Jan 232020
 
 January 23, 2020  Posted by at 10:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Jack Delano Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad locomotive shops San Bernardino, CA 1943

 

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)
Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)
Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)
UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)
The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)
TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)
Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)
Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

 

 

China Lunar New Year is from Jan 24-30. Hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling.

China Quarantines 11 Million In Wuhan As Virus Kills 17, With 95 Critical (RT)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended China’s swift response to a rapidly moving virus gripping the country, but despite a quick-climbing infection tally, the agency is reluctant to classify it a global health threat. “What they are doing is a very, very strong measure and with full commitment,” WHO director-general Tedros Ahanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, referring to Beijing’s shutdown of all public transportation in and out of the city of Wuhan, the viral epicenter. As of 10am local time, all trains, buses, railways and ferries traveling to and from Wuhan have halted operations until further notice in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, with the government calling on the city’s 11 million residents to refrain from leaving without “special reasons.”

Medical personnel were also posted at toll gates and checkpoints along major roadways to screen commuters for the illness. The comments followed an emergency WHO meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, where the health agency mulled whether to declare the novel coronavirus – now dubbed “2019-nCoV” – a worldwide emergency. Still unsure after a day of deliberation, however, WHO will meet again Thursday, with Tedros saying he took the decision “extremely seriously.” China’s National Health Commission (NHC), meanwhile, has provided the latest figures tracking the impact of the dangerous pathogen, with 131 newly confirmed infections bringing the total to 571 across some 25 Chinese provinces.

Seventeen people have died from the illness thus far, all in central China’s Hubei province, with another 95 in critical condition with severe pneumonia-like symptoms. There are also now 393 suspected infections in China – 257 of them registered on Wednesday alone – with 5,897 additional cases of “close contact,” the NHC said.

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Couldn’t find any relevant write-ups of Schiff’s marathon, so here’s the text -not sure it covers all 3.28 minutes of it. But who cares? He had nothing new and what he had, he repeated 20+ times. Including the very dead: “The United States aids Ukraine and her people so that they can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

The Hunter Biden/Burisma story has not been debunked as Schiff repeats ad nauseum, what has been debunked -by Mueller- is Russiagate. But who cares?

Michael Tracey: “Counted at least 57 references to Russia or Putin in today’s impeachment trial which is why it’s a total fallacy to separate this episode from the Russiagate narrative which has dominated US politics for 3+ years. What’s happening now is just its inevitable culmination..”

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, counsel for the President, and my fellow House managers: “When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”


Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to President George Washington, at the height of the Panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation. Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country, that America, in the face of that crisis, might descend from “a republican form of Government,” plunging instead into “that of a monarchy.” The Framers of our Constitution worried then—as we worry today—that a leader could come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests. They feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain. And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.

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Go Tulsi. Someone has to break the DNC, or the Democrats are finished as a party..

Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is suing Hillary Clinton for defamation over the former secretary of State’s remarks on a podcast characterizing the Democratic presidential candidate as a Russian asset. Gabbard filed the defamation lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Gabbard’s lawyers allege that Clinton’s comments have “smeared” Gabbard’s “political and personal reputation.” “Tulsi Gabbard is a loyal American civil servant who has also dedicated her life to protecting the safety of all Americans,” Gabbard’s lawyer Brian Dunne said in a statement. “Rep. Gabbard’s presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, but she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks.”


Gabbard’s campaign referred all questions on the lawsuit to Dunne. In response to the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said “that’s ridiculous.” [..] The lawsuit claims that Clinton is a “cutthroat politician” and “sought retribution” for Gabbard endorsing Clinton’s 2016 Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Gabbard is now facing Sanders in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary. “Clinton’s false assertions were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi’s presidential campaign,” it says. Gabbard’s lawyers claim Clinton’s “peddling of this theory” has harmed Gabbard, voters and “American democracy.” “Tulsi brings this lawsuit to ensure that the truth prevails and to ensure this country’s political elites are held accountable for intentionally trying to distort the truth in the midst of a critical Presidential election,” the lawsuit says.

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No. 1 for DNC: dump Biden. He’s roadkill.

Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)

A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president — whose support in the state is considered deep — as “a compromise choice.” Dalhi Myers told AP on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders’ strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election. “I looked at that, and I thought, ‘He’s right,’” said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. “He’s unafraid and he’s unapologetic. … I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind.”


Sanders, a Vermont senator, frequently calls out what he sees as Trump’s dishonesty, referring on the campaign trail to the president as a “pathological liar.” Biden, whose relationships in South Carolina go back decades, has led polling in the state, particularly among the black voters who make up most of the state’s Democratic primary electorate. Sanders, whose 47-point loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016 in South Carolina blunted the momentum generated in opening primary contests and exposed his weakness with black voters, has focused on strengthening his ties in the state’s black community. In December, Myers, a corporate lawyer in Columbia, was among more than a dozen South Carolina elected officials to endorse Biden, saying at the time in a release from the Biden campaign that he was “the only candidate with the broad and diverse coalition of support we need to win” against Trump in the general election.

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No, really. Dump Biden.

Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)

Hunter Biden has been ordered to stand in front of an Arkansas judge next Tuedsay to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to produce a laundry list of financial and personal information in his ongoing child support dispute with stripper Lunden Alexis Roberts. Roberts asked the court on Tuesday to hold Biden in contempt for failing to disclose financial information, contact information, and “a list of all companies he currently owns or in which he has an ownership interest,” as well as “all companies in which he has had an ownership interest in the past five years.” Also sought are a copy of Biden’s 2017 and 2018 tax returns, deeds to properties he owns, and an executed copy of a financial records release Biden has been avoiding filing unless the court allows him to do so under seal.


“The defendant continues to act as though he has no respect for this Court, its orders, the legal process in this state, or the needs of his child for support,” reads the filing, which adds “This is but another example of the defendant’s unnecessary actions to frustrate prompt adjudication of this matter and increase the plaintiff’s litigation costs.” Circuit Court Judge Holly Meyer agreed, ordering Biden to appear in person to explain his failure to produce the requested information which was due in August, 2019. In November, a DNA test revealed Hunter to be the father of the unnamed child with Roberts. In order to determine what Biden can cough up, Roberts has sought extensive financial records for periods which include his time on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was the Obama administration’s point-man on Ukraine.

