Aug 312019
 


Salvador Dali Cabaret scene 1922

 

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)
Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)
China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)
Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)
UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)
Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)
Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)
Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)
Fish Fry (Kunstler)
WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

 

 

Inevitable.

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)

Protesters in Hong Kong have occupied major roads in several districts on Saturday (Aug 31) amid tighter security as authorities prepare for possible violence after demonstrations have gone ahead despite a ban. As demonstrators flooded roads in the popular Causeway Bay shopping district, the civic district in Admiralty, Wan Chai and the Central business district – a nearly 3km stretch – police issued several warnings for the crowd to disperse. Armed with umbrellas in muggy rainy weather, tens of thousands marched on the roads shouting slogans including “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”.

Security in the city has been ramped up this weekend, with huge water-filled barricades set up around the buildings next to Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Ying Pun – a previous target of some hardcore protesters. Roads in the area have been blocked to cut off access to the office. The police’s new anti-riot water cannons, which were deployed for the first time in Tsuen Wan last Sunday, were also spotted in the area. [..] In an alert to residents in the city, police on Saturday morning warned the public of “severe disruptions” ahead of a “public event this afternoon”.


Fresh calls on Saturday morning circulating via messaging app Telegram urged netizens to assemble in Causeway Bay at 2pm. This follows calls circulated on social media on Friday for people to join a Christian gathering at Wan Chai and to march to Central and Upper Albert Road. By 1pm, thousands have gathered at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai chanting “Hong Kong, gah yau”, or “Hong Kong, keep it up”, as they started marching despite police warnings against unauthorised protests.

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Encrypted spying.

Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)

Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, will allow users to cloak their telephone numbers to safeguard Hong Kong protesters against monitoring by authorities, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. The update to Telegram, planned for release over the next few days, will allow protesters to prevent mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities from discovering their identities in the app’s large group chats. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau told Reuters it has “been acting responsibly to deal with the current difficult time with a view to restoring the public order”. It declined to comment about whether it had tried to identify protesters by using the Telegram app.

[..] Thousands of Hong Kong protesters take their cues from more than 100 groups on Telegram, according to protest organizers and supporters. Protesters use encrypted apps like Telegram to mobilize swiftly through multiple group chats, with less risk of police infiltration, an in-depth report published by Reuters earlier this month said. The groups are used to post everything from news on upcoming protests to tips on dousing tear gas canisters fired by the police to the identities of suspected undercover police and the access codes to buildings in Hong Kong where protesters can hide.


Some protesters express concern that authorities could use the movement’s reliance on Telegram to monitor and arrest organizers. Telegram chat groups used to organize public protests are often accessible to anyone and participants use pseudonyms. Telegram allows users to search for other users by uploading phone numbers. This function allows a new user to quickly learn whether those in a phone’s contact book are already using the app, the group said. Some protesters say they believe Chinese or Hong Kong security officials have exploited the function by uploading large quantities of phone numbers.

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“Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August..”

China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)

Factory activity in China shrank in August for the fourth month in a row as the United States ramped up trade pressure and domestic demand remained sluggish, pointing to a further slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. Persistent weakness in China’s vast manufacturing sector could fuel expectations that Beijing needs to roll out stimulus more quickly, and more aggressively, to weather the biggest downturn in decades. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 in August, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, versus 49.7 in July, below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.


The official factory gauge showed growing trade frictions with the United States and cooling global demand continued to wreak havoc on China’s exporters. Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August, although at a slower pace, with the sub-index picking up to 47.2 from July’s 46.9. Total new orders – from home and abroad – also continued to fall, indicating domestic demand remains soft, despite a flurry of growth-boosting measures over the past year. Manufacturers in consumption-oriented industries such as the auto sector have been especially vulnerable. Carmakers such as Geely and Great Wall have slashed expectations for sales and profits. The data showed activity at medium and small-sized firms contracted, even as large manufacturers, many backed by the government, managed to expand in August.

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Links tariffs to Hong Kong.

Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)

US President Donald Trump confirmed Friday that steep new tariffs on Chinese goods will kick in on Sunday and said that his economic pressure is forcing Beijing to take a more moderate line in Hong Kong. “They’re on,” Trump told reporters, two days before the levies on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports are set to rise in the latest escalation of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Trump also said that US economic pressure on China was responsible for preventing the authorities from carrying out a harsher crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. “Because of what I’m doing with trade that’s really keeping down the temperature,” he said at the White House.

