Apr 112019
 
 April 11, 2019  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


William Hogarth Humours of an Election, Plate 2 1754

 

 

While we’re republishing articles about the newly arrested Julian Assange, in his honor, here’s one on the role the press has played in his ordeal. And will undoubtedly continue to play. What does it say about a society that you have to hold not only the government, but also the press to account?

We originally published this essay on August 17 2018.

 

 

Two thirds of Americans want the Mueller investigation (inquisition, someone called it) over by the midterm elections. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said that if Mueller wants to interview Trump, he’ll have to do so before September 1, because the Trump camp doesn’t want to be the one to unduly influence the elections. Mueller himself appears to lean towards prolonging the case, and that may well be with an eye on doing exactly that.

And there’s something else as well: as soon as the investigation wraps up, Trump will demand a second special counsel, this time to scrutinize the role the ‘other side’ has played in the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath. He’s determined to get it, and he’ll fire both Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein if they try to stand in his way.

There have of course been tons of signs that it’s going to happen, but we got two significant ones just the past few days. The first is the termination of John Brennan’s security clearance. It looks impossible that no additional clearances will be revoked. There are more people who have them but would also be part of a second special counsel’s investigation. That doesn’t rhyme.

The second sign is Senator Rand Paul’s call for immunity for Julian Assange to come talk to the US senate about what he knows about Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Obviously, we know that he denies its very existence, and has offered to provide evidence to that end. But before he could do that, a potential deal with the DOJ to do so was torpedoed by then FBI chief James Comey and Senator Mark Warner.

Both will also be part of the second investigation. Rand Paul’s motivation is simple: Assange’s testimony could be a very significant part of the process of figuring out what actually happened. And that should be what everybody in Washington wants. Question is if they all really do. That’s -ostensibly- why there is the first, the Mueller Russian collusion, investigation. Truth finding.

But Mueller doesn’t appear to have found much of anything. At least, that we know of. He’s locked up Paul Manafort on charges unrelated to collusion, put him in isolation and dragged him before a jury. But don’t be surprised if Manafort is acquitted by that jury one of these days. The case against him seemed a lot more solid before than it does now. A jury that asks the judge to re-define ‘reasonable doubt’ already is in doubt, reasonable or not. And that is what reasonable doubt means.

 

But it wasn’t just Brennan and Comey and Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and all the rest of them in the intelligence community who played questionable roles around the election and the accusations of Russian meddling in it. The American media were also there, and very prominently. Which is why when 300 papers publish editorials pushing against Trump ‘attacking’ the media, you can’t help but -wryly- smile.

Why does Trump attack the press? Because they’ve been attacking him for two years, and they’re not letting go. So the press can attack the president, but he cannot fight back. That’s the rationale, but with the Mueller investigation not going anywhere it’s a hard one to keep alive.

There are three reasons for the behavior of the New York Times, WaPo, MSNBC, CNN et al. The first is political, they’re Democrat hornblowers. The second is their owners have a personal thing against Donald Trump. But these get trumped by the third reason: Trump is their golden goose. Their opposition makes them a fortune. All they need to do is publish articles 24/7 denouncing him. And they have for two years.

That puts the 300 papers’ editorials in a strange light. Many of them would have been fighting for their very lives if not for anti-Trump rhetoric. All 300 fit neatly and easily in one echo chamber. And, to put it mildly, inside that chamber, not everyone is always asking for evidence of everything that’s being said.

It’s not difficult to whoop up a storm there without crossing all your t’s. And after doing just that for 2 years and change, it seems perhaps a tad hypocritical to claim that you are honest journalists just trying to provide people with the news as it happened.

Because when you’ve published hundreds, thousands of articles about Russian meddling, and the special counsel that was named to a large degree because of those articles, fails to come up with any evidence of it, it will become obvious that you’ve not just, and honestly, been reporting the news ‘as it happened’. You have instead been making things up because you knew that would sell better.

And when the second special counsel starts, where will American media be? Sure, it may not happen before the midterms, and you may have hopes that the Democrats win those bigly, but even if that comes to pass (slim chance), Trump will still be president, and the hearings and interviews won’t be soft and mild. Also, there will be serious questions, under oath, about leaks to the press.

 

Still, whichever side of this particular fence you’re on, there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on. That is, when we get to count how many of the 300 editorials have actually mentioned, let alone defended, Julian Assange, and I’ll bet you that number is painfully close to zero, that is where we find out how honest this defense of the free press is.

If for you the free press means that you should be able to write and broadcast whatever you want, even if it’s lacking in evidence, as much of the Russiagate stuff obviously is, and you ‘forget’ to mention a man who has really been attacked and persecuted for years, for publishing files that are all about evidence, you are not honest, and therefore probably not worth saving.

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the essence of the free press. A press that is neutral, objective, fearless and determined to get the truth out. The New York Times and CNN simply don’t fit that description -anymore-. So when their editors publish calls to protect free press, but they leave out the one person who really represents free press, and the one person who’s been tortured for exactly that, you have zero credibility.

Sure, you may appear to have credibility in your echo chamber, but that’s not where real life takes place, where evidence is available and where people can make up their own minds based on objective facts provided by real journalists.

You guys just blew this big time. You don’t care about free press, you care about your own asses. And the second special counsel is coming. Good luck. Oh, and we won’t forget your silencing of Assange, or your attacks on him. If you refuse to do it, WE will free the press.

 

 

Apr 092019
 


Paul Cézanne Bibémus quarry 1898-1900

 

Trump is Right to Blow Up the Fed (Christopher Whalen)
What Would Stocks Do in “a World Without Buybacks,” Goldman Asks (WS)
Nunes Sends AG Barr Eight Criminal Referrals For Leaks (G.)
Theresa May Forced To Delay Brexit After Historic Win For MPs (G.)
Theresa May To Ask Merkel And Macron For Brexit Delay (R.)
May Risks Wrath Of Tory Brexiters To Plead With EU For More Time (G.)
IMF Economist Warns On Australia Property Slide (AFR)
Stretched Australians Unable To Reduce Debt (AFR)
US Proposes New Tariffs On EU Products Over Airbus Subsidies (AFP)
The Curse of the Thinking Class (Kunstler)
Ecuador Removes Official Close To Assange From London Embassy (SBS)
Brexiteers to Communists And Everything Between Unite For Julian Assange (CF)
Pesticides And Antibiotics Polluting Streams Across Europe (G.)
Nepal Expedition To Remeasure Height Of Mount Everest (AFP)

 

 

But blow it up for real then. What are the odds of that given that the Fed protects the riches of the rich?

Trump is Right to Blow Up the Fed (Christopher Whalen)

Last week, President Donald Trump set the economics community aflame by suggesting that he will appoint businessman and presidential aspirant Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve Board. Even more than political economist Stephen Moore, the critics maintain, Cain represents a threat to the cabal that has controlled the central bank for decades. Why? Because Cain is a successful executive who founded a real business, took risks, and created jobs, things most academic economists will never ever do. Media outlets and other allied constituencies have howled with rage at the prospect of President Trump “packing the Fed,” a distant reference to attempts by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to pack the Supreme Court in the 1930s.

Those worried about the independence of the Federal Reserve Board should reconsider. Independence from what exactly? While the Fed is meant to be independent from the executive branch on a day-to-day basis, it is certainly not independent of Congress or the law. Yet the Fed in recent years has shown a troubling tendency to deviate from its legal mandate and make up new authorities to fit the changing economic situation. Case in point: the dubious notion that we should seek a 2 percent rate of inflation. Anybody who cares to read the 1978 Humphrey Hawkins law will know that the Fed is directed by Congress to seek full employment and then zero inflation. Not 2 percent, but zero.

Yet going back a decade and more, the Fed, led by luminaries such as Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke, has advanced a policy of actively embracing inflation. And neither Bernanke nor Yellen bothered to consult Congress when they decided to discard their legal responsibilities. Quantitative easing, to take another example, represents a vast inflation of the financial markets and housing, yet Fed officials actually appear in public and talk about the conundrum presented by “low inflation.” The inflation in home prices that occurred during and after the Fed’s purchase of trillions in securities has permanently raised the price of housing in many parts of the country, preventing millions from purchasing homes. Yellen confesses to be “perplexed” by the dearth of home purchases by young families, but she is the cause of the malady.

Read more …

You are not allowed to know the value of the things you buy.

What Would Stocks Do in “a World Without Buybacks,” Goldman Asks (WS)

In the fourth quarter 2018, share repurchases soared 62.8% from a year earlier to a record $223 billion, beating the prior quarterly record set in the third quarter last year, of $204 billion, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices on March 25. It was the fourth quarterly record in a row, the longest such streak in the 20 years of the data. For the whole year 2018, share buybacks soared 55% year-over-year to a record $806 billion, beating the prior record of $589 billion set in 2007 by a blistering 37%! The record buybacks in Q4 came even as stock prices declined on average 5.3%, according to S&P Down Jones Indices. On some bad days during the quarter, corporations were about the only ones left buying their shares.

For the year 2018, these were the top super-duper buyback queens:
Apple: $74.2 billion
Oracle: $29.3 billion
Wells Fargo $21.0 billion
Microsoft: $16.3 billion
Merck: $9.1 billion


But who, outside of corporations buying back their own shares, was buying shares? Goldman Sachs strategists answered this question in a report cited by Bloomberg, that used data from the Federal Reserve to determine “net US equity demand.” These are the largest investor categories other than corporate buybacks, five-year totals:
Foreign investors shed $234 billion.
Pension funds shed $901 billion, possibly to keep asset-class allocations on target as share prices soared.
Stock mutual funds shed $217 billion.
Life insurers added 61 billion
Households added $223 billion.

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Also part of Russiagate.

Nunes Sends AG Barr Eight Criminal Referrals For Leaks (G.)

The “absolutely horrific” leak of Donald Trump’s contentious 2017 phone call with Malcolm Turnbull could lead to criminal charges. Devin Nunes, the highest-ranking Republican member on the US House of Representatives intelligence committee, announced on Sunday he was sending eight criminal referrals to the US attorney general, William Barr. One is aimed at finding out who leaked transcripts of the US president’s phone call with Turnbull on 28 January 2017, a call with the then Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with a Russian ambassador.

“You had conversations with the president of the United States and the prime minister of Australia leak,” Nunes told Fox News. “You had leaks of President Trump talking to the president of Mexico leak. “We all know the travesty of General Flynn. “Nobody knows where those supposed transcripts came from. “Those are just three examples that are absolutely horrific but there’s things that are even worse that were leaked, and there were only two or three reporters involved in this, so it would not be hard to get to the bottom of.” The Trump-Turnbull phone call transcript leak to the Washington Post rocked the usually solid US-Australian alliance, with both nations going into damage control when it was revealed the president abruptly cut short the planned hour-long call to just 24 minutes.

The transcript showed Turnbull pushing Trump to support the asylum seeker deal struck with the former US president Barack Obama. It was Trump’s last of numerous calls with world leaders that day, including the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump told Turnbull. “This is ridiculous.” Nunes said the eight referrals “are classified or sensitive” so he was unable to offer details. “Five of them are what I would call straight up referrals, so just referrals that name someone and name the specific crimes,” Nunes said. “Those crimes are lying to Congress, misleading Congress, leaking classified information.”

Read more …

How far removed are we from the Article 50 activation being withdrawn by the UK?

Theresa May Forced To Delay Brexit After Historic Win For MPs (G.)

Backbench MPs have passed historic legislation to delay article 50, forcing the government to set out its timetable for the length of the Brexit delay in order to prevent the UK exiting the EU with no deal. In extraordinary circumstances, the bill devised by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and the Conservative Oliver Letwin passed its final stages in the House of Lords on Monday night and was approved by the Commons that evening. The swift passage of the bill, which took just three sitting days to complete, was made possible by the success of an unprecedented amendment which allowed MPs to seize control of parliamentary business on particular days, meaning the government could not block its progress.


The EU Withdrawal (No 5) Act received royal assent just after 11pm on Monday night, forcing the prime minister to extend the article 50 process and to set out the length of the extension in the Commons on Tuesday. The Commons leader, Andrea Leadsom, said the government would no longer block the progress of the bill after it was passed by the Lords on Monday evening, but she called it a “huge dog’s dinner” and criticised how little time for debate the bill had been given.

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Take back control! Ask for permission!

Theresa May To Ask Merkel And Macron For Brexit Delay (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday to argue for a Brexit delay while her ministers hold crisis talks with Labour to try to break the deadlock in London. Britain’s departure from the EU has already been delayed once but May is asking for yet more time as she courts veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, whose opposition Labour Party wants to keep Britain more closely tied to the bloc after Brexit. “The Prime Minister has not yet moved off her red lines so we can reach a compromise,” Corbyn said ahead of further talks between his team and government ministers on Tuesday. While May travels to Berlin and Paris ahead of an emergency EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday, British lawmakers will hold a 90-minute debate on her proposal to delay Britain’s EU departure date to June 30 from April 12.

Read more …

There is no way out anymore.

May Risks Wrath Of Tory Brexiters To Plead With EU For More Time (G.)

Theresa May will go to Paris and Berlin to plead with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron for a Brexit extension on Tuesday, promising to be a good member of the European Union until departure day and claiming talks with Labour have a serious chance of reaching a deal. Before an emergency European summit this week, the prime minister will head to the continent to make the case for extending article 50 only until the end of June. However, she is also being forced to make pledges that the UK would abide by EU rules for however long it is a member, given that a longer delay and participation in European elections now look like the most likely option.

EU leaders will decide at the talks on Wednesday night whether to grant an extension to article 50 at all but are most likely to offer a longer delay of up to a year involving strict conditions forcing the UK into “sincere cooperation” with the rest of the bloc. That prospect appeared to be acknowledged on Monday when the Conservative party drew the ire of hard Brexiters – already seeking an indicative confidence vote in the prime minister – by telling potential local election candidates it is preparing to fight in the European elections in May, and asking potential MEPs to put themselves forward.

To avoid EU elections, May would probably have to pass her deal by 12 April and have all the necessary legislation pushed through parliament by the day of the polls on 23 May. If no extension is granted and no withdrawal agreement passed, the UK will leave the EU without a deal on Friday.

Read more …

I don’t understand things like this: “..whichever party wins the next election will have its work cut out for it sustaining Australia’s near three-decade run of continuous economic growth.

You’re going to have to accept that growth may halt over 30 years, and to realize that may be a good thing.

IMF Economist Warns On Australia Property Slide (AFR)

Australia’s housing market contraction is worse than first thought, says a top IMF analyst, leaving the economy in what he called a “delicate situation” that boosts the need for faster infrastructure spending and even potential interest rate cuts. In an exclusive interview, the International Monetary Fund’s lead economist for Australia, Thomas Helbling, endorsed last week’s federal budget forecasts for recognising the “weaker outlook” and its use of sober commodity price forecasts. However, Dr Helbling warned the negative fallout from what the IMF will this week admit is a greater-than-anticipated property market downturn in Australia requires more effort by governments to deliver new sources of growth to make up for a worsening shortfall.


Dr Helbling implied the pace of infrastructure spending – as measured in the national accounts – has fallen short of what was scheduled in recent budget figures. “I think given where the economy is now, that this growth impetus comes forward is important in the current cyclical setting. “The ambition [on infrastructure spending] is in many senses welcome,” he said. “The housing market downturn is sort of sagging on the demand side, so you want to have other demand sources pulling.” The assessment by Dr Helbling suggests whichever party wins the next election will have its work cut out for it sustaining Australia’s near three-decade run of continuous economic growth.

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3 decades of growth, right?

Stretched Australians Unable To Reduce Debt (AFR)

Less than a third of Australians expect to reduce their debt load this year – down from 60 per cent last year – and not because they don’t want to but because they can’t, a survey by EY shows. Australia’s household debt-to-income ratio is 190 per cent, and the Reserve Bank of Australia says it remains one of the biggest vulnerabilities in the economy. The heightened level of debt is unlikely to change even with interest rates expected to fall over the coming year, and the introduction of income tax cuts helping some to reduce debt rather than increase spending.

When survey respondents were asked whether they expected to reduce, increase or keep personal and household debt at the same level, 28 per cent said they would reduce their debt level, down from 60 per cent in last year’s survey. In 2018, 73 per cent of high-income earners ($150,000 or more) said they expected to pay down debt. That has fallen to 37 per cent. “Given that our survey also showed that over 60 per cent of Australians are ‘extremely’ concerned about the increasing cost of living – the cost of essential services and increasing energy prices – it seems that more households are not paying down debt because they do not have the capacity to do so,” EY chief economist Jo Masters said.


[..] The number who said they would increase their debt level over the next 12 months has risen to 16 per cent, up from 4 per cent last year. In the income bracket of $70,000-$149,999 the number of people looking to increase debt has risen to 21 per cent up from just 6 per cent last year. The number in that income bracket who were looking to decrease their debt dropped to 34 per cent from 62 per cent last year.

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Dear Americans, you’re going to pay more for your European wine and cheeses so attention is deflected from Boeing.

US Proposes New Tariffs On EU Products Over Airbus Subsidies (AFP)

The US on Monday threatened to impose tariff counter measures of up to $11.2 billion on a host of European products in response to subsidies received by aircraft maker Airbus. In a statement, the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said the World Trade Organization (WTO) had repeatedly found that EU subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States. “This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action,” said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.


“Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft. When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional US duties imposed in response can be lifted.” The statement added that the final amount it would seek in duties was subject to arbitration at the WTO, the result of which was expected this summer. The USTR’s preliminary list extends to 14 pages and contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.

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“.. a hopeless attempt to preserve their reputations and perhaps even their livelihoods.”

The Curse of the Thinking Class (Kunstler)

What is a bigger emergency: the destruction of all those towns, cities, and lives in flyover-land, or the S & P stock index going down twenty points? The choice made by the “experts” the past ten years is obvious: pump the financial markets at all costs by using dishonest policy interventions which they are smart enough to know will eventually blow up the banking system. They did it to preserve their reputations long enough to retire out of their jobs. The trouble is that the damage is now so extreme that when the time comes for them to apologize it will not be enough. They will lose their freedom and perhaps their heads. The neuroticism and dishonesty is exactly what turned two of this country’s most sacred and noble endeavors, higher education and medicine, into disgraceful rackets.

Sunday night, CBS 60 Minutes covered both bases in their lead story about how the NYU medical school recently declared its program tuition-free. This great triumph was due to an enormous cash gift from one of the founders of the Home Depot company, billionaire Ken Langone. Nowhere in the broadcast did CBS raise the question as to how the cost of a degree became so outrageous in the first place. Or how Mr. Langone made his fortune by putting every local hardware store in America out of business, which enabled him to capture the annual incomes of ten thousand small business owners and their employees. NYU’s grand gesture is just a way to paper over the shame of the University executives’ role in the college loan racket that may destroy countless lives.

[..] RussiaGate, of course, has been the most acute locus of neurotic dishonesty across this land the past two years. The primary information organs of the thinking class — The New York Times, The WashPo, CNN, MSNBC — have not only omitted to apologize for the dangerous hysteria they knowingly propagated, but they persist in supporting the matrix of fantasies at all costs in what must now be seen as a hopeless attempt to preserve their reputations and perhaps even their livelihoods. The repudiation of this nonsense by chief inquisitor Robert Mueller could not be more absolute, even if he was compelled by reality against his own wishes and instincts to do it. And now, what avenue will all this diseased animus of the thinking class go down in its destructive, shame-fueled frenzy to justify itself?