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Still don’t quite get this. Did MbS pose as a Nigerian prince? Will the UN get involved if your phone is hacked? Are the UN and Bezos trying to seek vengeance for Khashoggi in a roundabout way?

UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)

Despite the Saudi Embassy’s denial of the “absurd” claims that MbS hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone, United Nations experts have called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States. Independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a statement Wednesday: “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.” “The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul.”


“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents.” The U.N. experts reviewed a 2019 digital forensic analysis of Bezos’ iPhone, which they said was made available to them as U.N. Special Rapporteurs. The experts said that records showed that within hours of receipt of a video from the crown Pprince’s WhatsApp account, there was “an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior” with enormous amounts of data from the phone being transmitted over the following months.

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Oh cut it out.

Boeing CEO Expects To Resume 737 MAX Production Before Mid-Year (R.)

Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. planemaker expects to resume 737 MAX production months before its forecasted mid-year return to service and said it did not plan to suspend or cut its dividend. The company announced a production halt in December, when the global grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX following two deadly crashes in five months looked set to last into mid-2020 — a timeline pushed back after Boeing endorsed new simulator training for pilots. Calhoun said the company is not considering scrapping the MAX and expects it will continue to fly for a generation.


“I am all in on it and the company is all in on it,” Calhoun said, adding Boeing will not launch a marketing campaign to get customers to get back on 737 MAX planes. The company said on Tuesday it now expects regulators to approve the plane’s return to service in the middle of the year. Calhoun said he did not see recent issues raised about wiring or software as “serious problems.” The production delay threatens to cut U.S. GDP by as much as 0.5 percentage points. President Donald Trump on Wednesday told CNBC Boeing is a “very disappointing company.” United Airlines said Wednesday it does not expect to fly the Boeing 737 MAX this summer.

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Subtitle: US Fracking Gushes Bankruptcies, Defaulted Debt, and Worthless Shares

The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)

Following the sharp re-drop in oil and natural gas prices in late 2018, bankruptcy filings in the US by already weakened exploration and production companies , oilfield services companies, and “midstream” companies (they gather, transport, process, or store oil and natural gas) jumped by 51% in 2019, to 65 filings, according to data compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone. This brought the total of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust since 2015 in these three sectors to 402 bankruptcy filings. The debt involved in these bankruptcies in 2019 doubled from 2018 to $35 billion. This pushed the total debt listed in these bankruptcy filings since 2015 to $207 billion. The chart below shows the cumulative total debt involved in these bankruptcies since 2015.

But this does not include the much larger losses suffered by shareholders that get mostly wiped out in the years before the bankruptcy as the shares descend into worthlessness, and that then may get finished off in bankruptcy court. The banks, which generally had the best collateral, took the smallest losses; bondholders took bigger losses, with unsecured bondholders taking the biggest losses. Some of them lost most of their investment; others got high-and-tight haircuts; others held debt that was converted to equity in the restructured companies, some of which soon became worthless again when the company filed for bankruptcy a second time. The old shareholders took the biggest losses.


The Great American Fracking Bust started in mid-2014, when the price of WTI dropped from over $100 a barrel to below $30 a barrel by early 2016. Then the price began to recover, going over $70 a barrel in September and October 2018. But then it began to re-plunge. By the end of 2018, WTI had dropped to $47 a barrel. [..]

And 2020 is starting out terrible for natural gas producers. The price of natural gas has plunged to $1.90 per million Btu at the moment, a dreadfully low price where no one can make any money. Producers in shale fields that produce mostly gas, such as the Marcellus, are in deeper trouble still, because oil, even at these prices, would be a lot better than just natural gas. Producing areas with constrained takeaway capacity (it takes a lot longer to build pipelines than to ramp up production) are subject to local prices, which can be lower still. In some areas, such as the Permian in Texas and New Mexico, the most prolific oil field in the US, where natural gas is a byproduct of oil production, limited takeaway capacity has caused local prices to collapse, and flaring to surge.

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Sent to WIkiLeaks yet?

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell’s personal emails have been hacked, and damaging information, including the names of individuals linked to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking case, are at risk of being publicly released. The revelation was made in a letter filed by the British socialite’s lawyers in the defamation case brought against her by Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Guiffre, DailyMail.com has learned. The letter was sent by Maxwell’s attorney, Ty Gee, on December 5 to New York federal court Judge Loretta A. Preska but made public last week. The letter addresses the materials that should remain sealed or redacted in the case. It notes ‘the difficulty and complexity’ of the process as there are more than 8,600 pages, adding that it is ‘difficult-to-overstate importance to the lives of Ms. Maxwell and the non-parties’.

Gee’s letter says that the project ‘could not be accomplished by scanning or speed-reading’ as each page had to be carefully analysed to redact, for example, ‘a surname or an email address’. He refers to details that were released in error in the 2,000 pages that were made public in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Those filings revealed allegations that Maxwell procured underage girls for Epstein. She has denied those charges. ‘Despite the Second Circuit’s best efforts, it made serious mistakes. For example, it redacted a non-party’s name in one location but not another; so the media immediately gained access to that name,’ Gee wrote.

‘As another example, it redacted Ms. Maxwell’s email address (which linked to her own domain name) in one location but not another; shortly afterward hackers breached the host computer.’ The hack may have implications for Prince Andrew after it was revealed in December that the Duke of York exchanged emails with Maxwell in 2015 about Giuffre. In that email, revealed on Panorama, Maxwell and the British royal discussed Giuffre – despite denials from Prince Andrew that he had never met the then-teenager and that a photo of them together was a fake. ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts,’ Prince Andrew wrote in an email to Maxwell. She replied: ‘Have some info – call me when you have a moment.’

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Make that 70.

TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has outlined plans for the decommissioning of its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, estimating that the process will take 44 years. Tepco presented the outline of decommissioning plans to the town assembly of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, one of the two host towns of the nuclear plant, on Wednesday. According to the outline, the decommissioning process will have four stages, taking 10 years for the first stage, 12 years for the second stage and 11 years each for the third and fourth stages.


