts, and if that leads to negative growth, and it could, Japan hits a technical recession with back to back contraction. Weaker China tourism and a decrease in trade with China is a huge headwind for Japan. For Barclays, the probability of a recession there has surged to 69%.


Barclays’ China view is basically Wall Street consensus: so long as the virus stays concentrated in Hubei, they are going to trust China keeps it that way. [..] Xi Jinping last week called for even tighter restrictions on Hubei, and put two new Party bosses in charge to make sure the clampdown is enforced. “We think these efforts showed the urgency and determination of the government to stabilize the epicenter as soon as possible,” says Eric Zhu, an economist with Barclays in Hong Kong. “We expect incremental improvements,” he says.

Read more …

How is Abe still the PM there?

Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Fastest Rate Since 2014 (BBC)

Japan’s economy shrank at the fastest rate in five years at the end of 2019 as it was hit by a sales tax rise, a major typhoon and weak global demand. Annualised GDP fell by a much steeper than expected 6.3% in October-December. There are also concerns the coronavirus outbreak will mean the slump continues this quarter. That has raised fears that the world’s third-biggest economy may fall into recession. During the period Japanese consumer spending fell 2.9% after the country’s sales tax was raised in October to 10% from 8%. In the same month Typhoon Hagibis hit large parts of the country.


Last quarter, capital spending dropped by 3.7% and exports slipped 0.1% amid the ongoing US-China trade war. Investors are now watching to see whether the economy will rebound after the coronavirus forced China to shut down factories and led to a big drop in Chinese tourists visiting Japan. In response to today’s data economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the Japanese government was ready to take all necessary steps to deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy and tourism.

Read more …

Recession looms everywhere by now. We just don’t want to know it.

Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China, Recession Looms In Japan, Singapore (R.)

Japan and Singapore appeared to be on the brink of recession on Monday as the coronavirus epidemic disrupted tourism and supply chains around the world, and as China imposed tougher restrictions to try and stop the virus spreading further. The number of reported new cases of coronavirus in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic, rose on Monday by more than 1,933, after two days of falls, and there were 100 deaths reported since Sunday. Across mainland China, officials said the total number of cases rose by 2,048 to 70,548, with 1,770 deaths. Nearly 90% of new cases were in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people where the virus is believed to have originated at a market illegally trading wildlife late last year.

The virus, which is believed to have a 14-day incubation period, has forced thousands of people to be quarantined around the world. In Cambodia, authorities were scrambling to track down hundreds of passengers who disembarked from the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam after an American woman left the ship and was tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia. More than 100 have already left the country, while some 300 are reportedly still in Cambodia. “I believe there’s 300 Americans here at this hotel plus a few hundred from other countries. We will all be tested for the coronavirus today and tomorrow by the Cambodian Ministry of Health,” said passenger Holley Rauen, a public health nurse and midwife from Fort Myers, Florida.


“We have no idea when we get to get home…” American passengers were taken off another cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan. Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board the Carnival Corp. Diamond Princess in Yokohama. The 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since Feb. 3. Some 355 people on board have tested positive for the disease, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China. Those with the disease have been taken to hospital in Japan and no one from the ship has died. Around half of the guests onboard are from Japan.

Read more …

It’s just a matter of waiting for new clusters to pop up now.

Americans Disembark From Virus-Hit Cruise; China Says New Cases Slow (R.)

American passengers were taken off a cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan, while China said the rate of new coronavirus cases had slowed, calling that proof its steps to fight the outbreak were working. An announcement aboard the Diamond Princess, where 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since Feb. 3, told Americans to get ready to disembark on Sunday evening for charter flights home. Passengers wearing masks could later be seen waving through the windows of buses parked near the ship. Of the roughly 400 Americans on the cruise, more than 40 are infected with the virus and will stay in Japan for treatment, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

“They are not going to go anywhere. They’re going to be in hospitals in Japan,” Fauci told the CBS News program “Face the Nation.” “People who have symptoms will not be able to get on the evacuation plane. Others are going to be evacuated starting imminently to air force bases in the United States.” Kyodo News Agency said the flights carrying U.S. passengers left Haneda Airport at around 1700 ET (2200 GMT). Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers were expected to follow soon, after their governments also announced plans to repatriate passengers. “Leaving in a few hours. No details. Might be going to Texas or Nebraska,” U.S. passenger Gay Courter told Reuters.


Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board, bringing the total on the ship to 355, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China. Fauci told the Washington Post there were 44 infected Americans. Within China, authorities reported 2,009 new cases on Sunday, noting that this was down from more than 2,600 the previous day. They said this showed their efforts to halt the spread of the virus were bearing fruit.

Read more …

Is anyone criminally responsible?

Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers After Virus Case Found (R.)

Holland America Line said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers who disembarked from its Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia. The cruise line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said none of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew have reported any symptoms. “Guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information,” a statement from the company said. Passengers had been cleared to travel by Cambodian authorities after health checks when the cruise ship docked on Thursday. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.


But on Saturday, Malaysia said an American woman who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday on a chartered flight had tested positive for the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,700 people, the vast majority in China. The woman’s husband tested negative for the coronavirus. About 137 of the 145 passengers on the chartered flight had already left for other countries as of Sunday after showing no signs of illness, Malaysian authorities said. Dozens more of the Westerdam passengers had flown through Thailand and onward to other countries, Thai officials said. At least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard the vessel off the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, Holland America said. Others were in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Read more …

Did you know the Chinese see the world the same way Christian religions do? G-d appointed man the master of the world! Must be the dumbest facet of religion: man declares himself G-d.

‘Animals Live For Man’: China’s Appetite For Wildlife To Survive Virus (R.)

For the past two weeks China’s police have been raiding houses, restaurants and makeshift markets across the country, arresting nearly 700 people for breaking the temporary ban on catching, selling or eating wild animals. The scale of the crackdown, which has netted almost 40,000 animals including squirrels, weasels and boars, suggests that China’s taste for eating wildlife and using animal parts for medicinal purposes is not likely to disappear overnight, despite potential links to the new coronavirus. Traders legally selling donkey, dog, deer, crocodile and other meat told Reuters they plan to get back to business as soon as the markets reopen. “I’d like to sell once the ban is lifted,” said Gong Jian, who runs a wildlife store online and operates shops in China’s autonomous Inner Mongolia region.

“People like buying wildlife. They buy for themselves to eat or give as presents because it is very presentable and gives you face.” Gong said he was storing crocodile and deer meat in large freezers but would have to kill all the quails he had been breeding as supermarkets were no longer buying his eggs and they cannot be eaten after freezing. Scientists suspect, but have not proven, that the new coronavirus passed to humans from bats via pangolins, a small ant-eating mammal whose scales are highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine. [..] “In many people’s eyes, animals are living for man, not sharing the earth with man,” said Wang Song, a retired researcher of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


[..] Much of the farming and sale of wildlife takes place in rural or poorer regions under the blessing of local authorities who see trading as a boost for the local economy. State-backed television programs regularly show people farming animals, including rats, for commercial sale and their own consumption. However, activists pushing for a ban describe the licensed farms as a cover for illegal wildlife trafficking, where animals are specifically bred to be consumed as food or medicine rather than released into the wild.

Read more …

Brace for much more of this.

Armed Robbers Steal Hundreds Of Toilet Rolls In Hong Kong (BBC)

Armed robbers in Hong Kong made off with hundreds of toilet rolls worth more than HKD1,000 ($130). Toilet rolls are currently in short supply in Hong Kong due to shortages caused by panic-buying during the coronavirus outbreak. Knife wielding men robbed a delivery man outside a supermarket in the Mong Kok district, police said. Police have arrested two men and recovered some of the stolen loo rolls, local media reports said. The armed robbery took place in Mong Kok, a district of Hong Kong with a history of “triad” crime gangs, early on Monday.


According to local reports, the robbers had threatened a delivery worker who had unloaded rolls of toilet paper outside Wellcome Supermarket. An Apple Daily report said that 600 toilet paper rolls, valued at around HKD1,695 ($218), had been stolen. Stores across the city have seen supplies massively depleted with long queues when new stock arrives. Despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak, residents have been stocking up on toilet paper. Other household products have also seen panic-buying including rice, pasta and cleaning items.

Read more …

“What’s happening here with Barr, I think people need to understand that he’s cleaning up the mess from not only the Obama administration, but also the mess that was left with the whole Russia-gate fiasco…”

Devin Nunes Says Trump ‘Has To Tweet’ To Combat ‘Hard Left’ Media (Fox)

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., fired back at Democrats who criticized Attorney General William Barr for his role in former Trump associate Roger Stone’s sentencing and defended the president’s use of Twitter after he used the platform to comment about the ongoing criminal case. “What’s happening here with Barr, I think people need to understand that he’s cleaning up the mess from not only the Obama administration, but also the mess that was left with the whole Russia-gate fiasco,” Nunes told “Fox & Friends Weekend,” saying taxpayers paid tens of millions of dollars to fund then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team “that went chasing and trying to put us into a status of a permanent coup against the president of the United States.”

Nunes’ comments came days after Barr himself publicly swiped at Trump, declaring Thursday that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and open cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.” [..] “I think what the attorney general said was very clear, that the president should be careful making comments about criminal investigations. One should not see that as anything other than but what it is,” Nunez said, adding that Barr “didn’t say to stop tweeting, because the fact of the matter is, with 90 percent of the media being hard left and really just working for the Democratic Party, the president has to be able to tweet.”


Earlier in the week, Trump applauded Barr on Twitter for the decision to reverse the sentencing recommendation, writing: “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.” “He’s built a powerful tool reaching millions of Americans, millions of people around the globe,” Nunes added, “so the president has to tweet. At the same time, the attorney general has to be able to do his job.” He also said, “It’s understandable that the president can be frustrated,” and called Stone’s dramatic early-morning arrest by federal agents in January 2019 “ridiculous.”

Read more …

It’s ilke the interagency debate in the House testimonies. The civil servants think they have the right to set policy. And don’t you dare question that. But wasn’t it perhaps high time someone did?

1,100 Former DOJ Employees Call On Barr To Resign (NPR)

More than 1,100 former Department of Justice officials are calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign after his department lowered the prison sentence recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, in a move that’s led to accusations of political interference. In a letter released Sunday, the former DOJ officials, who have worked across Republican and Democratic administrations, wrote that Barr’s intervention in the Stone case has tarnished the department’s reputation. “Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice,” the former officials wrote.

“In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.” On Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had recommended a prison sentence of up to nine years for Stone’s 2019 conviction on charges including making false statements to Congress and witness tampering. On Twitter, Trump said the sentencing recommendation amounted to “a horrible and very unfair situation.” But then on Tuesday, the Justice Department intervened, ordering a new sentencing memo and calling for lighter punishment. A senior DOJ official told NPR that officials were “shocked” at the original recommendation.


[..] To Julie Zebrak, who’s among the former DOJ officials who signed the letter, Barr’s behavior shatters a cardinal norm that has been in place for decades: that the Justice Department’s prosecutorial decisions should not be influenced by the White House. Zebrak told NPR that Barr’s move “sent shockwaves through the former DOJ alumni.” She added: “We are all watching in a really rapid and terrifying way the undermining of the department and the diminishment of the rule of law. We have to sort of speak up and speak out when we can.”

Read more …

“Clean cars” require cutting forests. This is where the environmental movement meets its Armageddon; there’s just not enough knowledge, they’ll believe anything that sounds good.

German Court Halts Work On New Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ (BBC)

Tesla has been ordered to temporarily halt preparations for a car factory in Germany after environmentalists won a court injunction on Sunday. The electric carmaker had been clearing forest land near the capital, Berlin, ahead of building its first European car and battery plant. The court emphasised the injunction was temporary and subject to further hearings, probably this week. Protesters say the factory is a threat to local wildlife and water supplies. To much fanfare, Tesla’s boss Elon Musk announced plans last November to build a European facility known as a “gigafactory” in Grünheide, in the eastern state of Brandenburg.


But the factory has become a flashpoint between environmentalists and Germany’s pro-business Christian Democrat and Free Democrat parties, who fear the issue could damage the country’s image as a place to do business. The dispute highlights the risks for the US carmaker, which has not been officially granted permission to build the factory. Tesla was, however, granted permission by Germany’s environment ministry to begin site preparations “at its own risk”. This has involved clearing about 91 hectares (225 acres) of forest and the felling of thousands of trees – something that outraged an alliance of environmentalists called the Green League. In a statement on Sunday, the court representing the Berlin and Brandenburg region cautioned: “It should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding.”

Read more …

If the goverment can let its journalists rot in Belmarsh, this shouldn’t be a surprise. How loud has ABC been in its defense of Assannge?

Australia Broadcaster Loses Newsroom Raid Case (BBC)

Australia’s national broadcaster has lost its legal challenge to controversial police raids on its Sydney newsroom last year. In June, police searched the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the home of a newspaper journalist over articles which relied on leaks from government whistleblowers. The raids sparked public outrage and protests across the nation’s media. However, the Federal Court of Australia has ruled the searches were legal. ABC’s managing director David Anderson said the decision was “disappointing”. He said the raids had been a high-profile “attempt to intimidate journalists for doing their job”. Australian Federal Police alleged the stories and reporters at the centre of its searches had breached national security laws.


In the raid last year, they seized thousands of documents over a 2017 ABC investigation which alleged Australian armed forces had committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Police also raided the home of News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst. In 2018, she had reported an alleged attempt by a government agency to spy on Australian citizens. Australia’s conservative government tightened its security laws in 2018 to make it a criminal offence for journalists to receive classified information from military or intelligence sources. Canberra has previously said it backs press freedom but that “no one was above the law”.

Read more …

Never voluntarily.

Breakdown or Breakthrough? Degrowth and the Great Transition (NC)

When mainstream approaches to sustainability fail to challenge economic growth they provide limited, sometimes even false solutions to today’s crises. Technological and political interventions that reduce environmental impacts and enhance overall efficiency – though contributing to sustainability in a narrow sense – end up adding to global inequality and ecological overshoot, insofar as they accelerate growth. Growth is one of the chief drivers of social inequality and environmental degradation; it is also what sustains the global capitalist economy. Sustainability solutions that promote growth under the banner of “green growth” are the easiest to accept and implement, but they are the least able to address the roots of today’s crises.

Proponents of green growth believe that growth can be decoupled from environmental impacts, yet there is no empirical evidence that this is possible. Meanwhile, acting on such an unproven assumption obscures the real harm being done by sustaining extractive and exploitative capitalism. We have already surpassed the known limits to growth, so degrowth is our only option. Sustainability is an outcome of healthy metabolic relationships between an organism and its environment. When consumption depletes resources faster than their rate of regeneration – which is what we are currently doing – it is by definition unsustainable.

Although essential, today’s most progressive reforms, including the Green New Deal and the circular economy, will only be effective when combined with a more equitable distribution of resources and decreasing per capita consumption in advanced economies. For sustainability efforts to be effective, they must be part of a comprehensive degrowth agenda focused on systems change. Contrary to common misunderstandings, degrowth does not mean negative growth or imply sacrifices to one’s quality of life. Rather, it is focused on reducing a society’s material and energy throughput while actually enhancing quality of life. [..]


The next 30 years constitute what systems theorists call a ‘decision window.’ How societies decide to respond to mounting social and ecological pressures will determine whether the system evolves or collapses. Once the decision window ends and the global system passes the chaos point, the system irreversibly changes, and there are only two futures left – breakthrough or breakdown. There is no chance that a wildly optimistic techno-future can sustain growth beyond social and planetary boundaries. Civilization will either collapse or it will follow a path of managed descent and sustainable reorganization. The only breakthroughs remaining follow paths of degrowth.

Read more …

They’ll appeal. Check back in a decade.

US Peach Grower Awarded $265 Million From Bayer, BASF In Weedkiller Suit (R.)

A Missouri jury’s $265 million award to peach grower Bill Bader in his lawsuit against herbicide providers Bayer and BASF has raised the stakes for the two companies as at least 140 similar cases head to U.S. courts later this year. A jury in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, handed Bader, the state’s largest peach farmer, $15 million in actual and $250 million in punitive damages. He sued the companies saying his 1,000-acre orchard was irreparably harmed by herbicide that they produce, which drifted onto its trees from nearby farms. The three-week trial was the first case in the United States to rule on the use of dicamba-based herbicides alleged to have damaged tens of thousands of acres of U.S. cropland.

The herbicide can become a vapor and drift for miles when used in certain weather, farmers have claimed. Bayer said it was “disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” and plans to appeal. BASF also said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision and plans to appeal. Both companies said their dicamba-based herbicides are safe when used as directed. Bayer faces separate multi-billion-dollar litigation over the Roundup weedkiller made by Monsanto, the U.S. firm it took over for $63 billion in 2018. Monsanto made Roundup and dicamba, and Bayer is being sued over both products.


[..] Bayer and BASF face other dicamba lawsuits that could begin late his year before the same judge in Missouri, said attorney Billy Randles, whose firm represented Bader and also represents dozens of others with similar claims. “These are all the same” allegations, said Randles. “They claim negligent design, failure to warn and all allege a joint venture” between Bayer and BASF. The jury found the two equally liable for the damages.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 092020
 


Dorothea Lange Play street for children. Sixth Street and Avenue C, NYC June 1936

 

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)
China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)
In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)
Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)
Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)
Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)
Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)
Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)
Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)
The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)
A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)
Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

 

 

Late last night in my present timezone, CET, initial new coronavirus numbers came out and everyone said they meant the virus has now killed more people (805-806) than SARS. Everyone except for SCMP which cited a WHO number of 813 SARS deaths (they still haven’t figured that out after 17 years). And then, wouldn’t you know, when I got up in the morning, SCMP had revised their new deaths number to … exactly 813. If I weren’t born so wonderfully gullible I would ask myself something.

Global death toll for new coronavirus hits 805, exceeding that of SARS

The global death toll from the new coronavirus is now at 805, higher than that of SARS. Hubei province reported Sunday morning that there were 81 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in the mainland to 803 so far. The global death toll for the new coronavirus currently stands at 805, including one death in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong. That compares to the SARS outbreak which killed at least 774 people and infected 8,096 people worldwide in 2002 and 2003, according to data from the World Health Organization.

NOTE: SARS deaths took 9 months. This epidemic is just 1-2 months old.

China’s Hubei reports 81 deaths, global total just short of WHO’s SARS figure

China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic, reported 81 new deaths from the disease on Saturday, bringing the province’s total fatalities from the outbreak to 780. Total deaths globally stood at 805, just short of the 813 total fatalities attributed to the deadly Sars epidemic of 2002-2003 by the World Health Organisation. The provincial health authorities also reported 2,147 newly confirmed cases of the disease in the past 24 hours. This brings the total cases in Hubei to 27,100. These figures compared to the reported deaths and newly confirmed cases of 81 and 2,841, respectively, on Friday.

 

 

• 813 deaths, up from 724 yesterday. 89 new deaths is a new record again.

• Confirmed new cases rose to 37,198, an increase of 2,652 overnight

• 3,916 suspected new cases, bringing the total to 28,942 suspected cases.

 

And this little map looks promising, but I do have questions about it:

 

 

Questions like: what are the effects of the ever wider and ever more stringent lockdowns on this? Do fewer people get infected if they’re all locked up in their homes? Or are infected people also harder to find when they’re behind closed doors? Would families volunteer to deliver potentially infected family members to authorities, or would they wait until they’re as good as dead?

I found this interesting as well: “Wuhan has 49 crematoriums, which can each burn 5 bodies every two hours. They’ve been working 24 hours a day for 17 days now. 49 x 17 x 24 x 5/2 = 49,980 bodies.”

 

Still, as I said yesterday, it’s really all about Monday morning, when the economy is supposed to start “working” again. On Friday, Tesla said its Shanghai plant would re-open tomorrow morning. But then today, the government ordered Foxconn’s Shenzhen factories to remain closed. Will Tesla really open?

As I also said somewhere yesterday, “restarting” the economy where 100s of millions are under some form of lockdown now, means shoving all those millions into planes, trains and subways to bring them to plants where they spend 8-10-12 hours in close proximity to potential virus carriers. Thousands more petri dishes.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

 

Well, that’s my question: “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.”

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)

As authorities attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus in China, Foxconn did its part to help on Friday by telling staff not to return to work on February 10, following the Lunar New Year. Rather than resuming operations on the originally anticipated return date, the assembly partner told its tens of thousands of employees to stay away from the Shenzhen plant. A report by Nikkei claims the calling off of production has been further halted by the Chinese authorities, who have told Foxconn not to reopen. People familiar with the matter advised the factory was subject to on-site inspections by public health officials, which found there were “high risks of coronavirus infection” if it did reopen.

One internal memo about the inspection and government-ordered closure mentioned “Violation of epidemic prevention and control could potentially face the death penalty.” Part of the problem is the production facilities use central air condition and have a high density of workers, conditions ripe for viral transference. “The local governments do not want to risk the potential virus spreading in such a labor-intensive working environment,” a source told the report. “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.” On Friday, Foxconn took the extra step of canceling flight bookings for employees from Taiwan returning from their home country to China between February 7 and February 14.