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I thought they’d already gotten rid of everyone even a little sympathetic to him.

Ecuador Removes Official Close To Assange From London Embassy (SBS)

The Ecuadorian government has removed an official from its London embassy accused of having a close rapport with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Foreign Minister Jose Valencia has told Democracia radio in Quito the civil servant “worked in a very close way” with Assange. Valencia did not provide the official’s name or go into any detail, other than to say that embassy workers must respond first to the Ecuadorian state. The removal comes as tensions between Ecuador and Assange continue to mount. Ecuador recently accused WikiLeaks of helping spread leaked personal documents belonging to President Lenin Moreno.

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Cassandra’s been reporting from the street in front of the embassy. Undercover cops galore.

Brexiteers to Communists And Everything Between Unite For Julian Assange (CF)

The mainstream media tells us we live in an age of “hyper-partisanship.” But that’s not what I witnessed outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where populist right-wingers, anti-imperialist socialists, Brexit supporters and even liberals stood united against the political establishment’s seven-year persecution of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Protesters from nearly every part of the political spectrum could be found outside the embassy during my three-day expedition, galvanized by reports that Assange may soon be expelled from the building where he has been living under political asylum since 2012.

On Saturday afternoon, England’s Yellow Vests and Brexit supporters flooded the area in support of the WikiLeaks publisher. A few steps away from them, also flying the flag for WikiLeaks, was an out-and-proud communist wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, wheeling around a slogan-adorned cart praising Cuban revolutionaries. It was the first sign that both the far-left and the populist right, despite the gulf of their differences, could stand together in support of a free press. Both leftists and the pro-Brexit right wing crowd chanted “which side are you on” together to the police. They also found common cause in their distrust of the mainstream media, chanting “Fake News BBC” for several minutes – a reference to the notoriously biased British Broadcasting Corporation, the U.K,’s state-backed broadcaster.


Over the next few days, more than one leftist activist told me of their special disdain for BBC reporter John Sweeney, and one even expressed quiet praise for the populist Islam critic Tommy Robinson’s work exposing the BBC in general and Sweeney in particular. The following day, it was the turn of Latin American leftists to have a show of force. Scattered right-wing activists danced along with an upbeat protest organized by socialist Ecuadorian expats in support of Assange. The group held signs branding Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno a traitor along with banners demanding that the WikiLeaks founder be protected — while standing around Che Guevara flags.


Ciaron O’Reilly has been camped outside the embassy for over 130 days

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“The pollution was so severe in places that the ditchwater itself could have been used as a pesticide.”

Don’t allow Monsanto and Syngenta to play the good guys, as they do here.

Pesticides And Antibiotics Polluting Streams Across Europe (G.)

Pesticides and antibiotics are polluting streams across Europe, a study has found. Scientists say the contamination is dangerous for wildlife and may increase the development of drug-resistant microbes. More than 100 pesticides and 21 drugs were detected in the 29 waterways analysed in 10 European nations, including the UK. A quarter of the chemicals identified are banned, while half of the streams analysed had at least one pesticide above permitted levels.

[..] One of the world’s biggest pesticide makers, Syngenta, announced a “major shift in global strategy” on Monday, to take on board society’s concerns and reduce residues in the environment. “There is an undeniable demand for a shift in our industry,” said Alexandra Brand, the chief sustainability officer of Syngenta. “We will put our innovation more strongly in the service of helping farms become resilient to changing climates and better able to adapt to consumer requirements, including reducing carbon emissions and reversing soil erosion and biodiversity decline.” Another major pesticide manufacturer, Bayer, said on Monday it was making public all 107 studies submitted to European regulators on the safety of its controversial herbicide glyphosate.

[..] The testing techniques used in the new research meant only a subset of pesticides could be detected. Two very common pesticides – glyphosate and chlorothalonil – were not included in the study.. [..] Irish Water said on Monday that EU pesticide levels were being breached in public water supplies across Ireland. In Switzerland, another new study found that soils in 93% of organic farms were contaminated with insecticides, as were 80% of the areas farmers set aside for wildlife. Research revealed in 2013 that insecticides were devastating dragonflies, snails and other water-based species in the Netherlands. The pollution was so severe in places that the ditchwater itself could have been used as a pesticide.

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1000s of highly sophisticated satellites in orbit but they still need climbers to measure a mountain.

Nepal Expedition To Remeasure Height Of Mount Everest (AFP)

Nepal is sending a team of government-appointed climbers up Mount Everest to remeasure its height, officials said Monday, hoping to quash persistent speculation that the world’s tallest mountain has shrunk. Four government surveyors will depart Wednesday for Everest, which lies on the Himalayan range straddling the border of Nepal and China. Its official height is 8,848 metres (29,029 feet), first recorded by an Indian survey in 1954. Numerous other teams have measured the peak, although the 1954 height remains the widely accepted figure. But a heated debate erupted in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in Nepal in 2015, with suggestions the powerful tremor had knocked height off the lofty peak.

Nepal’s Survey Department commissioned a team of surveyors in 2017 to prepare for an Everest expedition in the hope of putting the matter to rest. “We are sending a team because there were questions regarding the height of Everest after the earthquake,” the expedition’s co-ordinator from the Survey Department, Susheel Dangol, told AFP. Four government surveyors have spent two years fine tuning their methodology for measuring the peak, collecting readings from the ground and training for the extreme conditions they will encounter at the top of the world. They will ascend the treacherous mountain armed with advanced equipment to collect the remaining data to derive the true height of the peak, officials say.

[..] In May 1999 an American team added two metres to Everest’s height when it used GPS technology to survey the peak. That figure is now used by the US National Geographic Society, but otherwise not widely accepted. Later, Nepal became embroiled in a diplomatic row with China after the latter claimed the peak was four metres shorter than the accepted height.

Read more …

Apr 082019
 


Pablo Picasso Young girl throwing a rock 1931

 

British Voters Say Give Us A Strong Leader Willing To Break The Rules (R.)
May Faces Intense Cabinet Pressure Over Prospect Of Lengthy Brexit Delay (G.)
Labour Jewish Members Declare Party’s Leadership ‘Antisemitic’ (Ind.)
Sorry Is The Easiest Word – But Should Democrats Stop Their Apology Tour? (G.)
Mulvaney Says Democrats Will ‘Never’ See Trump Tax Returns (AFP)
US Urges Immediate Halt To Military Operations In Libya (R.)
Gold Is Moving Back Into The Center Of The Financial System – Rubino (USAW)
Facebook Are ‘Morally Bankrupt Liars’ – New Zealand Privacy Commissioner (G.)
Chelsea Manning’s ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Moment (Kiriakou)
Midwest Floods Hammer US Ethanol Industry (R.)
Greek Pensioners Have Become The Biggest Single Group Of Taxpayers (K.)
Pain-Care Specialist Agrees To Testify Against Purdue (R.)
Drinks Bottles Now Biggest Plastic Menace For Waterways (G.)

 

 

History rhymes.

British Voters Say Give Us A Strong Leader Willing To Break The Rules (R.)

British voters want a strong leader who is willing to break the rules and force through wide scale reform after three years of Brexit crisis pushed confidence in the political system to a 15-year low. The 2016 referendum revealed a United Kingdom divided over much more than EU membership, and has sparked impassioned debate about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and what it means to be British. Yet more than a week since the United Kingdom was originally supposed to leave the EU on March 29, nothing is resolved: it remains uncertain how, when or if it ever will.


Research by the Hansard Society found that 54 percent of voters want a strong leader who is willing to break the rules while 72 percent said the system needs “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of improvement. Confidence in the system at the lowest level in the 15-year history of the survey, lower even than after the 2009 expense scandal when lawmakers were shown to have charged taxpayers for everything from an ornamental duck house to cleaning out a moat. [..] “People are pessimistic about the country’s problems and their possible solution, with sizeable numbers willing to entertain radical political changes.” Just a quarter of people had confidence in lawmakers’ handling of Brexit.

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They had people vote for something, and then spent 3 years haggling over what that something was. At the very least that’s the wrong way around.

May Faces Intense Cabinet Pressure Over Prospect Of Lengthy Brexit Delay (G.)

Theresa May is facing intense cabinet pressure to avoid the prospect of a long Brexit delay, amid increasing expectations that last ditch cross-party talks on a compromise departure plan will not produce anything concrete. Before a crucial EU summit later this week, the prime minister is facing a fast-diminishing range of options that could split the Conservative party and prompt a mass cabinet walkout, or could result in the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on Friday. May’s only response on Sunday was a homespun video that called for a compromise solution, but while praised for its conversational style, it lacked any fresh detail on proposals to break the Brexit impasse.

With Labour reiterating it had yet to learn even the basics of concessions May might offer after her dramatic call last week for consensus, the timetable looked tight to agree anything before the European council gathering on Wednesday evening. Under the terms of the previous brief extension agreed with the EU, if Brussels does not agree another delay, a no-deal Brexit will happen on Friday. May has requested a pause until 30 June, but Brussels is keen on a wait of up to a year, which could be broken earlier if a solution is found. On Monday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will hold talks with the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

At the weekend, Varadkar said his own preference was for a longer extension than 30 June. Also on Monday, Jeremy Corbyn is due to hold meetings with Sinn Fein’s leaders in London. The party’s president, Mary Lou McDonald, is expected to tell Corbyn that Irish interests must be protected whatever the outcome of his Brexit negotiations with Theresa May.

Read more …

Corbyn talks to May and very predictably this drivel comes out again. Corbyn’s no anti-semite, but he defends Palestinians. That’s why there’s this.

But at the same time, he’s the one who allows this to happen. The Labour Party should be talking about what’s happening to Julian Assange in the heart of London, not be in some nonsense war on alleged anti-semitism.

Labour Jewish Members Declare Party’s Leadership ‘Antisemitic’ (Ind.)

Jewish Labour members have branded the party leadership as antisemitic in a fresh blow to Jeremy Corbyn. The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) passed the damning motion at its annual general meeting on Sunday, accusing Mr Corbyn of having “condoned antisemitism and antisemites”. The group said the Labour leader was “unfit to be prime minister” and that a government he led “would not be in the interests of British Jews”. JLM is Labour’s only official Jewish affiliate and has been part of the party for almost 100 years. One source at the meeting told The Independent the decision to approve the motion of no confidence in Mr Corbyn was “almost unanimous”.


It reads: “The leadership of the Labour Party have demonstrated that they are antisemitic, and have presided over a culture of antisemitism in which they have failed to use their personal and positional power to tackle antisemitism, and have instead used their influence to protect and defend antisemites. “Jeremy Corbyn is directly responsible, whether through his own actions, where he appears to have condoned antisemitism and antisemites, or through his inaction to tackle the wider problem within the party.” The motion said JLM “has no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to understand, respond to or solve the problem” and claimed “his leadership of the Labour Party combined with his past actions and associations shows a complete disregard for the Jewish community in Britain”.

Read more …

Why the Democrats are toast: long article on tons of apologies, but not a word about what they really should apologize for: Russiagate.

Sorry Is The Easiest Word – But Should Democrats Stop Their Apology Tour? (G.)

For Joe Biden, it was his discomfiting touching of women. For Pete Buttigieg, his use of the phrase “all lives matter”. For Tulsi Gabbard, her comments about homosexuality. For Kirsten Gillibrand, her positions on immigration. For Kamala Harris, her record on criminal justice. For Beto O’Rourke, his jokes about his wife and children. For Bernie Sanders, his staff perpetrating sexual harassment in the last campaign. For Elizabeth Warren, her claim to Native American ancestry. Democrats running for president in 2020 are on an “apology tour”, seeking to atone for past political sins. Some voters welcome it as an antidote to Donald Trump, an overdue attempt to set the social and political bar higher for the 21st century. Others are anxious that the candidates’ supporters will try to tear each other down with “wokeness” tests that could leave the party hopelessly divided.

[..] In February, comedian Bill Maher urged viewers of his HBO show: “No more swiping left on presidential candidates. Let’s give them a chance. Let’s not eat our own the way we nitpicked Hillary [Clinton] to death over her emails and other bullshit.” Maher added: “Kamala Harris has already had to play defence because it’s come out, when she was a prosecutor, she prosecuted people. Not very progressive. She should have found a way to apply more forgiveness, and the fact that she didn’t is unforgivable. Elizabeth Warren claimed to be Native American – so what? Trump claimed to be human.”

Republicans sense an opportunity to frame Democrats as consumed by identity politics and virtue signalling. Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, wrote in February: Democrats are about to ≠embark on the first woke primary, a gantlet of political correctness that will routinely wring abject apologies out of candidates and find fault in even the most sure-footed. The passage of time will be no defense. Nor the best of intentions. Nor anything else.

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“If the Democrats want to know “if the IRS is doing its job auditing the president, they could ask the IRS..”

Mulvaney Says Democrats Will ‘Never’ See Trump Tax Returns (AFP)

A formal request from a Democratic committee chairman to see six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns was forcibly rejected Sunday by a top presidential aide, who said Democrats would “never” see the documents. Trump is the first US president since Richard Nixon to refuse to divulge his tax information. Representative Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sparked a contentious battle on Wednesday when he made the request using a little-known provision in the tax code, saying, “It is critical to ensure the accountability of our government and elected officials.” But when Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was asked Sunday whether Democrats would ever see the returns, he was unequivocal. “Never,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Nor should they.”

Mulvaney asserted that since voters knew ahead of the 2016 election that Trump would not reveal his returns and then elected him anyway, the matter was “already litigated.” He said that while there are legal provisions for the Internal Revenue Service to turn tax papers over to the Ways and Means Committee – the chief tax-writing committee in the House – a “political” attack is not a valid reason. Separately, Jay Sekulow, a private attorney for Trump, argued that the Democratic-controlled House was trying to move beyond its constitutionally mandated role of oversight into the realm of law enforcement. If the Democrats want to know “if the IRS is doing its job auditing the president, they could ask the IRS,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“A Ways and Means hearing about IRS enforcement as a way to get to the president’s private individual and business tax returns makes no sense, both constitutionally and statutorily,” Sekulow said. But Dan Kildee, a Democratic member of Ways and Means, took strong exception. “We’re looking very carefully as to whether or not the IRS is properly auditing and enforcing tax law on the president of the United States, and we’re considering legislative changes toward that end,” he said on ABC.

Read more …

Thank you, Hillary and Obama.

US Urges Immediate Halt To Military Operations In Libya (R.)

The United States called on Sunday for an immediate halt to military operations in Libya as the Libyan National Army headed by Khalifa Haftar advanced on the capital, Tripoli. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that Washington was “deeply concerned about fighting near Tripoli” and urged talks to end the fighting. “We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital,” Pompeo said in urging de-escalation. Eleven people were killed and 23 wounded in clashes in southern Tripoli, the Health Ministry of the U.N.-backed Libyan government of National Accord said late on Sunday.


The ministry gave no details of whether the casualties were civilians or fighters. Lawless since 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi was toppled by rebels backed by NATO air strikes, Libya has become the transit point for hundreds of thousands of migrants trekking across the Sahara in hopes of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. Haftar, 75, who casts himself as a foe of Islamist extremism but is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in the mold of Gaddafi, enjoys the backing of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which see him as a bulwark against Islamists and have supported him militarily, according to U.N. reports.

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“.. in the next recession, we will be taking on huge amounts of new debt at an accelerating rate.”

Gold Is Moving Back Into The Center Of The Financial System – Rubino (USAW)

The end part of this story is how good all this is for gold. . . . The next thing from the Fed will be a rate cut, and it will increase and not decrease its balance sheet. . . . We are going to go preemptively to monetary easing, and that’s really new. This is very, very new. You normally don’t do this. You wait until you see a bear market and a slowdown in the economy that gets people laid off before you start aggressively easing. Apparently, we are going to do that stuff before that stuff starts happening. Who knows what the impact of that will be? If it works the way they want, more people will get hired, wages will pick up and we’ll have inflation in the 4% or 5% range before you know it.”

So, with near record low yields on bonds and near record high prices for stocks, Rubino has just one question. Rubino says, “What’s cheap? Gold and silver. What is down and what is cheap relative to the fundamentals. It’s not just the price of gold and silver, it’s how much gold and silver exists relative to how much paper wealth is in the world. The amount of gold and silver that we are bringing out of the ground is growing at 1% or 2% per year. The amount of paper wealth in the world is growing exponentially. . . .Gold is moving back into the center of the global financial system.”

Another big factor to consider is debt. Rubino says, “Every big country is running deficits that are dramatically bigger than they were five years ago. In the U.S., we are back to $1 trillion a year deficits, which is Obama Administration post Great Recession kind of numbers, and we are doing it 10 years into an expansion. . . . So, in the next recession, we will be taking on huge amounts of new debt at an accelerating rate.

Read more …

Now we’re talking.

Facebook Are ‘Morally Bankrupt Liars’ – New Zealand Privacy Commissioner (G.)

New Zealand’s privacy commissioner has lashed out at social media giant Facebook in the wake of the Christchurch attacks, calling the company “morally bankrupt pathological liars”. The commissioner used his personal Twitter page to lambast the social network, which has also drawn the ire of prime minister Jacinda Ardern for hosting a livestream of the attacks that left 50 dead, which was then copied and shared all over the internet. “Facebook cannot be trusted,” wrote Edwards. “They are morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar), facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions.


“[They] allow the live streaming of suicides, rapes, and murders, continue to host and publish the mosque attack video, allow advertisers to target ‘Jew haters’ and other hateful market segments, and refuse to accept any responsibility for any content or harm. “They #dontgiveazuck” wrote Edwards. He later deleted the tweets, saying they had prompted “toxic and misinformed traffic”. Edwards was responding to an interview given by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to America’s ABC network, in which he failed to commit to any changes to the Facebook live technology, including a time delay on livestreams. Zuckerberg said incidents like the live streaming of the Christchurch mosque attacks were the result of “bad actors”; not bad technology and a time delay would disrupt the enjoyment of users who broadcast events like birthday parties or group hangouts.

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Pete Seeger did in the 1950’s what Chelsea is doing today.

Chelsea Manning’s ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Moment (Kiriakou)

Contrary to popular belief, President Obama did not pardon Manning in the final days of his administration. Instead, he commuted her sentence, simply releasing her from prison. The conviction still stands and Manning is still in legal jeopardy. Prosecutors could still decide to charge her with crimes related to the original charges. With that said, was Manning’s subpoena a ham-fisted attempt to get her to contradict herself in new testimony, thus inviting another felony charge for perjury or making a false statement? Were prosecutors trying to get Manning to implicate herself in some process felony? Or were they simply trying to force her to turn rat on Julian Assange?

Again, Manning could have simply answered each question with “I don’t recall.” She would have been home in time for dinner. Instead, she made a political point—one that all of us should want to emulate. That point is “Don’t tread on me.” That point is “I’m willing to jeopardize my freedom to protect yours.” I say often that in my time at the CIA, I learned that CIA culture is such that employees are taught that everything in life is a shade of gray. But that is simply not true. Some things are black and white, right or wrong. This is one of those things. It’s the government that’s the enemy here, not Manning or Assange.