Tepco will survey radioactive contamination at the nuclear plant in the first stage, clear equipment around nuclear reactors in the second, remove the reactors in the third and demolish the reactor buildings in the fourth. Meanwhile, the plant operator will transfer a total of 9,532 spent nuclear fuel units at the plant to a fuel reprocessing company by the end of the decommissioning process, and 544 unused fuel units to a processing firm by the start of the third stage.

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Like it behooves a major charity. When interviewing such a CEO, always ask what their salaries are.

Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)

The Australian Red Cross has admitted it may spend as much as $11 million processing the millions of dollars people from across the globe have donated to its bushfire appeal. However, in the face of public outcry, the charity has been forced to revise an earlier statement that suggested a large proportion of the $95 million raised could be quarantined for future natural disasters. The charity also pledged on Thursday to speed up the rate of its delivery of emergency funds to bushfire ravaged communities. “We’re now paying a million dollars a day and we’re keen to continue to speed that up, we know the assistance is needed now,” Red Cross’s director of emergencies, Noel Clement, told 7 NEWS.


Clement said the charity had already dispensed 700 grants of $10,000 each, totalling $7 million. He conceded however that of the revised total of $115 million donated so far – up from yesterday’s figure of $95 million – as much as $11 million could be spent on administration costs. Such a figure – roughly 10 per cent of total revenue raised – is generally considered to be the uppermost limit of acceptable administrative costs among large charitable organisations.

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1980s: 4.5 million. 2019: 29,000.

Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row, a count by an environmental group released Thursday showed. The count of the orange-and-black insects by the Xerces Society, a not-for-profit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey. That’s not much different than last year’s tally, when an all-time low 27,000 monarchs were counted. “We had hoped that the western monarch population would have rebounded at least modestly, but unfortunately it has not,” said Emma Pelton, a monarch conservation expert with the Xerces Society.


By comparison, about 4.5 million monarch butterflies wintered in forested groves along the California coast in the 1980s. Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western US due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases. Researchers also have noted the effect of climate change. Along with farming, climate change is one of the main drivers of the monarch’s threatened extinction, disrupting an annual 3,000-mile migration synced to springtime and the blossoming of wildflowers.


Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Dec 272019
 


Alfred Palmer Women as engine mechanics, Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, CA 1942

 

Barr None (R.)
The Democrats May Prove The Greatest Barrier To A Full Trial (Turley)
Trump Stock Market Rally Is Far Outpacing Past US Presidents (CNBC)
Today’s Central Bankers Threaten Civilization (Mises)
Rachel Maddow Called Out For Shamelessly Peddling Fake News (ZH)
Huawei Benefited From Billions Of Dollars In State Support (ZH)
China Threatens EU With “Disastrous” Consequences Of Company Curbs (ZH)
Rain Keeps UK Boxing Day Shoppers At Home (R.)
Trump Says Home Alone 2 ‘Will Never Be The Same’ (Ind.)

 

 

Bill Barr going after Big Tech? Let’s wait and see…

Barr None (R.)

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has made breaking up tech giants a plank for her bid to win the U.S. presidency. But chances are Team Trump will steal her thunder. One of the few things Democrats and Republicans agree upon is that Silicon Valley firms have gotten too big. Warren wants to send Amazon to the chopping block, arguing Jeff Bezos’s online-shopping colossus shouldn’t be allowed to both run a marketplace and sell its own stuff on it. She ran a fake political message on Facebook. It claimed founder Mark Zuckerberg was backing President Donald Trump for re-election to prove a point that the social-media network has an obligation to fact-check campaign-related advertising.

Across the aisle, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has sponsored several pieces of legislation including a “Do Not Track” bill that is backed by Democrats. The Trump Administration is likely to strike first. It has already been laying some groundwork, including by the tweeter-in-chief himself. In November Trump blasted out a message accusing Alphabet’s Google of suppressing votes by limiting the targeting capabilities of political contenders. The president’s top trustbuster launched a probe in July into whether the sheer size of market-leading online platforms has stifled innovation and reduced competition. Although unnamed, it’s clear Attorney General William Barr is targeting Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook.

He also over the summer appointed his own antitrust adviser. It’s an unusual move: The agency already has a division dedicated to the issue, headed by Makan Delrahim. He, though, had been more skeptical about Big Tech and anti-competitive concerns, before starting to change his tune around a year ago. Barr has also been a good Trump soldier. He has been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and the Trump campaign’s potential involvement – and launched his own investigation into the origins of that case, which the president has demanded.

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“In 1999, the Democrat from New York famously opposed witnesses in the trial of President Clinton as nothing more than “political theater.” Now Schumer has declared that witnesses and a full trial are essential for President Trump..”

The Democrats May Prove The Greatest Barrier To A Full Trial (Turley)

When William Shakespeare wrote that “all the world is a stage” and “one man in his time plays many parts,” he could have probably had in mind Senator Charles Schumer. In 1999, the Democrat from New York famously opposed witnesses in the trial of President Clinton as nothing more than “political theater.” Now Schumer has declared that witnesses and a full trial are essential for President Trump, and that a trial without witnesses would be deemed the “most unfair impeachment trial in modern history.” That does not include the Clinton case where Schumer sought to proceed to a summary vote without a trial. As the Senate now gears up for the third presidential impeachment in history, the fight has begun over the rules and scope of a trial.

The Framers were silent on the expected procedures and evidence for a trial, beyond the requirement of a two-thirds vote to convict a president. The only direct precedent on these issues is derived from two very different trials, those of President Johnson and Clinton. By sending a thin record to the Senate, the House could not have made things easier for Trump. Since the House did not take time to subpoena critical witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, or to compel testimony of other witnesses, the Senate could simply declare that it will try the case on the record supplied by the House, a record that Democrats insist is already conclusive and overwhelming. Moreover, in reviewing the past trials of Johnson and Clinton, Democrats may have to struggle with precedents of their own making.

Indeed, Republicans could argue that a trial without witnesses is impeachment in Democratic style. The first question for the trial could be whether there should even be a trial held at all. In early England, the House of Lords often refused to hold trials on impeachments, which often were raw political exercises. In the Clinton trial, Democrats moved to dismiss both impeachment articles as meritless. The motion by Senator Robert Byrd failed on a largely party line vote with Democrats, including Senator Joe Biden, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Schumer, opposing having any impeachment trial at all.

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It’s not a stock market rally.. It’s a Fed rally.