The measure was allegedly announced by Chairman Young Liu in a video conference that morning, who also confirmed the company’s Zhengzhou complex would need to be evaluated by the local government before it could be reopened. Foxconn has previously confirmed the coronavirus will affect production, and it is allegedly affecting Apple’s AirPods along with other products it makes, such as iPhones.

Read more …

What will stocks do?

China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)

China raised the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003 and raising anxiety among people preparing to return to work after an extended Lunar New Year break. Struggling to contain the spread of the disease, authorities had told businesses to tack up to 10 extra days onto holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January as the rising numbers of dead and infected cast a pall over the country. Many of China’s usually teeming cities have almost become ghost towns during the past two weeks, as the Communist Party rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and kept schools shut.


The sight of an economy regarded as a workshop to the world laid so low has also taken a toll on international financial markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into safe-havens like gold, bonds and the Japanese yen. Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces will remain closed and many white-collar workers will continue to work from home. The new deaths on Saturday reached another daily record at 89, data from the National Health Commission showed, pushing the total well over the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Read more …

“..around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital.”

In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)

A team of medical professionals at a hospital in Wuhan says that around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital. The team works at a Wuhan University hospital in the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday. The study says 138 cases were confirmed at the hospital between January 1 and 28. Of those, 41 percent, or 57 people, were medical staff or patients who were initially hospitalized for other reasons.


The study found that one patient in the surgical department may have infected more than 10 members of hospital staff. It says that while patients had symptoms such as high fever and sense of fatigue, researchers revealed that 10 percent either had atypical symptoms such as diarrhea, or complained of nausea. It concludes that it was difficult to screen patients with symptoms not previously associated with the virus. The team says that an important feature of the new coronavirus is the rapid human-to-human transmission among people in close contact.

Read more …

I think the ship off Hong Kong was freed today. The Yokohama one with 61 infected won’t be so lucky.

Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)

Cruises are, for the most part, meant to elicit feelings of relaxation—literally floating away from your landlocked responsibilities for a few days. But, for thousands of passengers aboard at least four different cruise ships, their vacations quickly turned into nightmare scenarios. As of Friday, four major vessels—the Diamond Princess, Westerdam, World Dream, and Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas cruise ships—have been impacted by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), aka the Wuhan coronavirus. Most affected by the outbreak is the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The ship was docked Tuesday after a former passenger tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, 61 passengers of the 3,700 people on board have tested positive for the virus, reports CNN. The ship’s quarantine is expected to last until at least February 19. The two other ships—the Westerdam, currently in search of a port in the East China Sea; and the World Dream, docked in Hong Kong—have also come to a halt due to fears of coronavirus, per CNN. No current or former passengers on the Westerdam have been reported as having the coronavirus, nor have any current passengers on the World Dream, though eight former passengers of the cruise ship have been confirmed as having the illness.


And most recently, on Friday, the Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas was docked near New York City, at a port in Bayonne, New Jersey, where 27 passengers were screened for the coronavirus, according to CNN. Four of those passengers were sent to the hospital for further investigation, while the other 23 were cleared. In a statement, per CNN, Royal Caribbean confirmed that, like airlines, they too are working to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. “We continue to work in close consultation with the CDC, the WHO, and local health authorities to align with their guidance and ensure the health and wellbeing of our guests and crew.”

Read more …

Sailed on Feb 1. Now it’s like the original Flying Dutchman ship.

Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)

The operator of the cruise ship Westerdam is searching for a port to call at after being rejected by destinations including Japan amid fears of the spreading coronavirus. The US-based Holland America Line said in a statement on Friday that the ship is “currently sailing on a southwesterly course off the coast of Taiwan.” The firm says it is positioning the ship “for access to potential port locations.” The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on February 1 with more than 2,200 passengers and crew onboard. Taiwan denied it permission to call, citing a suspicion of coronavirus infection among the passengers. Japanese authorities followed suit, preventing it from entering a port in the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa. Holland America Line said in the statement that “The ship is not in quarantine” and there is “no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board.” It added the ship has sufficient fuel and food, and passengers are provided with free internet and phone access.

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Is this the first cluster than doesn’t involve Chinese people? Note that the original infection came from Singapore, not China.

Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)

Five British nationals including a child have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus at a French mountain village, and health officials said they were checking who else might have been exposed, including at local schools. In total, 11 people, including the five who tested positive, have been hospitalized in southeastern France and were being examined, the French health ministry said on Saturday, adding that none were in serious condition. The group of Britons included holidaymakers and a family currently residing in the Alpine village and ski resort, Les Contamines-Montjoie. They shared neighboring apartments in a chalet and temporarily hosted a British man believed to have contracted the virus at a business congress in Singapore before his short visit to France in late January, the ministry added.


Two schools would be shut next week for checks, regional health official Jean-Yves Grall said, after it emerged that the nine-year-old who tested positive had attended lessons and French classes in different establishments. Two other children were also part of the group of 11 now in hospital in the cities of Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, and they had been schooled in the area too, according to Etienne Jacquet, mayor of Les Contamines-Montjoie. Some parents in the village, nestled in the mountains close to the Mont Blanc peak and the Swiss city of Geneva, said on Saturday they had received little information so far and were being cautious.

Read more …

Thermal cameras, cameras that see through face-masks, a good crisis to step up state control.

Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)

When the man from Hangzhou returned home from a business trip, the local police got in touch. They had tracked his car by his license plate in nearby Wenzhou, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases despite being far from the epicenter of the outbreak. Stay indoors for two weeks, they requested. After around 12 days, he was bored and went out early. This time, not only did the police contact him, so did his boss. He had been spotted near Hangzhou’s West Lake by a camera with facial recognition technology, and the authorities had alerted his company as a warning.

“I was a bit shocked by the ability and efficiency of the mass surveillance network. They can basically trace our movements with the AI technology and big data at any time and any place,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. Chinese have long been aware that they are tracked by the world’s most sophisticated system of electronic surveillance. The coronavirus emergency has brought some of that technology out of the shadows, providing the authorities with a justification for sweeping methods of high tech social control. Artificial intelligence and security camera companies boast that their systems can scan the streets for people with even low-grade fevers, recognize their faces even if they are wearing masks and report them to the authorities.

If a coronavirus patient boards a train, the railway’s “real name” system can provide a list of people sitting nearby. Mobile phone apps can tell users if they have been on a flight or a train with a known coronavirus carrier, and maps can show them locations of buildings where infected patients live. Although there has been some anonymous grumbling on social media, for now Chinese citizens seem to be accepting the extra intrusion, or even embracing it, as a means to combat the health emergency. “In the circumstances, individuals are likely to consider this to be reasonable even if they are not specifically informed about it,” said Carolyn Bigg, partner at law firm DLA Piper in Hong Kong.

[..] Facial recognition firm Megvii said on Tuesday it had developed a new way to spot and identify people with fevers, with support from the industry and science ministries. Its new “AI temperature measurement system”, which detects temperature with thermal cameras and uses body and facial data to identify individuals, is already being tested in a Beijing district. SenseTime, another leading AI firm, said it has built a similar system to be used at building entrances, which can identify people wearing masks, overcoming a weakness of earlier technology. Surveillance camera firm Zhejiang Dahua says it can detect fevers with infrared cameras to an accuracy within 0.3ºC.

Read more …

Wishful thinking?

Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)

China missed the best opportunity to contain the spread of the virus because officials at first delayed – or possibly covered up – the release of information and were slow in taking precautionary actions. The first patient who experienced symptoms was found on December 1, 2019, suggesting the origin of the disease was even earlier. And there has been some evidence of human-to-human transmissions since late December, with more emerging in early January when several medical workers were infected. These vital bits of information were not released to the public in time. Nor was any decisive action taken between early December and January 23, the day Beijing told the world about the severity of the epidemic and declared war on it just two days before the Lunar New Year on January 25.

Lives continued as normal in Wuhan in the week before then. On January 18, the Wuhan government hosted a banquet attended by more than 40,000 families in a bid to set a Guinness world record. On January 20, the municipal government said it was distributing 200,000 free tickets to residents for festive new year activities. Videos show few people wearing face masks in Wuhan before mid-January. Compare that to Hong Kong, where since early January the government has been updating people on the situation daily and holding frequent news briefings.


In terms of human-to-human transmissions, the alarm wasn’t raised until the prominent epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan spoke out on January 20 – nearly 50 days after the first patient was found and three weeks after it was established that human-to-human infections were taking place. Instead of acting against the virus, the government focused on controlling the information. In an effort to underscore the CCP’s determination to crack down on unsanctioned information, the broadcaster CCTV reported on January 2 that Wuhan police had interrogated and warned eight whistle-blowers, frontline doctors, for “rumourmongering” about the epidemic. It seemed all too familiar to 2003, when military doctor Jiang Yanyong defied government rules and risked his own life to break the news about the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) to the international media.

Read more …

“Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)

Democratic campaign events have long been more pep rally than discussion, more about the terribleness of Republicans than substance. “They’re so used to events where everyone is rooting for them,” says Redd. “It’s like, ‘No, we’re actually here to challenge you on issues that matter.’” Biden performed surprisingly well all year in polls, but he headed into Iowa like a passenger jet trying to land with one burning engine, hitting trees, cows, cars, sides of mountains, everything. The poking incidents were bad, but then one of his chief surrogates, John Kerry, was overheard by NBC talking about the possibility of jumping in to keep Bernie from “taking down” the party.

“Maybe I’m fucking deluding myself here,” Kerry reportedly said — mainstream Democrats may not have changed their policies or strategies much since Trump, but they sure are swearing more — then noted he would have to raise a “couple of million” from people like venture capitalist Doug Hickey. Kerry later said he was enumerating the reasons he wouldn’t run, though those notably did not include humility about his own reputation as a comical national electoral failure, or because there’s already a candidate in the race (Biden) he’d been crisscrossing Iowa urging people to vote for, but instead because he’d have to step down from the board of Bank of America and give up paid speeches. French aristocrats who shouted “Vive le Roi!” on the way to the razor did a better job advertising themselves.

With days, hours left before the caucuses, there were signs everywhere that the party establishment was scrambling to find someone among the remaining cast members to stop what Kerry called the “reality of Bernie.” But who? Yang said smart things about inequality, so he was out. Tulsi Gabbard was Russian Bernie spawn. Tom Steyer was Dennis Kucinich with money. Voters had already rejected potential Trump WWE opponents like the “progressive prosecutor” (Kamala Harris), the “pragmatic progressive” (John Delaney), “the next Bobby Kennedy” (Beto O’Rourke), “Courageous Empathy” (Cory Booker), Medicare for All can bite me (John Hickenlooper), and over a dozen others.

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed perfect, a man who defended the principle of wine-based fundraisers with military effrontery. New York magazine made his case in a cover story the magazine’s Twitter account summarized as: “Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

Read more …

The Trump people meddle in conspiracy theories. The “others” don’t. This is how and why you will lose the election.

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)

One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers. The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings.

Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside. The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?

[..] Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.

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How you tie your impression of Trump as a con-man in with the topic is unclear. Today’s bubbles started with Greenspan and Bill Clinton, not Trump.

A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)

The United States is currently enjoying another stock market boom. If history is any guide, it may well end in a bust. In the meantime, the boom is having a politically toxic effect. Donald Trump uses it to make the case for his reelection in the fall. But his argument, at a minimum, requires a big leap of faith. Trump’s assertion — that a stock market boom is the basis for shared prosperity — is just that, an assertion. It certainly hasn’t led to any broad-based prosperity. The beneficiaries are the happy few at the top of the U.S. economic pyramid. Anyone who ever read John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Great Crash 1929, his 1954 classic, has run across Galbraith’s idea of the “bezzle.” In addition to Ponzi schemes, Galbraith’s bezzle also captures the dynamic of speculative bubbles.

Those bubbles are a form of fraud we collectively inflict on ourselves. Investors buy in believing they will be able to sell at a higher price, and their purchases drive up prices and attract new investors who hope to jump on the price appreciation band wagon. The bubble continues until belief in ever higher prices is punctured, whereupon buyers evaporate and the bubble implodes. Once again, all feel richer along the way. Today’s stock market increasingly has the smell and feel of another bezzle. That smell is metaphorically rather perfectly reflected in President Trump who has all the integrity of a con man. Better yet, Trump’s business history, in addition to reliance on funding from suspect sources, is marked by serial bankruptcies.


Trump has also managed to use the presidential bully pulpit to cajole the U.S. Federal Reserve into further inflating asset prices by enjoining it to lower interest rates. In addition to directly impacting asset pricing, the Federal Reserve has given a green flag for speculative buying. In that process, it has strengthened beliefs that it stands ready to guarantee stock prices, via the so-called “Powell put.” That put is an amplification of the prior “Bernanke put,” which was in turn an amplification of the “Greenspan put” which launched the Federal Reserve’s commitment to stock prices. To be honest, it did not take much cajoling from Trump as the Federal Reserve has evidently learned little from the past 35 years of serial asset price bubbles.

Read more …

A lesson for Greece.

Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said on Saturday that the government will not pay “even half a cent” of its debt back to the International Monetary Fund before the country has exited recession. “The first thing we have to do in order to be able to pay is to exit the recession,” Fernandez de Kirchner said at a presentation of her book “Sinceramente” (Sincerely) at Havana’s international book fair. “If there is a recession no-one will pay even half a cent and the way you exit recession is through a lot of state investment.” Argentina needs to restructure $100 billion in sovereign debt with creditors, including part of a $57 billion credit facility that the IMF extended the country in 2018.


Dealings with the IMF are key as Argentina hopes to avoid a default amid a currency crash, steep inflation and a contracting economy. An IMF technical mission is expected in Buenos Aires next week to discuss obligations owed to the fund. Fernandez de Kirchner said Argentina should get a “substantial haircut” on its IMF debt. A leftist and militant Peronist, she has traveled frequently to Communist-run Cuba over the past year to visit her daughter Florencia Kirchner who is undergoing medical treatment there.

Read more …

 

Just one of those timelines where Dean Koontz wrote a book about a Chinese super virus called Wuhan that escaped a secret lab.

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth cannot survive without your support. Please donate.

 

Feb 082020
 


Marjory Collins 3rd shift workers waiting to be picked up by car pools around midnight. Baltimore April 1943

 

Virus Named NCP For Now, 86 New Deaths, US Citizen Dies In Wuhan (SCMP)
Wuhan Facing ‘Wartime Conditions’ As Global Coronavirus Deaths Reach 724 (G.)
Royal Caribbean Bans All Chinese Nationals From Its Cruise Ships (G.)
Tesla Shanghai Factory To Restart On Feb 10, Authorities To Assist (R.)
White House Asks Scientists To Investigate If 2019-nCoV Was Bio-Engineered (ZH)
Twitter Accounts Of Facebook, Messenger Hacked (R.)
Sondland Axed Hours After Vindman Twins Escorted Out Of White House (ZH)
Mortgage Rates Hit Three-Year Low; Housing Inventory Bottoms Out (F.)
The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q4 2019 (WS)
Brazil Gives Big Tobacco Companies 30 Days Notice In Smoking Lawsuit (R.)
Slapstick Suicide (Kunstler)
Antarctic Base Records Hottest Temperature Ever (R.)

 

 

No leveling off today, apparently they couldn’t keep up that illusion. We’re getting close to 100+ deaths daily.

• 86 new deaths vs 73 yesterday.
• 3,399(?!) new cases vs 3,143 yesterday
• First American death, first Japanese death
• By tomorrow, there will be more deaths than from SARS in its entire episode (89 to go)

Major point today is Monday. How many workers will show up for work, if their factories open at all? Tesla announced its Shanghai factory will open, and I’m sure Huawei still operates as well. But this is about shoving many millions of workers into trains, subways etc., ready to infect everyone in their compartments.

Is that worth the risk? Surely it won’t be in Wuhan. But then as we saw yesterday, 400 million Chinese live in some form of lockdown. It’ll be worth watching. Saw footage of crews forcing people into quarantine today that is ugly.

First American casualty: CDC, WHite House must be getting itchy (pun intended).

 

 

 

On a different topic: I see tons of people commenting on the Dems “Debate”, including on my Twitter feed. Many of them are supposedly smart people. But these TV shows exist only to make money for networks. The level of both the people and their discussion is identical to the 2016 GOP debates without Trump.

If you’re -live- commenting on that poor circus, you’ve missed a few steps along the line. Bernie Sanders is the only one worthwhile but he has no chance because he’s too extreme. Warren is sinking like a stone. As is Biden, who never had anything. Buttigieg is the 2020 corporate shill that Hillary was in 2016. The rest just fill space and time with emptiness.

 

 

They update the graph but not the numbers in the articles.

Virus Named NCP For Now, 86 New Deaths, US Citizen Dies In Wuhan (SCMP)

The coronavirus has killed 86 more people in China and been confirmed in a further 3,399, the National Health Commission reported on Saturday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,546.
The new deaths, 81 in Hubei and five in other provinces, brought the national death toll to 722, as of Friday, the commission said. As well as the 81 deaths, Hubei – the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic – reported earlier on Saturday that it had confirmed 2,841 new cases. The province’s totals are now 24,953 confirmed cases and 699 deaths. A US citizen has died in Wuhan from the new coronavirus, the US embassy said on Saturday, in what appears to be the first confirmed foreign death from the outbreak.

“We can confirm that a 60-year-old US citizen diagnosed with coronavirus died at Jinyintang hospital in Wuhan, China, on February 6,” a US embassy spokesman confirmed. “We offer the sincerest condolences to the family for their loss,” the spokesman said. The New York Times reported that the person was a woman and had underlying health conditions, citing two people familiar with the matter. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday there were 19 foreigners infected, and two of them had been discharged. The remainder were being isolated for treatment. A Japanese man hospitalised with pneumonia in Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, where the first cases emerged, has died. The man is potentially the first Japanese to have died from coronavirus.

[..] China’s National Health Commission has given the virus a temporary official name – novel coronavirus pneumonia, or NCP. The commission announced the new name at a press conference on Saturday and said it should be adopted by China’s government departments and organisations in China until a permanent name for the infection has been determined. The naming of a new virus is decided by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. A name has been submitted to scientific journals and the committee hopes to announce it within days, the BBC reported.

Read more …

Very disturbing videos available of people being forced into quarantine.

Wuhan Facing ‘Wartime Conditions’ As Global Coronavirus Deaths Reach 724 (G.)

Increasingly desperate officials in the quarantined epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak have tightened controls on an already frightened population, likening the growing crisis to “wartime conditions”. Authorities in Wuhan city have started going door to door checking temperatures, and rounding up suspected coronavirus patients for forcible quarantine in stadiums and exhibition centres that are serving as warehouses for the sick, the New York Times reported. The city and country face “wartime conditions”, the paper quoted vice-premier Sun Chunlan, who has been put in charge of the national campaign against the virus, as saying on a visit to Wuhan. She said: “There must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever.”

Meanwhile another three people on a cruise liner off Japan have tested positive, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 64. Foreign passengers on another ship, Holland America’s Westerdam, have also been barred, with suspected virus patients on board, according to authorities. The ship, with more than 2,000 people, was near Okinawa and seeking another port. More than 34,500 people have been infected around the world, the vast majority inside China and two-thirds of them in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province. There have been 724 deaths, all but two of them in mainland China.

Chinese scientists claimed they may have found the animal source of the outbreak, based on genetic analysis, though their results have yet to be published. The coronavirus is thought to have originated in bats but passed through an intermediate host before infecting humans. The researchers have identified a coronavirus in pangolins that is 99% similar to the one causing the current outbreak. The only scaly mammal, the long-snouted, ant-eating pangolin is endangered but often hunted for meat or use in Chinese medicine.

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How about those who only look Chinese?

Royal Caribbean Bans All Chinese Nationals From Its Cruise Ships (G.)

The US cruise ship company Royal Caribbean has announced that would-be passengers and crew with Chinese passports will be banned from all of its cruise ships – regardless of when they were last in the country at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure – which also covers people with Hong Kong and Macau passports – comes amid growing concerns over the fast-spreading virus, which has killed more than 700 people and affected individuals in at least 25 countries. But it was likely to face criticism from Beijing, which has bridled at sweeping travel bans on its citizens, and from human rights activists who have denounced such restrictions as discriminatory.

Friday’s announcement by the Miami-based company came after four travelers who were onboard the company’s Anthem of the Seas cruise ship were hospitalized in New Jersey after experiencing feverish symptoms. According to Royal Caribbean, the passengers had come from China for the cruise from the port of Bayonne, New Jersey, to the Bahamas, and were hospitalized out of caution. “None of the four guests being tested by [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] showed any clinical signs or symptoms of coronavirus,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement. “We will delay our [next] departure until tomorrow.”

They added, however, that one guest did test positive for influenza A. The CDC reports no one in New Jersey has been found with the virus so far. The four are among more than two dozen Chinese nationals who were screened for signs of the new virus onboard the cruise ship. None of them were reportedly from Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak.