Remember, the American people own the information that Manning and Assange are accused of releasing. We have a right to know what our government is doing in our name. We have a right to know whether the government is covering up crimes. We have a right to know when—and why—those Americans who commit war crimes or crimes against humanity are not being prosecuted. The mainstream media doesn’t tell us. But Wikileaks does. We wouldn’t know about some of the most egregious war crimes of the past two decades without Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to share their politics. You don’t have to want to go out and have a beer with them. But you do have to respect what they’ve done.

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Stupid industry anyway.

Midwest Floods Hammer US Ethanol Industry (R.)

The March floods that punished the U.S. Midwest have roiled the ethanol industry, hammering prices and trapping barrels in the country’s interior while the U.S. coasts suffer from shortages of the biofuel. The historic March floods have dealt a series of blows to large swaths of an ethanol industry that was already struggling with high inventories and sluggish domestic demand growth. And the ethanol shortages are one factor pushing gasoline prices in Los Angeles and Southern California to the highest in the nation and they could top $4 a gallon for the first time since 2014, according to tracking firm GasBuddy.


Benchmark price for ethanol used in most supply contracts initially jumped on news of the floods but has been hobbled by rising waters around the Chicago hub that have halted barges and sales. That stands in contrast to prices on the coasts, which rose dramatically – drawing in heavy imports from Brazil, the main U.S. ethanol competitor. The floods inflicted billions of dollars in damage to crops and homes in the U.S. Midwest, and knocked out roughly 13% of ethanol capacity. U.S. ethanol is made from corn and required by the government to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply to reduce emissions. While some ethanol plants were flooded, the primary effect of the rising waters was to shut rail lines that serve as the main arteries for corn and ethanol deliveries.

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Q: how long can you keep an economy running that has more pensioners than workers?

Greek Pensioners Have Become The Biggest Single Group Of Taxpayers (K.)

Pensioners constitute the biggest single group of taxpayers in Greece, confirming the ominous predictions about the impact of an aging population on growth and state finances. The number of pensioners expanded since the starts of the financial crisis more than any other group, coming to outnumber even salaried workers. The relevant data from the Independent Authority for Public Revenue are impressive, showing that in nine out of the country’s 13 regions, pensioners make up the biggest group of taxpayers, ahead of salaried workers, farmers and freelance professionals. In certain regions both the number of pensioners and their declared incomes are above those of the other groups.

For instance, in the region of Western Greece, pensioners account for 40.1% of taxpayers and 40% of the total declared income. Statistical data processing reveals that since end-2014 the number of pensioners in Greece has shot up by 233,000. Going back to the outbreak of the crisis at the start of the decade, there is an additional 588,360: From 1,667,428 pensioners in 2010 there are now 2,255,788. The active population is therefore declining at a rapid rate: Before the economic crisis broke out, pensioners accounted for 29% of taxpayers, while today their share has climbed to 35.4%. However, the same data also reveal the dramatic shrinking of pensioners’ incomes during the crisis: Back in 2010 their declared annual income amounted to 27 billion euros, as each one of them declared an average 16,228 euros per year; today the yearly declared income of pensioners comes to just 11,175 euros, reduced by 31.13%.

The regional data are quite astonishing in terms of the growing dominance of pensioners among taxpayers: In Attica, by far the country’s most populated region, salaried workers come to 935,955 and pensioners are 804,755. The annual income of pensioners is 10.3 billion euros, according to 2018 figures, while that of salaried workers is 15.2 billion. In Western Greece, the region that includes Patra – Greece’s third city – pensioners dwarf salaried workers, as there are 153,452 of the former against just 111,979 of the latter.

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Well, actually he’s a company shill trying to stay out of jail.

Pain-Care Specialist Agrees To Testify Against Purdue (R.)

A physician ally of Purdue Pharma LP whose views helped drive the explosive growth in the use of addictive pain relievers for common aches and pains in the United States has agreed to testify against the OxyContin maker and other drug companies, newly disclosed court records show. Dr. Russell Portenoy, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, was an early advocate for the use of opioids for chronic pain, a position he shared in medical journal articles, with regulators, at physician conferences and in other forums. He also was named as a defendant in some of the lawsuits filed by cities, counties and states seeking to hold opioid makers – including Endo and Mallinckrodt Plc – and their distributors liable for the cost of the U.S. opioid epidemic.


But Portenoy began talking to plaintiffs’ lawyers as early as January 2018 and later struck a deal with the plaintiffs to serve as a cooperating witness, the records show. In exchange for his dismissal from the suits, Portenoy provided the plaintiffs with documentation of opioid makers’ payments to him over the years, as well as a 36-page declaration that lays out what he would say on the witness stand. Portenoy’s previously confidential cooperation agreement and declaration were made public Friday as a part of a discovery ruling by David Cohen, a special master in the federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, where hundreds of the opioid lawsuits have been consolidated. In an email, Cohen said it was possible the records should have been filed under seal out of public view.

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Is it bad enough yet to call it hopeless?

Drinks Bottles Now Biggest Plastic Menace For Waterways (G.)

Plastic bottles, the detritus of our throwaway water and soft drinks habits, are the most prevalent form of plastic pollution in European waterways, according to a new report. Food wrappers, including crisp and sweet packets, were the second biggest form of plastic pollution in rivers, followed by cigarette butts. All of these forms of litter can cause problems for wildlife and fish, and are hard to clean up once they have found their way into the water. Plastic bags were found to make up only 1% of plastic rubbish in freshwater, reflecting years of efforts to reduce their use, including charges on them in the UK and many other European countries.

Consumers should be more aware of what they can do to prevent the fouling of waterways, from using cotton buds with paper sticks to binning wet wipes instead of flushing them, and bringing their own receptacles for food takeaways, according to the Plastic Rivers report from Earthwatch Europe and Plastic Oceans UK. “The products we buy every day are contributing to the problem of ocean plastic,” said Jo Ruxton, chief executive of Plastic Oceans UK. “Our discarded plastic enters rivers from litter generated by our on-the-go lifestyle and items we flush down toilets. This throwaway approach is having much more serious consequences and the report shows really simple ways to avoid this problem and stop plastic pollution.”

Although most attention on the plastic scourge has focused on the plight of oceans, about 80% of plastic rubbish flows into them from rivers. Many experts believe that focusing on the clean-up of rivers is the best way to choke off the flow of existing rubbish into seas, while the ultimate source of the problem – our dependence on throwaway plastic products – is tackled.

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Apr 062019
 


Raphael The school of Athens 1509-11

 

Allow me to start with a question: Has anyone seen any of the main newspapers and networks who went after Donald Trump for 3 years accusing him of colluding with “the Russians”, apologize to either Trump, or to their readers and viewers, for spreading all that fake news now that Robert Mueller said none of that stuff was real, that they all just made it up?

I’ve seen only one such apology, albeit a very good and thorough one, from Sharyl Attkisson for The Hill. But one is a very meager harvest of course. With over 500,000 articles on collusion published on the topic, as Axios said -leading to 245 million social media ‘interactions’, shouldn’t there be more apologies, if only so people can hold on to their faith in US media for a while longer?

 

Apologies to President Trump

With the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe now known to a significant degree, it seems apologies are in order. However, judging by the recent past, apologies are not likely forthcoming from the responsible parties. In this context, it matters not whether one is a supporter or a critic of President Trump. Whatever his supposed flaws, the rampant accusations and speculation that shrouded Trump’s presidency, even before it began, ultimately have proven unfounded. Just as Trump said all along. Yet, each time Trump said so, some of us in the media lampooned him.

We treated any words he spoke in his own defense as if they were automatically to be disbelieved because he had uttered them. Some even declared his words to be “lies,” although they had no evidence to back up their claims.We in the media allowed unproven charges and false accusations to dominate the news landscape for more than two years, in a way that was wildly unbalanced and disproportionate to the evidence. We did a poor job of tracking down leaks of false information. We failed to reasonably weigh the motives of anonymous sources and those claiming to have secret, special evidence of Trump’s “treason.”

As such, we reported a tremendous amount of false information, always to Trump’s detriment. And when we corrected our mistakes, we often doubled down more than we apologized. We may have been technically wrong on that tiny point, we would acknowledge. But, in the same breath, we would insist that Trump was so obviously guilty of being Russian President Vladimir Putin’s puppet that the technical details hardly mattered. So, a round of apologies seem in order.

 

It’s a shame Attkisson refrains from labeling the whole decrepit circus as “fake news”, even if she says it’s just that, in different words. It’s a shame because the term “fake news” can this way remain connected to Trump, something the mainstream media really like. Because it allows for the media to cast doubts on the Mueller report, and for the Democrats to cast doubt on AG Bill Barr.

But they, the MSM, CNN and the NYT, are the ones who, as Robert Mueller has proven, have been spreading fake news all that time, not Trump. And if you would suggest they apologize, they’ll tell you that you’re too early, wait for the report to be released, or that Bill Barr is holding tons of stuff back, or that Mueller didn’t have access to elementary info, or that Trump is a really bad person or or or.

Their reputations would be lost forever if they issue a mea culpa, and apologizing constitutes a mea culpa, so that’s not going to happen. And they all think their credibility remains sound and alive, because they live in echo chambers where they don’t have to listen to anyone prepared to cast any doubt on their credibility.

I first said it years ago: in the new -digital, social- media age, the mainstream media have only one chance of survival: report the naked truth, and be relentless about that. There are a billion voices who can write up rumors, slander, smear and other falsities, but none have the organizations to find out the truth.

Well, it looks like they gave up on that one chance. Russiagate has made it crystal clear that the MSM would rather make a quick buck than investigate, that money and political views trump veracity any day where they operate. So stick a fork in them and turn them over; they’re done.

 

April 1 was the perfect moment to add it all up, and the Babylon Bee did exactly that:

 

CNN Publishes Real News Story For April Fools’ Day

Fooling thousands of readers in a prank that the cable news organization said was “just for fun,” CNN published a real news story for April Fools’ Day this year. The story simply contained a list of facts, with no embellishment, editorializing, or invented details. The story also didn’t cite shaky “anonymous sources” and only quoted firsthand witnesses to the event. It was completely factual without any errors whatsoever. Baffled CNN fans immediately knew something was up.


“I was reading this story, and I was like, ‘Wait, what is this?'” said one man in New York who relies on CNN for his fake news every morning. “They really got me good. Then I looked up at the calendar and I realized I’d been duped. A classic gag!” “Those little rascals!” he added, shaking his head and laughing goodnaturedly. “As long as they return to their regularly scheduled fake news tomorrow, we’re good. We’re good.”

 

We could stop right there. What’s to add? It sums up America to the core. Then again, perhaps not quite yet. How about we add this from the BBC?

 

Is Facebook Winning The Fake News War?

For the people contracted by Facebook to clamp down on fake news and misinformation, doubt hangs over them every day. Is it working? “Are we changing minds?” wondered one fact-checker, based in Latin America, speaking to the BBC. “Is it having an impact? Is our work being read? I don’t think it is hard to keep track of this. But it’s not a priority for Facebook. “We want to understand better what we are doing, but we aren’t able to.”


[..] While there are efforts from fact-checking organisations to debunk dangerous rumours within the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook has yet to provide a tool – though it is experimenting with some ideas to help users report concerns.

 

Right, Facebook Fights Fake News. Right. 533,074 web articles on Trump-Russia collusion pre-Mueller report according to Axios, and 245 million ‘interactions’ -including likes, comments and shares- on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s say 100 million on Facebook.

How much did they catch as fake news in their valiant efforts? Not “the Russians” spreading fake news, but the New York Times? How about none? How many times did Facebook shut down the New York Times? Rachel Maddow? None. But Robert Mueller says all those articles about collusion were fake news.

Those reputations are gone forever. Nobody serious will ever again believe anything these people say. Oh, their own subscribers will, but they don’t count as serious people. They swallowed all the nonsense for all of that time. Get real.

 

Talking about reputations: I decided to try and follow the trails of the Steele dossier earlier, because I think if you figure out the road that dossier has traveled, who has been pushing it etc., you can get a long way towards finding out how how Russiagate came about.

I turned to Wikipedia first, where “Steele dossier” automatically becomes “Trump-Russia dossier”. I read the intro, and it was already so clear where Wikipedia stands on this: not on Trump’s side. Impartiality does not count as a virtue there either. And I know that this stuff is written by third parties, but does Jimmy Wales really want to devalue his life’s work for party politics?

Right below the intro of the very long entry, a familiar name pops up: Luke Harding, and I’m thinking HAHAHAHA!

Luke Harding, after making a mint with his book Collusion, which Robert Mueller has singlehandedly moved into the Fiction section of the bookstore, and co-writing Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy last November, which Mueller fully discredited, is presented as a source for an entry about collusion? Oh boy.

A few paragraphs down I come upon the name Victoria Nuland, and again of course I think HAHAHAHA, what kind of source is she? Nuland became notorious for colluding with John McCain on Maidan Square in Kiyv, and she has less credibility than Harding, if such a thing is possible. A Nuland quote from the Wikipedia article:

 

“In the middle of July [2016], when he [Steele] was doing this other work and became concerned, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, ‘This is not in our purview’.” “This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate.”

The entry continues:

 

It has remained unclear as to who exactly at the FBI was aware of Steele’s report through July and August, and what was done with it, but they did not immediately request additional material until late August or early September, when the FBI asked Steele for “all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos — some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI.”[57][56]

According to Nancy LeTourneau, political writer for the Washington Monthly, the report “was languishing in the FBI’s New York field office” for two months, and “was finally sent to the counterintelligence team investigating Russia at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.”, in September 2016.[65]

Meanwhile, in the July to September time frame, according to The Washington Post, CIA Director John Brennan had started an investigation with a secret task force “composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI”. At the same time, he was busy creating his own dossier of material documenting that “Russia was not only attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, they were doing so in order to elect Donald Trump … [T]he entire intelligence community was on alert about this situation at least two months before [the dossier] became part of the investigation.”

 

Ergo: the fully deranged Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, gets the dossier to the FBI, where nothing happens with it despite Nuland’s insistence that it shows terrible things going on, until someone (McCain?!) gets it to Brennan, and then the ball gets rolling.

There’s all these people in the Hillary sphere of influence who pick it up, in the media, the House, and the FBI and CIA. Because the campaign decides a story about prostitutes peeing on a bed where Obama once slept can a be a winner, and by July 2016 a few nerves had started twitching. The entire machinery shifted into gear right then and there.

The index to the entry contains some 350 links to articles, almost all by the usual suspects and with the usual angles. It all oozes collusion. An exception is Bob Woodward in January 2017:

 

‘Garbage Document’: Woodward Says US Intel Should Apologize Over Trump Dossier

Woodward said on “Fox News Sunday” the dossier was a “garbage document” and that Trump’s point of view on the matter is being “under-reported.”Woodward said the dossier should never have been presented at an intelligence briefing and it was a mistake for U.S. intelligence officials to do so. “Trump’s right to be upset about that … Those intelligence chiefs, who were the best we’ve had, who were terrific and have done great work, made a mistake here.


And when people make mistakes, they should apologize,” said Woodward. Meantime, Woodward’s former partner in reporting on the Watergate scandal, helped report the news about the dossier on CNN last week. Carl Bernstein defended the reporting on the dossier, dismissing Trump’s contention that it was “fake news.” Bernstein argued that U.S. intelligence saw fit to present the material to President Obama and President-elect Trump.

 

“Mistakes” by the intelligence chiefs? Hard to believe, if you’ve followed Brennan, Clapper, Comey in the past 2 years.

Not sure I’m going to finish reading that Wikipedia entry on the Steele dossier. What’s the point? It’s fantasy advertized as fact in order to make money. It’s misleading, it’s fake and it seeks to damage people. It would appear we’d be better off discussing what fake news is (and what is not), and to not stick the label to everything Trump says, or the $50 million spent on the Mueller probe will have been entirely wasted.

What we can learn from it is that we can no longer trust the media we once had confidence in. Those days are gone and they won’t be back. They’ve been lying for a long time for their 30 pieces of silver, and once your credibility is gone, it’s gone for good.

That, by the way, is why we need Julian Assange so much, because we know he doesn’t lie. But of course that little fact has also already been buried in a big pile of fake news.

Orwell would be delighted.

 

 

Apr 062019
 


Dante Gabriel Rossetti Monna Vanna 1866

 

Cross-Party Talks Fail As Labour Says May Unable To Compromise (G.)
France, Spain and Belgium ‘Ready For No-Deal Brexit Next Week’ (G.)
Sucker Punch (Jim Kunstler)
The Russian Collusion Hoax Meets An Unbelievable End (Nunes)
Boeing Slashes 737 Production By 20% (ZH)
Trump Says Economy Would Take Off Like ‘A Rocket Ship’ If Fed Cut Rates (CNBC)
Ray Dalio Says Capitalism Needs Urgent Reform (MW)
Kondratiev – Riding the Economic Wave (Kerevan)
EU Charges BMW, Daimler and VW With Collusion Over Emissions (G.)
Australian Housing Downturn Becomes Widespread |(ZH)
Saudi Arabia Threatens To Ditch Petrodollar (R.)

 

 

6 days to April 12. May can’t offer Labour anything the Brexiteers don’t want. And vice versa. Thing is, that was obvious 3 years ago.

The problem is not the idea of Brexit, it’s purely the execution.

Cross-Party Talks Fail As Labour Says May Unable To Compromise (G.)

Theresa May’s prospects of cobbling together a cross-party majority to convince EU leaders to grant a short Brexit delay next week appear to be slipping away after Labour claimed she had failed to offer “real change or compromise” in talks. The prime minister made a dramatic pledge to open the door to talks with Labour on Tuesday after a marathon cabinet meeting. But after two days of negotiations and an exchange of letters on Friday, Labour issued a statement criticising the prime minister for failing to offer “real change or compromise”.= “We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in parliament and bring the country together,” a spokesperson said.


The pessimistic note came after May wrote to the European council president, Donald Tusk, on Friday morning, asking for Brexit to be delayed until 30 June, while cross-party talks continue. Even before Labour’s statement, EU politicians responded with bemusement to her failure to offer a concrete plan for assembling a coalition behind a workable deal – increasing the risk that they will take a tough line at next Wednesday’s summit. May’s letter suggested that the UK was preparing to field candidates in European parliamentary elections on 23 May if no deal could be reached.

Read more …

Don’t be surprised if one country just says NO. Or more than one. For a new extension, May will need a new plan. She has none.

France, Spain and Belgium ‘Ready For No-Deal Brexit Next Week’ (G.)

France has won the support of Spain and Belgium after signalling its readiness for a no-deal Brexit on 12 April if there are no significant new British proposals, according to a note of an EU27 meeting seen by the Guardian. The diplomatic cable reveals that the French ambassador secured the support of Spanish and Belgian colleagues in arguing that there should only be, at most, a short article 50 extension to avoid an instant financial crisis, saying: “We could probably extend for a couple of weeks to prepare ourselves in the markets.” The chances of Theresa May’s proposal of an extension to 30 June succeeding appeared slim as France’s position in the private diplomatic meeting was echoed by an official statement reiterating its opposition to any further Brexit delay without a clear British plan.