Trump Stock Market Rally Is Far Outpacing Past US Presidents (CNBC)

President Donald Trump’s stock market stacks up well against the majority of his presidential predecessors. The S&P 500 has returned more than 50% since Trump was elected, more than double the 23% average market return of presidents three years into their term, according to data from Bespoke Investment Group dating to 1928. The bellwether index gained more than 28% this year, well above the average 12.8% return of year three for past U.S. presidents. “Year three has been by far the best year of the cycle with an average gain of 12.81%, and the playbook has stuck to the script in year three of the current cycle,” the firm said in a note to clients last month.

Despite the volatility from the U.S.-China trade war, 2019 has been a year of all-time highs for the major stock averages. The S&P 500 crossed 3,200 for the first time ever last week, hitting its seventh round-number milestone of 2019. While business investment slumped due to uncertainty surrounding the world’s two largest economies, public market investors remained confident enough to put money into stocks. Trump’s market got a boost from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and the central bank, which lowered interest rates three times this year, the first time since the end of the financial crisis. The Fed slashed rates on fears of slowing growth at home and abroad. Trump was highly critical of Powell for not lowering rates more and faster, often mentioning the near $15 trillion in negative yielding government securities outside the U.S.

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This is where that Trump rally comes from. Very close to what I’ve been writing about central banks. “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion.”

Today’s Central Bankers Threaten Civilization (Mises)

Let us begin with a basic question, that lies at the heart of this issue: Who profits from a loan that is guaranteed to pay back less than the amount borrowed? Obviously, it is the borrower and not the lender, which in our case is the government and those closely connected to it. Negative rates and negative-yielding bonds by definition favor the debtors and punish the savers. In addition, these policies are an affront to basic economic principles and to common sense too. They contradict all logical ideas about how money works and they have no basis and no precedent in any organic economic system. Thus, now, in addition to the hidden tax that is inflation, we also have another mechanism that redistributes wealth from the average citizen to those at the top of the pyramid.

Thus, this very concept of a central authority being able to bend and twist the rules, even when the result is illogical, has implications that extend way beyond daily economic activities. In fact, it ultimately divides society into two classes, those who profit from this arbitrary and unilateral rewriting of the rules and those who are forced to pay the price even though they never agreed to it. In fact, they weren’t even asked. Of course, we can also look at it from the collective perspective of the so-called social contract of Rousseau and argue that this system of overt (taxation) and covert (monetary policy) redistribution is legitimate, or even benign. You might still believe that the state will take care of you in the future, and thus you are willing to sacrifice a part of your wealth and savings today to make sure that happens.

In that case, it is useful to remember that the current central banking system is not that old. It’s only been around for about hundred years, or two long-term debt cycles combined. The first cycle ended when President Nixon officially tried to demonetize gold in 1971, empowering a centralized system whereby a few decide who receives the currency first and at what interest rate, allowing them to create bubbles in certain asset classes, protect different key industries and to use it to finance wars and enrich politicians and those close to them. So far, total credit on a global scale stands around $240 trillion. It’s hard to conceive of such a number, but if you consider that 1 trillion seconds are equal to 31,709 years, you might begin to wrap your head around just how leveraged the system has become.

We should never forget that debt is always consumption brought forward. That being said, debts need to be paid back or forgiven — there is no other outcome. In addition, the amount of debt that a system can take on is limited, and when a credit-based system can’t grow any further, the logical outcome is the collapse of the whole system. As Ludwig von Mises described this a long time ago, “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”

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Just the fact that she still has a job says enough.

Rachel Maddow Called Out For Shamelessly Peddling Fake News (ZH)

Conspiracy theorist and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has been called out by Washington Post columnist Erik Wemple for breathlessly peddling the Steele Dossier – becoming a “clearinghouse” for the largely debunked opposition research funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC in 2016 (and fed to the MSM six weeks before the 2016 US election by the former British spy who wrote it). Wemple has been writing about the media’s coverage of the Steele dossier since it was significantly undercut earlier this month by Michael Horowitz, the DOJ Inspector General. Thursday’s feature details how Maddow spewed Russophobic propaganda to the American public based on Steele’s fabricated claims.

Horowitz absolutely shredded the dossier, writing in his report on FBI FISA abuse that “The FBI concluded, among other things, that although consistent with known efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, much of the material in the Steele election reports, including allegations about Donald Trump and members of the Trump campaign relied upon in the Carter Page FISA applications, could not be corroborated; that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location and title information, much of which was publicly available.”

Maddow began using the dossier to smear Trump in March of 2017 – when both CNN and the New Yorker falsely claimed that US authorities had loosely confirmed ‘some of the details’ from the dossier. An emboldened Maddow claimed that while the “baseline” dossier claim that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election had yet to be proven, “all the supporting details are checking out, even the really outrageous ones. A lot of them are starting to bear out under scrutiny. It seems like a new one each passing day.” Based on the conclusions reached by both the FBI and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Maddow was peddling conspiracy theories.

“When small bits of news arose in favor of the dossier, the franchise MSNBC host pumped air into them,” writes Wemple. “At least some of her many fans surely came away from her broadcasts thinking the dossier was a serious piece of investigative research, not the flimflam, quick-twitch game of telephone outlined in the Horowitz report.” “She seemed to be rooting for the document.”

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Makes sense for Xi.

Huawei Benefited From Billions Of Dollars In State Support (ZH)

The Wall Street Journal continued its string of reports on the Chinese government’s shadowy campaign to support mission-critical companies in the private sector on Christmas Day by exposing for the first time to totality of government support for Huawei. Billions of dollars in credit facilities backed by state-controlled “policy banks”, coupled with pro-business tax breaks, allowed Huawei to cement its position as the world’s leading telecoms giant, according to WSJ. Huawei’s grants, credit facilities, tax breaks and other forms of financial assistance details for the first time how Huawei had access to as much as $75 billion in state support as it grew from a little-known vendor of phone switches to the world’s largest telecom-equipment company—helping Huawei offer generous financing terms and undercut rivals’ prices by some 30%, analysts and customers say.