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Monday should be interesting. How much production will come back online? What will stocks do?

Tesla Shanghai Factory To Restart On Feb 10, Authorities To Assist (R.)

U.S. electric carmaker Tesla’s factory in China’s financial hub of Shanghai will resume production on Feb. 10 with assistance to help it cope with a spreading epidemic of coronavirus, a Shanghai government official said on Saturday. Many factories across China shut in late January for the Lunar New Year holiday that was originally due to end on Jan. 30 but which was extended in a bid to contain the spread of the new flu-like virus that has killed more than 700 people. Tesla warned on Jan. 30 that it would see a 1-1.5 week delay in the ramp-up of Shanghai-built Model 3 cars as a result of the epidemic, which has severely disrupted communications and supply chains across China.


Tesla Vice President Tao Lin said this week that production would restart on Feb. 10. “In view of the practical difficulties key manufacturing firms including Tesla have faced in resuming production, we will coordinate to make all efforts to help companies resume production as soon as possible,” Shanghai municipal government spokesman Xu Wei said. The $2 billion Shanghai factory is Tesla’s first outside the United States and was built with support from local authorities. It started production in October and began deliveries last month.

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What Zero Hedge received a permanant Twitter ban for.

White House Asks Scientists To Investigate If 2019-nCoV Was Bio-Engineered (ZH)

A week ago, we published details that raised questions about the source of the Wuhan novel coronavirus, specifically questioning the official theory for the spread of the Coronavirus epidemic, namely because someone ate bat soup at a Wuhan seafood and animal market as a fabricated farce. The real reason behind the viral spread, we suggested, was that a weaponized version of the coronavirus (one which may have originally been obtained from Canada), was released by Wuhan’s Institute of Virology (presumably accidentally ), China’s only top, level-4 biohazard lab, which was studying “the world’s most dangerous pathogens.” At the time we summarized the series of dots and asked “real reporters” to connect them:

  • One of China’s top virology and immunology experts was and still works at China’s top-rated biohazard lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which some have affectionately called the real Umbrella Corp.
  • Since 2009, Peng has been the leading Chinese scientist researching the immune mechanism of bats carrying and transmitting lethal viruses in the world.
  • His primary field of study is researching how and why bats can be infected with some of the most nightmarish viruses in the world including Ebola, SARS and Coronavirus, and not get sick.
  • He was genetically engineering various immune pathways (such as the STING pathway in bats) to make the bats more or less susceptible to infection, in the process potentially creating a highly resistant mutant superbug.
  • As part of his studies, Peng also researched mutant Coronavirus strains that overcame the natural immunity of some bats; these are “superbug” Coronavirus strains, which are resistant to any natural immune pathway, and now appear to be out in the wild.
  • As of mid-November, his lab was actively hiring inexperienced post-docs to help conduct his research into super-Coronaviruses and bat infections.
  • Peng’s work on virology and bat immunology has received support from the National “You Qing” Fund, the pilot project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the major project of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Of course, that is all ancient history and Zero Hedge was permanently banned from Twitter for raising such a conspiracy theory about a publicly-searchable person working a publicly-searchable place.

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Then again, how bad is a Twitter ban?

If Big Tech can’t protect themselves, they won’t protect you.

Twitter Accounts Of Facebook, Messenger Hacked (R.)

Twitter confirmed on Friday that the official Twitter accounts of social media giant Facebook Inc and its Messenger platform were hacked. A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the accounts were hacked through a third-party platform. “As soon as we were made aware of the issue, we locked the compromised accounts and are working closely with our partners at Facebook to restore them,” the Twitter spokesperson said. Seperately, Facebook also confirmed that some of its official social media accounts were hacked on Friday. “Some of our corporate social accounts were briefly hacked but we have secured and restored access,” Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said.size:13px;color: #FF2222;font-weight:bold”

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Though Sondland is an outlier, you had all these people, including Yovanovich, Fiona Hill, talking about “set” American foreign policy, though they knew that’s the presidents responsibility.

It’s more about that than about the testimony itself, though the two clearly overlap.

Sondland Axed Hours After Vindman Twins Escorted Out Of White House (ZH)

Today’s Trump admin casualties continue to stack up, after it was reported that Ambassador Gordon Sondland was fired Friday afternoon. “I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a Friday statement, expressing gratitude to Trump for having “given me the opportunity to serve.” Sondland testified in Trump’s impeachment inquiry that there was no quid pro quo when President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens while withholding US military aid (unbeknownst to Zelensky at the time).

Sondland later flipped his story, claiming that he told a top Ukrainian official that a meeting with President Trump may be contingent upon its new administration committing to investigations Trump wanted, according to the New York Times. Sondland’s departure comes one week after anti-Trump impeachment witness and former US ambassador to Ukraine announced her retirement from the State Department. Her departure follows her removal as Ambassador at the request of Ukraine. [..] Anti-Trump impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother have been fired and escorted out of the White House by security, according to his Alexander Vindman’s attorney.

Vindman, a Ukraine specialist who sat on the National Security Counsel who was accused of being coached by House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), was present on a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, when the US president asked that Ukraine investigate former VP Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as claims of pro-Clinton meddling in the 2016 US election. He was also notably counseling Ukraine on how to counter President Trump’s foreign policy according to the New York Times, which led some to go as far as accuse him of being a double agent.

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Why the Fed is stuck. They can’t raise rates ever again.

Mortgage Rates Hit Three-Year Low; Housing Inventory Bottoms Out (F.)

Mortgage rates continued their downward slide this week, hitting their lowest point in three years. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages clocked in at 3.45%—down from 3.51% last week and 4.41% a year ago. It’s the third week in a row that rates have dropped, largely thanks to investor concern surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s how Joel Kan of the Mortgage Bankers Association explains it: “The 10-year Treasury yield fell around 20 basis points over the course of last week, driven mainly by growing concerns over a likely slowdown in Chinese economic growth from the spread of the coronavirus. This drove mortgage rates lower, with the 30-year fixed-rate decreasing for the fifth time in six weeks.”

The decrease has spurred a rise in refinancing applications. According to MBA’s weekly mortgage survey, refinance activity was up 15% for the week and 183% over the year. Overall, refinances made up nearly 65% of all mortgage activity last week. There’s room for more refis, too. According to analysis from financial data firm Black Knight, this latest drop opens the door for more than 11.3 million homeowners to refinance. On average, they could shave about 0.75% off their rate and $268 on their monthly mortgage payments. If credit scores and loan-to-value ratios aren’t factored in, there are actually 22 million homeowners who technically have a mortgage rate at least 0.75% over today’s averages.

Refinances aside, sliding rates have also caused other upticks. MBA’s data shows rising loan balances, increased jumbo loan activity and more interest in adjustable-rate loans in recent weeks. And according to Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, a jump in purchase activity should also follow. “The combination of very low mortgage rates, a strong economy and more positive financial market sentiment all point to home purchase demand continuing to rise over the next few months,” Khater says. The latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae backs that up, with 59% of respondents saying it’s a good time to buy a home. The only problem? That’d be historically low inventory.

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Make borrowing cheap and they won’t see it coming.

The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q4 2019 (WS)

Consumer debt – student loans, auto loans, and revolving credit such as credit cards and personal loans but excluding housing-related debts such as mortgages and HELOCs – jumped by $187 billion in the fourth quarter 2019, compared to a year earlier, or by 4.7%, to a record $4.2 trillion, according to Federal Reserve data released Friday afternoon. Almost all non-housing consumer debts translate into consumer spending on goods and services, which is added to GDP. That $187 billion increase in consumer debt in 2019 amounted to nearly a quarter of the $849 billion increase in nominal GDP over the same period. Without this $187 billion in additional spending funded by $187 billion in additional debt, the US economy would not have grown 2.3% in 2019, but only about 1.8%.

This is why economists from the Fed on down want policies that encourage consumers to spend money they don’t have. It’s the American thing to do. And if there’s a hiccup down the road, so be it. And now there are some hiccups. How heavy is the burden of this consumer debt on consumers? For a substantial part of Americans, there is no burden. They pay off their credit card balances every month, they have no student loans, and if they financed their vehicles it may be through leases that they took out not because that’s the only way they could buy the vehicle but because they saw various advantages in leasing.


Then there is another group of Americans where every month is a mad scramble to make ends meet. Some earn good money but live above their means. Others are scraping by every month on low incomes. Both are up to their ears in debt. They’re one or two paychecks away from defaulting on that debt. That’s where the debt burden is, and that’s where the risks are. But in terms of overall consumer debt, this bifurcation gets averaged out. When measured against the size of the US economy, that $4.2 trillion in consumer debt amounts to 19.3% of nominal GDP, the highest ever in the data. Here are the last two decades:

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Bolsonaro to the rescue.

Brazil Gives Big Tobacco Companies 30 Days Notice In Smoking Lawsuit (R.)

The world’s largest cigarette makers, British American Tobacco Plc and Philip Morris International, will have until early March to defend themselves in a lawsuit in Brazil over compensation for tobacco-related diseases. Since last year, the companies have refused to receive subpoenas delivered to their local subsidiaries in the lawsuit brought the Brazilian solicitor general’s office. Souza Cruz Ltda, Philip Morris Brasil Industria e Comercio Ltda and Philip Morris Brasil SA, which produce 90% of the cigarettes sold in Brazil, maintained they were subsidiaries only and notifications had to be sent directly to their parent companies’ headquarters in Britain and the United States.


But the federal judge hearing the case in Porto Alegre, Graziela Bündchen, ruled on Tuesday that the companies are the operational wings of the parent companies and fully capable of relaying the notifications to their head offices. She gave them 30 days to present their defenses. The solicitor general’s office, known as the AGU, said in a statement on Thursday that the cigarette companies had tried to delay the lawsuit, which will now be able to proceed in seeking “the just compensation the Brazilian people deserve.” The landmark lawsuit was filed by the AGU in May against the two multinational companies seeking to recover the public health costs for the treatment of 26 tobacco-related diseases over the previous five years.

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“..a character drawn from the neo-gothic Joker phase of American history ..”

Slapstick Suicide (Kunstler)

With Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler cast as Laurel and Hardy, the Democratic Party entered the slapstick phase of its self-destruction, moving from one botched scheme to the next amidst a chaos of falling pianos, splintered two-by-fours, and crashed bi-planes. The old 1930s screen comedies usually also featured a “grand dame” character making herself ridiculous, like Margaret Dumont in Duck Soup, and congressional central casting has fashioned just such a late-career role for Nancy Pelosi, all fluster and spleen, and well-supplied with comic props like the carefully pre-torn State of the Union address she ceremoniously sundered on Tuesday night. Can someone drop an anvil on her, please?

[..] Meanwhile, in case you have forgotten, scores of public officials from the Obama administration stand to be indicted as we enter the heart of the spring primary season. On top of three failed seditious attempts to overthrow Mr. Trump since 2016, a cavalcade of perp walks for all that may finally force the recognition among the battered true believers in the Holy Church of Maddow that a genuine coup d’état has been running for three solid years, whether or not you like Donald Trump. They came close to turning the USA into a banana republic.

The news media is saying that President Trump had “his best week ever.” My sense of him hasn’t changed: he remains the Golden Golem of Greatness, a kind of mystical and mystifying comic figure himself, but not of the 1930s slapstick sort, more like a character drawn from the neo-gothic Joker phase of American history — and, hey, he really did spring full-blown on the scene from our real-life Gotham City. I was impressed, during his Thursday post-acquittal White House gala, at the stunning incoherence of his remarks, his facility for leaving absolutely every thought hanging unfinished in mid-sentence as he turned to the next uncompleted thought. I can’t say for sure that this makes him an ineffective manager of the nation’s affairs, but it does leave you kind of wondering. The fact remains, though, that his antagonists have behaved much worse, and now they are going to be punished.

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Bring T-shirts.

Antarctic Base Records Hottest Temperature Ever (R.)

A research base in the Antarctic has recorded the hottest temperature ever for the continent amid rising concern about global warming that has caused an increase in the melting of ice sheets around the south pole. The Esperanza base on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula recorded a temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius (64.94 degrees Fahrenheit), the highest on record, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday. “(This) is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica even in the summertime. This beat the former record of 17.5 degrees C, which was set back in 2015,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.


“The Antarctic peninsula … is among the fastest warming regions of the planet. We hear a lot about the Arctic, but this particular part of the Antarctic peninsula is warming very quickly.” The temperature was recorded at the Argentine base on Thursday. Scientists believe global warming has caused so much melting at the south pole that the giant ice sheet is now on course to disintegrate. This would see an eventual global sea level rise of at least three meters (10 feet) over centuries.

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The Automatic Earth cannot survive without your support. Please donate.

 

Feb 052020
 


DPC Pine Street below Kearney after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire 1906

 

China Applies For Drug Patent, Virus Death Toll +65 To 492 (SCMP)
Cruise Ship Carrying 3,700 Quarantined In Japan After 10 Test Positive (G.)
China’s Airlines Told Not To Axe Global Flights As Thousands Cut (R.)
Cathay Pacific Asks All 27,000 Employees To Take 3 Weeks Unpaid Leave (SCMP)
Trump-Pelosi Feud Erupts During SOTU As Impeachment Trial Nears End (R.)
Ocasio-Cortez Among 10 Democrats Planning To Boycott State Of The Union (G.)
Joe Biden Flopped In Iowa. And So Did The Democratic Party’s Reputation (G.)
The Big Tech Money Behind The App That Brought Chaos To The Iowa Caucus (F.)
Oil Flips Into Contango, Indicating Months Of Surplus (R.)
Britain To Ban New Petrol And Hybrid Cars From 2035 (R.)
Tesla Shares March Toward $1,000 (R.)
Musk’s Tesla Stake Worth $30 Billion After Electrifying Stock Surge (R.)
Council of Europe Sides With Julian Assange (IA)

 

 

Here we go again. The WuhanCorona virus continues on its record-setting path.

• Total cases 24,542 (+3872)

• 4,105 new cases in China (record daily high)

• 492 deaths (+65, also a record daily high)

• 185,555 cases under medical observation

Note: this pic below comes from a SCMP app that constantly updates. Numbers in articles do not necessarily. Therefore, they don’t always “add up”.

Note also the addition of recovered cases.

 

 

A few pics I picked up. How stark would you like it?

 

Here someone is trying to make the argument that the mortality rate is falling. That would be great, but I’m not sure it is true. Many factors have changed since the count began.

 

 

 

Gilead’s remdesivir looks like a Hail Mary. Not sure what the new patent application entails. A general anti-viral that came out of Ebola research?!

China Applies For Drug Patent, Virus Death Toll +65 To 492 (SCMP)

Daily deaths caused by the new coronavirus have reached yet another record high in China, with 65 fatalities – all in Hubei province – confirmed in overnight figures released by health authorities. The newly reported fatalities took the death toll in mainland China to 490. According to data released on Wednesday morning by China’s National Health Commission (NHC), confirmed cases around the country rose by 3,887 – also a daily record high – to 24,324, the majority of which were in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak. Cases of the novel coronavirus in Hubei rose by 3,156 to 16,678, according to provincial figures as of midnight on Tuesday. Almost 2,000 of those new cases were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated at a seafood and meat market.

China has applied for a new patent on an experimental drug to treat the coronavirus. Wuhan Institute of Virology said in an online notice that a patent application had been filed on January 21 for the use of remdesivir, a drug developed by biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. The drug has not been approved or licensed anywhere in the world, but has been rushed into trials in China after showing signs of effective use on coronavirus patients. Chinese scientists have found remdesivir – and chloroquine, an 80-year-old malaria drug – “highly effective” in laboratory studies aimed at thwarting the coronavirus, they said in a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Cell Research.

The two drugs’ effect on humans required further clinical tests, the Wuhan institute said in the online notice. It made the patent application in the national interest and would not exercise its patent rights if foreign pharmaceutical firms worked with China to curb the contagion, it said.

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The only people that can get off the ship are the ones that are confirmed infected. Hell on water.

One 80-year-old tested positive After leaving the ship. Then 273 were tested. When the first 31 results came in, 10 tested positive. That leaces 3,300 untested?

Cruise Ship Carrying 3,700 Quarantined In Japan After 10 Test Positive (G.)

Thousands of people face spending the next fortnight stuck on a luxury cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama, after initial results showed 10 passengers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The Diamond Princess, with more than 3,700 passengers and crew onboard, had been prevented from sailing on Monday after an 80-year-old passenger who had travelled on the vessel late last month tested positive after he arrived home in Hong Kong. Of a further 273 people on board who have since been tested following health screenings, 31 results had come back – and of those 10 were positive, according to Japan’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato. It is not clear if more tests will be carried out.

Also on Wednesday, health checks began on 1,800 passengers and crew on a second cruise ship docked in Hong Kong, after 30 staff members reported symptoms including fever, according to Reuters. Hong Kong’s health department said that 90% of the passengers were Hong Kongers and no mainland Chinese were on board. Previously, three mainland Chinese that had been on the ship between 19 and 24 January, and were found to have contracted the virus. No passengers have been able to leave the World Dream ship, operated by Dream Cruises, without permission. David Abel, a British passenger who has been on the Diamond Princess for more than two weeks, said that people were now being confined to their cabins.

“We’re not even allowed to open the cabin door to go down the corridor. They bring the food to us – it’s a knock on the door. For the first time ever the crew are masked up,” he said. [..] Two Australians are among the 10 people who have tested positive, the cruise company Carnival confirmed. The other people infected are three Japanese, three from Hong Kong, one American and one Filipino crewmember. The patients, who are reportedly aged in their 50s to their 80s, were being removed from the ship by the coast guard and taken to local hospitals. The ship’s owner, Princess Cruises, said 3,711 people were aboard the ship, consisting of 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew. About half of the passengers are from Japan, with 223 Australians on the vessel.

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They’ll be stopped soon enough. There are no other options left.

China’s Airlines Told Not To Axe Global Flights As Thousands Cut (R.)

China’s civil aviation authority has urged domestic carriers to continue flying international routes as they consider cuts in response to a drop in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. Airline capacity is being axed in the world’s second largest aviation market with “the most dramatic change in schedules”, OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd said, adding that more than 25,000 flights to, from or within China will be canceled this week. The coronavirus epidemic, which has killed more than 400 people in China, has resulted in bans or restrictions on travel to and from China imposed by countries including Singapore and Italy. The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had said travel bans were unnecessary.


The Civil Aviation Administration of China’s appeal to the country’s airlines was reported on Xinhua’s account on Chinese messaging app Weibo. Data from aviation statistics provider VariFlight showed 41 Chinese carriers canceled nearly two-thirds of the 16,623 planned flights for Tuesday as of 10:30 a.m. Beijing time (0230 GMT). In addition, 10 regional airlines from Hong Kong and Taiwan had canceled 162 flights, while 37 airlines from other countries canceled 168 flights on the same day, VariFlight said. It also said that some 90,000 flights were canceled between Jan. 10 and Feb. 3, and that about 10,000 planned flights on average have been scrapped each day since the start of February.

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But Hong Kong’s airline is not listening…

Cathay Pacific Asks All 27,000 Employees To Take 3 Weeks Unpaid Leave (SCMP)

Cathay Pacific is asking all of its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave over the coming months, the company’s CEO told staff on Wednesday, as Hong Kong’s flagship carrier reels from the devastating impact of the deadly coronavirus on air travel. “I am appealing to each and everyone one of you to help,” said Augustus Tang Kin-wing in a taped video recording. “The situation now is just as grave.” On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier unveiled massive cuts to flying schedules, by 30 per cent worldwide for two months, including in mainland China which would see 90 per cent of its capacity cut during that period.

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Grace, Nancy. It has a place. You lost your gamble, and the way you take your losses tells people a lot about you.

Trump-Pelosi Feud Erupts During SOTU As Impeachment Trial Nears End (R.)

A bitter feud between U.S. President Donald Trump and top Democrat Nancy Pelosi boiled over at his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, with Trump denying her a handshake and Pelosi ripping apart a copy of his remarks behind his back. Trump avoided the subject of his impeachment drama in a pugnacious 80-minute speech, but the raw wounds from the battle were evident with fellow Republicans giving him standing ovations while rival Democrats for the most part remained seated. The Republican-led Senate was expected to acquit him of charges he abused his powers and obstructed Congress during a vote beginning at 4 p.m. EST on Wednesday.


How some Republicans watched SOTU

Seeing Pelosi, the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, for the first time since she stormed out of a White House meeting four months ago, Trump declined to shake her outstretched hand as he gave her a paper copy of his remarks before starting to speak. Despite having not spoken to Trump since their last meeting, Pelosi appeared to be taken aback. She avoided citing the customary “high privilege and distinct honor” that usually accompanies the speaker’s introduction of the president to Congress. “Members of Congress, the President of the United States” was all she said in introducing Trump.