May wrote to the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, on Friday to ask for the delay until 30 June while she battles to win cross-party agreement on a way forward. EU states are extremely sceptical that an extension to 30 June will resolve anything in Westminster. Tusk is pushing the EU to offer at a summit next Wednesday what he has described as a “flextension” in which the UK would be given a year-long extension with an option to come out early if the deal is ratified.

Read more …

“Mr. Mueller produced a brief of arguments pro-and-con about obstruction for others to decide upon. In doing that, he was out of order, and maliciously so.”

Sucker Punch (Jim Kunstler)

Having disgraced themselves with full immersion in the barren RussiaGate “narrative,” the Resistance is now tripling down on RussiaGate’s successor gambit: obstruction of justice where there was no crime in the first place. What exactly was that bit of mischief Robert Mueller inserted in his final report, saying that “…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him?” It’s this simple: prosecutors are charged with finding crimes. If there is insufficient evidence to bring a case, then that is the end of the matter. Prosecutors, special or otherwise, are not authorized to offer hypothetical accounts where they can’t bring a criminal case. But Mr. Mueller produced a brief of arguments pro-and-con about obstruction for others to decide upon.

In doing that, he was out of order, and maliciously so. Of course, Attorney General Barr took up the offer and declared the case closed, as he properly should where the prosecutor could not conclude that a crime was committed. One hopes that the AG also instructed Mr. Mueller and his staff to shut the fuck up vis-à-vis further ex post facto “anonymous source” speculation in the news media. But, of course, the Mueller staff — which inexplicably included lawyers who worked for the Clinton Foundation and the Democratic National Committee — at once started insinuating to New York Times reporters that the full report would contain an arsenal of bombshells reigniting enough suspicion to fuel several congressional committee investigations.

The objective apparently is to keep Mr. Trump burdened, hobbled, and disabled for the remainder of his term, and especially in preparation for the 2020 election against whoever emerges from the crowd of lightweights and geriatric cases now roistering through the primary states. It also leaves the door open for the Resistance to prosecute an impeachment case, since that is a political matter, not a law enforcement action. This blog is not associated with any court other than public opinion, and I am free to hypothesize on the meaning of Mr. Mueller’s curious gambit, so here goes: Mr. Barr, long before being considered for his current job, published his opinion that there was no case for obstruction of justice in the RussiaGate affair. By punting the decision to Mr. Barr, Mr. Mueller sets up the AG for being accused of prejudice in the matter — and, more to the point, has managed to generate a new brushfire in the press.

Read more …

Investigate the road the Steele dossier traveled. Might be all you need.

The Russian Collusion Hoax Meets An Unbelievable End (Nunes)

It is astonishing that intelligence leaders did not immediately recognize they were being manipulated in an information operation or understand the danger that the dossier could contain deliberate disinformation from Steele’s Russian sources. In fact, it is impossible to believe in light of everything we now know about the FBI’s conduct of this investigation, including the astounding level of anti-Trump animus shown by high-level FBI figures like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as well as the inspector general’s discovery of a shocking number of leaks by FBI officials.

It’s now clear that top intelligence officials were perfectly well aware of the dubiousness of the dossier, but they embraced it anyway because it justified actions they wanted to take – turning the full force of our intelligence agencies first against a political candidate and then against a sitting president. The hoax itself was a gift to our nation’s adversaries, most notably Russia. The abuse of intelligence for political purposes is insidious in any democracy. It undermines trust in democratic institutions, and it damages the reputation of the brave men and women who are working to keep us safe. This unethical conduct has had major repercussions on America’s body politic, creating a yearslong political crisis whose full effects remain to be seen.

Having extensively investigated this abuse, House Intelligence Committee Republicans will soon be submitting criminal referrals on numerous individuals involved in these matters. These people must be held to account to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future. The men and women of our intelligence community perform an essential service defending American national security, and their ability to carry out their mission cannot be compromised by biased actors who seek to transform the intelligence agencies into weapons of political warfare.

Read more …

The only thing they talk about is software. But if anything goes wrong, these people will be guillotined.

Boeing Slashes 737 Production By 20% (ZH)

Just a few hours after Ethiopian Airlines warned of a “stigma” associated with the 737 Max that may make them choose not to take delivery of the planes they ordered, Boeing has released a statement after-hours that the company will slash production of the 737 plane from 52 to 42 airplanes per month. Bloomberg reports that Boeing plans to coordinate with customers and suppliers to blunt the financial impact of the slowdown, and for now it doesn’t plan to lay off workers from the 737 program. “When the Max returns to the skies, we’ve promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any airplane ever to fly,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement Friday after the market close.


Boeing had planned to hike output of the 737, a workhorse for budget carriers, about 10 percent by midyear, to meet the backlogs. [..] if the issues are not resolved in a timely manner and production of the 737 MAX needs to be halted for an extended period of time, it would take about 0.15% off the level of GDP, or about 0.6%-point off the quarterly annualized growth rate of GDP in the quarter in which production is stopped. [..] the value of total shipments of aircraft by domestic producers in the US totaled $129 billion in 2016. Extrapolating that figure using monthly shipments data by the aircraft and parts industry implies a similar figure for 2018, around $130 billion.

Read more …

End the Fed.

Trump Says Economy Would Take Off Like ‘A Rocket Ship’ If Fed Cut Rates (CNBC)

President Donald Trump said Friday the U.S. economy would climb like “a rocket ship” if the Federal Reserve cut interest rates. Commenting after a strong jobs report for March, Trump said the Fed “really slowed us down” in terms of economic growth, and that “there’s no inflation.” “I think they should drop rates and get rid of quantitative tightening,” Trump told reporters, referring to the Fed’s policy of selling securities to unwind its balance sheet, a stimulus put in place during the financial crisis. “You would see a rocket ship. Despite that we’re doing very well.” White House aides have called for the Fed to cut interests rates by as much as 50 basis points. Following the Fed’s most recent meeting in March, the central bank decided to maintain interest rates and hold off on any further increases this year.

As Trump’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow did on Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell highlighted the slowing global economy. “We’re facing a worldwide slowdown [as] Europe is not doing well,” Kudlow said on Bloomberg TV. But unlike the White House, the Fed did not conclude in March that slowing global growth means the bank should begin cutting rates. Trump has been heavily critical of Powell’s decisions at the Fed, going as far as to say that “the Fed has gone crazy” with raising rates. Trump has blamed Powell’s decision-making for drops in the stock market, calling him “loco” for steadily raising rates in 2018 and saying choosing Powell for Fed chairman was the worst mistake of his presidency,

Read more …

Capitalism needs capitalism first of all. For that to happen, the Fed will have to be dismantled. You can’t have capitalism without functioning markets. Ergo: America doesn’t appear to like capitalism, or it would make sure it exists.

Ray Dalio Says Capitalism Needs Urgent Reform (MW)

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates LP, the world’s biggest hedge fund, says capitalism has developed into a system that is promoting an ever-wider wealth gap that puts the very existence of the United States at risk. In a two-part series published on LinkedIn, the noted investor argues that capitalism is now in need of reform — and offered ways to accomplish it: ‘I have also seen capitalism evolve in a way that it is not working well for the majority of Americans because it’s producing self-reinforcing spirals up for the haves and down for the have-nots. This is creating widening income/wealth/opportunity gaps that pose existential threats to the United States because these gaps are bringing about damaging domestic and international conflicts and weakening America’s condition.’

[..] Today, however, the system has produced little or no real income growth for most people for decades, according to the Dalio essay on LinkedIn. Prime-age workers in the bottom 60% have had no real (inflation-adjusted) income growth since 1980, and the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents has fallen to 50% from 90% in 1970. The wealth gap is at its widest point since the late 1930s, with the top 1% owning more than the bottom 90% combined, “which,” Dalio notes, “is the same sort of wealth gap that existed during the 1935-40 period (a period that brought in an era of great internal and external conflicts for most countries).”

Most people in the bottom 60% “are poor,” he writes. About 40% of all Americans would struggle to raise $400 in the event of an emergency, he says, citing a recent Federal Reserve study. The childhood poverty rate stands at 17.5% and has not shown meaningful improvement in decades. That, in turn, leads to poor academic achievement, low productivity and low incomes.

Read more …

It’s good when people who are not familar with it learn about Kondratieff (though I’ve seen better write-ups), but again: the Fed has become the economy, so what is real anymore?

Kondratiev – Riding the Economic Wave (Kerevan)

There is a rich literature trying to identify the cause, in particular the work of the Belgian economist, the late, great Ernest Mandel. Crudely, it works like this. Social and economic conditions mature to spark a runaway investment boom in the latest cluster of new technologies. After a period, excess investment and increased competition lower rates of profitability, curbing the boom. At the same time – because this is as much a sociological as an economic process – growth expands the global workforce, both in numbers and geographically. The new, militant workforce launches social struggles to capture some of the wealth created in the boom.


This, in turn, adds to the squeeze on profits. The peak and early down wave are characterised by violent social conflicts, whose outcome determines the length of the contraction. To date each K-wave has seen a crushing of social protest and a halt to wage growth, if not a fall in real incomes for the working class. Thus conditions accumulate for a fresh investment boom, as profitability recovers. The ultimate trigger for the new upcycle is investment in the next bunch of new technologies, which simultaneously provide monopoly profits and a new set of markets.

Where precisely are we in the Kondratiev cycle? There is a dispute about this. Economists convinced by the Kondratiev theory largely agree there was a strong up-phase following the Second World War, lasting till the early 1970s. This was driven by the collapse in European wages imposed earlier by the Nazis and by the universal adoption of Fordist, mass production techniques. This expansion turned into a downswing in the 1970s and early 1980s, as profitability declined and the revived European economies (linked through the early Common Market) eroded American competitiveness.


The dispute concerns what happened next – the era of Reagan, Thatcher, neoliberalism and globalisation, running up to the present. In 1998, the American economic historian Robert Brenner published a hugely influential account of global capitalism which claimed to identify a super downswing running from circa 1970 to the turn of the millennium. Brenner rejected the notion global capitalism had (or was likely) to regain profitability, citing excess capacity rather than working class resistance as the primary driver. He pointed to the sudden stagnation in the Japanese economy, in the 1990s, as a precursor for the West’s future.

Read more …

Youi’re going to have to go after individuals, not allow them to hide behind corporations.

EU Charges BMW, Daimler and VW With Collusion Over Emissions (G.)

The European commission has charged BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen with colluding to limit the introduction of clean emissions technology, in the preliminary findings of an antitrust investigation. The car manufacturers have 10 weeks to respond and could face fines of billions of euros – up to 10% of their global annual turnover – if their explanations are rejected. A similar cartel case the commission took out in 2014 against MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF ended with €2.93bn (£2.53bn) of penalties being levied. The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality.”


She added: “Daimler, VW and BMW may have broken EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology.” The EU announcement follows raids on the auto manufacturers in July 2017 after allegations in Der Spiegel that they had met in secret working groups in the 1990s to coordinate a response to diesel emissions limits. Between 2006 and 2014, the commission suspects that the “circle of five” carmakers – including VW’s Audi and Porsche divisions – colluded to limit, delay or avoid the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) and “Otto” particle filters.

Read more …

The drought comes one drop at a time.

Australian Housing Downturn Becomes Widespread |(ZH)

After a three-decade boom, the Australian economy is finally facing a recession. The outlook for the economy is exceptionally bleak this year, as the decline in housing prices is more widespread than thought, according to a new report from CoreLogic. National home prices recorded a month-on-month decline of 0.60% in March, which CoreLogic noted was the smallest rate of monthly decline since October. “While the pace of falls has slowed in March, the scope of the downturn has become more geographically widespread,” CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless said. All eight capital cities in Australia posted declines, with Sydney recording the most significant price drop of .90% month-on-month.

Quarterly, the value of single-family homes and condos declined 3.9%, followed by Melbourne (3.4%), Sydney (3.2%), Perth (2.9%), and Brisbane (1.1%). Prices in Canberra were unchanged. Sydney recorded the most significant annual decline of 10.9%. Melbourne followed with 9.8%. Australia’s regional housing markets have also deteriorated. Regional areas outside Sydney declined by 3.6% over the past year while regional Queensland saw a 1.6% decline. Regional Western Australia experienced a 9.5% decline over the past year, and for the past five years, values in the region have collapsed by 25.8%

Read more …

It’s not entirely Fake News, but it’s certainly No News. There’s one competitor for the USD, and that’s the renminbi, which nobody wants because it’s not traded freely. End of story.

Saudi Arabia Threatens To Ditch Petrodollar (R.)

Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell its oil in currencies other than the dollar if Washington passes a bill exposing OPEC members to U.S. antitrust lawsuits, three sources familiar with Saudi energy policy said. They said the option had been discussed internally by senior Saudi energy officials in recent months. Two of the sources said the plan had been discussed with OPEC members and one source briefed on Saudi oil policy said Riyadh had also communicated the threat to senior U.S. energy officials.


The chances of the U.S. bill known as NOPEC coming into force are slim and Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to follow through, but the fact Riyadh is considering such a drastic step is a sign of the kingdom’s annoyance about potential U.S. legal challenges to OPEC. In the unlikely event Riyadh were to ditch the dollar, it would undermine the its status as the world’s main reserve currency, reduce Washington’s clout in global trade and weaken its ability to enforce sanctions on nation states. “The Saudis know they have the dollar as the nuclear option,” one of the sources familiar with the matter said. “The Saudis say: let the Americans pass NOPEC and it would be the U.S. economy that would fall apart,” another source said.

Read more …

Apr 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Crucifixion 1930

 

 

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500.

 

 

Mr. President,

I write to you because I’m seeing something unfold that concerns you, and I have no way of knowing if you’re aware of it, nor have I seen anyone else mention it. That is, sir, you are being set up, a trap is being set for you, and unless you are aware of it, you may well walk into that trap eyes wide open.

It may not be in your briefing this morning, but the WikiLeaks organization has reported that high-ranking Ecuadorean state officials have told them Julian Assange will be expelled from their London embassy in a matter of “hours to days”. Now, I don’t know what your personal opinion is of Mr. Assange, maybe you think he deserves punishment for leaking secret files to the public.

Your personal opinion of Mr. Assange, however, is not the most important issue here, no offense. What’s most important to your own situation, as well as that of Mr. Assange, is that the people who are after him are the very same people who have been after you for 3 years, and who will double their efforts after suffering a huge loss due to Robert Mueller’s No Collusion report.

What the trap set for you consists of is that if you let these -largely anonymous- deep state actors get their hands on Mr. Assange, you will greatly empower them (even further). But, sir, his enemies inside US intelligence are the same as yours, and empowering one’s enemies is not the way to do battle.

 

We know they are the same people because of Robert Mueller. Mr. Assange was the only way Mr. Mueller could think of to link you to “the Russians”. This is a narrative built upon the -false- notion that “Russians” hacked the DNC servers and sent the contents to Mr. Assange. The narrative has been fully discredited by multiple voices multiple times, but Mr. Mueller has never retracted it.

For good reason: this way he -and others- can leave the story, and suspicion, open that there is a link between you, Mr. Assange and the Russians, despite the Mueller report’s no collusion conclusion. And do note: it not only maintains the popular and media suspicion of Mr. Assange, it also leaves suspicion of you alive.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray explained the intricacies -again- a few days ago:

 

Muellergate and the Discreet Lies of the Bourgeoisie

Robert Mueller repeats the assertion from the US security services that it was Russian hackers who obtained the DNC emails and passed them on to Wikileaks. I am telling you from my personal knowledge that this is not true. Neither Mueller’s team, not the FBI, nor the NSA, nor any US Intelligence agency, has ever carried out any forensic analysis on the DNC’s servers. The DNC consistently refused to make them available. The allegation against Russia is based purely on information from the DNC’s own consultants, Crowdstrike.

William Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA (America’s US$40 billion a year communications intercept organisation), has proven beyond argument that it is a technical impossibility for the DNC emails to have been transmitted by an external hack – they were rather downloaded locally, probably on to a memory stick. Binney’s analysis is fully endorsed by former NSA systems expert Ed Loomis. There simply are no two people on the planet more technically qualified to make this judgement. Yet, astonishingly, Mueller refused to call Binney or Loomis (or me) to testify. Compare this, for example, with his calling to testify my friend Randy Credico, who had no involvement whatsoever in the matter, but Mueller’s team hoped to finger as a Trump/Assange link.

The DNC servers have never been examined by intelligence agencies, law enforcement or by Mueller’s team. Binney and Loomis have written that it is impossible this was an external hack. Wikileaks have consistently stressed no state actor was involved. No evidence whatsoever has been produced of the transfer of the material from the “Russians” to Wikileaks. Wikileaks Vault 7 release of CIA documents shows that the planting of false Russian hacking “fingerprints” is an established CIA practice. Yet none of this is reflected at all by Mueller nor by the mainstream media. “Collusion” may be dead, but the “Russiagate” false narrative limps on.

 

Mr. Trump, sir, I don’t doubt you have realized by now that you are not rid yet of Robert Mueller. But Mr. Mueller is but one cog in the large wheel of intelligence running against you. Yes, the same wheel that runs against Mr. Assange. I’m sure you recognize that it’s hugely ironic, but there is a for now unbreakable bond between the two of you.

Not because of anything you did yourselves, but because Russiagate conspirators in the media, the Democratic party and the intelligence community have created it. And you need to be careful on account of that bond, because they’re going to -try to- use it against you.

I may be a lot more sympathetic to Mr. Assange than you are, but as I said before, this has nothing to do with personal opinion. This is about a trap being set for you. And Mr. Assange is an important part of that trap.

Through him, and especially if they keep him incommunicado, they can keep Russiagate alive, which allows for hundreds of billions of dollars in annual arms expenditures and the 24/7/365 threat of war.

Without the empty allegations against Mr. Assange, Robert Mueller would have had to drop his probe much earlier, but in keeping the allegations alive by silencing Mr. Assange, Russiagate can live on, because the link between Russian hackers and WikiLeaks can be left hanging in the air. And that, Mr. President, will be bad news for you, whether you like it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not.

 

We haven’t talked about the media yet, but there’s another giant irony in the US media clamoring about press freedom, and using it to smear you for 3 years, but not saying a single word to defend that same freedom when it comes to Mr. Assange. They, too, will continue to haunt you, using Mr. Assange as their bait. Don’t let them.

I don’t know what you intend to do about Russiagate and its main perpetrators, but I do know you can make things much easier for yourself if you solve the Assange conundrum first. And you can’t do that by allowing your own enemies to get their hands on him and rendition him; that will backfire on you.

You could pardon him, but that may be a step too far for you at this point. It might be better to simply allow him to go home to Australia.

What would amuse me to no end is if you would personally nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize. That would piss off so many of your enemies it would be a sight to see. The biggest bird you can flip them all. And then after that, you know, go talk to Vladimir Putin and tell him you’re sorry for all this bad theater.

There’s this scene in the Godfather where Marlon Brando as the ageing Don tells Al Pacino how to recognize the traitor in his own midst: the one who suggests setting up a meeting. This is very similar: whoever comes to you to suggest the harshest treatment of Julian Assange, will be the one(s) intent on coming after you too.