Around the world, Huawei is vying to build next-generation 5G telecom networks, much to Washington’s chagrin. In a well-documented campaign, the US has struggled to convince it allies to exclude Huawei equipment from their 5G infrastructure, claiming that Huawei parts would compromise security and allow the Chinese government to tap into civilian and military communications. But thanks in part to all of this government support, Huawei is able to offer telecoms equipment at world-beating prices. Its biggest competitors, Nokia and Ericsson, can’t even come close. This government support also undermines Huawei’s claims that it operates independent of Beijing, and that it would under no circumstances cooperate with state intelligence against its customers.

Nevermind that multiple investigations have uncovered evidence that Huawei builds backdoors into its equipment to allow easy access by Chinese intelligence forces. It’s important to remember that Huawei’s commercial interests align with those of the Chinese government in more ways than one. “While Huawei has commercial interests, those commercial interests are strongly supported by the state,” said Michael Wessel, a member of a U.S. congressional panel that reviews U.S.-China relations, in an interview. The U.S. has raised concerns that use of Huawei’s equipment could pose a security risk, should Beijing request network data from the company. Huawei says it would never hand such data to the government.

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Divide and rule.

China Threatens EU With “Disastrous” Consequences Of Company Curbs (ZH)

Less than two weeks after Beijing issued an overt threat at Germany, when Chinese ambassador to Germany Ken Wu told ex-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that if Germany excludes Huawei 5G from its communication networks, then China could “declare German cars unsafe” for its domestic market, effectively giving Angela Merkel a quid-pro-quo ultimatum that a ban of Huawei – as demanded by the Trump administration – would lead to retaliation against German auto exports, Beijing’s ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, doubled down and warned the bloc against pursuing policies to curb Chinese companies’ access to Europe, saying it would damage its own interests and deter investment.

The ambassador, a veteran diplomat and previously a senior foreign ministry official in Beijing, said plans to clamp down on foreign corporate ownership, trade opportunities and 5G mobile communications technology threatened to trigger a backlash from “suspicious” Chinese entrepreneurs. Ming added that EU countries needed to promote international co-operation and free markets, by which of course he meant free markets that suit China. “Otherwise, it’s disastrous for them,” he warned in an interview with the FT. “What I hope to see is that the EU will keep to the principles of multilateralism and free trade, as well as the principles of openness, fairness, justice and non-discrimination.”

Zhang said the hardening attitude on the EU side had made “many Chinese entrepreneurs working in Europe suspicious” and “also had some kind of impact on Chinese investment in the EU.” “My colleagues and I are strongly committed to promoting China–EU co-operation, so I’m following the development with interest and concerns,” said the envoy who was a former vice-minister of foreign affairs and took his current post in Brussels in 2017. “Capital is very sensitive, and even cowardly in some cases. In case of any changes or developments, they will feel highly vigilant or even be scared away”

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Oh, sure. Because rain is so rare in the UK. People just stay home and wait for the usual balmy weather to set in again.

Rain Keeps UK Boxing Day Shoppers At Home (R.)

UK shoppers sheltered at home on Thursday, with the numbers hitting post-Christmas sales set to drop significantly for a fourth year in a row, initial data showed. Footfall up to 12 p.m. on Dec. 26, known in Britain as Boxing Day and a key date for retailers, was down 10.6% compared with the same period a year ago, market research company Springboard said, adding that bad weather had deterred shoppers. High streets were most affected by the rainy weather with consumers reluctant to go out in the morning, Springboard said. Black Friday sales in November and a growing number of people shopping online have reduced Boxing Day footfall in recent years. “Boxing Day is indisputably a less important trading day than it once was,” said Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, adding that the Boxing Day footfall was 10.9% lower than during Black Friday morning.

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A 2-second cameo in a 27-year old movie. Tons of publicity.

“Trump’s repeated cameos were down to a contractual clause ensuring he appear on-camera if a production filmed in one of his buildings.”

Trump Says Home Alone 2 ‘Will Never Be The Same’ (Ind.)

Donald Trump has said Home Alone 2 “will never be the same” after his cameo was cut from the film by a Canadian TV broadcaster. When he was a real estate mogul and New York celebrity, Trump briefly appeared as himself in 1992’s Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, offering travel advice to Macaulay Culkin’s character. But the scene was missing from the film when it was broadcast on Canada’s CBC Television this week, leading a spokesperson having to deny that it was cut for political reasons. “As is often the case with features adapted for television, Home Alone 2 was edited to allow for commercial time within the format,” a representative said. On Twitter, Trump addressed the missing scene furore, and joked that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau may have been to blame.


“The movie will never be the same! (just kidding),” he tweeted. “I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on Nato or trade!” On Christmas Eve, Trump boasted that “young kids” always reference his Home Alone cameo to him. “It turned out to be a very big hit, obviously,” he said during a conference call to US troops overseas. “It’s a big Christmas hit – one of the biggest. So it’s an honour to be involved in something like that.” Trump made a number of cameos in films and television series throughout the 1990s. Speaking in 2017, Matt Damon explained that Trump’s repeated cameos were down to a contractual clause ensuring he appear on-camera if a production filmed in one of his buildings.

Read more …

 

Pangaea with modern-day international borders

 

 

 

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Nov 142019
 
 November 14, 2019  Posted by at 1:30 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem 1630

 

Watching Day 1 yesterday of the impeachment inquiry that isn’t one, I was thinking about an old children’s game, which is just as useful for adults, in which, in a wide circle of persons, no. 1 tells no. 2 a story, no. 2 tells no. 3, and so forth. If the total numbers of persons in the circle is large enough, it’s certain that the story, if it has enough details, will have changed unrecognizably by, say, no. 20.

That little game is a nice illustration of why you’ve all heard the words “Hearsay, Your Honor” spoken by some lawyer or another in 1000+ movies and TV series. And hearsay was all there was yesterday from “witnesses” Bill Taylor and George Kent. They are both “witnesses” who didn’t witness anything related to the hearing in course and neither ever met or spoke to President Trump, but both claim to know exactly what he was thinking, why he did what he did, and said what he said, based on things they heard from third parties, quite a few of whom remain anonymous.

Little of what they said would therefore be ruled admissible in a court of law. But the House inquiry is not a court of law. It can probably best be compared to a grand jury, a very one-sided format designed to let a prosecutor find and present enough evidence to let a case go to court. If Taylor and Kent had been in a court room, you would have heard “Hearsay, Your Honor” about once in every ten seconds. That gets old fast.