When his speech ended, Pelosi stood and tore up her copy of the remarks he had handed her, later telling reporters it was “the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative.” Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, said of Pelosi: “Her hatred for @realdonaldtrump has blinded her to the repulsive nature of her smug, elitist behavior.” After the event, Pelosi tweeted a photo of her with her hand reaching out to Trump and said, “Democrats will never stop extending the hand of friendship to get the job done #ForThePeople. We will work to find common ground where we can, but will stand our ground where we cannot. #SOTU”

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Preaching only to her own little crowd, empty virtue signals. Same as Pelosi: grace has its place.

Ocasio-Cortez Among 10 Democrats Planning To Boycott State Of The Union (G.)

At least 10 Democrats have said they will boycott Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night on the eve of a Senate impeachment trial vote that is expected to acquit him. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, said she would not be attending because she did not want to normalize Trump’s “lawless conduct” and “subversion of the constitution”. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts issued a statement explaining her decision, saying: “The State of the Union is hurting because of the occupant of the White House, who consistently demonstrates contempt for the American people, contempt for Congress, and contempt for our constitution – strong-arming a sham impeachment trial in the Senate. This presidency is not legitimate.”


“On the eve of Senate Republicans covering up transgressions and spreading misinformation, I cannot in good conscience attend a sham State of the Union when I have seen firsthand the damage Donald J Trump’s rhetoric and policies have inflicted on those I love and those I represent.” Both women attended Trump’s State of the Union speech last year just a month after taking office, but have since been the target of his racist attacks. The two other members of “the Squad” of progressive freshman congresswomen who were also subjected to those attacks, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota confirmed they would attend the address.

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Biden is gone. Buttigieg is suspicious. It’s not about the party’s reputation anymore, it’s about the Party itself.

Joe Biden Flopped In Iowa. And So Did The Democratic Party’s Reputation (G.)

If you’re the type of person who thinks the Democratic party is a creaking, incompetent entity whose leadership needs overthrowing, the Iowa caucuses certainly validated your point of view. None of us knew who would win, but we had at least expected a result. We didn’t get one, at least not on caucus night. State Democratic party officials announced that due to “quality control” issues, release of the result would be indefinitely delayed. On a conference call with representatives of the candidates, party officials hung up the phone when asked when the totals would be released. So what do we know? Well, one thing we can say confidently is that “frontrunner” Joe Biden flopped.

There were places where Biden didn’t even meet the 15% threshold needed to maintain viability from the first round to the second round – at one caucus site, the attorney general of Iowa had to switch from Biden to Buttigieg when Biden was disqualified. It explains why Biden’s surrogate John Kerry was heard on the phone the other day asking whether it would be possible for him to enter the race at the last minute to save the Democratic party from being conquered by Sanders. Internal numbers released by the Sanders campaign, showing results from 40% of caucus sites, showed Sanders winning with approximately 30% of the vote, Pete Buttigieg coming in second with 25%, Elizabeth Warren third with 21%, and Joe Biden a very distant fourth with 12%.

If those numbers match the ultimate totals, they are great for Sanders and absolutely horrific for Biden. Sanders will have kicked the crap out of the frontrunner, Barack Obama’s former vice-president and the man most favored to win the nomination. It would be a stunning upset. But Biden caught a lucky break. With the party not releasing the actual result, his campaign sent a letter demanding that the result be suppressed until such time as the “quality control issues” were resolved. If it takes long enough to get the official count, Biden may hope that Iowa is old news, or that the issues surrounding the caucus are discussed far more than the actual result. (That’s one reason we need to make sure we don’t get bogged down too much in talking about the procedural issues rather than the actual outcome.)

[..] If you’re a Sanders supporter, you have reason to be suspicious. We had already seen the Des Moines Register suppress the results of its “gold standard” poll on the eve of the election, after a complaint from Buttigieg. And with 0% of caucus results in, Buttigieg declared himself “victorious”, praising the “incredible result” and saying Iowa had “shocked the nation”. The only thing that had shocked the nation at this point was Iowa’s total inability to perform the relatively simple task of counting people’s votes. But Buttigieg, good McKinseyite that he is, was getting a head start on deploying the PR spin.

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“..cutting-edge technology to stymie a Trump re-election..”

The Big Tech Money Behind The App That Brought Chaos To The Iowa Caucus (F.)

The smartphone app that caused a major delay in reporting results during Iowa’s Democratic caucus was funded by both Democratic presidential candidates and Silicon Valley veterans anxious to use cutting-edge technology to stymie a Trump re-election. The app that was supposed to count and report caucus results was created by Shadow Inc., a for-profit tech company cofounded in February 2019 by former Google engineer Kirsta Davis and Gerard Niemira, an engineer who worked at San Francisco microlender Kiva.org. Both later worked on Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign.


Washington D.C.-based Shadow was acquired last year by Acronym, a nonprofit also based in D.C. and founded in March 2017 by former journalist Tara McGowan to advance “progressive causes through innovative communications, advertising and organizing programs.” It has an affiliated political action committee called Pacronym. Silicon Valley heavyweights make up the liberal-leaning roster of Pacronym’s backers. One supporter is billionaire Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, whose net worth of $4.1 billion stems from his early bets on Google, LinkedIn and PayPal. According to Federal Election Committee data, he gave $1 million to Pacronym, or 12.8% of the $7.8 million that it has raised since early 2019.

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Mighty OPEC loses to tiny virus.

Oil Flips Into Contango, Indicating Months Of Surplus (R.)

The oil market looks set for at least four months of depressed demand because of China’s coronavirus outbreak, with a large crude surplus not expected to clear at least until August, analysts and traders said. Fears of a virus-related slump in global energy demand have flipped the market into contango this week – a structure in which longer-dated oil futures trade at a premium that encourages traders to keep crude in storage for more profitable resale in the future. Brent crude has not been in contango since July 2019. On Tuesday the benchmark was in contango for as much as $0.40 a barrel between prices for closest trading month April and August. For U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude the contango between March and July prices was $0.60 a barrel.

The structure of the market has significant implications. Besides encouraging storage of oil, contango also hurts financial investors who have to pay a premium every month they renew a futures contract. [..] Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, said the flip of time spreads into contango is consistent with the physical market suddenly shifting into a large surplus. “While deferred Brent time spreads are too discounted in our view, evidence that Chinese refiners are pushing back on crude shipments and Atlantic loadings points to ongoing weakness for nearby Brent time spreads,” Goldman said in a market note. China has been the main driver of global energy demand growth in recent years and ING Bank said the market is clearly worried that Chinese refinery demand will retreat.

“The issue for the market is if travel restrictions continue for an extended period … demand loss will become increasingly difficult for the market to swallow,” ING said, adding OPEC+ could come under increasing pressure to cut output by more than laid out in their existing supply pact.

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Until you have been explained exactly where the electricity will come from, this is nothing but a swindle. Do you like being swindled?

Britain To Ban New Petrol And Hybrid Cars From 2035 (R.)

Britain will ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035, five years earlier than planned, in an attempt to reduce air pollution that could herald the end of over a century of reliance on the internal combustion engine. The step amounts to a victory for electric cars that if copied globally could hit the wealth of oil producers, as well as transform the car industry and one of the icons of 20th Century capitalism: the automobile itself. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to use the announcement to elevate the United Kingdom’s environmental credentials after he sacked the head of a Glasgow U.N. Climate Change Conference planned for November known as COP26.


“We have to deal with our CO2 emissions,” Johnson said at a launch event for COP26 at London’s Science Museum on Tuesday. “As a country and as a society, as a planet, as a species, we must now act.” The government said that, subject to consultation, it would end the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans in 2035, or earlier if a faster transition was possible. Countries and cities around the world have announced plans to crack down on diesel vehicles following the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal and the EU is introducing tougher carbon dioxide rules. The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025. France is preparing to ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2040.

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Trading hot air.

Tesla Shares March Toward $1,000 (R.)

Shares of Tesla Inc surged 20% on Tuesday to hit $940, extending a stunning rally that has more than doubled the company’s market value since the start of the year as more investors bet on Chief Executive Elon Musk’s vision. The latest surge was partly fueled by Panasonic saying on Monday its automotive battery venture with Tesla was in the black for the first time. “Investors are now starting to believe that Tesla can make mass-volume electric vehicles, and automakers, battery makers and suppliers can make money from EVs,” said Cho Hyun-ryul, analyst at Samsung Securities. Some analysts have attributed the rally to short covering as well. Short interest in Tesla stood at 13.8% as of Jan. 30, according to Refinitiv data.


Shares of heavily shorted companies can at times get pushed higher as traders rush to buy stock to cover their short bets, triggering what is known as a “short squeeze”. Panasonic shares closed up 10%, while those of Tesla’s Asian suppliers South Korea’s LG Chem and China’s CATL also closed higher. Tesla’s surge on Tuesday valued the company at nearly $170 billion, nearly double the combined market capitalization of General Motors and Ford Motor. Tesla last week reported a second consecutive quarterly profit and said it would comfortably make more than half a million vehicles this year. Billionaire investor Ron Baron, whose firm holds a nearly 1% stake in Tesla, said he will not be selling a single Tesla share, adding he believes the carmaker could hit $1 trillion in revenue in 10 years.

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Fridges for Inuit.

Musk’s Tesla Stake Worth $30 Billion After Electrifying Stock Surge (R.)

Tesla is making Elon Musk a lot richer without paying him a dime. A blistering stock rally has bolstered the value of CEO Musk’s 19% stake in the electric car maker by $16 billion since the start of 2020, to $30 billion. Tuesday’s steep climb in the share price could sweeten Musk’s payday under his record-breaking compensation package, which is built on stock options that rely on market value targets. Two milestones have now been achieved that could see Musk unlock options worth $1.8 billion. The controversial chief executive, who is also the majority owner and CEO of rocket maker SpaceX, recently testified that he did not have a lot of cash as he successfully defended himself in a defamation lawsuit. He previously has taken loans using his Tesla shares as collateral.


Musk does not take a salary, choosing instead a risky options package that envisions the stock market value of Tesla rising to $650 billion over 10 years, a prospect that was derided by some investors when the deal was announced in 2018. That target now looks less crazy. Shares of Tesla have rallied over 50% since the company posted its second consecutive quarterly profit last Wednesday, which was viewed as a major accomplishment for a company competing against established automotive heavyweights including General Motors Co and BMW. Tesla shares have climbed about 400% since early June, helped by the company’s better-than-expected financial results and ramped-up production at its new car factory in Shanghai. [..] Musk’s Tesla stake worth $30 billion after electrifying stock surge

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Now apply the Force.

Council of Europe Sides With Julian Assange (IA)

The attitude of European institutions is changing after years of silence. In this case, it was Andrej Hunko and Gianni Marilotti that convinced the European Assembly to speak up. The moment that press freedom advocates have been waiting for so long has finally arrived. The European institutions are starting to officially state that they don’t want Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has become the first one to step in and call for Assange’s immediate release, joining the call of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, who some months ago clearly stated that Assange should walk free.

The call was made on the 28th of January, 2020, when the PACE was debating on a resolution for the Member States included in a report on Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe. Drafted by the Labour member of the British House of Lords, George Foulkes, the document opens stating that the Council of Europe and its Assembly are firmly committed to strengthening media freedom in all its aspects, including the right to access to information, the safeguard of editorial independence and of ‘the ability to investigate, criticise and contribute to public debate without fear of pressure or interference’. Several amendments to the report were proposed inside the PACE Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, and Lord Foulkes, who is part of it, was happy to accept the one on Assange.

Lord Foulkes said: “UK colleagues supported it because we don’t want to see him extradited by the UK Government to the United States and facing centuries in prison.” The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading institution on human rights and includes 47 member states, 28 of which are also part of the European Union. What this Parliamentary Assembly, made up of members of national legislatures says about freedom of the press is something civil society should take notice of. In this light, you would hope that the work of Wikileaks and his founder can hardly be forgotten. Or maybe it could — it seemed to be surprisingly off the agenda until some weeks ago, but January 2020 seems to have marked a change of course.

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Every color is home to 1 billion people. Find Wuhan on the map.

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

May 262019
 


 

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America (Taer)
Global Elites Started The Russia Nonsense (Farnan)
Indictment of Julian Assange is a Clear and Present Danger to Journalism (EFF)
The US Media Is in the Crosshairs of the New Assange Indictment (Lawfare)
The World: What is Really Happening (Murray)
Europeans Vote, With EU Future In Balance (R.)
Who Gets To Choose The UK’s Next Prime Minister? (BBC)
Elon Musk Confronts The “Bear Case” (VF)
You Will Probably Never Want To Eat GMO Food Again (Snyder)
Glyphosate Exposure Linked to Fatty Liver Disease in Humans (BP)

 

 

He’s ordering the body bags as we speak. And you thought Trump was crazy.

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America (Taer)

Vice President Mike Pence told the graduating class of the West Point Military Academy on Saturday that the world is “a dangerous place” and they should expect to see combat. “Men and women of West Point, no matter where you’re deployed, you will be the vanguard of freedom, and you know that the “soldier does not bear the sword in vain.” The work you do has never been more important. America will always seek peace, but peace comes through strength. And you are now that strength. It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.


Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less.”

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We’re going to hear a lot about this.

Global Elites Started The Russia Nonsense (Farnan)

Attorney General William Barr has turned the attention of the Russia probe to its origin: who started this and why? The answer, as in all the best crime dramas, is probably hiding in plain sight. On July 13, 2016, British academic Dr. Andrew Foxall penned an op-ed in the New York Times, “Why Putin Loves Brexit.” He blamed Russia for the previous month’s Brexit vote, adding in a little noted aside: The United States is so concerned over Moscow’s determination to exploit European disunity that in January, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, began a review of Russia’s clandestine funding of European parties. Bingo! The Obama administration was spying on conservative European political parties.

Which means, almost necessarily under the Five Eyes Agreement, foreign agents were returning the favor and spying on the Trump campaign. On August 11, 2018, I wrote: The British aristocracy has a condescending view of the hoi polloi who voted for Brexit, regarding them as easily manipulated Pygmalion-like by smarter people. They assumed Vladimir Putin was somehow playing Professor Henry Higgins to the flower girls who voted to reject the EU, because that’s how they see the world. Among the Cambridge class, this simple prejudice renders Russian collusion a first principle with no need for supporting evidence…. Without supporting evidence to prove their fantastical worldview, the global elite set out to manufacture some.

First up was Christopher Steele, who hasn’t set foot in Russia since 2009. He wears as a badge the claim that Putin hates him which, if true, means he has no real Russian sources. Maybe because of that, Steele’s farcical dossier on Trump was not enough for the FBI to open an investigation, and these international men of mystery needed something more. They invited George Papadopoulos to London, used a Maltese asset disguised as a Russian agent – Joseph Mifsud – to feed him a whopper about Hillary Clinton’s emails, then claimed he repeated the lie to Andrew Downer, an Australian diplomat with ties to the Clinton Foundation. That was the final straw that caused lovestruck counterintelligence specialist Peter Strzok to open an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign ..

[..] the FBI delegated the inspection of the computer servers to CrowdStrike, an insider paid by the DNC. James Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2017 that CrowdStrike was “a highly respected private company.” What he failed to mention was that a month before his testimony, CrowdStrike had been caught falsely blaming Russia for a hack into a Ukrainian artillery computer app. In other words, at the same time this “highly respected private company” was blaming the Russians for stealing the Clinton campaign’s emails, it was fabricating a different Russian hack to serve Ukrainian misinformation.

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“The press stands in place of the public in holding the government accountable..”

This is the essence. And it’s not what the press has been doing. Other than WikiLeaks, that is.

Indictment of Julian Assange is a Clear and Present Danger to Journalism (EFF)

The century-old tradition that the Espionage Act not be used against journalistic activities has now been broken. Seventeen new charges were filed yesterday against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. These new charges make clear that he is being prosecuted for basic journalistic tasks, including being openly available to receive leaked information, expressing interest in publishing information regarding certain otherwise secret operations of government, and then disseminating newsworthy information to the public. The government has now dropped the charade that this prosecution is only about hacking or helping in hacking. Regardless of whether Assange himself is labeled a “journalist,” the indictment targets routine journalistic practices.

But the indictment is also a challenge to fundamental principles of freedom of speech. As the Supreme Court has explained, every person has the right to disseminate truthful information pertaining to matters of public interest, even if that information was obtained by someone else illegally. The indictment purports to evade this protection by repeatedly alleging that Assange simply “encouraged” his sources to provide information to him. This places a fundamental free speech right on uncertain and ambiguous footing. Make no mistake, this not just about Assange or Wikileaks—this is a threat to all journalism, and the public interest. The press stands in place of the public in holding the government accountable, and the Assange charges threaten that critical role.

The charges threaten reporters who communicate with and knowingly obtain information of public interest from sources and whistleblowers, or publish that information, by sending a clear signal that they can be charged with spying simply for doing their jobs.

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As if the US media doesn’t self-censor enough yet.

The US Media Is in the Crosshairs of the New Assange Indictment (Lawfare)

As Susan Hennessey said, “[I]t will be very difficult to craft an Espionage Act case against him that won’t adversely impact true journalists.” I don’t think this is an accident. I think the government’s indictment has the U.S. news media squarely in its sights. The first sentence of the indictment reads: “To obtain information to release on the WikiLeaks website, ASSANGE encouraged sources to (i) circumvent legal safeguards on information; (ii) provide that protected information to WikiLeaks for public dissemination; and (iii) continue the pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information to WikiLeaks for distribution to the public.”

This is exactly what national security reporters and their news publications often ask government officials or contractors to do. Anytime a reporter asks to receive information knowing it is classified, that person encourages sources to circumvent legal safeguards on information. The news organizations’ encouragement is underscored by the mechanisms they provide for sources to convey information securely and anonymously. (The New York Times’s menu includes SecureDrop, an “encrypted submission system set up by The Times [that] uses the Tor anonymity software to protect [the] identity, location and the information” of the person who sends it.) Like WikiLeaks, these reporters and organizations encourage the sources to provide the “protected information” for public dissemination. And also like WikiLeaks, they often encourage the sources to engage in a “pattern of illegally procuring and providing protected information.”

There are other similarities. The government thought it significant that the WikiLeaks website states: “WikiLeaks accepts classified, censored, or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic, or ethical significance” (emphasis in indictment). This sounds very much like the public interest standard that U.S. editors use to decide when and how to publish classified information. Former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie once told me, “‘Highly classified’ doesn’t mean anything to me …. The question is, is it important for the American public to know that its government is acting in its name in this particular way?” Or as the Times’s former executive editor once said, “As journalists in a robust democracy, our responsibility is to publish information of interest to the public, and that includes publishing secrets when we find them.”

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“..the OPCW was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers.”

The World: What is Really Happening (Murray)

[..] the OPCW Fact Finding Mission reflected in their final report none of the findings of their own sub-group of university based engineers from two European universities, but instead produced something that is very close to the amateur propaganda “analysis” put out by Bellingcat. The implications of this fraud are mind-blowing. The genuine experts’ findings were completely suppressed until they were leaked last week. And still then, this leak – which has the most profound ramifications – has in itself been almost completely suppressed by the mainstream media, except for those marginalised outliers who still manage to get a platform, Robert Fisk and Peter Hitchens (a tiny platform in the case of Fisk).


Consider what this tells us. A fake chemical attack incident was used to justify military aggression against Syria by the USA, UK and France. The entire western mainstream media promoted the anti-Syrian and anti-Russian narrative to justify that attack. The supposedly neutral international watchdog, the OPCW, was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers. Which can only call into doubt the neutrality and reliability of the OPCW in its findings on the Skripals too. There has been virtually no media reporting of the scandalous cover-up. This really does tell you a very great deal more about how the Western world works than the vicissitudes of the ludicrously over-promoted Theresa May and her tears of self pity.

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Fragmentation is the key word. But the big power blocks will remain, courtesy of the EU structure. Salvini’s Lega may become the largest single party in Europe, but the real power lies in those blocks.

Europeans Vote, With EU Future In Balance (R.)

Europeans vote on Sunday in an election expected to further dent traditional pro-EU parties and bolster the nationalist fringe in the European Parliament, putting a potential brake on collective action in economic and foreign policy. Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) in the east of the bloc and will finally close at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) in Italy. Seven states have already voted, with 21 joining in on Sunday in what is the world’s biggest democratic exercise after India. Right-wing populists top opinion polls in two of the big four member states – Italy and supposedly exiting Britain – and could also win in a third, France, rattling a pro-Union campaign championed by centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

However, exit polls in some countries that have already voted have given pro-EU parties some comfort. The Dutch Labour party, all but written off, looks to have finished first, helped by the visibility of having the EU socialists’ lead candidate, current EU deputy chief executive Frans Timmermans. In the Netherlands pro-Union parties scored 70%, up three points on the last European Parliament vote in 2014, and left the upstart anti-immigration party of Thierry Baudet fourth on 11%. The Dutch also turned out in bigger numbers, albeit at just 41%, reinforcing hopes in Brussels of reversing a 40-year trend of declining turnout that critics cite as a “democratic deficit” that undermines the legitimacy of European Union lawmaking.