One last thing, Mr. President: Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are among the best, brightest and bravest people our world has to offer. We need people like them, and we need them badly. And it’s a lot more stupid than it is simply ironic, that they are the ones we are locking up and silencing. That way America will never be great again, guaranteed.

And you, sir (I know, more irony) may be their -and our- best and even last hope. You have the power to set free our best. Please use it wisely. And Mr. President, sir, be careful out there.

Know your enemies.

 

 

 

 

Apr 052019
 
 April 5, 2019  Posted by at 7:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jack Delano Diner along U.S. Highway No. 1 near Berwyn, Maryland 1940

 

WikiLeaks Says Assange to Be Expelled Within ‘Hours to Days’ (TeleSur)
Barr Defends His Summary Of Mueller Report, And The Delay (AP)
Boeing Admits ANOTHER Glitch In 737 MAX Software (RT)
WTO Rules Against US And Boeing In Mammoth Trade Row With EU (DW)
Rising Risk Of US And China Housing Slump Causing Recession – IMF (G.)
Theresa May To Make Written Brexit Offer To Jeremy Corbyn (G.)
EU’s Donald Tusk ‘Suggests Flexible Brexit Delay’ (BBC)
Angela Merkel Promises To Back Ireland In Avoiding Hard Border (G.)
Currency-Trading Algos “Flummoxed” by Rapid-Fire Brexit Headlines (WS)
Marine Plastic Pollution Costs The World Up To $2.5 Billion A Year (G.)
Great Barrier Reef Suffers 89% Collapse In New Coral (G.)
Bavaria To Pass ‘Save The Bees’ Petition Into Law In Landmark Move (G.)
Attenborough’s First Act As An Eco-Warrior (G.)

 

 

Sad sad day. Time to pray.

WikiLeaks Says Assange to Be Expelled Within ‘Hours to Days’ (TeleSur)

Julian Assange will be expelled from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, England within “hours to days,” high-ranking Ecuadorean state officials told WikiLeaks. Acording to reports, an agreement between the United Kingdom and the South American nation has been reached regarding Assange’s imminent arrest. The Ina Papers offshore scandal will be used as a pretext, WikiLeaks says.Earlier this week, Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno argued that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has “repeatedly violated” the terms of his asylum in the embassy and that he will “make a decision in the short term.”

Ecuador’s head of state, interviewed by the local Radio Broadcasters’ Association, said Assange does not have the right to “hack private accounts or phones” and cannot intervene in the politics of other countries, especially those that have friendly relations with Ecuador. The Wikileaks founder accepted political asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which have been dropped. However, in the last two years, ever since Moreno took office, a new set of draconian measures have reduced his fundamental rights, in regards to freedom of speech, visits and movement inside the diplomatic mission.

Assange, who was granted Ecuadoran citizenship in December 2017, legally cannot be extradited as Article 25 of Ecuador’s 2008 constitution forbids extradition of nationals. Yet he has denounced attempts, influenced by U.S. pressure, to strip him of this right. A United Nations Special Rapporteur on Privacy is due to visit Assange on Wednesday to investigate Ecuador’s spying on the activist. Ecuador filed a complaint with the rapporteur Monday denouncing WikiLeaks and others for reporting on the INA Papers offshore scandal engulfing its president.

Read more …

Just because the losers are sore, he has to defend himself?

Barr Defends His Summary Of Mueller Report, And The Delay (AP)

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday defended his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation, saying the confidential document contains sensitive grand jury material that prevented it from being immediately released to the public. The statement came as Barr confronts concerns that his four-page letter summarizing Mueller’s conclusions unduly sanitized the full report in President Donald Trump’s favor, including on the key question of whether the president obstructed justice. House Democrats on Wednesday approved subpoenas for Mueller’s entire report and any exhibits and other underlying evidence that the Justice Department might withhold.

The disparity in length between Barr’s letter and Mueller’s full report, which totals nearly 400 pages, raises the likelihood of additional significant information that was put forward by the special counsel’s office but not immediately shared by the attorney general. In Thursday’s statement, Barr defended the decision to release a brief summary letter two days after receiving the report on March 22. He has previously said he did not believe it would be in the public’s interest to release the full document in piecemeal or gradual fashion, and that he did not intend for his letter summarizing Mueller’s “principal conclusions” to be an “exhaustive recounting” of the special counsel’s investigation.

Barr is now expected to release the entire report, with redactions, by mid-April. “Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the Attorney General decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report — with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process,” the Justice Department statement said. The statement also said that every page of Mueller’s report was marked that it may contain grand jury material “and therefore could not immediately be released.”

Read more …

Boeing wants you to believe it’s about software. The media helps. “It’s just a little coding error, and we’re real sorry for it, but we’ll fix it in no time.” It’s a narrative, carefully constructed.

Boeing Admits ANOTHER Glitch In 737 MAX Software (RT)

After a report on the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines blamed a 737 MAX software error, Boeing reportedly revealed a second glitch. The “relatively minor” but still critical problem will delay 737s returning to service. In a report on last month’s crash that killed all 157 on board of the ill-fated airliner, Ethiopia blamed Boeing’s MCAS software that caused the jet to nosedive. On Thursday, Boeing confirmed to the Washington Post that it had found another software problem. The problem affects flaps and other flight stabilization hardware, according to two unnamed Federal Aviation Administration officials cited by the Post. The FAA has classified it as critical to flight safety and ordered a fix.


It will take weeks for the problem to be patched, meaning that the 737 Max fleet will remain grounded for the foreseeable future. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plunged into a field shortly after takeoff in early March. Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 nosedived into the sea last October, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Investigators noted “clear similarities” between both accidents. On Thursday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg offered condolences for “lives lost” and said the company was “relentlessly focused on safety to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.” The Ethiopian government report said the crew of Flight 302 “had performed all the procedures, repeatedly, provided by [Boeing], but was not able to control the aircraft.”

Read more …

“.. the EU was also failing to stop its own illegal subsidies for Europe’s Airbus..”

WTO Rules Against US And Boeing In Mammoth Trade Row With EU (DW)

US aerospace giant Boeing has received unfair tax breaks in the US state of Washington, an appellate panel in the WTO ruled on Thursday. The tax break of some $100 million annually harmed the sales of Boeing’s European rival Airbus, according to the WTO officials. The decision, which is not subject to appeal, opens the way for the EU to claim billions in damages. The damages are estimated based on the negative impact of the subsidies and not the subsidy itself. EU trade officials described the ruling as a “final victory” in the 15-year-long dispute. “The Appellate Body has now settled this case definitively, confirming our view the US has continued to subsidise Boeing despite WTO rulings to the contrary,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.


However, a 2018 ruling by the WTO already found that the EU was also failing to stop its own illegal subsidies for Europe’s Airbus. Washington has since claimed an unspecified amount in damages and a WTO mediator is still examining this claim. The EU and the US have traded accusations on illegally subsidizing their respective aircraft manufacturers since 2004. The alleged subsidies vary from tax breaks and government research and development funding, to state issued loans, as both sides seek to give their companies a leg up in the global rivalry. In 2011, the WTO found that Boeing received $5.3 billion in illegal subsidies between 1989 and 2006. The verdict was confirmed in 2012. In late 2016, the WTO found some US subsidies have continued despite the global body declaring them illegal, and the Thursday verdict confirmed this decision.

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A China housing slump. Now that’s dangerous.

Rising Risk Of US And China Housing Slump Causing Recession – IMF (G.)

A growing number of homes in the US and China are teetering on the brink of a price slump that would drag their economies into a recession, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Using the latest evidence from global housing markets, the Washington-based organisation said there was a clear increase in the risk of a housing price collapse in both countries after years of ultra-low interest rates and loose lending by financial institutions. Ahead of its annual meeting next week, the IMF’s research showed a strong connection between falling house prices and declines in activity across the economy between 1990 and 2017, illustrating the power of housing markets to trigger wider slumps in GDP growth.


It follows similar concerns from US economists that the global recovery has been running out of steam since 2008 and slowdowns in the US and Chinese economies are likely to undermine worldwide growth. Recent falls in housing activity and relatively high long-term borrowing rates have also been seen as signals of a recession, possibly as soon as next year, in the US. Blackrock, the world’s largest fund manager, told investors that traders were becoming increasingly worried about the potential for a recession in the US. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, said this week that rising trade tensions, concerns about Brexit and tougher financial conditions as central banks raised interest rates had “increasingly unsettled” the global economy over recent months.

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Yada yada.

Theresa May To Make Written Brexit Offer To Jeremy Corbyn (G.)

Theresa May is expected to write to Jeremy Corbyn to set out the government’s offer on Brexit, with negotiations due to resume in Downing Street on Friday. With just five days to go before the prime minister must travel to Brussels to request a further Brexit delay from EU leaders, little progress appears to have been made on finding a compromise deal both Labour and the Conservatives can back. But after the government delegation reported back to May on Thursday, officials began drafting a letter setting out a way forward. One government source suggested that, in accordance with Labour’s demands, it would include the proposal that a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal be offered to MPs as an option in any vote next week.


After Thursday’s discussions in Downing Street, Corbyn sent a note to Labour MPs, saying: “Agenda items were customs arrangements, single market alignment including rights and protections, agencies and programmes, internal security, legal underpinning to any agreements and confirmatory vote.” Technical talks lasted four and a half hours, but both sides emerged cautious about how much progress had been made. [..] A deal including a customs union would be explosive in the Conservative party as the majority of Tory MPs oppose such a move. Hardline Eurosceptic MPs are still furious, with many plotting moves against the prime minister, despite there being no formal Conservative party mechanism to move a motion of no confidence in her until December.

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They’re going to be in the European elections.

EU’s Donald Tusk ‘Suggests Flexible Brexit Delay’ (BBC)

European Council President Donald Tusk is proposing to offer the UK a 12-month “flexible” extension to its Brexit date, according to a senior EU source. His plan would allow the UK to leave sooner if Parliament ratifies a deal, but it would need to be agreed by EU leaders at a summit next week. The UK’s Conservatives and Labour Party are set to continue Brexit talks later. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has told the BBC that if they fail, the delay is “likely to be a long one”. The UK is due to leave the EU on 12 April and, as yet, no withdrawal deal has been approved by MPs. Downing Street said “technical” talks between Labour and the Conservatives on Thursday had been “productive” and would continue on Friday.


Prime Minister Theresa May has said a further postponement to the Brexit date is needed if the UK is to avoid leaving the EU without a deal, a scenario both EU leaders and many British MPs believe would create problems for businesses and cause difficulties at ports. However, the PM wants to keep any delay as short as possible. To do that, she and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would need to agree a proposal for MPs to vote on before 10 April, when EU leaders are expected to consider any extension request at an emergency summit. If they cannot, Mrs May has said a number of options would be put to MPs “to determine which course to pursue”.

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The de facto European president hasn’t said much for a long time.

Angela Merkel Promises To Back Ireland In Avoiding Hard Border (G.)

Angela Merkel has pledged the European Union’s support for averting a hard border on the island of Ireland despite concern this could undermine the single market in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The German chancellor expressed solidarity with the Irish government in a visit to Dublin on Thursday and urged the UK to present a viable plan to avert crashing out of the EU next week. Asked if averting a border was compatible with protecting the single market, Merkel told a press conference: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way … we simply have to do this, we simply have to be successful.” The chancellor was speaking after meeting the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and a group of people from Northern Ireland and the border area who told of lives and livelihoods lost during the Troubles.


Merkel said the stories moved her. “I lived behind the Iron Curtain, so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish … what I have heard here will encourage me to explore ways and means to continue the peaceful co-existence.” Speaking at a joint press conference with Varadkar, the chancellor said Germany and the EU would consider an extension request to help the UK avoid a no-deal departure. “We need to be patient and understanding of the predicament that they are in. But of course, any further extension must require and must have a credible and realistic way forward.” She said she hoped Theresa May would be able to table a proposal by next Wednesday at a special European Council meeting. “We want to stand together as 27. Until the very last hour – I can say this from the German side – we will do everything in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit.”

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Brexit: Just like Waiting for Godot, but still faster than robots.

Currency-Trading Algos “Flummoxed” by Rapid-Fire Brexit Headlines (WS)

The drama of Brexit with all its arcane details of UK parliamentary procedures and rarely noted characters that suddenly appear prominently on the global stage and utter market-moving words has turned into a complicated mess that is generating too many rapid-fire headlines per day, often in a whiplash manner, and news-reading currency-trading algos haven’t been programmed for this and are overwhelmed. Bloomberg has published more than 1,000 Brexit headlines a day “on some days,” and Reuters “up to 400” Brexit headlines a day, according to a Reuters report. Other news outlets and wire services together also publish hundreds of headlines a day.


News-reading FX algos are programmed to react to all that instantly, but they don’t know what the next 10 Brexit stories over the next few moments are going to be, and that might put the trade on the wrong side of the next headline. Artificial Intelligence isn’t quite ready yet to sort all this out. Reuters describes it this way: As a divided government battles a divided parliament over a way forward, the chorus of characters who can now influence events has grown, flummoxing news-reading algorithms, or ‘algos’, which are designed to parse phrases from recognized speakers before executing a trade. “The model signals are more quantitative driven and rely on historical data feeds,” said Neil Jones, head of hedge fund currency sales at Mizuho in London. “Brexit headlines have thrown a spanner in their works for the sheer number of characters moving the currency on a daily basis.”

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Sounds like a nonsense number to me. Try a hundred times that for starters.

Marine Plastic Pollution Costs The World Up To $2.5 Billion A Year (G.)

Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans costs society billions of dollars every year in damaged and lost resources, research has found. Fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activities and global wellbeing are all negatively affected by plastic pollution, with an estimated 1-5% decline in the benefit humans derive from oceans. The resulting cost in such benefits, known as marine ecosystem value, is up to $2.5bn a year, according to a study published this week in Marine Pollution Bulletin. Plastic waste is also believed to cost up to $33,000 per ton in reduced environmental value, the study found. An estimated 8m tons of plastic pollution enter the world’s oceans every year.

Dr Nicola Beaumont, an environmental economist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, who led the study, said the investigation was the first of its kind to explore the social and economic impact of plastics in the sea. “Our calculations are a first stab at ‘putting a price on plastic’. We know we have to do more research to refine, but we are convinced that already they are an underestimate of the real costs to global human society,” said Beaumont. The estimates do not take into account the direct and indirect impacts on the tourism, transport and fisheries industries, or on human health, the authors warned.

Plastic waste can be found all over the world – from the most populated coastlines to the most remote – and its impact on zooplankton, invertebrates, fish, turtles, birds and mammals is all negative, the study found. But authors discovered that plastics – which can remain buoyant for decades or longer, travelling distances of more than 3,000km from origin – create new habitats for bacteria and algae. These “colonies” increase the biogeographical range of bacteria and algae, thereby risking the spread of invasive species and disease, the research found.


A crab stuck in plastic in Verde Island Passage, Batangas City, Philippines. Photograph: Noel Guevara/Greenpeace/EPA

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No coral babies. Komodo island was closed to tourists, do the same for the Great Barrier.

Great Barrier Reef Suffers 89% Collapse In New Coral (G.)

The number of new corals on the Great Barrier Reef crashed by 89% after the climate change-induced mass bleaching of 2016 and 2017. Scientists have measured how many adult corals survived along the length of the world’s largest reef system and how many new corals they produced in 2018 in the aftermath of severe heat stress and coral mortality.The results, published in Nature, show not only a dramatic reduction in new coral recruitment compared with historic levels, but also a change in the types of coral species produced.


The paper’s lead author, coral scientist Terry Hughes from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said the results paint an uncertain picture for the reef in years to come if further bleaching events occur before corals have time to sufficiently recover – which typically takes a decade. “We’ve told the story of coral dying, we’ve told the story of some being winners and losers. Now we’ve got the next phase where species have a chance to recover,” Hughes said. “But what we’re seeing is that it’s happening a lot slower because we only have 10% of the babies.”

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Germans like their nature.

Bavaria To Pass ‘Save The Bees’ Petition Into Law In Landmark Move (G.)

Bavaria has announced that it will pass into law a popular “save the bees” petition that promises drastic changes in farming practices – without putting it to a referendum first. The landmark move comes amid increasingly alarming warnings from scientists that nearly half of all insect species are in rapid decline – a third of the crucial pollinators threatened with extinction. The petition launched in February to seek better protection of plant and animal species had become the most successful in the southern German region’s history, garnering 1.75m signatures. The proposal set a target for 20% of agricultural land to meet organic farming standards by 2025, before reaching 30% by 2030. 10% of green spaces in Bavaria would have to be turned into flowering meadows, and rivers and streams better protected from pesticides and fertilisers.


Rather than putting the petition to a referendum, Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Söder, announced it would simply be written into law, passing through parliament. “We are taking the text of the referendum word for word,” said Söder, leader of the conservative CSU party which governs the state in a coalition majority. The farming industry, which had sometimes felt marginalised in the environmental debate, would have to be given support to carry out the transformation, he added. Scientists in Germany and worldwide have sounded the alarm about massive insect losses in terms of species diversity and total biomass, with dire consequences for the animals that feed on them and for plants that require them for pollination.

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“..the herd we are watching is 70% smaller than it was 20 years ago.”

Attenborough’s First Act As An Eco-Warrior (G.)

It looks as spectacular as you would expect. Vast aerial sweeps across the Peruvian coast as millions of cormorants and boobies gather to feast on anchovies and breed, or across frozen tundra to watch herds of wildebeest head for the shelter of the forest in temperatures 40 degrees below freezing take your breath away. Then it catches in your throat, as you watch an orchid bee, in search of perfume to attract a mate, fall into a flower’s buckety petal and squeeze out of a tiny tunnel that deposits two sacks of pollen on its back; just as God, or a million years of evolutionary adjustments, intended. On every scale, it is amazing. You can only boggle at the endless precision of the natural world, and of the people who devote themselves to capturing its wonders.


This is Netflix’s first foray into nature programming – Our Planet, an eight-part, multimillion-dollar series, filmed by more than 600 crew members over four years in 50 countries and narrated by our very own David Attenborough. Produced largely by the team behind the BBC’s Planet Earth and Blue Planet, it looks very much like what they might have done next for Auntie if the Natural History Unit had given them their druthers (and Netflix’s budget). As with Planet Earth, it takes a different landscape every episode and fills the screen with incredible scenes. Lesser flamingos building mud mounds for their eggs and hatching thousands of chicks in unison. Eagles in combat in the air. Three of the 60 species of manakin birds doing their mating dances, each more jaw-droppingly complex than the last.


Just as God, or a million years of evolutionary adjustments, intended … an orchid bee. Photograph: Warwick Sloss/Silverback/Netflix

The routine from the blue manakin – which involves four birds who practise beforehand, with a juvenile male standing in for the prospective lady – will have you revising your own sexual decision-making. You’ll not be charmed by a pint and a compliment again, I assure you. Where it differs from BBC shows is in no longer ignoring or minimising the threats facing all the environments and animals on display. Hamstrung by the idea that any mention of eco-problems would make audiences switch off, and the broadcasters’ preferred strategy of hoping that sharing incredible sights around the world would inspire people to save them, nature programming has been taken to task for avoiding the issue, and not using their power to raise awareness of the dangers facing us all. Contextless stories don’t inspire us to change, after all; they just allow us to continue in our comfortable, fatal state of denial.