So why do we have this circus going on when it is obvious that round 2 (or 3, if you think the basement hearings were round 1), the Senate trial which must follow if the Dems decide to impeach Trump, has to acquit him because the House based its entire case on hearsay? I don’t know, but perhaps we see some of it in Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley (IL)’s statement: “Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct … and it’s certainly valid in this instance”

Note that Quigley in that little video got shut down very rapidly in his enthusiasm for using hearsay by someone (I can’t see who) saying none of the exceptions he seemed to refer to applied to “this testimony”. And that’s the crux here: courts may have in the past, after much deliberation, allowed hearsay in specific cases, but Quigley tries to make it look as if that is now some general rule, and that is certainly not true.

Before I forget, something that struck me at the start yesterday was how both Adam Schiff and Bill Taylor in their openings emphasized their focus on Russia, while this case is not about that, but about Ukraine. And Russia Russia Russia has been shot down along with Robert Muller in his memorably awful “defense” of his failed report a few months ago.

Schiff’s opening words:

In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West, and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire. In the following years, thirteen thousand Ukrainians died as they battled superior Russian forces.

There is so much wrong and debatable and leading and what not in just those few words, I don’t even know where to start. I guess perhaps I should be shouting out “Hearsay, Your Honor” at the top of my lungs. Then there’s Taylor:

After his opening statement, Taylor answers questions. He tells committee members: “If we withdraw or suspend or threaten to withdraw our security assistance” to Ukraine, it sends a “message to Ukrainians, but its just as important to the Russians who are looking for any sign of weakness”. “That affects us” he adds. It affects the world that we live in; that our children and grandchildren will grow up in,” he adds, appearing to become emotional. “Ukraine is on the front line of that conflict,” he concludes.

These statements are important because they tell us that Schiff and Taylor both see the world through the same glasses. The Russians are looking for signs of US weakness that they can use to advance their grand plan to (re) build a grand empire. That comes with the idea that the US didn’t cause the mayhem in Ukraine in 2014 with their coup, no, it was Russia which reacted so it wouldn’t lose its only warm water port.

 

Back to the hearing. Taylor said it was his “clear understanding” that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until the Bidens and other matters were investigated. At the very least there is no proof of that. It’s much more likely from what we know today that Ukraine didn’t know Trump withheld the aid until after the July 25 phone call this whole thing rests on. It was suggested yesterday that they didn’t know until the end of August, but I’ve seen people claim that they knew a few weeks earlier. But Zelensky didn’t know on July 25, that we can agree on.

And anyway, this is merely Taylor’s opinion. Based on hearsay. Based on what some guy told him some other guy told him etc etc. And though Taylor never met Trump, the very idea of withholding aid to one of the most corrupt nations on the planet scares the heebees out of him because Russia Russia Russia.

Taylor is a career diplomat who has bought hook line and sinker into established US policy in the region, and who will defend it until his dying breath. And if that means going against the president of the country he allegedly serves, who has every right to rebalance that policy, Taylor will do it. That is what he was saying.

Taylor came close to matching Mueller’s uber-bumbling performance the other day, though he didn’t quite get there. Kent was not quite that bad, but he’s in the same camp, the same career field, and the same deep state, FBI-CIA controlled policy-making no matter who gets elected president. And looking at Bill Taylor, how can one not question the wisdom of people like him making decisions on matters such as that?

Republican counsel Steve Castor started off strong, at least from what I saw, but seemed to fizzle out a little because he became lost in his own one question every five seconds model. Perhaps it was the format, maximum time limits etc., which you don’t have in a courtroom. Jim Jordan did well, he just got named to the committee, but he could have been more effective as well. Still, this part was strong:

You didn’t listen in on President Trump & Zelensky’s call?

Taylor: I did not.

Jordan: You’ve never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?

Taylor: I never did.

Jordan: You’ve never met the President?

Taylor: That’s correct.

Jordan: And you’re their star witness.

All in all, if you thought yesterday was a good day for the Democrats, for the inquiry, or for Adam Schiff, you really need to check a few fundamental issues. All Schiff managed to bring to the table was hearsay. And it’s only because of the grand jury-like format that he even gets to start day 2. No judge would have let him. But there is no judge, and there is no jury. There’s only an executioner.

PS I found this thing from the BBC intriguing and illustrative:

Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, said a member of his staff was told Mr Trump was preoccupied with pushing for a probe into Mr Biden. He was speaking at the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.


[..] During a detailed opening statement, Mr Taylor said a member of his staff had overheard a telephone call in which the president inquired about “the investigations” into Mr Biden. The call was with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who reportedly told the president over the phone from a restaurant in Kyiv that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward”. After the call, the staff member “asked ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine”, Mr Taylor said. Mr Taylor said: “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”

First, it argues that a member of Taylor’s staff was told something by a third party, but later it changes to him/her hearing the president “live”. Albeit through an allegedly private phone call in which Trump may have sounded a bit loud. You want to impeach your president on the basis of a maybe overheard phone call that someone told you someone told someone else about?

By the way, that phone call allegedly was between Trump and Gordon Sondland, hotelier cum US ambassador to the EU, the same person who testified in the famous Schiff basement and whose laywer at some point contested Taylor’s statements about what Sondland told him, after which the latter went back to the basement to change his testimony. He said she said but then he said and then she said and so on.

What’s on the schedule for the circus today, is it the clowns or the elephants? I may take a day off. We have weeks more of this. And already I have no idea left of who told whom what.

 

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Oct 182019
 
 October 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Salvador Dali The three pines 1919

 

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)
Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)
Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)
Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)
Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)
UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)
EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)
UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)
How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)
Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

 

 

And you thought you had seen absurd theater so far… Biden and Comey and Strzok testifying. Hillary?! Wasserman-Schultz?

“..you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators..”

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Republican Senators on Wednesday to prepare for an impeachment trial of President Trump as soon as Thanksgiving, according to the Boston Globe. The announcement comes as House Democrats roll the dice on a second-hand claim from a CIA ‘whistleblower’ that President Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who the whistleblower worked for – and Biden’s son Hunter [..] .. while Trump will almost certainly be impeached by the Democrat-controlled House, the GOP-controlled Senate will be able to pick apart the entire affair.