An exit poll after Friday’s vote in deeply pro-EU Ireland pointed to an expected “Green Wave”. Across the bloc, concerns about climate change and the environment may bolster the pro-EU Greens group and could mean tighter regulations for industry and for the terms the EU may set for partners seeking trade accords. Britain also voted on Thursday and a new party focused on getting out of the EU was forecast by pre-vote opinion polls to come top, but there has been no exit poll data. Attention there has focused on the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May. Results will be out late on Sunday, when all countries have voted.

[..] Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy may pip the Christian Democrats of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s power broker, to become the biggest single party in the 751-seat chamber. Right-wing ruling parties in Poland and Hungary, defying Brussels over curbs to judicial and media independence, will also return eurosceptic lawmakers on Sunday.

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Grandma does.

Who Gets To Choose The UK’s Next Prime Minister? (BBC)

With Theresa May finally on her way out of Downing Street, a Tory leadership contest that has been bubbling under for months is now starting. It’s a two-stage process. The first sees votes among Conservative MPs designed to whittle the contenders down to just two front-runners. The second stage sees the party’s grassroots members choose between them in a postal ballot. In other words, it is members of the public – those who pay £25 a year to join the Conservative Party – who get the final say on who the next prime minister is. There will not be a general election because the party is already in power. So, who are its members and what do they think on key issues, not least of course Brexit?

We don’t know exactly how many Conservative Party members there are because – unlike the UK’s other parties – the Conservatives don’t regularly release the figures. The last time they did so was back in March 2018, when they put the figure at 124,000. That’s larger than some of the more pessimistic guesstimates, but way down on the peak of nearly three million that the party boasted in the early 1950s. Membership plunged after that before levelling off at around one million in the 1970s and 1980s, since when it has been dropping almost inexorably. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that the Tories have far fewer members than the Labour Party. Even if we assume that Labour’s membership has fallen from the late 2017 peak of more than 550,000, it still has a huge advantage over the Conservatives when it comes to campaigning on the ground.


[..] What Tory members haven’t cooled on, however, is Brexit. Indeed, since we started tracking them in 2015, they’ve hardened their position. It is clear that they are not supporters of the deal negotiated by their outgoing leader. In fact, it is now the case that fully two-thirds of them back a no-deal Brexit – an outcome supported by only a quarter of voters as a whole. Nor are they in the least bit keen on the idea of letting the public have another say on the UK’s EU membership. Some 84% of them oppose the idea of a new referendum on the issue. In short, the grassroots aren’t simply sceptical on Europe; they can’t wait to leave, whatever that might take. This, then, is the Conservative Party electorate. And those MPs hoping to succeed Mrs May will need to pitch their promises accordingly.

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Bubble. Tesla is brought to you by the Fed.

Elon Musk Confronts The “Bear Case” (VF)

Don’t say “death spiral,” but Tesla has unquestionably entered a perilous new era. Last September, a month after Elon Musk’s notorious “funding secured” tweet, I wrote a New York Times opinion piece about the fact that the real problem at Tesla, Musk’s electric-car company, was not necessarily Musk’s irresponsible, and perhaps illegal, behavior as C.E.O. Rather, it was the Tesla balance sheet, which was larded with $11 billion in debt, some $1.7 billion of which needed to be paid off before November 2019. Debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when a company doesn’t have the operating earnings to service that debt, a single dollar of debt can be too much. And then it becomes more like a Ponzi scheme, which, to be honest, Tesla is increasingly resembling.


Can Tesla convince investors to give it enough new capital to pay off the maturing debt before the world concludes that the company doesn’t have the resources to meet its obligations as they become due? That, of course, is the textbook definition of a bankrupt company. When I last wrote about Tesla, the company’s stock was trading at $300 per share, giving Tesla a market capitalization of around $51 billion. Nowadays, Tesla’s stock is trading around $190 per share and the company is valued at around $34 billion. That’s a loss of a cool $17 billion for equity investors, in eight months. In November, Tesla repaid $230 million of convertible debt with some of its cash pile instead of converting the debt to equity because its stock price was well below the conversion price. In March, Tesla paid off another $920 million in convertible notes in cash, again because its stock price was below the conversion price.

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..eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.”

You Will Probably Never Want To Eat GMO Food Again (Snyder)

In recent years, researchers have been pushing the boundaries of biology in order to come up with new “plant-based” alternatives to existing food products. Essentially, “synthetic biology” is being used “to create life forms from scratch”… Impossible’s “bleeding” veggie burger, shrimp made of algae, and vegan cheeses that melt are all making their way into restaurants and on to supermarket shelves, offering consumers a new generation of plant-based proteins that look, act, and taste far more like the real thing than ever before. What consumers may not realize, however, is that many of these new foods are made using synthetic biology, an emerging science that applies principles of genetic engineering to create life forms from scratch.

[..] “GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce their own built-in pesticide in every cell. When bugs bite the plant, the poison splits open their stomach and kills them. Biotech companies claim that the pesticide, called Bt — produced from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis’ has a history of safe use, since organic farmers and others use Bt bacteria spray for natural insect control. Genetic engineers insert Bt genes into corn and cotton, so the plants do the killing.” The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and unlike the spray, cannot be washed off the plant.” Do you think that it is actually safe to eat such “food”?

Sadly, the health consequences from eating GMO food may not just be temporary. In fact, one study found that the effects of eating genetically-modified food could last for a lot longer that anyone had anticipated… “The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.”

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Without the precautionary principle, it’s certain that we will poison our children and not realize it until it’s too late.

Glyphosate Exposure Linked to Fatty Liver Disease in Humans (BP)

Glyphosate weed killers may be contributing to the growing worldwide epidemic f non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that causes swelling of the liver, and can eventually lead to cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure. Researchers at the University of California (UC) San Diego found that higher levels of glyphosate detected in urine corresponded significantly with individuals that have also been diagnosed with NAFLD. Advocates are urging lawmakers at every level to respond to the accumulating science on the danger of glyphosate herbicides, ban their use, and adopt policy changes that put into place organic land management practices.


“There have been a handful of studies, all of which we cited in our paper, where animals either were or weren’t fed Roundup or glyphosate directly, and they all point to the same thing: the development of liver pathology,” said Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor and chief in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine in a press release. [..] With glyphosate still the most popular herbicide used in the U.S., exposure to the chemical is alarmingly widespread. “The increasing levels [of glyphosate] in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup [glyphosate] treated crops into our diet,” said Dr. Mills. He cautions that the results need further follow up, and there may be other pesticides in the environment leading to similar disease outcomes. “There are so many synthetic chemicals we are regularly exposed to,” Dr. Miller notes. “We measured just one.”

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Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it’s a memory.
– Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

 

May 012019
 


Gustave Courbet The desperate man (self portrait) 1852

 

Maduro Claims Victory Over ‘Deranged’ Coup Attempt (G.)
Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela (FAIR)
About That Letter That Mueller Wrote To Barr… (ZH)
The Real ‘Bombshells’ Are About to Hit Their Targets (Kelly)
Why Are Clapper and Brennan Not in Jail?
Wall Street Puts Nearly $2 Billion in American Politics in 2016-18 Cycle
iPhone Sales Fall 17% In First Quarter (G.)
Australia House Prices Continue To Fall, Clearing Way For Rate Cut (SMH)
Tesla Filing Shows Results Were Goosed By A Surge In Credits (LAT)
Julian Assange’s Confinement And Arrest Are A Scandal (Maurizi)
Extradition of Julian Assange Threatens Us All (VIPS)
Canadian Threat Level At America Raised From “Miffed” To “Peeved” (Exp.)
Climate Crisis Facing Australian Rainforests Likened To Coral Bleaching (SMH)

 

 

The things we do for oil.

“‘Maduro had a plane on the tarmac and was ready to leave this morning’, claims @SecPompeo without offering evidence. But as Pompeo admitted just last week, telling lies was (and some may say still is) one of his key job requirements”.

Maduro Claims Victory Over ‘Deranged’ Coup Attempt (G.)

Nicolás Maduro claimed his troops have thwarted a botched attempt to topple him masterminded by Venezuela’s “coup-mongering far right” and Donald Trump’s deranged imperialist “gang”. In an hour-long address to the nation on Tuesday night – his first since the pre-dawn uprising began – Maduro accused opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his political mentor Leopoldo López of seeking to spark an armed confrontation that might be used as a pretext for a foreign military intervention. However, “loyal and obedient” members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian armed forces had put down the mutiny within hours of it starting shortly after 4am, Maduro claimed, in direct contradiction to Guaidó’s earlier remark that the president no longer had military backing.

By noon there only remained a small group of plotters who had chosen “the path of betrayal … [and] handed their souls over to the coup-mongering far right”. “They failed in their plan. They failed in their call, because the people of Venezuela want peace,” Maduro said, surrounded by Venezuela’s military and political elite. “We will continue to emerge victorious … in the months and years ahead. I have no doubt about it.” Maduro said the plotters would “not go unpunished” and said they would face criminal prosecutions “for the serious crimes that have been committed against the constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace”.


[..] Maduro called Tuesday’s “coup-mongering adventure” part of a US-backed plot to destroy the Bolivarian revolution he inherited after Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013. “I truly believe … that the United States of America has never had a government as deranged as this one,” he said, calling Guaidó and his team “useful idiots” of the empire. He also scotched claims from the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, that he had been preparing to flee Venezuela for Cuba on Tuesday morning, until he was told to stay put by his Russian backers. “Señor Pompeo, please,” Maduro said.

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Propaganda works.

Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela (FAIR)

A FAIR survey of US opinion journalism on Venezuela found no voices in elite corporate media that opposed regime change in that country. Over a three-month period (1/15/19–4/15/19), zero opinion pieces in the New York Times and Washington Post took an anti–regime change or pro-Maduro/Chavista position. Not a single commentator on the big three Sunday morning talkshows or PBS NewsHour came out against President Nicolás Maduro stepping down from the Venezuelan government. Of the 76 total articles, opinion videos or TV commentator segments that centered on or gave more than passing attention to Venezuela, 54 (72 percent) expressed explicit support for the Maduro administration’s ouster.

Eleven (14 percent) were ambiguous, but were only classified as such for lack of explicit language. Reading between the lines, most of these were clearly also pro–regime change. Another 11 (14 percent) took no position, but many similarly offered ideological ammo for those in support. The Times published 22 pro–regime change commentaries, three ambiguous and five without a position. The Post also spared no space for the pro-Chavista camp: 22 of its articles expressed support for the end to Maduro’s administration, eight were ambiguous and four took no position. Of the 12 TV opinions surveyed, 10 were pro-regime change and two took no position.


[..] This comes despite the existence of millions of Venezuelans who support Maduro—who was democratically elected twice by the same electoral system that won Juan Guaidó his seat in the National Assembly—and oppose US/foreign intervention. FAIR (2/20/19) has pointed out corporate media’s willful erasure of vast improvements to Venezuelan life under Chavismo, particularly for the oppressed poor, black, indigenous and mestizo populations. FAIR has also noted the lack of discussion of US-imposed sanctions, which have killed at least 40,000 Venezuelans between 2017–18 alone, and continue to devastate the Venezuelan economy.

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Mueller worried about media coverage.

“House Democrats, who have expressed distrust in the attorney general, are set to vote on Wednesday to allow House Judiciary Committee lawyers to question Barr at Thursday’s hearing.”

About That Letter That Mueller Wrote To Barr… (ZH)

In what the WaPo breathlessly reports late on Tuesday was a rebuke and “complaint” to Attorney General William Barr, special counsel Robert Mueller sent a letter to the AG in late March, just days after Barr sent out his summary to Congress, in which Mueller stated that Barr’s 4-page summary to Congress on the sweeping Russia investigation failed to “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work and conclusions, citing a copy of the letter it had obtained using its trusted deep intel sources. Pouring more fuel on the fire, the always pithy Axios adds that “this revelation about Mueller’s dissatisfaction with the characterization of his report will likely escalate the growing rift over Barr’s handling of the special counsel’s investigation.

[..] Or maybe not, and perhaps the WaPo/NYT report is not “so bad” if one actually reads it, because once the breathless WaPo finally does come up for air, we get to paragraph 13 – a point by which most readers have turned out – to read the following real punchline in the WaPo report: “When Barr pressed Mueller on whether he thought Barr’s memo to Congress was inaccurate, Mueller said he did not…” So, Mueller felt there was confusion… but he did not think the memo was inaccurate. Wait, what’s going on here and how is this even a story? Well, if we read the rest of the above sentence, we find the true object of Mueller’s “complaint”: “[Mueller] felt that the media coverage of it was misinterpreting the investigation, officials said.”

Which means that, as the WaPo itself reports, what Mueller was really angry with was the coverage of his report by media such as… the WaPo and the NYT?? The irony, it burns. [..] throughout a subsequent 15 minutes telephone conversation between the special counsel and the attorney general, Mueller’s main worry was “that the public was not getting an accurate understanding of the obstruction investigation.” This goes back to what Mueller’s letter requested: “that Barr release the 448-page report’s introductions and executive summaries, and made some initial suggested redactions for doing so, according to Justice Department officials,” the WaPo writes. What happened then? A few weeks later Barr did just that..

[..] tomorrow Barr is scheduled to testify on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the investigation, and the entire article is meant to focus on the headlines of the WaPo (and NYT) article, and certainly not on paragraph 13 which, not only refutes the prevailing tone that Barr did something wrong, but in fact exonerates him. But that won’t have any impact on tomorrow’s hearing which is now assured to be a complete kangaroo court.

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FISAgate. Get ready.

The Real ‘Bombshells’ Are About to Hit Their Targets (Kelly)

In the next several weeks, Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to issue his summation of the potential abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by top officials in the Obama Administration and holdovers in the early Trump Administration who were overseeing the investigation of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And the perpetrators of the so-called FISAgate scandal now are scrambling for cover as the bad news looms. Horowitz announced last March that his office would examine the Justice Department’s conduct “in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person.” That U.S. person is Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

In October 2016, just two weeks before the presidential election, the Justice Department submitted an application to the FISC seeking authorization to wiretap Page. The court filing accused Page, a Naval Academy graduate and unpaid campaign advisor, of being an agent of Russia. The application cited the infamous Steele dossier—unsubstantiated political propaganda that had been funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee—as its primary source of evidence. But the specific political origin of the dossier intentionally was omitted in the court filing. (Robert Mueller similarly tap danced around the role of Fusion GPS, the political consulting firm that hired Christopher Steele to create the dossier. Mueller never mentioned the name “Fusion GPS” in the 448-page document, referring to it only vaguely as “the firm that produced the Steele reporting.”)


Former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates signed the original FISA application. It was renewed three times; subsequent signers included former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. If there’s one document that represents the malevolence, chicanery and arrogance of the original Trump-Russia collusion fraudsters, it’s the Page FISA application. But—to borrow a favorite term of the collusion truthers—the “walls are closing in” on the FISA abusers.

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Senator Rand Paul: “Subpoena Clapper & Brennan! Demand they answer whether they leaked classified information to the Washington Post. Examine their call records and lock them up if evidence proves them to be the leakers.”

Why Are Clapper and Brennan Not in Jail?

The clearest of all the laws concerning U.S. intelligence is Section 798, 18 U.S. Code—widely known in the Intelligence Community as “the Comint Statute,” or “the 10 and 10.” Unlike other laws, this is a “simple liability” law. Motivation, context, identity, matter not at all. You violate it, you are guilty and are punished accordingly.

Here it is: (a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, . . . any classified information— (1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or (2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States …or (3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or (4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence . . . Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.


On December 9 and 10, 2016, the New York Times and the Washington Post independently reported that anonymous senior intelligence officials had told them that, based on intercepted communications, the intelligence agencies agreed that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee to help Donald Trump win the election. Their evidence was the fact of their access to U.S communications intelligence. A flood of subsequent stories also cited allegations by “senior intelligence officials” that “intercepted communications” and “intercepted calls” showed that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” Incontrovertibly, the officials who gave these stories to the Times and Post violated the Comint Statute, and are subject to the “10 and 10” for each count.

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$2.5 million every single day for two years. That’s $1.9 billion.

Wall Street Puts Nearly $2 Billion in American Politics in 2016-18 Cycle

Wall Street poured at least $1.9 billion into the political process, the largest-ever amount for a non-presidential year, according to a new report by Americans for Financial Reform. This sum outstrips the total of $1.4 billion, in the 2013-14 election cycle, by 36 percent. The figure, which includes contributions to campaign committees and leadership PACs ($922 million) and lobbying expenditures ($957 million), reflects a massive rush of pro-industry nominees and legislation over the last two years, at a time when the biggest banks made $100 billion in profits for the first time. Industry subsequently spent heavily to influence what became one of the hardest-fought mid-term campaigns in decades.


“The last election cycle demonstrated yet again that Wall Street political spending produces policies that will do lasting financial damage to most Americans, including massive tax cuts for big banks, fewer consumer and investor protections, and other policies that that drive inequality and economic vulnerability,” said Lisa Donner, executive director, Americans for Financial Reform. “Year after year, big money in politics helps Wall Street rig the system in its own favor, and against the rest of us, and insulate itself from accountability, even though voters across party lines oppose so many of the policies it seeks.”

The 63-page report, “Wall Street Money in Washington,” draws on a special data set compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics for AFR in order to provide a more precise look at financial services industry spending. The set excludes spending by health insurers, who work to influence a different group of issues than, for example, banks. As the data does not include “dark money” that goes mostly unreported, the actual sums of Wall Street spending are surely much higher.

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So Apple buys back another $75 billion and shares rise 5%. But of course.

iPhone Sales Fall 17% In First Quarter (G.)

Apple’s iPhone sales fell 17% in the first three months of the year as the company’s flagship product continued to struggle. The tech company reported revenues of $31.05bn in iPhone revenues for the quarter, the majority of the $58.bn in revenues Apple brought in over the three months. The news was less gloomy than expected and Apple’s shares spiked 5% in after hours trading as Apple announced it was buying back another $75bn of its shares. The company made a profit of $11.6bn – ahead of expectations. But this quarter marked another quarterly decline in profit and revenue as the company struggled to move beyond the iPhone. In January Apple reported its first decline in revenues and profits in over a decade as slowing sales of iPhones and an economic slowdown in China took their toll.


Those results came after chief executive Tim Cook shocked investors by issuing Apple’s first profits warning since 2002 citing “the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in greater China.” The company has stopped reporting unit sales of iPhones – leaving analysts searching other sources of data for their estimates. Most don’t expect a recovery in sales until the next generation of phones, using the super-fast 5G network, are launched, likely to be in 2020. In the meantime Apple is repositioning itself as a services and software company as well as the manufacturer of hardware. “Investors are slowly shifting their focus away from the iPhone cycle and valuing the company more based on the ecosystem of hardware, software, and services, but it will take several years for this to become consensus,” Gene Munster, managing partner of Loup Ventures, wrote in a blog post this week.

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Why? Maybe prices are far too high. Why would you want to keep them that way?

Australia House Prices Continue To Fall, Clearing Way For Rate Cut (SMH)

The national property market is enduring its biggest fall in values since the global financial crisis, being led down by double-digit drops in Sydney and Melbourne. New analysis by CoreLogic shows house values in Sydney dropped 0.8 per cent in April to be down by 11.8 per cent over the past 12 months. The situation is worse in Melbourne where values fell by 0.7 per cent last month to be down 12.6 per cent over the past year. Overall dwelling values in Sydney dropped by 0.7 per cent to be 10.9 per cent lower over the year. Since their peak in September 2017, Sydney dwelling values have fallen by 14.5 per cent.


In Melbourne, dwelling values dropped by 2.6 per cent to be 10 per cent down over the past 12 months. They have fallen by 10.9 per cent since their peak. National dwelling values were down by 0.5 per cent in the month to be down by 7.2 per cent on an annual basis, the largest drop since the 12 months to February 2009. Every capital city except Canberra suffered a fall in house prices last month with Hobart, which had been the nation’s strongest market, seeing a 1.2 per cent drop in April. Canberra, where values lifted last month, and Hobart are the only two capitals where prices are still growing above the inflation rate on an annual basis.

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Subsidies “R” Us.

Tesla Filing Shows Results Were Goosed By A Surge In Credits (LAT)

Tesla’s financial results released last week didn’t mention that the automaker’s revenue included $200 million collected from regulatory credits. When Chief Executive Elon Musk answered questions from analysts, he didn’t point that out, either. The number was buried in the official government filing known as Form 10-Q that Tesla filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Without the revenue spike – which is unlikely to be repeated, analysts say – the company’s first-quarter loss would have been much deeper than the $702 million that Tesla reported. Gross margins on Tesla’s cars, a key measure of manufacturing profitability and efficiency, would have taken a significant hit. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi’s reaction? “Egad,” he said in a note to investors.


Tesla’s shares fell 1.2% to $238.69 on Tuesday. The $235.14 closing price Friday was its lowest in more than two years. The new data add to Tesla’s already bleak financial picture. The $702-million loss followed a $139-million profit in the previous quarter. Sales fell sharply. Automotive revenue plunged 41%, to $3.7 billion from $6.3 billion in the previous quarter, as vehicle deliveries dropped to 63,000 from 90,700 the previous quarter. Operating cash flow turned negative — a net $640 million going out the door over the three months compared to a positive $1.23 billion in the previous period. Cash on hand dropped from $3.69 billion at the end of last quarter to $2.2 billion, including $920 million to pay off convertible bonds.