[..] Netflix has stolen their thunder by procuring his first outing as an in-yer-face eco-warrior. Our Planet places clearer emphasis on the fragility and interconnectedness of all the species and eco-systems on display, and on the huge impact humanity has had on them in so short a time. “In one human lifetime,” says Attenborough in the opening minutes, “wildlife populations have fallen by an average of 60%. The stability of nature can no longer be taken for granted.” Towards the end of the wildebeest scenes, he cuts the ground from under us by noting that the herd we are watching is 70% smaller than it was 20 years ago.


TV that may leave you jackknifing in pain … the wildebeest migration in Tanzania. Photograph: Sophie Lanfear/Silverback/Netflix

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Apr 022019
 
 April 2, 2019  Posted by at 8:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edgar Degas L’absinthe (In a café) 1875-76

 

German Manufacturing Sector “Clearly In Deep Recession” (BI)
US Still Cleanest Dirty Shirt Among Manufacturing Giants (WS)
May Calls For Cabinet Showdown As MPs Reject All Brexit Options (G.)
Tory MPs’ No-Deal Fetish Makes Cross-Party Brexit Solution Impossible (G.)
Electoral Commission: New Vote Leave Investigation Not In Public Interest (G.)
Trump PAC To Crush Trash-Talking Journos With Their Russiagate Reporting (ZH)
Russiagate: “Why Did This Ever Start In The First Place?” (van Buren)
CNN Publishes Real News Story For April Fools’ Day (B.Bee)
China Says To Curb All Types Of Fentanyl, Following US Demands (BBC)
Boeing Must Do More Work On Proposed 737 Fix: FAA (AFP)
Biblical Anxieties (Kunstler)
Insects Have ‘No Place To Hide’ From Climate Change (G.)
Butterfly Numbers Fall By 84% In Netherlands Over 130 Years (G.)
Pregnant Sperm Whale Beached In Sardinia, 22 Kilos Of Plastic In Stomach (Tel.)

 

 

Very few outlets talk about this. Which is strange…

German Manufacturing Sector “Clearly In Deep Recession” (BI)

The German manufacturing sector “is clearly in deep recession” and is laying off workers, analysts said in notes Monday on data from the IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index, a measure of sentiment among factory executives. Monday’s data shows that manufacturing is falling even faster than feared from estimates published a week or so ago. At the same time, unemployment in Italy has started to rise, up 0.6 percentage points since late last year to 10.7%, after years of decline. The collapse of German manufacturing is being mirrored across the continent. The average for the eurozone — the 19 countries that use the euro currency — is now in negative territory. Of the four largest economies, only Spain is in positive territory.

The Pantheon Macroeconomics analyst Claus Vistesen called the numbers “horrific” and “horrible” in a note he sent to clients on Monday: “Manufacturing conditions are now deteriorating at their fastest rate in more than six years, thanks mainly to a slump in external demand. New orders are falling steadily, which means that the small gains in production are exclusively driven by the clearing of existing orders. This, in turn, means that purchasing activity of production inputs has slumped. In addition, employment growth has slowed to a trickle, and we think the labour market in manufacturing will suffer further pains in coming months.” Last week he told clients that manufacturers “shed workers in March, for the first time in three years.”

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… because it is big news in the global economy.

US Still Cleanest Dirty Shirt Among Manufacturing Giants (WS)

Much of the glowing press coverage today was focused on the uptick in manufacturing data coming out of China, as reported by the Caixin Manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) and the Official Manufacturing PMI, both of which returned to (feeble) growth mode, after having been in contraction mode since November. We will get to them in a moment. But what got less coverage were the other PMI’s that were also released today, including those of Germany, the US, and Japan. And what is happening in Germany and Japan put China’s upticks into a different light – with the US remaining the cleanest dirty shirt that is now getting dirtier, so to speak.


Germany: March “makes for uncomfortable reading” For all these PMI measures, a value below 50 means “contraction,” and a value above 50 means “expansion.” The IHS Markit/BME Manufacturing PMI for Germany plunged to 44.1 in March, down from 47.6 in February, the lowest level since July 2012 near the bottom of the euro debt crisis. The report highlighted “a sharp and accelerated decrease in new orders,” with total order books and export orders falling at the fastest rate since April 2009. The reasons spanned the spectrum of “uncertainty surrounding Brexit and trade tensions, a weak automotive sector, and generally softer global demand.”

The Caixin China Manufacturing PMI ticked up into expansion mode (50.8) in March for the first time since November, with companies signaling “slightly quicker rises in output and overall new work,” and employment increased for the first time since October 2013. Production rose for the second month in a row, “supported by a stronger, albeit still relatively muted, rise in total new work.” But purchasing activities continued to contract (I also put this chart on the same index scale as Germany’s)./ And the report commented about what really mattered (emphasis added): “Overall, with a more relaxed financing environment, government efforts to bail out the private sector and positive progress in Sino-U.S. trade talks, the situation across the manufacturing sector recovered in March.”

The IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI dipped to 52.4 in March, the lowest reading since June 2017, and “notably softer than the trend seen for 2018” (chart on the same index scale as Germany’s): Output expanded at a “marginal pace that was the weakest since June 2016,” based on “softer underlying client demand.” New order growth “has fallen close to the lows seen in the 2016 slowdown.” Export orders rose only marginally, “with firms noting that global trade tensions and the ongoing impact of tariffs had dampened foreign client demand.” The index for backlogs of work dipped slightly into contraction mode. But the employment index “rose at a solid rate.”

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Do these people look at themselves at all?

May Calls For Cabinet Showdown As MPs Reject All Brexit Options (G.)

Theresa May will summon her warring cabinet to Downing Street for a five-hour showdown on Tuesday after parliament once again failed to coalesce behind any alternative to her rejected Brexit deal. Three options – a common market, a customs union and a second referendum – were all narrowly rejected in the process of indicative votes, prompting renewed talk of a swift general election. After Conservative MPs failed to support any option in sufficient numbers, there were immediate recriminations in the House of Commons chamber. The Tory MP Nick Boles declared that he had failed to persuade his colleagues to compromise with his “common market 2.0” plan and announced his departure from the party.


Supporters of a second referendum from across parliament were also accused of increasing the risk of a no-deal by refusing to back soft Brexit options. With just 10 days left until Britain is due to leave the EU without a deal unless the government secures a fresh delay from Brussels, the Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, said the cabinet would have to decide the way forward. “This house has continuously rejected leaving without a deal, just as it has rejected not leaving at all. Therefore the only option is to find a way through which allows the UK to leave with a deal,” he said. One Downing Street adviser said that a snap election fronted by May was being “tested” and that it was viewed by some in the No 10 bunker as “the least worst option”.

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What I wrote about Friday: “..the ambition has shrunk to winning at least one vote, on one day, by a majority of at least one.”

That is a very destructive ambition.

Tory MPs’ No-Deal Fetish Makes Cross-Party Brexit Solution Impossible (G.)

The number of Conservative MPs who are prepared to take Britain out of the EU with no deal is now greater than the total number of Conservatives elected to parliament in 1997. That is not the only way that British politics has changed since then. Parties have a lot of different positions over 22 years, but the capture of the Tories by no-dealism has happened within 22 months. When Tony Blair’s landslide victory reduced the Tory MPs to a rump of 165, Euroscepticism meant something different. It was all about obstructing Britain’s entry into the single currency, resisting new treaties and grumbling about old ones.

Only on the outermost political fringe would anyone advocate shredding the treaties, kicking away the legal and diplomatic foundations of Britain’s partnership with the continent and seeing what happened. Even three years ago, no one in the official leave campaign thought that was a good idea. Now 170 Tory MPs – more than half of the party’s parliamentary cohort – are signed up. [..] Since averting the worst of all Brexits became a frantic race against time, the focus has been on agreeing some kind of plan. And as the Commons deadlock has tightened, the ambition has shrunk to winning at least one vote, on one day, by a majority of at least one. In reality, a workable plan means legislation that runs the full gauntlet of amendment and rejection in both chambers of parliament. It needs a majority that can endure for weeks, maybe months.

The indicative votes process is a fine symbol of the cross-party spirit in which Brexit might and should have been undertaken. It was obvious after the last election that, in a hung parliament, traditional party allegiances would need to be suspended to get a deal done. Even Julian Smith, the Tory chief whip, now accepts that the Commons arithmetic in 2017 demanded a change of course. But party lines have proved to be one of the stickier bricks in the Jenga tower of conventional habits that passes for a constitution in this country. It is a bit late now to try to pluck them out. And while it might be possible to envisage a majority in this parliament for a sensible Brexit settlement, it is not possible to imagine Tories making up a majority of that majority. That is an immovable problem in this parliament and a reason the whole tower could easily come down.

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“a “profound misstatement of the law”..

Electoral Commission: New Vote Leave Investigation Not In Public Interest (G.)

The Electoral Commission believed it would “not be in the public interest” to investigate whether Vote Leave committed a second breach of referendum spending laws, according to the website OpenDemocracy. Last week Vote Leave dropped its appeal against a £61,000 fine for breaking the EU referendum spending limit by donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to the pro-Brexit activist Darren Grimes. Grimes’s appeal against his own £20,000 fine continues. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, who played prominent roles in Vote Leave’s campaign, are now facing calls to reveal what they knew about the arrangement as they consider their bids to succeed Theresa May as Conservative party leader.

Last year an investigation by the BBC’s Spotlight programme reported that online adverts placed on behalf of the DUP were booked by Vote Leave’s director in Northern Ireland. The commission subsequently announced that it had considered the allegations but would not be launching an investigation because it did not have sufficient evidence. At the time, it said: “After requesting further evidence from BBC Northern Ireland and being told that there was no ‘significant information’ other than what was in the programme, the commission considered whether other sources were available to evidence the allegations made in it. “The commission has concluded it does not have grounds to open an investigation into the allegations made by BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight.”

That decision prompted the Good Law Project, a legal campaigning group run by the barrister Jolyon Maugham, to bring a judicial review asking a judge to examine the commission’s reasoning. A document unearthed in the course of the case reveals that the commission also believed that even if it had found sufficient evidence of Vote Leave coordinating with the DUP, there would be no public interest in investigating the matter because Vote Leave had already been found to have coordinated with Grimes. Maugham told OpenDemocracy the commission’s position was a “profound misstatement of the law”. “How many other times did the Electoral Commission fail to investigate because it didn’t think it was in the public interest for us to know?” Maugham said. “What else is out there that they wrongly closed their eyes to?”

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“Their major sin was the wrong assumption that Mueller’s professional silence about the probe was an indication that he was holding all his cards close to his chest.”

Trump PAC To Crush Trash-Talking Journos With Their Russiagate Reporting (ZH)

[..] while Trump and Congressional Republicans have put Obama officials and holdovers alike on notice that there will be an investigation to get to the bottom of the ‘hoax,’ journalists who peddled the Russiagate narrative will be subject to a montage of their journalistic malpractice over Twitter. “The media made a critical mistake concerning the Mueller investigation coverage,” Keystone College political science professor Jeff Brauer told the NY Post. “Their major sin was the wrong assumption that Mueller’s professional silence about the probe was an indication that he was holding all his cards close to his chest. In the end, it was the opposite. Mueller made all his moves openly during the investigation. When they found something, they simply indicted and prosecuted. When he was finished playing his last card, he wrapped up the probe and wrote the account. He did not keep a treasure trove of evidence and charges on Russian collusion from the public spotlight only to be released in a bombshell report.” – NY Post.


“To that end, the Republican National Committee and the pro-Trump super PAC America First are “geared up for any nonsense to come” from reporters covering the 2020 election. Any reporter who tries that will be hit with 30-second spots of all their ridiculous claims about collusion,” one source told The Atlantic on condition of anonymity. “Their tweets have all been screencapped. It’s all ready to go.” (“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing the last two years. We’re going to hold the media accountable when we see fit,” an RNC official clarified, adding that this would include digital clips shared on social media.)

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There’s no way the Ohrs, or Steele, McCabe, are going to be left alone.

Russiagate: “Why Did This Ever Start In The First Place?” (van Buren)

The end of the Special Counsel’s investigation into the non-existent conspiracy between Trump and the Russians has created an army of “Mueller Truthers,” demanding additional investigations. But Republicans are also demanding to know more, specifically how the FBI came to look into collusion, and what that tells us about the tension between America’s political and intelligence worlds. In Rudy Giuliani’s words “Why did this ever start in the first place?” The primordial ooze for all things Russia began in spring 2016 when the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee, through a company called Fusion GPS, hired former MI6 intelligence agent Christopher Steele to compile a report (“the dossier”) on whatever ties to Russia he could find for Donald Trump.

Steele’s assignment was not to investigate impartially, but to gather dirt aggressively – opposition research, or oppo. He assembled second and third hand stories, then used anonymous sources and Internet chum to purported reveal Trump people roaming about Europe asking various Russians for help, promising sanctions relief, and trading influence for financial deals. Steele also claimed the existence of a “pee tape,” kompromat Putin used to control Trump. Creating the dossier was only half of Steele’s assignment. The real work was to insert the dossier into American media and intelligence organizations to prevent Trump from winning the election. While only a so-so fiction writer, Steele proved to be a master at running his information op against America.

In July 2016 Steele met with over a dozen reporters to promote his dossier, with little success. It could not be corroborated. Steele succeeded mightily, however, in pushing his information deep into the FBI via three simultaneous channels, including the State Department, and via Senator John McCain, who was pitched by a former British ambassador retired to work now for Christopher Steele’s own firm. But the most productive channel into the FBI was Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr. Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS, the front company for Steele, having previously done contract work for the CIA. Nellie passed the dossier to her husband, along with her own paid oppo research, so that he could use his credibility at DOJ to hand-carry the work into the FBI.

Bruce Ohr, despite acknowledging it broke all rules of protocol and evidence handling, did just that on July 30, 2016. He stressed to then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe the material was uncorroborated and had been compiled by Christopher Steele, who wanted it used to stop Trump. The dossier landed in welcoming hands. The FBI immediately opened an unprecedented investigation called Crossfire Hurricane into the Trump campaign. It sent agents to London to meet Australian ambassador Alexander Downer, who claimed to have evidence George Papadopoulos, one of Trump’s junior-level advisers, was talking to Russians about Hillary’s emails. The FBI’s timing of the new investigation into Trump – only days after they closed their investigation into Clinton’s email server – can be considered a coincidence by those of good heart.

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“As long as they return to their regularly scheduled fake news tomorrow, we’re good. We’re good.”

CNN Publishes Real News Story For April Fools’ Day (B.Bee)

Fooling thousands of readers in a prank that the cable news organization said was “just for fun,” CNN published a real news story for April Fools’ Day this year. The story simply contained a list of facts, with no embellishment, editorializing, or invented details. The story also didn’t cite shaky “anonymous sources” and only quoted firsthand witnesses to the event. It was completely factual without any errors whatsoever. Baffled CNN fans immediately knew something was up. “I was reading this story, and I was like, ‘Wait, what is this?'” said one man in New York who relies on CNN for his fake news every morning. “They really got me good. Then I looked up at the calendar and I realized I’d been duped. A classic gag!” “Those little rascals!” he added, shaking his head and laughing goodnaturedly. “As long as they return to their regularly scheduled fake news tomorrow, we’re good. We’re good.”

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Opaque.

China Says To Curb All Types Of Fentanyl, Following US Demands (BBC)

China says it will crack down on all types of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, following a plea from the US. All fentanyl-related substances will be added to China’s list of controlled narcotic drugs from 1 May, officials said. It follows a pledge Beijing made during US-China trade talks in December. The powerful painkiller, much of it believed to be made in China, is said to be driving a huge rise in drug addiction in the US. The number of deaths from painkillers such as fentanyl led to President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency in 2017. China’s production of the drug has long been a source of tension between the two countries.


“The US is concerned about all variants [of fentanyl] and it has all been resolved,” Liu Yuejin, deputy director of China’s narcotics control commission, told a news conference. Mr Liu said the claim that China was the main source of fentanyl “lacked evidence”, and instead blamed a history of abuse of prescription medicine in the US for fuelling demand. “We believe that the United States itself is the main factor in the abuse of fentanyl there,” he said. “Some people link drug consumption with freedom, individuality, and liberation. If the US really wants to resolve the fentanyl substance problem they have more work to do domestically.”

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People at the FAA don’t want to run the risk of being blamed.

Boeing Must Do More Work On Proposed 737 Fix: FAA (AFP)

Boeing must perform more work on a proposed fix to its 737 MAX aircraft before it can be submitted for review, US officials said Monday, suggesting the planes could stay grounded a while longer. Additional work is needed “to ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues,” a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said in a statement. “The FAA will not approve the software for installation until the agency is satisfied with the submission,” he added. The FAA statement is the bureaucratic equivalent of a “stop” sign after Boeing officials touted their proposed remedy last week during a media tour at the company’s manufacturing plant in Seattle, Washington.


Boeing’s 737 MAX planes were grounded globally last month following the second of two deadly crashes to occur in less than five months. Scrutiny has centered on an anti-stall system developed specifically for the planes that has given pilots problems. A preliminary report into the second calamity — the March 10 crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 that killed 157 people — will likely be issued this week, the Ethiopian government said Monday.

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The Midwest back in 1347.

Biblical Anxieties (Kunstler)

With spring rainfall already at 200 percent of normal levels, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a statement in late March saying, “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.” More to the point, two major western dams show disturbing signs of potential failure that may bring on unprecedented disasters. The Oroville Dam on the Feather River north of Sacramento — the highest earthen dam in the US — nearly blew out in February 2017 when record rains damaged the main spillway, threatening to send a 30-foot wall of water downstream towards California’s capital and towns along the way. When that spillway was closed to assess the damage, which was significant, the secondary emergency spillway was opened for the first time since the dam was built in 1968.

[..] A shy, science-nerd correspondent writes: “Epidemiologists speculate that a flooding event in Central Asia steppes triggered the 1347 Eurasian plague outbreak. Rumors of a mass human die-off in India reached Europe in the mid-1340’s. The Mongols besieging the coastal city of Trebizond on the shore of the Black Sea catapulted plague infested corpses over the city walls and Italian merchant ships fleeing Trebizond carried the infestation to Genoa which foolishly permitted the dying crew to land…. Rodents hosting plague spreading fleas typically inhabit arid grassland regions such as the Great Plains of America and the semi deserts of California and New Mexico.

The current flooding of the American Mid-West and the mass dumping of flood tainted wheat, corn and soybeans will likely spark a rodent population explosion in the region, which in the context of rat-swarming homeless encampments may yield a 1347 repeat event in North America during the 2020s. What happened before can happen again.” The homeless camps around Los Angeles have turned up cases of other medieval-type diseases typical of human settlements before public sanitation became a standard feature of civilized life: Many are spread through feces (as well as drug use): Hepatitis A, Typhus, shigellosis (or trench fever, spread through body lice), and tuberculosis. Gawd knows what is coming across the border into America’s proudly leading “sanctuary state.” Wait for it. Just sayin’.