“In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. “Impeachment is the first step to remove a president, with the House voting on formal charges and the Senate holding a trial in which it either convicts or acquits him. -Boston Globe “There’s sort of a planned expectation that it would be sometime around Thanksgiving, so you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) following the meeting.


McConnell has previously said that if the House impeaches Trump, Senate rules would force him to begin a trial – one which could force the Bidens to testify. “Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said. For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.” -Washington Times

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Uber trolling.

Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)

One of President Donald Trump’s golf resorts in Florida will host the G7 summit next June, the White House says. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney denied President Trump would profit from the event. The aide said “Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is”, so he did not need a branding boost. Mr Trump has previously said he is not involved with the daily operations of the Trump Organization and that his sons run the business. Mr Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that an advance team of scouts had started with a list of possible locations for the summit in about a dozen states. The team, he said, went to visit the venues in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee and Utah.

“And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting. “In fact I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back and I said, ‘What was it like?’ And they said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.'” The chief of staff said the event would be made available “at cost” and that using the Doral would save millions of dollars and was cheaper than the other potential sites. Earlier this year the US president floated the idea of his Doral property hosting the G7. But Mr Mulvaney denied on Thursday that his boss was profiting from the presidency, pointing out that he donates his salary to charity.


“It’s the most recognisable name in the English language [Trump] and probably around the world right now, so no, that has nothing to do with that,” he said. Mr Mulvaney said he had initially been sceptical about the idea and “aware of the political sort of criticism that we’d come under for doing it at Doral”. He added: “I get the criticisms, so does he. Basically, he’d be criticised regardless of what he’d chose to do, but no there’s no issue here on him profiting from this any way, shape or form.”

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120 hours. Followed by a ceasefire.

Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)

Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced. All military operations will be paused for five days, and the US will help facilitate an “orderly withdrawal” of Kurdish-led troops from what Turkey has termed a “safe zone” on the border. Turkey launched its assault last week. It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that it views as a terrorist group, and resettle Syrian refugees in the area. Critics fear this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.


The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump pulled US forces out of the border region. His decision prompted a raft of criticism at home and abroad, with some accusing him of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” for the operation. Mr Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!” Mr Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement. “He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.

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It’s obvious where Ron Paul stands, he always has: The best way to help the Kurds and everyone else in the region is to just come home.

Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)

When President Trump Tweeted last week that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars,” adding that the US would be withdrawing from Syria, Washington went into a panic. Suddenly Republicans, Democrats, the media, the think tanks, and the war industry all discovered and quickly became experts on “the Kurds,” who we were told were an “ally” being sent to their slaughter by an ignorant President Trump. But it was all just another bipartisan ploy to keep the “forever war” gravy train rolling through the Beltway. Interventionists will do anything to prevent US troops from ever coming home, and their favorite tactic is promoting “mission creep.”

As President Trump Tweeted, we were told in 2014 by President Obama that the US military would go into Syria for just 30 days to save the Yazidi minority that they claimed were threatened. Then that mission crept into “we must fight ISIS” and so the US military continued to illegally occupy and bomb Syria for five more years. Even though it was the Syrian army with its Russian and Iranian allies that did the bulk of the fighting against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, President Trump took credit and called for the troops to come home. But when the military comes home, the military-industrial-Congressional-media complex loses its cash cow, so a new rationale had to be invented.


The latest “mission creep” was that we had to stay in Syria to save our “allies” the Kurds. All of a sudden our military presence in Syria was not about fighting terrorism but rather about putting US troops between our NATO ally Turkey and our proxy fighting force, the Kurds. Do they really want us to believe that it is “pro-American” for our troops to fight and die refereeing a long-standing dispute between the Turks and Kurds?

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Moon of Alabama is the first I’ve seen mention that the YPG “will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army.”

As I wrote a few days ago in Trump Talks To Putin. But How?, this whole thing has been planned and co-ordinated, much more than western media report.

Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)

The U.S. media get yesterday’s talks between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan all wrong. Those talks were just a show to soothe the criticism against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria. The fake negotiations did not change the larger win-win-win-win plan or the facts on the ground. The Syrian Arab Army is replacing the Kurdish PKK/YPG troops at the border with Turkey. The armed PKK/YPG forces, which had deceivingly renamed themselves (vid) “Syrian Democratic Forces” to win U.S. support, will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army. Those moves are sufficient to give Turkey the security guarantees it needs. They will prevent any further Turkish invasion.

[..] The U.S. can not “allow Turkey to annex a portion of Syria”. The U.S. does not own Syria. It is completely bollocks to think that it has the power to allow Turkey to annex parts of it. Turkey will not “gain territory”. There will be no Turkish “security corridor”. The Kurdish civilians in Kobani, Ras al Ain and Qamishli areas will not go anywhere. The Turks will not touch those Kurdish majority areas because they are, or soon will be, under control of the Syrian government and its army. [..] The Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu confirmed that Turkey agrees with the Syrian government moves: “Russia “promised that the PKK or YPG will not be on the other side of the border,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with the BBC. “If Russia, accompanied by the Syrian army, removes YPG elements from the region, we will not oppose this.”


These moves have been planned all along. The Turkish invasion in northeast Syria was designed to give Trump a reason to withdraw U.S. troops. It was designed to push the Kurdish forces to finally submit to the Syrian government. Behind the scene Russia had already organized the replacement of the Kurdish forces with Syrian government troops. It has coordinated the Syrian army moves with the U.S. military. Turkey had agreed that Syrian government control would be sufficient to alleviate its concern about a Kurdish guerilla and a Kurdish proto-state at its border. Any further Turkish invasion of Syria is thereby unnecessary. The plan has everyone winning. Turkey will be free of a Kurdish threat. Syria regains its territory. The U.S. can leave without further trouble. Russia and Iran gain standing. The Kurds get taken care of.

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“Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. ”

UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)

Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. The one “great” thing about the agreement with the European Union that the U.K. prime minister hailed Thursday is that it reduces – if slightly – the possibility of a hard Brexit, and the associated foreseeable economic crisis. But beyond the forex market’s obvious relief at the possible end of three years of uncertainty — the pound jumped almost 1% on the news, before reversing — this is still a deal that will hurt the British economy. On a scale of 1 to 10 — from no-pain, remain in the EU to maximum damage, no-deal Brexit — the agreement concluded just a few hours before an EU leaders summit in Brussels registers as an 8 or 9.