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“.. they replied to me and my lawyers that they had destroyed the emails, even though the case is still ongoing, very high-profile and controversial.”

Julian Assange’s Confinement And Arrest Are A Scandal (Maurizi)

In the summer of 2015, when Julian Assange had already spent three years inside the embassy, I decided it was important to access the full documentation on his case to try to reconstruct it using factual information. It was at that point that I filed my comprehensive FOIA request on the Julian Assange and WikiLeaks case in four jurisdictions. I ran up against a real rubber wall, one so persistent that have been forced to sue the Swedish and British authorities. The documents I have managed to obtain after a lengthy FOIA litigation, which is still ongoing, provide indisputable evidence of the UK’s role in helping to create the legal and diplomatic quagmire which has kept Julian Assange arbitrarily detained since 2010, as established by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD.)

It was the UK Crown Prosecution Service which advised the Swedish prosecutors against the only judicial strategy that could have brought the Swedish rape investigation to a quick closure: questioning Assange in London, rather than trying to extradite him to Stockholm. It was the Crown Prosecution Service which tried to dissuade the Swedish prosecutors from dropping the case in 2013. Why did the Crown Prosecution Service act this way? And why did the Crown Prosecution Service write to their Swedish counterpart: “Please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request”?


When I tried to dig into these facts, I discovered crucial gaps in the Crown Prosecution Service’s documents and asked the Service to provide an explanation for them. Their answer was rather incredible: they replied to me and my lawyers that they had destroyed the emails, even though the case is still ongoing, very high-profile and controversial. The Crown Prosecution Service which destroyed the records is the very same agency in charge of handling the extradition request from the United States, as well as from Sweden, if the Swedish prosecutors reopen the case before the statute of limitations on the rape allegations expires. Will anyone demand transparency and accountability from the Crown Prosecution Service in their handling of the Assange case from the very beginning?

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“It takes two to speak the truth–one to speak and one to hear.”

Extradition of Julian Assange Threatens Us All (VIPS)

Retaliation against Julian Assange over the past decade plus replicates a pattern of ruthless political retaliationagainst whistleblowers, in particular those who reveal truths hidden by illegal secrecy. U.S. law prohibits classifying information “in order to conceal inefficiency, violations of law, or administrative error; to prevent embarrassmentto a person, organization, or agency.” Whether U.S. authorities successfully prosecute Assange, accept a desperate plea deal or keep him tied up with endless litigation, they will succeed in sending the same chilling message to all journalists that they send to potential whistleblowers: Do not embarrass us or we’ll punish you—somehow, someday, however long it takes.

In that respect, one could say damage to journalism already has been done but the battle is not over. This extension of a whistleblower reprisal regime onto a publisher of disclosures poses an existential threat to all journalists and to the right of all people to speak and hear important truths. The U.S. indictment of Julian Assange tests our ability to perceive a direct threat to free speech, and tests our will to oppose that threat.Without freedom of press and the right and willingness to publish, whistleblowers even disclosing issues of grave, life and death public safety, will be like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear.


The great American writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It takes two to speak the truth–one to speak and one to hear.” Today, it takes three to speak the truth–one to speak, one to hear, and one to defend the first two in court. If the U.S. Government has its way, there will be no defense, no truth.

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Real title: “Canada FURY after The Simpsons MOCKS Justin Trudeau amid scandal – ‘COMPLETE disrespect’”

I don’t know what to think of this. You decide. Onion? It’s actually the Express in the UK.

Canadian Threat Level At America Raised From “Miffed” To “Peeved” (Exp.)

Viewers were left disgusted after the word “Newfie” was used in the episode titled ‘D’Oh Canada’. The term is decades old and is considered an offensive, derogatory term for people in Newfoundland and Labrador. According to CTV News, it is commonly used to imply someone is stupid or foolish. The country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also appeared in the episode. During the episode, which aired on Sunday night, the Simpsons family travel to Niagara Falls. Somehow Lisa Simpson ends up falling over the famous waterfall, which separates the US and Canada. In the controversial scene, Lisa stands next to some Canadian youngsters and says: “I’m sure you treat all people equally.”


One says: “Except the Québécois,” before others add, “and the Newfies. “Stupid Newfies.” The scene then cuts to Springfield youngster Ralph Wiggum who says “I’m a Newfie” before clubbing the head of a stuffed baby seal. Twitter erupted with fury following the show’s airing. One said: “I can take a joke. “When, however, it is complete disrespect disguised as a joke, I take exception.” Some also criticised the show for targeting seal hunters. The Simpsons has a long and often contentious past. Most recently the show was condemned for its portrayal of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who many now see as racist stereotyping.

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On and on we go.

Climate Crisis Facing Australian Rainforests Likened To Coral Bleaching (SMH)

Animals in Australia’s globally renowned wet tropics are on the brink of extinction after the hottest summer on record, according to official advice that equates the scale of the crisis to coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. The extraordinary warning relates to the lush green coastal fringe spanning Townsville, Cairns and Cooktown in Queensland’s north – the Earth’s oldest rainforest and a World Heritage-listed tourist drawcard. A statement from the board of the Wet Tropics Management Authority on Tuesday said more than half of animal species endemic to the area may be extinct within decades. It called for strong global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the ancient area for future generations.


The climate change policies of the major parties are under the microscope during the federal election campaign, as Labor and the Coalition pledge starkly different action to address the crisis. The Queensland government authority says “concerning new evidence has shown an accelerating decline” in the wet tropics’ unique rainforest animals. “Following the hottest summer ever recorded, some of the key species for which the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area was listed are at imminent risk of extinction,” the statement said. [..] Modelling has previously predicted that more than half of the area’s endemic species may be extinct by the end of this century. However the latest findings by James Cook University biodiversity professor Steve Williams suggested “these extinctions are happening even sooner”, the statement said.

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Jan 192019
 


Pablo Picasso Guitar on a table 1922

 

Mueller Shoots Down Buzzfeed’s Latest Russiagate Scoop With Rare Dismissal (RT)
US Asked Ecuadorean Officials About Alleged Assange-Manafort Meeting (R.)
56% Majority Of Britons Now Want To Remain In The EU – Poll (DM)
Extending The Brexit Deadline Could Clash With Coming EU Elections (CNBC)
EU Loves British Money More Than It Loves Democracy (Clark)
UK Patients Stockpile Drugs In Fear Of No-Deal Brexit (G.)
UK Shoppers Rein In Spending As Fears Grow Over Economy (G.)
Rising Credit-Card Use Shows US Consumers Are Strapped (DDMB)
Tesla Cuts 7% Of Workforce, Musk Sees ‘Very Difficult’ Road Ahead (CNBC)
Tesla Has $920 Million In Debt Coming Due, A Third Of Company’s Cash (CNBC)
Russia Outshines China To Become World’s 5th Biggest Holder Of Gold (RT)
French Court Cites Precautionary Principle To Cancel Monsanto Permit (R.)

 

 

Is this the worst day for fake news to date? It’s hard to keep track. It’s just that this one was taken up by so many hoping for -finally!- impeachment. Please Lord make it stop.

Two reasons why Mueller issued his statement: 1) the credibility of the Special Counsel itself (since every outlet ran with the -false- BuzzFeed story), 2) members of Congress were calling for investigations based on the story (would have been even more embarrassing than making the statement).

One Shimon Prokupecz on Twitter: “We cannot underestimate the statement disputing Buzzfeed’s story from the special counsel. I’m sure it pained them to do this. I’m sure this went through many levels at the DOJ and FBI. They don’t talk. This is massive.”

Trump on Twitter: “Remember it was Buzzfeed that released the totally discredited “Dossier,” paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats (as opposition research), on which the entire Russian probe is based! A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!”

Mueller Shoots Down Buzzfeed’s Latest Russiagate Scoop With Rare Dismissal (RT)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has poured cold water on BuzzFeed’s latest Russiagate “bombshell” with a rare public statement calling the article, which claims Trump told his ex-lawyer Cohen to lie to Congress, “not accurate.” BuzzFeed reported that President Donald Trump directly instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower property in Moscow, citing two anonymous “federal law enforcement officials” as sources that the president had suborned perjury – which, being an actual crime, triggered talk of impeachment “walls closing in” among the anti-Trump “Resistance.”

While half of Congress took to Twitter to wave the story as the long-awaited proof of Collusion, the BuzzFeed reporters could not seem to agree on their own sourcing. Anthony Cormier admitted to CNN he hadn’t seen the proof directly but had two “law enforcement” sources claiming they had seen it, while Jason Leopold told MSNBC they had in fact seen the documents themselves. The smoking gun du jour collapsed further when word came down from Mueller himself – via spokesman Peter Carr – that Buzzfeed’s “description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony” were “not accurate.”

Mueller has been extremely tight-lipped about the numerous previous “Russiagate” scoops, and considering the time and effort involved in his own ongoing crusade to take Trump down, his dismissal of BuzzFeed’s would-be bombshell knocked the legs out from under a story whose vague sourcing had already raised questions.

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And this fits in seamlessly with the Mueller/BuzzFeed thing: The Guardian story has been thoroughly discredited, but 2 months later, US officials are still chasing it. What’s new to me is that it’s the first time I see a Guardian response: “The Guardian has defended the article and said it “relied on a number of sources.” Lame poppycock. And the same thing Buzzfeed says.

US Asked Ecuadorean Officials About Alleged Assange-Manafort Meeting (R.)

U.S. officials spoke with officials from Ecuador’s British embassy on Friday about an alleged meeting there between President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Ecuadorean government source said. The Guardian newspaper reported the meeting in November, alleging the two met at least three times, including in 2016, just before WikiLeaks released damaging emails about Trump’s rival in the 2016 presidential elections, Hillary Clinton. Manafort and Assange have both previously denied meeting each other at the embassy.

WikiLeaks, in a statement on Friday entitled the “U.S. interrogation of Ecuadorian diplomats,” accused Ecuador’s government of assisting the United States in prosecuting Assange, who first sought asylum in the embassy in 2012. The source said the embassy officials, at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, provided testimony in Quito at facilities provided by Ecuadorean authorities. [..] Part of Mueller’s probe has involved looking into whether Trump associates may have had advance notice before WikiLeaks published emails stolen by Russian hackers from Democratic computer networks to damage Clinton. WikiLeaks called the Guardian’s story “indisputably fabricated” and said it was being used as a pretext for the United States to prosecute Assange. The Guardian has defended the article and said it “relied on a number of sources.”

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But neither one of the two main parties do. How screwed up is that? Nobody represents the majority.

56% Majority Of Britons Now Want To Remain In The EU – Poll (DM)

A majority of Britons now say they want to stay in the EU after Theresa May’s Brexit plan suffered a massive defeat, a new poll published today has found. A YouGov survey asked 1,070 voters how they would vote in a second Brexit referendum if it were held today – and found Remain has stretched out a 12-point lead over Leave, with 56% saying they would vote to stay in the EU versus 44% in favour of leaving. The voters were questioned the day after the PM’s Brexit plan suffered a crushing defeat – leaving the machinery of government deadlocked and with the bitter divisions among MPs offering no clear way ahead.

Ministers are now at war over Brexit, openly clashing over whether Britain should be willing to crash out without a deal on March 29, or back a softer Brexit or second referendum. The Prime Minister must make a statement on Monday where she will lay out her ‘next steps’ on a Brexit ‘plan B’ before a week of debate on the various options. The following week, MPs will vote on their preferred course of action, putting huge pressure on the Prime Minister to adopt it. With Westminster gripped by chaos, the new poll suggests voters are losing faith in Brexit with growing numbers now backing Remain. The survey for The Times found that 56% of those polled would now back staying in the EU, while the same proportion back a second referendum. And voters were even more likely to want to stay in the bloc if the only other option was the PM’s Brexit deal, with Remain leading by 65% to 35%.

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If Article 50 were extended, which looks pretty sure, Britain will have to vote in European elections. But their seats have already been given out to others.

Extending The Brexit Deadline Could Clash With Coming EU Elections (CNBC)

Extending the official Brexit deadline for the U.K. could bring a wave of extra logistical and political problems for the EU. The ongoing deadlock has sparked a debate on the potential extension of Article 50 — the legal means by which the U.K. leaves the EU. However, there is strong opposition from some European lawmakers over giving more time to the U.K. to sort out its domestic politics. The U.K. is set to leave the EU on March 29 — but this could change if the U.K. asks for an extension and the other 27 member nations accept the request. Extending the departure beyond the agreed date would likely clash with European parliamentary elections that are set to take place between May 23 and 26. The chamber is made of lawmakers from all 28 European member countries, including the U.K., and is responsible for approving European policies, such as the Union’s total budget.

“What we will not let happen, deal or no deal, is that the mess in British politics is again imported into European politics. While we understand the U.K. could need more time, for us it is unthinkable that Article 50 is prolonged beyond the European Elections,” Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament and its representative in Brexit negotiations, said on Twitter on Wednesday. [..] Seb Dance, member of the European Parliament for the U.K. Labour party, said the prospect of having Brexit and the European elections clashing “is a logistical headache.” “The impact of delaying Brexit on the EU elections is certainly troublesome logistically speaking,” he said, “but politically speaking it shouldn’t make a difference as it is entirely possible that elections take place in the other member states without needing to take place in Britain.”

[..] According to a Brussels-based European official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity surrounding the Brexit talks, an extension would likely mean that the U.K. would have to participate in the vote. This is because it would still technically be a member of the European Union. Zsolt Darvas, senior fellow at Bruegel, reiterated this point in an email to CNBC Friday. “If the extension goes beyond the elections, the U.K. would have to elect members of the European Parliament. Not expecting this, the European Parliament has already agreed on how to allocate the U.K. seats after Brexit. That agreement will have to be revised, or perhaps its implementation be postponed after the actual, delayed Brexit date.”

“From the U.K. side, it might look awkward to elect members of the European Parliament when people expect that the U.K. will leave the EU not much after the European elections; plus the U.K. would need to act quickly to make the European Parliament election possible, which would also involve some costs.”

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“..the Common Fisheries Quota has for the past 34 years given 84% of the cod in the English Channel to France and just 9% to the UK..”

EU Loves British Money More Than It Loves Democracy (Clark)

The European establishment is desperate for Britain to reconsider Brexit. Internationalist ideals about ‘preserving European unity’, don’t come in to it, this is all about protecting income streams. Consider a few facts. If Britain does leave without a deal, then the EU as an institution would be considerably worse off. The UK has consistently been one of the top three countries that puts most into the EU budget (after Germany and France). It is one of ten countries that puts more into the EU than it gets out. In 2017, the UK’s net contribution was £9bn. If Britain leaves, the EU faces a financial shortfall. In 2016, 16 countries were net receivers, including Donald Tusk’s Poland. Little wonder that he regards Britain staying as “the only positive solution”.

The very generous financial remuneration packages of EU officials might also be threatened by British withdrawal. In December, it was reported that the EU’s top civil servants would be paid over €20,000 a month for the first time, and that Tusk and Juncker would see their packages rise to €32,700 a month. Austerity? Not in Brussels, mon ami! The EU is a fabulous gravy train once you are on board. But the gravy train relies on its richest members not leaving, otherwise who’s going to foot the bill? If Britain leaves with ‘No Deal’, it’s not just the EU budget which will take a hit. In 2017, EU countries sold around £67 billion more in goods and services to the UK, than the UK sold to them. Europe needs full and unfettered access to British markets, much more than Britain needs full and unfettered access to European markets.

[..] The country that would lose out the most with Brexit is Germany. Britain’s trade deficit with Germany is higher than with any other country, even higher than China, whose products are everywhere in our shops! In 2016, the year of the EU referendum, Britain imported around £26 billion more from Germany than it exported. [..] We also have to discuss fishing. The other EU countries do extremely well out of the Common Fisheries Policy, which provides them with access to UK waters. Belgian fleets get around half their catch from British waters! As reported in the Independent, the Common Fisheries Quota has for the past 34 years given 84% of the cod in the English Channel to France and just 9% to the UK. Overall, EU vessels take out around four times as much fish out of UK waters as British vessels take out of EU waters.

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Is it Brexit or just the overall state of affairs as the Tories dismantle the NHS?

UK Patients Stockpile Drugs In Fear Of No-Deal Brexit (G.)

Ministers have been urged by top doctors to reveal the extent of national drug stocks, amid growing evidence patients are stockpiling medication in preparation for a no-deal Brexit. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which represents tens of thousands of doctors, urged the government to be more “transparent about national stockpiles, particularly for things that are already in short supply or need refrigeration, such as insulin”. Prof Andrew Goddard, the RCP president, said: “Faith in the system will be created by openness and regular updates to trusts and clinicians; this will allow clinicians to reassure patients.” The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has warned medical shortages have increased in recent months.

Generic drugs are usually bought through nationally set tariff prices. However, pharmacies can apply for price concessions under which the NHS will temporarily pay more when the drugs are in short supply. The number of concessions the PSNC applied for went up from 45 in October, to 72 in November and 87 in December. The Guardian has also found evidence some patients are stockpiling drugs, against official guidance. They said they were doing so by ordering drugs from abroad, and by asking their GPs for emergency prescriptions. One diabetic patient has been stockpiling insulin for four months, ordering twice the amount he needs for each of his drugs from the pharmacist.

Robin Hewings, the head of policy at Diabetes UK, backed calls for more transparency from the government about current stock levels to reassure patients. “There is a level of concern that has risen quite a lot [in the last few months] and people with diabetes are talking about stockpiling. The government needs to be more transparent about insulin supplies.”

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Only, not really: “..sales grew by 2.7% last year, compared with a growth rate of 2% in 2017.”

UK Shoppers Rein In Spending As Fears Grow Over Economy (G.)

British consumers reined in their spending in December after splashing out during November on Black Friday promotions, according to official figures that confirmed the tough festive shopping period on the high street. The Office for National Statistics said the quantity of goods bought last month fell by 0.9% compared to November, when Black Friday deals encouraged shoppers to bring forward some of their Christmas spending. All sectors except food and petrol declined on the month, the figures showed, coming after the British Retail Consortium said the key Christmas shopping period had been the worst for retailers since the financial crisis a decade ago.

James Smith, an economist at the City bank ING, said: “After another bumpy week for Brexit, today’s UK retail sales data is a timely reminder that all is not particularly well in the UK economy.” Figures for the three months to December, highlighting the wider trend for consumer spending, showed that the quantity of goods bought dropped by 0.2%. [..] Despite the downturn last month, the latest snapshot showed that retail sales growth for 2018 as a whole was above the level recorded a year earlier. Although significantly below the peak growth rate of 4.7% seen before the Brexit vote in 2016, sales grew by 2.7% last year, compared with a growth rate of 2% in 2017.

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Or does it show that they are more confident? Always a nice puzzle. A popular industry POV: people get deeper in debt because they feel so great.

Rising Credit-Card Use Shows US Consumers Are Strapped (DDMB)

Even though evidence is mounting that the U.S. economy may be soon heading into a recession, there are plenty of analysts who say that the surge in credit card borrowing is a sign of strong confidence among households. That’s hardly the case. In fact, households’ confidence in the future growth of their incomes has been cooling since late last summer, which means borrowers will only reach for what’s in their wallet to compensate for what their paychecks will not cover. Many working adults have no recollection of credit card borrowing not being a mainstay among their financing options. But then, few would be able to identify a Diners Club card, which was a popular brand during the 1980s “yuppie” era when Americans first began to embrace credit card spending in earnest.

These days, consumers are not keen to lean on credit cards, partly due to a cultural and financial shift in the industry. The financial crisis arguably altered households’ views on charging beyond their means. It didn’t hurt that the availability of subprime credit all but disappeared for a few years or that the interest rate on credit cards remained in double-digit territory despite the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy. That said, the idea of frugality re-entered many households’ thinking in the wake of the severe hardship the foreclosure crisis brought to bear on millions of working Americans. Debit cards became the predominant form of plastic used at the checkout.

And yet, consumer credit likely rounded out 2019 at a new $4 trillion milestone as runaway higher educationand car-price inflation coupled with ridiculously looser lending standards pushed households to take on record levels of student loan and auto debt. At roughly $1 trillion, credit cards are but a co-star in a star-studded, full-length feature film. A long history of credit card borrowing suggests that we would have multiples of today’s $1.04 billion in outstanding balances had the growth rate of spending on plastic maintained the headier double-digit paces clocked in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Shares down 13%.

Tesla Cuts 7% Of Workforce, Musk Sees ‘Very Difficult’ Road Ahead (CNBC)

Tesla is cutting its full-time staff headcount by about 7 percent, as it ramps up production of its Model 3 sedans, CEO Elon Musk said Friday. The announcement follows recent cost-cutting measures the company has made in a bid to reduce the price of its products and boost margins. Tesla shares fell 13 percent by the end of trading Friday. In an email to employees, Musk said the company faces a “very difficult” road ahead in its long-term goal to sell affordable renewable energy products, noting the company is younger than other players in the industry. “Tesla will need to make these cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and making many manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months,” Musk said.