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I’d be more worried about toxins than about climate change at this polint.

Insects Have ‘No Place To Hide’ From Climate Change (G.)

Insects have “no place to hide” from climate change, scientists have said after analysing 50 years’ worth of UK data. The study found that woodlands, whose shade was expected to protect species from warming temperatures, are just as affected by climate change as open grasslands. The research examined records of the first springtime flights of butterflies, moths and aphids and the first eggs of birds between 1965 and 2012. As average temperatures have risen, aphids are now emerging a month earlier, and birds are laying eggs a week earlier. The scientists said this could mean animals were becoming “out of sync” with their prey, with potentially serious ramifications for ecosystems. Researchers are increasingly concerned about dramatic drops in populations of insects, which underpin much of nature.


In February it was said that these falls could lead to a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, and in March there was further evidence of widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades in Britain. Other studies, from Germany and Puerto Rico, have shown falling numbers in the last 25 to 35 years. Another showed butterflies in the Netherlands had declined by at least 84% over the last 130 years. James Bell, at Rothamsted Research institute, who led the woodlands research, said: “Under global warming you would expect woodlands to have some protection for insects, a buffer against change. But we didn’t see that. It is the major surprise and is disturbing. There is really no place to hide against the effects of global warming if you are an insect in the UK.”

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Toxins.

Butterfly Numbers Fall By 84% In Netherlands Over 130 Years (G.)

Butterflies have declined by at least 84% in the Netherlands over the last 130 years, according to a study, confirming the crisis affecting insect populations in western Europe. Researchers analysed 120,000 butterflies caught by collectors between 1890 and 1980 as well as more recent scientific data from more than 2 million sightings to identify dramatic declines in the country’s 71 native butterfly species, 15 of which have become extinct over the last century. “We are quite sure that the real decline must be much larger,” said Chris van Swaay, of Dutch Butterfly Conservation and one of the co-authors of the study.

The research follows warnings of catastrophic insect declines after a global review calculated that the total mass of insects was falling by 2.5% each year, and a German study found average flying insect abundance had declined by 76% over 27 years. Since the scientific monitoring of British butterflies began in 1976, there has been a 77% decline in “habitat specialists”, which are found only in certain areas, such as woodland or chalk grassland, while populations of more common species found across the countryside have fallen by 46%. Although no British species have become extinct since 1979, conservationists are concerned about the potential disappearance of once-abundant species’, including the small tortoiseshell (down 75%) and the white-letter hairstreak (93% since the 1970s).

Measurements of declines in wildlife usually begin from when the collection of scientific data began in the 1970s but Van Swaay said their study showed the dangers of “shifting baseline syndrome”, where declines are only identified from a point where species are already extremely depleted.

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We are a culture of death.

Pregnant Sperm Whale Beached In Sardinia, 22 Kilos Of Plastic In Stomach (Tel.)

A sperm whale found dead on the coast of Sardinia was pregnant and carrying 22 kilos of plastic in her stomach, researchers in Italy have found. The dead whale was discovered on a patch of rocky shoreline by the caretaker of a private beach resort in Cala Romantica, near Porto Cervo, late last week . Members of the local fire brigades used heavy equipment to hoist the 8-metre long whale onto a truck for transport inland where a necropsy could be performed over the weekend. When veterinarians and researchers from Sassari and the University of Padua opened the malnourished young female whale, they discovered not only was she pregnant, but likely unable to nourish her fetus due to the dangerous amount of plastic she had swallowed – 22 kilogrammes of plastic plates, fishing nets, tarps, black trash bags and even a sack of detergent with the label still legible.


Only a third of the whale’s stomach contents, about 12 kilogrammes, were squid beaks, the leftovers from its favourite food. “It was dramatic to find the fetus . . . we felt bad already at that point, “ said marine biologist Mattia Leone, who was present for the post-mortem exam. “But then when we opened the stomach and saw all the plastic, we realised, yet again, we were bearing witness to this very worrisome, sad situation.” [..] Northeastern Sardinia is a popular tourist destination, but also a known “hot spot” for whales, with over 500 documented sightings of eight different cetacean species known to inhabit the western Mediterranean. Just 20 miles off Sardinian coast lies the Caprera Canyon, a deep undersea gorge rich in marine wildlife, including sperm whales, fin whales, Curvier’s beaked whales and three different species of dolphins.

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Apr 012019
 
 April 1, 2019  Posted by at 10:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


JR-ART.net/AFP/Getty Collage by artist JR in the courtyard of the Louvre to mark 30th birthday of museum’s glass pyramid. 2019

 

Trump Is Going To Go Full-Animal On His Political Opponents – Bannon (Peters)
Trump Was Not Just Spied Upon But Entrapped (Simon)
Global Trade Takes Sharp Turn With Biggest Drop Since 2009 (ZH)
Theresa May’s Government Is On The Verge Of Meltdown (G.)
May’s Cabinet ‘Worst Example Of Discipline In British Political History’ (Ind.)
A Parliament of Fools (Coppola)
Fearing Brexit, Protesters Gather Along Irish Border (R.)
EU’s ‘Patience Over Brexit Coming To An End’ – Juncker (Ind.)
Erdogan Loses Capital In Turkey Election Blow (BBC)
TV Comic Leads First Round Of Ukraine’s Presidential Election (R.)

 

 

Curious to see who he’s going after. A lot of people will not like this.

Trump Is Going To Go Full-Animal On His Political Opponents – Bannon (Peters)

“I have a better education than them, I’m smarter than them, I went to the best schools; they didn’t. Much more beautiful house, much more beautiful apartment. Much more beautiful everything. And I’m president and they’re not,” declared Trump at his Michigan MAGA rally, refusing to take profit on the trade. You see, Mueller found him innocent of Russian collusion. And while the report stopped short of exonerating him for obstruction, Mueller’s overall ruling was an enormous windfall. A typical trader would take at least some profit, selling into the euphoria, rising above it all, extending a hand to broaden his base.

“Trump is going to go full-animal on his political opponents now that he’s no longer in the shadow of Mueller’s investigation,” predicted Bannon, the President’s former Chief Strategist. Steve’s usually right. And as Trump ordered OPEC to lower oil prices, his economic advisor Larry Kudlow and Federal Reserve nominee Stephen Moore called for an immediate 50bp interest rate cut from the Fed – desperate to fire up the economy heading into 2020. “The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit, partisan investigations or whether they will apologize to the American people and join us to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and bring down the cost of health care and prescription drugs,” taunted Trump.

And as his MAGA crowd went wild, replacing “Lock Her Up” with “AOC Sucks”, Democrats entered the five stages of grief: denial comes first, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And naturally, it would be so much easier if the Dems could just take a loss. But in today’s internecine conflict, with tribes fighting for absolute victory or utter defeat, no one seems willing to extend a hand, take a profit or a loss and move onward, upward, as The United States of America.

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Stefan Halper.

Trump Was Not Just Spied Upon But Entrapped (Simon)

For all his New York rough-and-tumble, Trump was an innocent abroad when he arrived in Washington. Way back in January 2017, he was warned by old-timer Chuck Schumer that “intel officials have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” The Senate minority leader–Deep Stater par excellence–knew whereof he spoke. But Trump somehow survived the storm, although sometimes it seemed as if he wouldn’t. Now, some of the obvious parties –John K. Brennan and James Clapper with their apparatchik miens — have suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs [..]

More’s afoot here, however, considerably more because the entire American intelligence system and the unique power referred to by Schumer are also now in those same crosshairs, as they should be. But many of the men and women involved are less overtly Soviet in their style than Mssrs. Brennan and Clapper and slip more easily under the radar. Notable among these, and perhaps able to reveal much of the McGuffin to the mystery of where this all started and how, is Stefan Halper. Mr. Halper is “an American foreign policy scholar and Senior Fellow at the University of Cambridge where he is a Life Fellow at Magdalene College and directs the Department of Politics and International Studies.” He is also a spook who worked for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, no less, and was a principle American connection to the UK’s MI-6.

Mr. Halper has (ahem) other connections: “A top FBI official admitted to Congressional investigators last year that the agency had contacts within the Trump campaign as part of operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” which sounds a lot like FBI “informant” Stefan Halper – a former Oxford University professor who was paid over $1 million by the Obama Department of Defense between 2012 and 2018, with nearly half of it surrounding the 2016 US election.”

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Not ideal for a presidential campaign, it would seem.

Global Trade Takes Sharp Turn With Biggest Drop Since 2009 (ZH)

According to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), world trade plunged to its weakest levels not seen since the financial crisis. The report published last week shows world trade expanded by 2.3% in January after the index tumbled in 4Q18. The recent rebound was broad-based with the strongest seen in emerging markets Asia (+6.2%), which followed a decline of -6.5% in December. The three-month global trade momentum shows a downward trend of -1.8%, indicating economic growth across the world continues to slide into 2Q. Bloomberg said, “that’s the biggest drop since May 2009.” On a y/y basis, global trade posted its first decline in nearly nine years in the three months.

The global 1H19 outlook remains in a cyclical downturn, which could hinder world trade further. The epicenter of the slowdown originates in China, which is partly due to a combination of China’s growth supercycle coming to an end, developed world economies slowing, Federal Reserve tightening monetary policy, and the US-China trade war that disrupted supply chains in Asia. This has global consequences: “For example, eurozone manufacturing PMI weakened to 47.6 in March according to Markit, marking the second consecutive month this year that manufacturing activity and export orders declined in the eurozone. The indices for January and February indicate contracting manufacturing activity in most of the east-Asian economies as well,” said ING.

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Looks like there may not be a way out at all.

Theresa May’s Government Is On The Verge Of Meltdown (G.)

Theresa May’s government is on the verge of meltdown as cabinet ministers prepare to clash over whether to support plans for a softer Brexit and a possible lengthy delay before leaving the European Union. In a decisive intervention, David Gauke, the justice secretary, said on Sunday that the prime minister would have to accept the possibility of backing a customs union if the measure is supported by parliament this week. This was dismissed by Brexiters, including those in cabinet, who have threatened to resign if May accepts a customs union or submits to a delay that goes beyond 22 May. Those threatening to quit were reported to include Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary.

In another twist, Julian Smith, the chief whip, told the BBC on Monday that a softer Brexit was “inevitable” after the government lost its majority after the 2017 election. It comes as May and her dwindling number of supporters prepare to face a second round of “indicative” votes on alternatives to her deal on Monday. Concerned by the possibility of cabinet resignations, May is being urged by some ministers to allow a free vote on any customs union proposal. If parliament backs a customs union, ministers believe May will be forced to make a decision that will lead to resignations when the cabinet meets on Tuesday.

With 12 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, Gauke said the prime minister would have to “look very closely” if MPs back a customs union in a fresh round of indicative votes. “If parliament is voting overwhelmingly against leaving the European Union without a deal but is voting in favour of a softer Brexit, then I don’t think it’s sustainable to ignore parliament’s position and therefore leave without a deal,” Gauke said.

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“The thing that people forget is that the Conservative Party went to get a majority in order to deliver Brexit [and] failed to get a majority..”

May’s Cabinet ‘Worst Example Of Discipline In British Political History’ (Ind.)

Julian Smith has lashed out at Theresa May’s cabinet ministers for attempting to destabilise the prime minister, as he criticised them over the “worst example of discipline in British political history”. In an unprecedented intervention, the chief whip also criticised the government’s approach to Brexit, suggesting a softer exit from the bloc was inevitable after Ms May gambled away the Tories’ majority in 2017. The remarks from Mr Smith, who also confessed he is “knackered”, came as MPs prepare for string of key votes in the Commons on different Brexit options during the second round of “indicative votes” later today. “The thing that people forget is that the Conservative Party went to get a majority in order to deliver Brexit [and] failed to get a majority,” the chief whip told the BBC.


He added: “The government as a whole probably should just have been clearer on the consequences of that. The parliamentary arithmetic would mean that this would be inevitably a softer type of Brexit.” While the strategy was apparently misjudged, Mr Smith said he was “frustrated” by MPs who “don’t see the light as clearly as I do”. However Mr Smith highlighted that a lack of discipline extended all the way to the Cabinet, with ministers “sitting around the Cabinet table … trying to destabilise her [Mrs May]”. Pointing to the lack of discipline at the top levels of government, he claimed: “As you aware discipline is not as good as it should be. This is I think the worst example of ill-discipline in Cabinet in British political history.”

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More votes today.

A Parliament of Fools (Coppola)

March 29 came and went without any change in the U.K.’s relationship with the EU. For now, the U.K. remains an EU member. But the U.K. Parliament has now rejected the proposed Withdrawal Agreement for a third time. Unless there is a major political shift in the next two weeks, the country is on course for no-deal Brexit on April 12. For the Leave supporters who gathered outside Parliament on March 29, April 12 can’t come soon enough. They had planned a celebration, but instead found themselves protesting at what they see as betrayal by the U.K. Government. Furiously angry, they are now worried that Parliament could try to secure a much longer delay or perhaps a second referendum. They have reason to be worried. On Monday, April 1, Parliament will vote on a set of alternative proposals.


The votes won’t commit the government to any particular course of action, but they will indicate what Parliament’s preferred outcome might be. The proposals likely to be up for consideration include a permanent customs union, which Theresa May has previously ruled out but is implied in the Political Declaration. There is also likely to be a vote on whether to hold a second referendum to “confirm” Parliament’s eventual choice. However, the previous set of “indicative votes,” taken on Wednesday March 27, resulted in no majority for anything. True, Parliament resoundingly rejected no-deal Brexit, but it was completely unable to agree on what alternative form Brexit should take, or even if it should happen at all. If this second set of votes is equally inconclusive, then no-deal Brexit it will be, unless by some miracle Mrs. May manages to persuade Parliament to vote for her ghastly deal after all.

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Someone suggested Good Friday is more important than the Magna Carta.

Fearing Brexit, Protesters Gather Along Irish Border (R.)

Anti-Brexit campaigners protested at six different points of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland on Saturday, fearing a return of customs checks could risk peace, jobs and their way of life. The currently seamless 500 km (350 mile) border would be the United Kingdom’s only land frontier with the EU after Brexit and the question of how it is kept open has become a major hurdle in efforts to ensure the UK quits the bloc in an orderly fashion. Organisers estimated more than 1,000 locals gathered from the northwest village of Bridgend to Carrickcarnon on the east coast, two of the more than 200 crossings that some 30,000 people cross each day for work.


“People are very concerned, they voted to remain (in the EU) here,” said John Sheridan, a farmer from the Border Communities Against Brexit group who led the protest in the Northern Ireland border village of Belcoo. “We feel like we’re going to be left behind again and have a border imposed on us.” The group also held a candle-lit vigil across the border in the Irish village of Kiltyclogher at 2300 GMT on Friday, when Britain had been scheduled to leave the EU until its departure was extended by at least two weeks. It has held other protests since the 2016 Brexit referendum and again erected mock customs checkpoints on Saturday, to demonstrate the disruption they could cause and the resistance their return would meet.

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The EU is not exactly losing on this one. So it’s a headache, but it’s also winner takes all.

EU’s ‘Patience Over Brexit Coming To An End’ – Juncker (Ind.)

The EU is running out of patience with Britain over Brexit, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has warned. In an interview with Italian state TV, Mr Juncker said he would like MPs in the UK to be able to reach an agreement over the way forward in the coming days. “We have had a lot of patience with our British friends but patience is coming to an end,” he told RAI. The commission president added: “So far we know what the British parliament says no to, but we don’t know what it might say yes to.” Asked if a second referendum might be possible, Mr Juncker said that was an issue exclusively for the British people.


His words were reported by his deputy chief spokesman Mina Andreeva. She tweeted that Mr Juncker had told the Italian interviewer he would “like that the UK tells us which way they want to follow now”. It comes ahead of a series of key votes in Parliament on Monday which could pave the way for a “softer” Brexit. Several Tory ministers have urged Theresa May to heed the will of MPs if they manage to unite around a customs union during the second round of “indicative votes”.

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He doesn’t care. He can use this to show Turkey’s a democracy.

Erdogan Loses Capital In Turkey Election Blow (BBC)

The party of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost control of the capital, Ankara, in local elections in a setback to his 16 years in power. The opposition is also ahead in the contest for mayor of the largest city, Istanbul, the election commission says. Nationally, the president’s AKP-led alliance has won more than 51% of the vote in the municipal elections. The vote, see as a verdict on Mr Erdogan’s rule, has been taking place during an economic downturn. The currency, the lira, has been losing value recently and the economy went into recession in the last three months of 2018. The president had previously said the poll was about the “survival” of the country and his party. Commenting on the results in a speech on Sunday, he said: “If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them.”

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Can’t believe the US isn’t first in electing as president someone who plays a president on TV or in the movies.

TV Comic Leads First Round Of Ukraine’s Presidential Election (R.)

The actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy has taken a commanding lead in the first round of the Ukraine’s presidential elections, early results have shown. With just over half of the ballots counted early on Monday, Zelenskiy had 30.2% of the votes. The incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, was in a distant second place with 16.6% followed by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko on 13%, the national elections commission said. The results were closely in line with a major exit poll. The final results were expected to be announced later on Monday. With no one expected to secure a majority, a runoff with the leading two candidates will be held on 21 April.


As the results of exit polling were announced, a cheer erupted at Zelenskiy’s headquarters in a sleek lounge in Kyiv. The candidate was mobbed as he made his way to a stage to say thank you to his supporters. The vote could see a comedy actor with no political experience move a step closer to becoming the country’s next president. Zelenskiy, who plays the president in the television series Servant of the People, had been the favourite to win Sunday’s vote in a rebuke of the country’s leadership.

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Mar 292019
 
 March 29, 2019  Posted by at 10:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1906

 

Theresa May Cuts Brexit Deal In Half (Ind.)
Theresa May Tries To Buy Time For Brexit Deal As MPs Call On Her To Leave (G.)
Number Of Children In Absolute Poverty Across UK Hits 3.7 Million (Ind.)
The Humbling of Britain (Fletcher)
Trump Rails Against ‘Greatest Hoax’ At First Rally Since Mueller Report (G.)
EU Members Unanimously Reject Israel’s Sovereignty Over Golan Heights (Ind.)
Pelosi and McConnell Are Inching Us Closer to Nuclear War (TD)
Average Americans Can’t Afford A Home In 70% Of The Country (CBS)
Australian Economy Relies On Coal Exports To China (G.)
Tylenol -Paracetamol- Reduces Positive Empathy (FR.)
Mosquito-Spread Diseases May Endanger Millions In New Places (G.)
Skin-Eating Fungal Disease Wipes Out 90 Amphibian Species In 50 Years (G.)
Rare Sight Of An Animal On The Brink Of Extinction (AFP)
A Year of Silencing Julian Assange (Vos)

 

 

Crazier by the day. What if one plan or another gets voted through by 1 single vote unleashing events that will last 50 years or more? That’s democracy?

Theresa May Cuts Brexit Deal In Half (Ind.)