Its economic impact will be worse than the deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May and rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament earlier this year. That is true both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, it leaves the U.K. outside the customs union where it would have stayed under the infamous “backstop” negotiated by the previous government. But more uncertainty is also hanging over the near term economic future. The dearth of investment in the last three years has been the main drag on the U.K. economy, which explains why the country’s GDP is now 1-to-3% lower than it would have been if voters had opted for remain in 2016.

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People are pressed to vote for a deal they don’t want. Is that really such a good idea?

EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)

EU leaders have left open the option of extending Brexit beyond 31 October if the new deal is voted down by the Commons, in a blow to Boris Johnson’s strategy. The prime minister had been seeking to pitch Saturday’s vote in the Commons as a choice between deal or no deal after coming to an agreement with the EU. Johnson was helped by comments from Jean-Claude Juncker casting doubt on the possibility of a further Brexit delay, but the heads of state and government did not follow the European commission president’s lead. A summit communique issued after two hours of discussion tasked the commission and European parliament with taking “the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on November 1”.


But a senior EU official said that the leaders would follow events on Saturday, and reflect on the next steps if they were in a “different situation”. A second diplomatic source said they had chosen not to interfere in a “sensitive domestic debate … but they leave the door open to the possibility of an extension, to be discussed at a later stage – if required”. Johnson is facing an uphill battle to build a majority after the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party rejected the revised deal, describing it as driving “a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast agreement”. Juncker had tried to help sell the deal by pouring doubt on a further Brexit extension in the event of it being rejected.

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So even if the deal is accepted, it may still not be?

UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)

MPs have won a key parliamentary vote paving the way for a Commons bid to secure a second referendum on Saturday. Ex-Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin led a successful attempt to allow backbench MPs to amend Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans, in a knife-edge vote that passed by 287 votes to 275. MPs also approved a rare Saturday sitting to scrutinise Mr Johnson’s new plan – but the government’s proposal for a short debate on a motion to either “approve the deal or approve a no-deal Brexit” were derailed by the backbench victory. The move now clears the way for pro-EU MPs to force a vote on a second referendum, by tacking on an amendment calling for another public vote on the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint.


Sir Oliver said the plan would allow MPs to move any amendment to the government’s proposal and for them to be voted upon, if selected by Speaker John Bercow. He suggested that it could close a loophole in the so-called Benn Act – which requires the PM to seek a Brexit delay if he does not have a deal by 19 October. The law only compels the PM to seek an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion. Sir Oliver told MPs: “That will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the government off the Benn Act hook on Saturday, but only at a time when the bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament and legislated on.”

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A discussion you won’t be able to escape. It might be good to get the terminology straight. I think Tucker Carlson called Medicare for All pure socialism, but that would mean Canada, the UK, most of Europe and Asian countries like Thailand all pure socialist countries. Hard to maintain.

How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)

The Institute for Policy Studies on Thursday shared the results of extensive research into how the $750 billion U.S. military budget could be significantly slashed, freeing up annual funding to cover the cost of Medicare for All—calling into question the notion that the program needs to create any tax burden whatsoever for working families. Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), took aim in a New York Timesop-ed at a “chorus of scolds” from both sides of the aisle who say that raising middle class taxes is the only way to pay for Medicare for All. The pervasive claim was a primary focus of Tuesday night’s debate, while Medicare for All proponents Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attempted to focus on the dire need for a universal healthcare program.

At the Democratic presidential primary debate on CNN Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was criticized by some opponents for saying that “costs will go down for hardworking, middle-class families” under Medicare for All, without using the word “taxes.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, clearly stated that taxes may go up for some middle class families but pointed out that the increase would be more than offset by the fact that they’ll no longer have to pay monthly premiums, deductibles, and other medical costs. “All these ambitious policies of course will come with a hefty price tag,” wrote Koshgarian. “Proposals to fund Medicare for All have focused on raising taxes. But what if we could imagine another way entirely?”


“Over 18 years, the United States has spent $4.9 trillion on wars, with only more intractable violence in the Middle East and beyond to show for it,” she added. “That’s nearly the $300 billion per year over the current system that is estimated to cover Medicare for All (though estimates vary).” “While we can’t un-spend that $4.9 trillion,” Koshgarian continued, “imagine if we could make different choices for the next 20 years.”

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The state of denial. Pensions funds have all moved into risk assets, so if stocks start falling, it’s over and out. Moreover, there will be far more elderly people soon vs the young, which will reduce contributions enormously while increasing payouts. At least try some realism. Zero interest rates klill pensions. Period.

Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

The planned reductions, due to take effect from January 2020, have shaken a country renowned for having one of the world’s strongest pension systems, and are an early warning to others about the impact of record low interest rates. [..] The European Central Bank’s (ECB) stimulus policies, which have helped drive interest rates into negative territory, are blamed in part for the impending cuts in the Netherlands and have triggered a fierce debate over how the funding of pensions should be calculated. ECB President Mario Draghi said last month that the central bank was “very concerned” about the side effects of negative rates, but maintained they were required for economic growth.

At the heart of the Dutch debate is a technical question over how to calculate the cost of future pension payouts while the ECB helps keep rates low. Actuaries make assumptions about how long pensioners will live, count up the future payments that have been promised to them and then use an assumed interest rate to “discount” how much must be put away to pay them. The lower this interest rate, “rekenrente” in Dutch, the more conservative the accounting, and the more it costs to meet future liabilities. The rekenrente is derived from government bond yields — which have turned negative across Europe as interest rates steadily fell this summer.


Each 1% fall in interest rates has led to roughly a 12% fall in the coverage ratio between assets and liabilities in pension pots, the Dutch central bank says. As a January deadline approaches, cuts appear inevitable. That has led several funds and some experts to argue that the rekenrente, which is around 0.3%, should be raised instead. Many blame ECB policy and see its effects as temporary. Increasing the rekenrente to 2% or 3% would restore the funds to full solvency. Corien Wortmann-Kool, the chairwoman of the 456 billion euro ABP civil servants fund, told Reuters she opposes pension cuts as “unnecessary” for now.

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