“Attempting to build affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity, but succeeding in our mission is essential to ensure that the future is good, so we must do everything we can to advance the cause.” The exact number of employees who will be laid off has not been disclosed. However in an October tweet, Musk said Tesla had a staff count of 45,000. If still true today, that would mean 3,150 layoffs. Musk said Friday that Tesla faces “an extremely difficult challenge” in making its electric vehicles and solar products a competitive alternative to traditional vehicles and energy products that rely on fossil fuels.

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Plunging share prices are the last thing Tesla needs.

Tesla Has $920 Million In Debt Coming Due, A Third Of Company’s Cash (CNBC)

Tesla has a billion dollar debt coming due, and it could wipe out nearly a third of the company’s cash if the stock price doesn’t improve. About $920 million in convertible senior notes expires on March 1 at a conversion price of $359.87 per share. But Tesla’s stock hasn’t traded above $359 for weeks. If the shares are about $359.87, then Tesla’s debt converts into Tesla shares. If not, Tesla will have to pay the debt in cash. Tesla reported cash and cash equivalents of $3.37 billion at the end of its September quarter. The company continues to reveal pressure to maintain profitability, and announced Friday it would cut 7 percent of its full-time workforce. Shares fell more than 10 percent Friday following the announcement to trade around $310 per share.

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If only because of the sanctions.

Russia Outshines China To Become World’s 5th Biggest Holder Of Gold (RT)

The Central Bank of Russia reported purchasing 8.5 million troy ounces of gold in January-November 2018. With its 67.6 million ounces of gold Russia is now the world’s fifth largest holder behind the US, Germany, France and Italy. China dropped to sixth place as it reported an increase in gold reserves just once in more than two years – to 59.6 million ounces in December 2018 from 59.2 million ounces in October 2016. Industry sources told Reuters that Western sanctions against Russia lifted the country’s gold buying to record highs in 2018. One of the reasons Russia’s Central Bank was betting on the yellow metal was because it could not be frozen or blacklisted, sources explained.

“It seems that there is an aim to diversify from American assets,” said a source in one of Russia’s gold producers, referring to the Central Bank’s holdings. While purchases of the precious metal by Russia jumped last year the country continued getting rid of US Treasury securities. Earlier this month, Russia’s Central Bank reported that it cut the share of the US dollar in the country’s foreign reserves to a historic low, transferring nearly $100 billion into the euro, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan. The step came as a part of a broader state policy on eliminating reliance on the greenback. According to sources, the Central Bank has been purchasing a significant portion of Russia’s domestic gold production, which is also rising.

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As the EU promotes Roundup, this court has the only right attitude, referring to “a precautionary principle in French law.” All GMO crops should be banned because of that principle. The risks are too great, and there’s likely no way back. You can’t put the onus of proof on society at large, Monsanto will have to prove there is no risk or damage at all, not the other way around. Nassim Taleb is the only person I’ve seen who also says this as the most important thing concerning GMO.

French Court Cites Precautionary Principle To Cancel Monsanto Permit (R.)

A French court canceled the license for one of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkillers on Tuesday over safety concerns, placing an immediate ban on Roundup Pro 360 in the latest legal blow to the Bayer-owned business. Germany’s Bayer, which bought Monsanto for $63 billion last year, faces thousands of U.S. lawsuits by people who say its Roundup and Ranger Pro products caused their cancer. A court in Lyon in southeast France ruled that the approval granted by French environment agency ANSES in 2017 for Roundup Pro 360 had failed to take into account potential health risks. Bayer, which said it disagreed with the decision and was considering its legal options, has cited regulatory rulings as well as scientific studies that found glyphosate to be safe.

The firm is appealing a first U.S. court ruling that awarded $78 million in damages to a school groundskeeper from California. “Bayer disagrees with the decision taken by the Administrative Court of Lyon to cancel the marketing authorization for RoundUp Pro 360,” it said in a statement. “This product formulation, like all crop protection products, has been subject to a strict evaluation by the French authorities (ANSES), an independent body and guarantor of the public health security.” The French court said ANSES had not respected a precautionary principle in French law, notably by not conducting a specific evaluation of health risks for Roundup Pro 360.

“Despite the European Union’s approval of the active substance (glyphosate), the court considered that scientific studies and animal experiments showed Roundup Pro 360 … is a potentially carcinogenic product for humans, suspected of being toxic for human reproduction and for aquatic organisms,” the court said in a summary of its ruling. ANSES said it was still examining the court ruling, but that the decision was effective immediately. “As a consequence, the sale, distribution and use of RoundUp Pro 360 are banned as of today,” the agency said in an email.

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Nov 272018
 
 November 27, 2018  Posted by at 10:34 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Otto Dix Ice drift 1940

Putin ‘Seriously Concerned’ After Ukraine Votes To Impose Martial Law (G.)
The Latest Ukronazi Provocation In The Kerch Strait (Saker)
Trump Says He Isn’t Happy With GM Decision To Shed 14,700 Jobs (G.)
GM Cuts 14,700 Jobs As Auto Bubble Begins To Burst (Colombo)
Tesla China Sales Plunge 70% In October (R.)
May’s Brexit Deal Sounds Like A ‘Great Deal For The EU’ – Trump (G.)
Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Could Cost UK £100bn Over A Decade (G.)
Shares Rally As Italy Edges Away From Brussels Budget Clash (G.)
Bitcoin Is Down More Than 80% From Last Year’s High (CNBC)
Human Rights Watch Asks Argentina To Probe MbS Over Yemen, Khashoggi (R.)
The ‘Sharing Economy’ Has Been Seized By Big Money (G.)
Who Will Fix Facebook? (Matt Taibbi)
Investors Go After Zuckerberg After Facebook Plunges 40% In 4 Months (CNBC)
Fighting Climate Change Can Be America’s New New Deal (R.)
The Detention and Isolation from the World of Julian Assange (Stefania Maurizi)

 

 

Here’s what this is about:

“Since the completion of the bridge over the Kerch strait, Moscow has demanded that Ukrainian ships not only give notice of their intention to transit the strait but request permission, a change that Kiev has rejected. According to western diplomats, the dispatch of the three ships was intended to assert freedom of navigation..”

Russia came close to losing its only warm water ports in early 2014. They won’t let that happen again.

Putin ‘Seriously Concerned’ After Ukraine Votes To Impose Martial Law (G.)

Russian president Vladimir Putin has expressed “serious concern” over Ukraine’s decision to impose martial law, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, as the simmering confrontation between Moscow and Kiev sparked a new global crisis. In a phone conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin also said he hoped the German leader could intervene to rein in Kiev. Putin “expressed a serious concern over Kiev’s decision to put its armed forces on alert and to introduce martial law,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the call. He also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” it added.

The political efforts came after Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crews in the Kerch strait separating Crimea from the Russian mainland. Ukrainian MPs responded by voting to impose martial law. Six Ukrainians were reported to be injured, one of them critically, in the clash at the mouth of the Sea of Azov, where Russia has been building up its naval presence and seeking to restrict Ukrainian access since completing a bridge across the strait in May. The Ukrainian government released video footage of one of its ships being rammed by a Russian vessel. The incident sparked an emergency debate at the UN security council, where the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors accused each other’s governments of seeking to trigger a conflict to deflect from their own domestic unpopularity.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko, said the Russian naval authorities had been notified that the three Ukrainian vessels – two cutters and a tugboat – wished to pass through the strait, and had been waiting to hear confirmation on Sunday morning when the vessels were attacked. [..] Since the completion of the bridge over the Kerch strait, Moscow has demanded that Ukrainian ships not only give notice of their intention to transit the strait but request permission, a change that Kiev has rejected. According to western diplomats, the dispatch of the three ships was intended to assert freedom of navigation and also to reinforce a very small Ukrainian naval presence in the Sea of Azov.

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“..Considering the current single-digit popularity rating of Poroshenko and the fact that he has no chance in hell to be re-elected ..”

The Latest Ukronazi Provocation In The Kerch Strait (Saker)

Second, let me give you the single most important element to understand what is (and what is not) taking place: the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea are, in military terms, “Russian lakes”. That means that Russia has the means to destroy any and all ships (or aircraft) over these two seas: on the Black Sea the life expectancy of any intruder would be measured in minutes, on the Sea of Azov in seconds. Let me repeat here that any and all ships deployed in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are detected and tracked by Russia and they can all easily be destroyed. The Russians know that, the Ukrainians know that and, of course, the Empire knows that. Again, keep that in mind when trying to make sense of what happened.

Third, whether the waters in which the incident happened belong to Russia or not is entirely irrelevant. Everybody knows that Russia considers these waters are belonging to her and those disagreeing with this have plenty of options to express their disagreement and challenge the legality of the Russian position. Trying to break through waters Russia considers her own with several armed military vessels is simply irresponsible and, frankly, plain stupid (especially considering point #2 above). That is simply not how civilized nations behave (and there are plenty of contested waters on our planet).

Fourth, one should not be too quick in dismissing Poroshenko’s latest plan to introduce martial law for the next 60 days. Albeit Poroshenko himself declared that this mobilization does not mean that the Ukronazi regime wants war with Russia, the fact is that the first-line reserves will be mobilized. This is important because the situation resulting from the introduction to martial law could be used to covertly increase the number of soldiers available for an attack on Novorussia or, God forbid, Russia herself. In fact, Poroshenko also officially appealed to the veterans of the war against Novorussia to be ready for deployment.

[..] Considering the current single-digit popularity rating of Poroshenko and the fact that he has no chance in hell to be re-elected it is pretty darn obvious of why the Ukronazi regime in Kiev decided to trigger yet another crisis and then blame Russia for it. The very last thing Russia needs is yet another crisis, especially not before a possible Putin-Trump meeting at the G20 Buenos Aires summit later this month. In fact, Ukrainian bloggers immediately saw this latest provocation as an attempt to scrap upcoming elections.

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Remind me, what did it cost to keep GM alive?

Trump Says He Isn’t Happy With GM Decision To Shed 14,700 Jobs (G.)

General Motors has announced it will halt production at five North American facilities and cut 14,700 jobs as it deals with slowing sedan sales and the impact of Donald Trump’s tariffs. More than 6,000 blue-collar jobs will be hit by GM plans to stop production at a car plant in Canada and two more in Ohio and Michigan. Two transmission plants in the US will also be mothballed, putting the future of those plants in doubt. The cuts will also include 15% of GM’s 54,000 white-collar workforce, about 8,100 people, and come as 18,000 GM workers have been asked to accept voluntary redundancy. Trump, who won over voters in many of the states affected by GM’s decision by promising to save their jobs, told reporters he was not happy with the decision.

“We don’t like it,” he told reporters. “This country has done a lot for General Motors. They better get back to Ohio, and soon.” Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, was due to meet with top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow later on Monday. “We are taking this action now while the company and the economy are strong to keep ahead of changing market conditions,” Barra said in a conference call. GM’s share price rose 5.5% on the news. The car plants – Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Oshawa Assembly – all build slow-selling cars. Trump held a rally close to the Lordstown plant in July and told workers not to sell their homes because “jobs are coming back”.

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Fiat/Chrysler increased sales (but its CEO died recently), Ford and GM lost big.

GM Cuts 14,700 Jobs As Auto Bubble Begins To Burst (Colombo)

On Monday, General Motors announced that it will cut 14,700 jobs or 15% of its North American workforce in addition to closing three assembly plants and two other facilities: While GM’s CEO Mary Barra is spinning this move as a positive, I am highly suspicious because it is taking place at the same time that global auto sales are plunging (see chart below). Ford also said recently that it will cut more than 20,000 jobs across the globe as part of an $11 billion restructuring.

The reason why I criticized President Trump’s excitement about Ford’s decision was because I’ve been warning (then and now) that the U.S. automobile sales boom was driven by a debt bubble that would end very badly. Since 2010, total outstanding U.S. auto loans increased by $445 billion or 64% to over $1.1 trillion as Americans took advantage of record low interest rates to finance automobile purchases.

U.S. Auto Loans

After the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to record low levels and held them there for a record length of time, making it much cheaper to take out loans of all kinds. Notice how the total outstanding U.S. auto loans in the chart above start to soar shortly after interest rates were cut to record lows (based on the chart below)? That is certainly no coincidence. Low interest rates lead to borrowing booms that end when interest rates go back up, which is what has been happening over the last few years. Rising interest rates are threatening the U.S. automobile sales and loan bubble and will eventually cause its popping.

Interest Rates

It’s entirely possible that GM is aware of the risk of a more serious auto sales downturn ahead as higher interest rates start to bite, which is why they decided to cut jobs and close the plants before it’s too late. If that’s the case, it’s a smart move on CEO Mary Barra’s part.

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70% may seem a lot, but the remaining 30% consisted of just 211 cars. Non-story.

Tesla China Sales Plunge 70% In October (R.)

Tesla Inc’s vehicle sales in China sank 70 percent last month from a year ago, the country’s passenger car association told Reuters on Tuesday, underscoring how the Sino-U.S. trade war is hurting the U.S. electric carmaker. An official from China Passenger Car Association said data from the industry body showed Tesla sold just 211 cars in the world’s largest auto market in October. The electric carmaker, which imports all the cars it sells in China, said in October that tariff hikes on auto imports were hammering its sales there. In July, Beijing raised tariffs on imports of U.S. autos to 40 percent amid a worsening trade standoff with the United States. While so-called new-energy vehicle sales have continued to climb in China, wider auto sales have slowed sharply since the middle of the year, taking the market to the brink of its first annual sales contraction in almost three decades.

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First vote is December 11, the second around Christmas time.

May’s Brexit Deal Sounds Like A ‘Great Deal For The EU’ – Trump (G.)

Donald Trump has delivered a weighty blow to Theresa May’s hopes of steering her Brexit deal through parliament, saying it sounded like a “great deal for the EU” that would stop the UK trading with the US. Trump was speaking to reporters outside the White House when he was asked about the deal May struck with the EU’s other 27 heads of state and government on Sunday. “Sounds like a great deal for the EU,” the president said. “I think we have to take a look at, seriously, whether or not the UK is allowed to trade. Because, you know, right now, if you look at the deal, they may not be able to trade with us … I don’t think that the prime minister meant that. And, hopefully, she’ll be able to do something about that.”

Trump’s intervention caught Downing Street off-guard and is likely to weaken May’s hand at a time when she is seeking to get the deal approved by parliament, where she faces determined resistance from 89 Tory backbenchers who argue the deal does not secure sufficient freedom of action for the UK. A vote is due on 11 December after a five-day debate. A No 10 spokesman argued that Trump’s take on Brexit was wrong: “The political declaration we have agreed with the EU is very clear we will have an independent trade policy so that the UK can sign trade deals with countries around the world – including with the US.”

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Insert any number you can think of. And then realize that people actually get paid to issue these fully hollow reports.

Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Could Cost UK £100bn Over A Decade (G.)

Theresa May’s Brexit deal is expected to cost the UK economy as much as £100bn over the next decade compared with remaining in the EU, according to one of the country’s leading economic thinktanks. An analysis of the prime minister’s EU withdrawal agreement from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggested that by 2030, Britain would lose GDP growth equivalent to the annual economic output of Wales. The study, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum, found GDP over the long term was forecast to be about 4% less than it would have been had the UK stayed in the EU.

It comes as the government prepares to publish its own analysis of the impact of the deal this week, possibly on Wednesday, to help inform MPs before they vote on whether to back it in parliament. NIESR said the cost to the economy of the prime minister’s deal would be the equivalent of losing about £1,000 a year for every person in the UK. Garry Young, the director of macroeconomic modelling and forecasting at NIESR, said: “Leaving the EU will make it more costly for the UK to trade with a large market on our doorstep and inevitably will have economic costs.” The NIESR report found May’s deal would not be as damaging for the economy as Britain leaving the EU without an agreement, which would cost the economy about £140bn over the next 10 years.

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The emptiness of the rumors that drive this stuff is deafening. These are not markets.

Shares Rally As Italy Edges Away From Brussels Budget Clash (G.)

Italy has shown the first signs of backing away from a budget clash with Brussels, sparking a share rally in Rome. On a day when equities rose across the globe, tentative signs of progress in negotiations between the European commission and Italy’s populist leaders resulted in the key barometer of the Italian stock market rising by almost 3%. Bank shares – seen as particularly vulnerable in the event of a loss of confidence in Italian assets triggered by a prolonged confrontation – were up by 5% on Monday. Reports that Rome was willing to cut its budget deficit from 2.4% of national output to as low as 2% also led to a fall in the interest rate the Italian government pays to borrow on the world’s financial markets.

Italy’s main stock market index – the FTSE MIB – was the best performer of the leading European bourses on a day of across-the-board gains, closing 2.8% higher. Frankfurt’s Dax index rose by 1.45%, while the City’s FTSE 100 ended the day up by 1.2% at 7,036. After sharp falls last week, shares rallied on Wall Street and the Dow Jones industrial average ended Monday trading 1.5% higher amid signs of strong Black Friday spending by American consumers. Ever since it came to power in the spring, Italy’s coalition government has been on a collision course with the commission over its plans to stimulate growth by running a bigger budget deficit. The proposed move would violate the eurozone’s fiscal rules and in the past few weeks investors have become increasingly more nervous about Italy’s public finances.

The concessions hinted at by the Rome government would go nowhere near far enough to meet the demands made by Brussels, however. A proposed budget deficit of 2% of GDP would still leave open the possibility of Rome being fined by the commission’s excessive deficit procedure rules but even a partial climbdown was enough to trigger a fall in 10-year Italian bond yields – a key benchmark of official borrowing costs. The spread between the interest rate Italy pays and the much cheaper interest rates for Germany fell to its lowest in more than a month.

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Nice try, but Bitcoin no longer is what it was 10 years ago at birth. So fluctuations aren’t either. Who’s going to put serious money into something that loses 81% in less than a year?

Bitcoin Is Down More Than 80% From Last Year’s High (CNBC)

Bitcoin is only 10 years old, but the cryptocurrency has already seen its fair share of bear markets. The most recent one, which some are dubbing “crypto winter,” worsened over the weekend. The cryptocurrency slid below $3,500 for the first time in 14 months, then later recovered toward the $3,900 level by Monday, according to data from CoinDesk. That brings its decline from last year’s peak to more than 81 percent. That loss isn’t the worst bitcoin has suffered, but the world’s largest digital currency is getting close. Bitcoin’s current level is still well above the fraction of a penny price where it first began trading in 2010— and its early investors are mostly wealthier because of it. By June 2011, it had risen to a new all-time high of roughly $30. But by that November, the cryptocurrency was back below $2.50, tumbling more than 92 percent from their high.

That year, volume was still low and the dozens of now popular trading exchanges like Coinbase didn’t exist yet. Tokyo-based Mt. Gox was handling roughly 70 percent of all cryptocurrency transactions in the world. [..] Roughly $700 billion has been wiped off cryptocurrencies’ global market capitalization since the high, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. The price of one bitcoin has dropped more than $15,000 since December. Bitcoin skyrocketed to current its all-time high of almost $20,000 in December 2017. Coinbase’s CEO said this summer that at the height of that boom, the exchange was opening up 50,000 new accounts a day, for mostly retail investors. The all-time high also came ahead of the availability of bitcoin futures. Those products have also fallen. On Monday, they dropped to their lowest levels since launching.

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Not going to happen. Unless they find a vigilante prosecutor.

Human Rights Watch Asks Argentina To Probe MbS Over Yemen, Khashoggi (R.)

Human Rights Watch has asked Argentina to use a war crimes clause in its constitution to investigate the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in possible crimes against humanity in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Argentina’s constitution recognizes universal jurisdiction for war crimes and torture, meaning judicial authorities can investigate and prosecute those crimes no matter where they were committed. Human Rights Watch said its submission was sent to federal judge Ariel Lijo.

HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said the international rights group took the case to Argentina because Prince Mohammed, also known as MbS, will attend the opening of the G20 summit this week in Buenos Aires. “We submitted this info to Argentine prosecutors with the hopes they will investigate MbS’s complicity and responsibility for possible war crimes in Yemen, as well as the torture of civilians, including Jamal Khashoggi,” Whitson told Reuters. Argentine media cited judicial sources as saying it was extremely unlikely that the authorities would take up the case against the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

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Gee, what a surprise. Downplaying the economic losses to communities caused by Airbnb, Uber and Amazon doesn’t help.

The ‘Sharing Economy’ Has Been Seized By Big Money (G.)

[..] The year 2018 is to the sharing economy what 2006 was to user-generated content: it can only go downhill. Platforms won’t disappear; far from it. However, the initial lofty objectives that legitimised their activities will give way to the prosaic and occasionally violent imperative imposed by the iron law of competition: the quest for profitability. Uber may help some make ends meet through occasional driving gigs. The need to achieve profitability, however, means that it will have no qualms about ditching its drivers for fully automated vehicles; a company that lost $4.5 bn in 2017 alone would be silly to do otherwise.