Theresa May is set to push ahead with a critical vote on part of her Brexit deal after overcoming the speaker’s ban on repeatedly putting the same plan to MPs. Commons leader Andrea Leadsom confirmed on Thursday that the government will exclude the political declaration, which deals with Britain’s future relations with the EU, in Friday’s vote – focusing solely on the withdrawal agreement. The withdrawal agreement and the political declaration together form Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The EU has said the prime minister needs to secure approval by 11pm UK time on Friday for the withdrawal agreement – not the political declaration – if the UK is to be given an automatic delay of its departure date from the bloc until 22 May. Otherwise, Britain has until 12 April to announce a new plan or leave the bloc without a deal.


The announcement came as Downing Street made a last push to win over Tory rebels and the DUP to her Brexit deal after offering to quit before the next stage of talks. There is still substantial opposition to the agreement, even after the prime minister sacrificed her job for her deal, promising to quit if MPs approved the agreement and let Britain leave the EU on schedule in May. Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May spoke for 20 minutes on Thursday evening and the Labour leader said his MPs would not back the Government move. “Jeremy made clear Labour will not agree a blindfold Brexit to force through Theresa May’s damaging deal, which would leave the next Tory party leader free to rip up essential rights and protections and undermine jobs and living standards,” a Labour spokesperson said.

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Sometimes I wonder what John Lennon would have said.

Theresa May Tries To Buy Time For Brexit Deal As MPs Call On Her To Leave (G.)

Theresa May will put only half of her Brexit deal to a vote on Friday, in a final desperate attempt to secure MPs’ support as senior cabinet ministers made clear she must leave No 10 very soon, whatever happens. On the day Britain was originally meant to leave the EU – something May had promised would happen more than 100 times – the prime minister will put only the withdrawal agreement to a vote, having promised to step aside if the MPs give her their approval. No 10 is hoping that some Labour MPs could back the withdrawal agreement severing the UK’s membership of the EU, without the political declaration governing Britain’s future relationship with Brussels. However, it remains extremely unlikely to pass as Labour said it would never vote for a “blindfold Brexit”, while around 30 Eurosceptic Tories and the 10 Democratic Unionist MPs are also holding out against it.


MPs will be warned that failure to back the withdrawal agreement this time will lead to a long extension that requires participation in European parliament elections or crashing out without a deal on 12 April. MPs who support a soft Brexit are meanwhile working on a new round of votes on the alternatives on Monday, including a compromise that could combine the support of those MPs who voted for a customs union, for Labour’s Brexit plan and for the Norway-style option dubbed “common market 2.0”. With European leaders sceptical that such efforts will be successful, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told diplomats on Thursday that a no deal was now “the most plausible outcome” and ordered work to begin on wargaming the bloc’s response.

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This is what all those politicians should be working on.

Number Of Children In Absolute Poverty Across UK Hits 3.7 Million (Ind.)

The number of children living in absolute poverty across the UK has increased by 200,000 in a year, to a total of 3.7 million. New government data shows that while the rate of absolute child poverty had been gradually falling since 2012, it is now rising again. It will come as an embarrassment for ministers, who last year responded to a rise in relative poverty by highlighting that absolute poverty rates – their preferred measure – had fallen. Campaigners said the main drivers of the increase were cuts to benefits and tax credits, which they said hit working families with more than two children particularly hard.


The figures show that among children in poverty, there has been a rise in those who live in working families – up from 69 per cent to 72 per cent in a year. There has also been an increase in the risk of poverty for children in larger families, with the number of households with three or more children up from 33 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent. Overall, across the whole population, 100,000 more people are living in absolute poverty, with the figure standing at 12.5 million. Research carried out for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)to coincide with the publication of the figures found that the four-year freeze on children’s benefits alone would lead to average loses of £240 per year for families with children.

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“They proceeded to seduce voters with fake facts and bogus promises. They stoked fears, fuelled grievances and inflamed prejudices. They appealed to the lowest human impulses, and unlocked the ugliest features of the British character – xenophobia, jingoism, aggression, insularity, arrogance and a perverse, pig-headed pride in our own ignorance.”

The Humbling of Britain (Fletcher)

We are reduced to this. A humiliated, supplicant British prime minister sitting alone in a Brussels side room for six hours while the rest of the European Union discusses our fate. A government no longer capable of governing. A country that has become a byword for chaos and dysfunction. A sundered “United Kingdom”. Hundreds of thousands of Britons seeking citizenship in other EU states. Industry howling in rage and frustration. MPs needing police protection. People stockpiling food and medicines. The public discourse poisoned. Families split. Friends riven. The military on standby in case of civil unrest. This is not “taking back control”. This is not the proud, independent, liberated Britain that the Brexiteers promised.

It is grotesque, calamitous, an epic act of self-harm brought about not by some war or disaster but by our own stupidity. And the true “enemies of the people” are not those opposing this catastrophic Brexit. They are not the million decent people from every background who marched in London last Saturday, or the five million who have petitioned to revoke Article 50, but those whose lies, zealotry, and political recklessness have all but broken Britain. For posterity’s sake, those self-styled “patriots” who have so grievously betrayed their country should be named and shamed. The original sin was that of David Cameron, now blithely writing his memoirs in his shepherd’s hut, enjoying exotic holidays and enriching himself on the speakers’ circuit.

The public was not clamouring for a referendum on EU membership. Cameron called it for the narrow purpose of uniting his party and fending off Ukip. He offered an ill-informed electorate a binary choice on an extraordinarily complex issue of profound constitutional importance without even the safeguard of a 60 per cent threshold for approval. It was one of the most foolish gambles ever taken by a British prime minister, and one that unleashed the charlatans, rogues and demagogues of the Leave campaign. They proceeded to seduce voters with fake facts and bogus promises. They stoked fears, fuelled grievances and inflamed prejudices. They appealed to the lowest human impulses, and unlocked the ugliest features of the British character – xenophobia, jingoism, aggression, insularity, arrogance and a perverse, pig-headed pride in our own ignorance.

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The Guardian’s not going to give up. They just turn things upside down, it’s Trump who’s the bogeyman, he attacks media, not the other way around, no matter that the media’s Russiagate was exposed by Mueller: “Donald Trump continued his assault on the media and Democrats on Thursday night..”

This bit says a lot, though it’s hard to decide whether the author has no sense of humor or he thinks his readers don’t:“Trump’s more outlandish claims came in an attack on progressives’ Green New Deal, which he falsely stated called for the elimination of airplanes and cows.”

Trump Rails Against ‘Greatest Hoax’ At First Rally Since Mueller Report (G.)

Donald Trump continued his assault on the media and Democrats on Thursday night, wrongly claiming “total exoneration, complete vindication” at his first rally since Robert Mueller submitted his report. Trump dedicated about half of his approximately 90-minute speech in front of a raucous audience at Grand Rapids to the topic, labeling the accusations and investigation “ridiculous bullshit”. The president bounced between theories about why the special counsel’s investigation happened and attacks on his opponents. “All of the Democrats, politicians, the media also – bad people,” Trump told the crowd at Michigan’s Van Andel Arena. “The crooked journalists, the totally dishonest TV pundits” helped perpetuate “the single greatest hoax in the history of politics”.

He later claimed that the investigation was really an effort “to overturn the results of the 2016 election”. “It was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election and to sabotage the will of the American people,” Trump said to loud boos. He repeatedly called for “accountability”, drawing chants of “Lock them up”. At other points, the president mocked Democratic opponents, including “little pencil-neck Adam Schiff” and his fellow lawmaker Jerry Nadler, whom Trump said he “beat again”. Though Trump told the crowd multiple times that Mueller found “no collusion and no obstruction”, the attorney general William Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s report only stated that it found no proof that Trump criminally colluded with Russia.

Barr’s summary said Mueller had reached no conclusion about whether Trump had obstructed justice, but Barr wrote that he decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue an obstruction charges against Trump. [..] Trump’s more outlandish claims came in an attack on progressives’ Green New Deal, which he falsely stated called for the elimination of airplanes and cows.

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I’ll give you my neighbor’s house if you want it.

EU Members Unanimously Reject Israel’s Sovereignty Over Golan Heights (Ind.)

The 28 member countries of the European Union have unanimously declared that they do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights region, despite a change in policy by the United States. This week US president Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation officially recognising Israel’s control of the area, which it has occupied since 1967 when it captured the region from Syria during the Six Day War. But in a statement approved by the European Council’s 28 members, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs said: “The position of the European Union as regards the status of the Golan Heights has not changed.


“In line with the international law and UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 497, the European Union does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.” The territory is widely internationally recognised as belonging to Syria’s Arab neighbour. Mr Trump said: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and regional stability!” Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Trump’s recognition was “historic”, while Syria said it was “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and pledged to take the territory back by “all available means”. Turkey and Russia also voices opposition to the move.

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Same party.

Pelosi and McConnell Are Inching Us Closer to Nuclear War (TD)

When Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell teamed up to invite NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint session of Congress, they had every reason to expect the April 3 speech to be a big hit with U.S. media and political elites. The establishment is eager to affirm the sanctity of support for the transatlantic military alliance. Huge reverence for NATO is matched by how dangerous NATO has become. NATO’s continual expansion — all the way to Russia’s borders — has significantly increased the chances that the world’s two nuclear superpowers will get into direct military conflict. But in the United States, when anyone challenges the continued expansion of NATO, innuendos or outright smears are likely.

Two years ago, when the Senate debated whether to approve bringing Montenegro into NATO, the mud flew at Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky after he showed up to object. An infuriated Sen. John McCain declared on the Senate floor: “I have no idea why anyone would object to this, except that I will say — if they object, they are now carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin, and I do not say that lightly.” Moments later, when Paul said “I object,” McCain proclaimed: “The senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.” With those words, McCain conveyed the common madness of reverence for NATO — and the common intolerance for anything that might approach a rational debate on whether it’s a good idea to keep expanding an American-led military alliance to, in effect, push Russia into a corner. Doing so is understandably viewed from Russia as a dire threat.

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall — and the quickly broken promises by the U.S. government in 1990 that NATO would move “not one inch eastward” — NATO has been closing in on Russia’s borders while bringing one nation after another into full military membership. During the last three decades, NATO has added 13 countries — and it’s not done yet. NATO members “have clearly stated that Georgia will become a member of NATO,” Stoltenberg asserted days ago while visiting the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. He added: “We will continue working together to prepare for Georgia’s NATO membership.” For good measure, Stoltenberg tweeted on March 25 that he was “delighted to observe the joint NATO-Georgia exercise” and “honored to meet veterans & serving soldiers,” adding that “Georgia is a unique partner for #NATO & we are stepping up our cooperation.”

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Make the rates cheaper then!

Average Americans Can’t Afford A Home In 70% Of The Country (CBS)

Even with rising wages and falling mortgage rates, Americans can’t afford a home in more than 70 percent of the country. Out of 473 U.S. counties analyzed in a report, 335 listed median home prices more than what average wage earners could afford, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions. Among them are the counties that include Los Angeles and San Diego in California, as well as Miami-Dade County in Florida and Maricopa County in Arizona. New York City claimed the largest share of a person’s income to purchase a home, according to the report. While average earners nationwide need to spend only about one-third of their income on a home, residents in Brooklyn and Manhattan must shell out more than 115 percent of their income.


In San Francisco, residents must spend 103 percent, and in Hawaii’s Maui County, it takes 101 percent. Homes were found to be affordable in Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Detroit and Philadelphia. Broadly speaking, homes are more affordable today than they were one year ago. While home prices are still rising in many areas, they’re also falling in others. Unaffordability in the market has been the result of slower homebuilding and homeowners staying put longer. Both trends have reduced the supply of homes for sale in the market. So long as interest rates don’t go up and the impact from last year’s tax cuts don’t wholly fade away, the market may yet create better conditions for buyers. “Affordability may improve because of the simple fact that homes are out of reach for so many home seekers,” Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions, said in a statement.

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China has no intention of burning less.

Australian Economy Relies On Coal Exports To China (G.)

Australia’s booming earnings from coal exports could be in jeopardy if China switches to more domestic supply and if port restrictions continue to favour competing exporters, a federal government report has warned. The country’s energy and resources exports will rake in an extra $20bn to rise to $278bn this financial year, the report by the industry department said, creating a timely bonanza for the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to exploit in next week’s federal budget. But the report, released on Friday, warned that Australia faced an imminent threat to the $5bn thermal coal trade with China.


Amid growing concern about delays imposed on Australian coal shipments at Chinese ports, it detailed how the government in Beijing had restructured its domestic coal sector in the past 10 years, with potentially serious implications for Canberra’s coffers. China was poised to switch on 200m tonnes of thermal capacity, it said, after it built rail freight lines to hard-to-reach coalfields hundreds of kilometres inland. Another 400m tonnes of capacity was under construction. Australia is the second largest exporter of thermal coal in the world, with 208m tonnes worth $26bn exported last year. About 20% of that went to China. The report warned that although Australian producers could find other markets, such as India, the pressure on prices would be downwards.

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Drugs that are prescribed too easily are never good.

Tylenol -Paracetamol- Reduces Positive Empathy (FR.)

Acetaminophen – a potent physical painkiller that also reduces empathy for other people’s suffering – blunts physical and social pain by reducing activation in brain areas (i.e. anterior insula and anterior cingulate) thought to be related to emotional awareness and motivation. Some neuroimaging research on positive empathy (i.e., the perception and sharing of positive affect in other people) suggests that the experience of positive empathy also recruits these paralimbic cortical brain areas. We thus hypothesized that acetaminophen may also impair affective processes related to the experience of positive empathy. We tested this hypothesis in a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment.


Specifically, we administered 1,000 mg acetaminophen or a placebo and measured effects on different measures of positive empathy while participants read scenarios about the uplifting experiences of other people. Results showed that acetaminophen reduced personal pleasure and other-directed empathic feelings in response to these scenarios.

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“Canada and parts of northern Europe..”

Mosquito-Spread Diseases May Endanger Millions In New Places (G.)

Half a billion more people could be at risk from mosquito-transmitted diseases within 30 years as a result of the warming climate, according to a new study. Canada and parts of northern Europe could be newly exposed to the threat. People there could come into contact with yellow fever, Zika, dengue and chikungunya, as well as other emerging diseases. The study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, finds that humans could prevent the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes if they aggressively take actions to combat global warming. Sadie Ryan, a co-author from the University of Florida, said the study and the maps it produced could help policymakers and medical professionals understand where the bugs and their diseases might move.


“As you move into a hotter world, the places that get really hot are going to have all kinds of other vulnerabilities with them,” Ryan said. “Having studies like this that say, hey, this is potentially where these things can show up is going to be one tool in a big tool box.” Currently, a little more than six billion people are in climates where the two mosquitoes studied can live for a month or more each year. But as climate change pushes milder weather toward the poles, new regions become hospitable to them. One of the mosquitoes studied, the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, thrives in a warmer climate. But another, the tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, prefers it cooler. So the researchers determined what different levels of rising temperatures would mean for the spread of both. They found thatif the world only moderately stalls rising temperatures, it’s possible both mosquitoes might do well, presenting a conundrum for climate-health planners.

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Everything’s in decline that lives.

Skin-Eating Fungal Disease Wipes Out 90 Amphibian Species In 50 Years (G.)

A deadly disease that wiped out global populations of amphibians led to the decline of 500 species in the past 50 years, including 90 extinctions, scientists say. A global research effort, led by the Australian National University, has for the first time quantified the worldwide impact of chytridiomycosis, or chytrid fungus, a fungal disease that eats away at the skin of amphibians. The disease was first discovered in 1998 by researchers at James Cook University in Queensland investigating the cause of mysterious, mass amphibian deaths. Chytridiomycosis is caused by two fungal species, both of which are likely to have originated in Asia, and their spread has been facilitated by humans through activities such as the legal and illegal pet trade.


Forty-two researchers worked on the new study, published in Science on Friday, which pinpoints the extent of the disease and how devastating it has been for frog, toad and salamander species. They found evidence that at least 501 species had declined as a result of chytrid fungus and 90 of those were presumed or confirmed extinct. “The results are pretty astounding” Benjamin Scheele, a research fellow at the ANU and the project’s lead researcher, said. “We’ve known that chytrid is really bad for the better part of two decades but actually researching and quantifying those declines, that’s what this study does.” The scientists identified declines in amphibian species in Europe, Africa, Central and South America and Australia because of the disease. Scheele said there were no declines in Asia because species had evolved to be naturally resistant.

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The sadness is deafening.

Rare Sight Of An Animal On The Brink Of Extinction (AFP)

Three rare Sumatran tiger cubs ventured into public view for the first time Friday in what Sydney zookeepers called a “wonderful success” for the future of the critically endangered species. Two female cubs — Mawar, which means “rose” in Indonesian, and Tengah Malam (“midnight”) — and their brother Pemanah (“archer”) were allowed outside their closed dens to explore the more natural outdoor tiger compound at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Zookeeper Louise Ginman said the move from the dens to the outdoors for the cubs, which were born on January 17, posed a challenge for their mother, Kartika. “Now that they are moving about a larger space and learning to climb terrain, she will have a much harder time controlling them,” Ginman said.

Sumatran tigers are classified as critically endangered, with as few as 350 remaining in patches of forest on the Indonesia island of Sumatra, where their natural habitat has been devastated by illegal wildlife trade and jungle clearing for palm oil plantations. “This birth is such a wonderful success for the conservation of this fragile species, and I am so excited that we can now invite guests to share our joy,” Gilman said. “It’s such a shock that these three little cubs represent one per cent of the remaining wild population, but with zoo-based conservation programs worldwide and the support of our guests here in Sydney, there’s still hope for the future of this species,” she said.

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Burn a candle.

A Year of Silencing Julian Assange (Vos)

One year ago Thursday, Ecuador’s government under President Lenin Moreno silenced Julian Assange. WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter Wednesday: “… March 28, marks one year that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been illegally gagged from doing journalism—any writing that expresses a ‘political opinion’? even on his own treatment, after pressure from the U.S. on Ecuador.” On this date in 2018 Moreno imposed on Assange what Human Rights Watch’s legal counsel Dinah Pokempner described as looking “more and more like solitary confinement.” Moreno cut off Assange’s online access and restricted visitors to the Ecuador embassy in London where Assange has had legal political asylum since 2012.

Moreno cited Assange’s critical social media remarks about Ecuador’s allies, the U.S. and Spain. Assange’s near-total isolation, with the exception of visits from legal counsel during week days, has been augmented by the Ecuadorian government’s imposition of a complex “protocol,” which, although eased slightly in recent months in respect of visits allowed, has not improved Assange’s overall status over the last 12 months. In some respects, it seems to have worsened. [..] On Thursday Ecuador’s foreign minister threatened additional “‘firm and sustained’ measures against Assange after @WikiLeaks reports on the @INAPapers offshore scandal involving the president and his brother,” WikiLeaks tweeted.


[..] The end of the collusion conspiracy theory came as a victory for Assange and WikiLeaks. Special Counsel Robert Mueller made it clear there would be no indictments against either for their roles during the 2016 election. However, the damage has been significant, with Assange unable to comment and WikiLeaks saddled with residual, unresolved smears. Over the last three years, cable news pundits endlessly vilified WikiLeaks and Assange by claiming the publisher coordinated with the Trump presidential campaign and became an instrument of the Kremlin in 2016.

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