Airbnb may have presented itself as an ally of the middle classes against entrenched economic interests. But the drive for profits already forces it to partner with the likes of Brookfield Property Partners, one of the world’s largest real-estate firms, to develop Airbnb-branded hotel-like residencies, often by purchasing and converting existing apartment blocks. Few entrenched interests – save, perhaps, for the tenants who see their apartment blocks become Airbnb-run hotels – get disrupted here. Given the huge sums involved, the most likely outcome of current battles in sectors such as ride-sharing will be more centralisation, with just one or two platforms controlling each region. Uber’s surrender – in China, India and Russia, as well as much of southeast Asia and Latin America – to local players, many of them also backed by Saudi money, suggests as much.

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What ails the Automatic Earth: “Small blogs cannot exist without Facebook..”. But Facebook shut down access to our account, and thousands of ‘friends’, without one single word of explanation. So what now? Set up a new accoint, only for them do to it again? Are you beginning to see what’s wrong here?

Who Will Fix Facebook? (Matt Taibbi)

James Reader tried to do everything right. No fake news, no sloppiness, no spam. The 54-year-old teamster and San Diego resident with a progressive bent had a history of activism, but itched to get more involved. So a few years ago he tinkered with a blog called the Everlasting GOP Stoppers, and it did well enough to persuade some friends and investors to take a bigger step. “We got together and became Reverb Press,” he recalls. “I didn’t start it for the money. I did it because I care about my country.”

[..] The site took off, especially during the 2015-16 election season. “We had 30 writers contributing, four full-time editors and an IT worker,” Reader says. “At our peak, we had 4 million to 5 million unique visitors a month.” Through Facebook and social media, Reader estimates, as many as 13 million people a week were seeing Reverb stories. Much of the content was aggregated or had titles like “36 Scariest Quotes From the 2015 GOP Presidential Debates.” But Reverb also did original reporting, like a first-person account of Catholic Church abuse in New Jersey that was picked up by mainstream outlets.

Like most independent publishers, he relied heavily on a Facebook page to drive traffic and used Facebook tools to help boost his readership. “We were pouring between $2,000 and $6,000 a month into Facebook, to grow the page,” Reader says. “We tried to do everything they suggested.” Publishers like Reader jumped to it every time Facebook sent hints about changes to its algorithm. When it emphasized video, he moved to develop video content. Reader viewed Facebook as an essential tool for independent media. “Small blogs cannot exist without Facebook,” he says. “At the same time, it was really small blogs that helped Facebook explode in the first place.”

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The investors are not the answer to the problem. The links to secret services are.

Investors Go After Zuckerberg After Facebook Plunges 40% In 4 Months (CNBC)

It’s been a brutal few months for Facebook investors. Shares of the social network have tumbled almost 40 percent since reaching a high on July 25, even after a modest rebound on Monday. The company has faced a barrage of attacks related to the numerous ways the platform has been manipulated to spread false information and for leadership’s insufficient and controversial response, which the New York Times detailed in a lengthy investigative report earlier this month. Some of the almost $200 billion of market value that’s been wiped out since the stock’s peak can be attributed to a broader sell-off in tech stocks, which have plummeted since August amid concern about a slowdown in global economic growth and President Trump’s threats of a trade war.

But Facebook’s slide started well before that and the stock has badly underperformed the Nasdaq and its big-tech peers this year. The problem for Facebook is in finding a way out. Facebook’s business model, which relies on a growing number of users to share more information and for advertisers to continue to pay up to reach them, starts to look shaky as trust in the network deteriorates. Yet at the top of the company, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 34, has so much ownership and control that the board and shareholders have a very limited ability to exert any influence.

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Might as well give up on people ever understanding that climate change is not an economic problem, and can therefore not be solved by economics.

Whoever links the demise of the planet to solutions offered by the same money that is causing it, is blind.

Fighting Climate Change Can Be America’s New New Deal (R.)

Fighting climate change can be America’s new New Deal. The effects of global warming on virtually all aspects of U.S. society could be devastating, according to a government report released on Friday. Rather than seize on its findings as a way to boost American innovation, economic output and jobs, President Donald Trump’s administration snuck the report out late on Friday after Thanksgiving – and then played down its devastating findings. That’s a big missed opportunity Unchecked, climate change could lop as much as a tenth off the nation’s GDP by the end of the century, according to the authors of Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

That overall figure doubtless underestimates regional variances. The overall cost of the wildfires that hit California in 2017, for example, amounted to 6.5 percent of the Golden State’s economic output, estimated AccuWeather. Factor in everything from water scarcity to pollution to energy production to human health, and in some parts of the country the economic impact could be far worse. The cost in financial and human terms drops by up to 70 percent if greenhouse-gas emissions peak before the middle of the century and then drop, the report says. It requires investment, of course – which some Republicans like Senator Mike Lee deride as being harmful to the economy.

That’s clearly a ruse. Fully decarbonizing by 2050 the world’s cement, steel, plastics, trucking, shipping and aviation sectors could require investing some 0.5 percent of global GDP a year using mostly existing technology, according to the Energy Transitions Commission. But it would bring efficiencies, employment and advances in technology that could more than offset the costs. Similarly, modernizing aging infrastructure has multiple benefits. Investing the $800 billion or so needed to upgrade America’s water systems could generate an almost 300 percent return, according to the U.S. Water Alliance – and generate 1.3 million jobs.

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Stefania Maurizi gained access to Assange recently. The cat is gone. So sorry for Julian. Maurizi makes a point that everyone should make: the role of the UK press. I wrote earlier this year about a series of smear pieces the Guardian published. Nothing has changed. These are the same folk that shout out about freedom of the press when Trump is concerned. They’re at the very least no better than he is.

The Detention and Isolation from the World of Julian Assange (Stefania Maurizi)

They are destroying him slowly. They are doing it through an indefinite detention which has been going on for the last eight years with no end in sight. Julian Assange has become one of the most widely known icons of freedom of the press and the struggle against state secrecy. [..] After eight months of failed attempts, la Repubblica was finally able to visit the WikiLeaks founder in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after the current Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno had cut him off from all contacts last March with the exception of his lawyers.

[..] The friendly atmosphere we had always experienced during our visits over the last six years is now gone. The Ecuadorian diplomat who had always supported the WikiLeaks founder, Fidel Narvaez, has been removed. Not even the cat is there anymore. With its funny striped tie and ambushes on the ornaments of the Christmas tree at the embassy’s entrance, the cat had helped defuse tension inside the building for years. But Assange has preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.

The news that surfaced last week, revealing the existence of criminal charges against Julian Assange by the US authorities, charges which were supposed to remain under seal until it was impossible for Assange to evade arrest, vindicates what Assange has feared for years. He is now waiting for the charges to be unsealed, but in the meantime he is silent: the risk that he could suddenly lose Ecuador’s protection due to some public statement is not improbable these days. Two years ago, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) established that the UK (at that time Sweden as well) is responsible for detaining Assange arbitrarily: it should free him and compensate him. London did not welcome this decision: they tried to appeal it, but lost the appeal and since then have simply ignored it.

The British media has never called on the UK authorities to comply with the UN body’s decision, quite the opposite: some even lashed out against the UN body. If Julian Assange ends up in the hands of the UK authorities in the upcoming months and the US asks for his extradition, where will the British medial stand? Never before has the life of the WikiLeaks founder been so crucially in the hands of public opinion and in the hands of one of the few powers whose mission it is to reign in the worst instincts of our governments: the press.

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Nov 262018
 
 November 26, 2018  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh On the Outskirts of Paris 1887

 

Russia Seizes Three Ukrainian Naval Ships In The Black Sea (AP)
Not Remotely Possible For May’s Brexit Deal To Pass Parliament – UK MP (CNBC)
UK High Court To Rule If Brexit Vote ‘Void’ As Early As Christmas (Ind.)
Nineteen Months Of Brexit Wrangling – And That’s Just A Taster (BBC)
Business Leaders Rally Behind May’s Brexit Deal Amid Fears Of Crashing Out (G.)
Texas Is About to Create OPEC’s Worst Nightmare (BBG)
Tesla Was Weeks From Dying Earlier This Year – Elon Musk (MW)
Former Greek FinMin Varoufakis To Run In European Election – In Germany (R.)
Give In To The EU, Greek PM Tsipras Counsels Italian Government (K.)
Russia Space Agency To Check If US Moon Landings Really Happened (Ind.)

 

 

I would think Ukraine is trying to provoke things, but western politicians and media all disagree.

Russia Seizes Three Ukrainian Naval Ships In The Black Sea (AP)

Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea on Sunday after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors, a move that risks igniting a dangerous new crisis between the two countries. Russia’s FSB security service said early on Monday its border patrol boats had seized the Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea and used weapons to force them to stop, Russian news agencies reported. The FSB said it had been forced to act because the ships — two small Ukrainian armored artillery vessels and a tug boat — had illegally entered its territorial waters, attempted illegal actions, and ignored warnings to stop while maneuvering dangerously.

“Weapons were used with the aim of forcibly stopping the Ukrainian warships,” the FSB said in a statement circulated to Russian state media. “As a result, all three Ukrainian naval vessels were seized in the Russian Federation’s territorial waters in the Black Sea.” The FSB said three Ukrainian sailors had been wounded in the incident and were getting medical care. Their lives were not in danger, it said. Ukraine denied its ships had done anything wrong, accused Russia of military aggression, and for the international community to mobilize to punish Russia. The United Nations Security Council is due to discuss the developments on Monday at the request of Russia, said Deputy Russian U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with his top military and security chiefs. Poroshenko said he would propose that parliament impose martial law. [..] Earlier on Sunday, Russia’s border guard service had accused Ukraine of not informing it in advance of the three ships’ journey, something Kiev denied. Russia said the Ukrainian ships had been maneuvering dangerously and ignoring its instructions with the aim of stirring up tensions. Russian politicians denounced Kiev, saying the incident looked like a calculated bid by Poroshenko to increase his popularity ahead of an election next year. In another sign of rising tensions, Russia’s state-controlled RIA news agency reported on Sunday night that Ukrainian forces had started heavy shelling of residential areas in eastern Ukraine which is controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.

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She needs 320+ votes, has 260.

Not Remotely Possible For May’s Brexit Deal To Pass Parliament – UK MP (CNBC)

It is not “remotely possible” that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement would pass the House of Commons, which is the lower house of Parliament, in a crucial vote that will likely take place in December, a member of Parliament said on Monday. Lawmakers on both sides of the debate over the United Kingdom’s future as part of the European Union are unhappy with the proposals set by May in a 585-page, legally-binding document that lays out the terms of the former’s exit, Sarah Wollaston, who is also a member of the prime minister’s Conservative party, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“I just don’t think it’s remotely possible that this deal would pass the Commons,” she said, adding that it will likely fall short on the numbers needed to move the agreement forward. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that we would crash out with no deal because, certainly, Parliament, British parliamentarians are very opposed to leaving with no deal at all.” [..] May needs a simple majority of the 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons, but experts have indicated it will be an uphill task for the prime minister. Her Conservative Party holds 315 seats and represents the largest party in the House, but a significant number are against the plan, including some pro-Brexit members. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the opposition have mostly indicated that they will vote against the deal.

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Was the vote fraudulent to begin with?

UK High Court To Rule If Brexit Vote ‘Void’ As Early As Christmas (Ind.)

The High Court will rule as early as Christmas whether Brexit should be declared “void”, in a legal case given a turbo-boost by the criminal investigation into Leave funder Arron Banks. Judges are poised to fast track the potentially explosive challenge, after Theresa May’s refusal to act on the growing evidence of illegality in the 2016 referendum campaign, The Independent can reveal. Lawyers describe that failure as “absolutely extraordinary” – given the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) probe into suspicions of “multiple” criminal offences committed by Mr Banks and the Leave.EU campaign.

Now The Independent understands the case is likely to move to a full hearing and a ruling within weeks of opening on 7 December, with the clock ticking on the UK’s departure from the EU next March. Both its lawyers and a leading academic believe its chances of success have been given a big boost by the unfolding scandal and the government’s refusal to recognise the gravity of what is being exposed. The government is expected to deploy Sir James Eadie QC – the star barrister who led the unsuccessful battle for the government to trigger Article 50 without parliament’s consent – in a sign of the case’s importance.

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We haven’t even started.

Nineteen Months Of Brexit Wrangling – And That’s Just A Taster (BBC)

There was a definite “battle of the tones” at the seal-the-deal Brexit summit with Theresa May. EU leaders were determinedly sombre, while the UK prime minister had to sound upbeat and positive about her country’s Brussels-free future. It shouldn’t be under-estimated. Sunday was a huge day for the EU, signing off on the divorce papers of a departing key member state for the first time in the history of the bloc. In the eyes of many, Brexit counts as an EU failure. At the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron reminded the press of the fragility of European Union. Which is why, time and again, EU leaders in Brussels continue to make so much of the (unusual) show of unity the Brexit process has provoked in EU ranks.

For now, of course, all European eyes turn to the UK to see if the hard-negotiated Brexit deal passes through the House of Commons. If it doesn’t, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, insists there will be no deal. “This is the deal. This is THE deal,” he told me emphatically, ruling out the possibility of renegotiating the Brexit texts. If he’s true to his word, and parliament votes down the divorce deal, then all 19 months of painful EU-UK negotiations were for naught. And both sides could find themselves staring at the cost and potential chaos of what the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier calls a non-orderly Brexit. EU leaders are hell-bent on avoiding that.

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May sure scared the money.

Business Leaders Rally Behind May’s Brexit Deal Amid Fears Of Crashing Out (G.)

Business leaders have rallied to support Theresa May’s Brexit deal, even as an independent study showed that the prime minister’s agreement meant the UK stood to lose £100bn a year by 2030 in reduced trade and income. Executives in the City of London warned MPs to vote for the deal negotiated by the prime minister to avoid a no-deal Brexit that would harm the UK economy. TheCityUK, which represents banks and insurers in the Square Mile, said parliament had “a straight choice” between the agreement hammered out in Brussels and a no-deal Brexit, “which offers only higher risk, costs and disruption”.

Miles Celic, the organisation’s boss, said: “The focus must now be on securing the withdrawal agreement and the transition period it brings – which is critical for our industry and many others. There is much still to be negotiated to define the future relationship. The sooner that can get started, the better.” His warning echoed those of industry bodies and small business groups, which have become nervous in recent weeks that No10 would fail to overcome the hurdles towards securing a withdrawal agreement. The Institute of Directors, which has found in polls of its members that they split 50:50 over proposals for a second referendum, said they all objected to an outcome that leaves Britain with no deal.

“The deal the EU approved today provokes a wide range of reactions across the political spectrum, and indeed among business leaders, but the steer from our members is that avoiding no deal must be the main priority,” said Stephen Martin, the director general.

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Hmmm. Problem with shale is debt.

Texas Is About to Create OPEC’s Worst Nightmare (BBG)

OPEC helped create the monster that haunts its sleep. After it flooded the market in 2014, oil prices crashed, forcing surviving U.S. shale producers to get leaner so they could thrive even with lower oil prices. As prices recovered, so did drilling. Now growth is speeding up. In Houston, the U.S. oil capital, shale executives are trying out different superlatives to describe what’s coming. “Tsunami,’’ they call it. A “flooding of Biblical proportions’’ and “onslaught of supply’’ are phrases that get tossed around. Take the hyperbolic industry talk with a pinch of salt, but certainly the American oil industry, particularly in the Permian, has raised a buzz loud enough to keep OPEC awake. “You’ve got an awful lot of production that can come in very economically,’’ said Patricia Yarrington, Chevron’s CFO.

“If you think back four or five years ago, when we didn’t really understand what shale could do, the marginal barrel was priced much higher than what we think the marginal barrel is priced today.’’ That shift makes shale resilient to a price tumble. After touching a four-year high in October, West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, has fallen by more than 20 percent. [..] August saw the largest annual increase in U.S. oil production in 98 years, according to government data. The American energy industry added, in crude and other oil liquids, nearly 3 million barrels, roughly the equivalent of what Kuwait pumps, than it did in the same month last year. Total output of 15.9 million barrels a day was more than Russia or Saudi Arabia.

[..] By the end of 2019, total U.S. oil production – including so-called natural gas liquids used in the petrochemical industry – is expected to rise to 17.4 million barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. At that level, American net imports of petroleum will fall in December 2019 to 320,000 barrels a day, the lowest since 1949, when Harry Truman was in the White House. In the oil-trading community, the expectation is that, perhaps for just a single week, the U.S. will become a net oil exporter, something that hasn’t happened for nearly 75 years.

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Now he tells us.

Tesla Was Weeks From Dying Earlier This Year – Elon Musk (MW)

Tesla Inc. was “bleeding money like crazy” during its Model 3 production ramp-up and almost went under earlier this year, Elon Musk said Sunday. In an interview aired Sunday night on “Axios on HBO,” Tesla’s chief executive said the electric-car company was “within single-digit weeks” of dying. “Essentially, the company was bleeding money like crazy, and if we didn’t solve these problems in a very short period of time, we would die. And it was extremely difficult to solve them,” Musk said. Earlier this year, Musk described “production hell” as Tesla ramped up production to build 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week by the end of June, and said he had been sleeping on the factory floor.

Musk admitted in Sunday’s interview that he had been stretched to the limit. “People should not work this hard,” he said of his stretch working 22-hour days, seven days a week. “This is very painful.” “It hurts my brain and my heart,” Musk said. “It hurts. It is not recommended for anyone. I just did it because if I didn’t do it… there was a good chance Tesla would die.” In late October, Tesla posted a surprise quarterly profit, and earlier this month, Musk said Tesla is not “staring death in the face” anymore, and it will likely be cash-flow positive for all quarters going forward.

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Godspeed. Politics? You sure?

Former Greek FinMin Varoufakis To Run In European Election – In Germany (R.)

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who was outspoken in his criticism of the austerity policies championed by Berlin at the height of the euro zone’s debt crisis, is to stand in European elections next year – in Germany. The Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), which he launched in 2016 to “democratize” the continent, picked him on Sunday as a candidate for the elections to the European Parliament in May 2019. “I accept [the nomination] because it epitomizes the new trans-national politics we need in Europe,” he told a news conference in Berlin where his colleagues unfurled a banner with the slogan “European Spring.” “I call on all of you to join us in this pan-European quest for democracy in Europe, democracy in Germany as a condition for prosperity and authentic democracy,” he said.

The motorbike-riding academic-economist, who rose to celebrity status in the euro crisis, once described the austerity measures forced on Greece by creditors as “fiscal waterboarding”. Varoufakis, who frequently clashed with his hardline German counterpart at the time, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said the political center in Germany was under threat because of austerity. “On paper, Germany is drowning in money…but the German people have been victims of the same austerity as the rest of Europe. The result is low levels of investment,” he said. This, he argued, boosted inequality, share prices and house prices. He said his movement wanted to pour cash, raised if necessary via bond issuance, into green policies to tackle climate change.

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‘You’d better do today what they’ll do tomorrow..’

Give In To The EU, Greek PM Tsipras Counsels Italian Government (K.)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has counseled the Italian government to give in to EU demands that it lower its budget deficit, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera. In an analysis piece titled “Tsipras’ advice to Italy: Give in now, then it will be worse,” Federico Fubini writes that Tsipras was sort of apologetic to the Italians for not taking their side in their conflict with the EU Commission. “I can not do anything because I would be the first to arouse suspicion,” Tsipras reportedly said. Rubini adds: “(Tsipras) no doubt remembers that Italy did nothing when he tried desperately to soften the conditions – then draconian – placed by the euro area on Greece.”

“But then Tsipras, mindful of the retreat that he improvised in July 2015 after blocking the bank accounts of the voters to avoid the collapse of the system, has offered advice to Italy. ‘You’d better do today what they’ll do tomorrow,’ he said. ‘If instead you have another idea – he added, perhaps alluding to the euro exit option that he refused – well, then, good luck.’”

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Ha!

Russia Space Agency To Check If US Moon Landings Really Happened (Ind.)

The head of Russia‘s national space agency has proposed a mission to the moon to verify whether the American moon landings really took place. Dmitry Rogozin responded to a question about whether Nasa’s Apollo programme actually put men on the moon back in the 1960s and 1970s during a conversation with the president of Moldova, Igor Dodon. He appeared to be joking, as he smirked and shrugged while answering. But conspiracies surrounding Nasa’s moon missions are common in Russia. In a video of their interaction, posted to his 815,000 Twitter followers, Mr Rogozin says: “We have set this objective to fly and verify whether they’ve been there or not”.

Nasa’s six well-documented official manned missions to the surface of the Moon, beginning with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in July 1969 and continuing with Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt in December 1972, have been dogged with conspiracy theories. In 2015, a former spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee called for an investigation into the Nasa moon landings. Vladimir Markin said an enquiry should be launched into the disappearance of original footage from the first moon landing in 1969 and the whereabouts of lunar rock, which was brought back to Earth during several missions.

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