Trump’s tough line — and his claim that events in Hong Kong are linked to the trade war — follows his insistence over the last week that Chinese negotiators are keener than ever to strike a deal. However, despite repeated hints that high-level communications have been reopened on the standoff, White House officials have sparked skepticism by failing to provide details of those reported talks. His confirmation that the new tariffs will go ahead underlines the reality that the two sides remain at loggerheads.


[..] His comments on Hong Kong could touch political nerves in China, which bristles at anything it sees as outside interference in the restive city. Asked if he saw a connection between the way the Chinese respond to the unrest and the difficulties their economy faces under US pressure, Trump said: “I do, I do.” “If it weren’t for the trade talks Hong Kong would be in much more trouble,” he said, reiterating a call for Beijing to “handle it in a humane fashion.”

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“..up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais..”

UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)

Government officials this week warned food industry leaders that supplies of liquid egg could run out if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a Brexit deal in October. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week publicly dismissed warnings that there would be food shortages, telling Sky News that it is “highly unlikely” that food stocks would dry up. However, officials in the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs privately warned industry leaders that delays at the border risked causing a shortage of liquid egg, much of which is imported from the EU to make a large variety of food products in the UK.


Liquid egg is egg removed from its shell before being sold to manufacturers, which use it as an ingredient in a range of goods, including cakes, pastries, and sauces. When transported in bulk and sold to the food industry, it has a shelf life of two to three days, according to the European Food Safety Authority. [..] Industry figures were told that in a no-deal Brexit scenario, the government expected that up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais, with some lorries potentially having to wait up to two days before crossing the Channel. This in turn would disrupt the flow of liquid egg, plus other foods like soft fruit and vegetables, reaching the UK.

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Encryption? What encryptioin?

Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)

The potential impact of the latest attack on iPhones is massive, not to mention hugely concerning for every user of Apple’s famous smartphone. That simply visiting a website can lead to your iPhone being hacked silently by some unknown party is worrying enough. But given that, according to Google researchers, it’s possible for the hackers to access encrypted messages on WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram and others, the attacks undermine the security promised by those apps. It’s a stark reminder that should Apple’s iOS be compromised by hidden malware, encryption can be entirely undone. Own the operating system, own everything inside.

Among the trove of data released by Google researcher Ian Beer on the attacks was detail on the “monitoring implant” hackers installed on the iPhone. He noted that it had access to all the database files on the victim’s phone used by those end-to-end encrypted apps. Those databases “contain the unencrypted, plain-text of the messages sent and received using the apps.” The implant would also enable hackers to snoop on Gmail and Google Hangouts, contacts and photos. The hackers could also watch where users were going with a live GPS location tracker. And the malware stole the “keychain” where passwords, such as those for all remembered Wi-Fi points, are stored.


Shockingly, according to Beer, the hackers didn’t even bother encrypting the data they were stealing, making a further mockery of encrypted apps. “Everything is in the clear. If you’re connected to an unencrypted Wi-Fi network, this information is being broadcast to everyone around you, to your network operator and any intermediate network hops to the command and control server,” the Google researcher wrote. “This means that not only is the end-point of the end-to-end encryption offered by messaging apps compromised; the attackers then send all the contents of the end-to-end encrypted messages in plain text over the network to their server.” Beer’s ultimate assessment is sobering: “The implant has access to almost all of the personal information available on the device, which it is able to upload, unencrypted, to the attacker’s server.”

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Slow.

Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)

This certainly doesn’t inspire confidence. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey experienced a major security breach affecting his Twitter account on Friday before the Labor Day weekend. At about 3:45 p.m. ET, Dorsey’s Twitter account began broadcasting several vulgar tweets including those that contained ethnic slurs such as the N-word, as well as the suggestion a bomb had been placed at Twitter headquarters, and used the hashtag ChucklingSquad. In a statement, Twitter said that it is “aware that Jack was compromised and investigating what happened.” It’s not that unusual for someone’s Twitter account to get hacked. In June 2016, the company famously experienced a major security breach that involving hackers taking over accounts of many of its top users such as Katy Perry, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kylie Jenner.


But what’s most surprising about this latest hack is that the tweets, most of which were crafted specifically to be offensive or alarming, remained on the network for a whole 18 minutes after they were initially tweeted. Jack Dorsey’s unauthorized tweets were broadcast to more than 4 million users and sent Twitter into a frenzy, with many actively tagging Twitter Security and Twitter Communications, hoping to alert them to the problem. It’s unclear how the account was hacked, but the unauthorized tweets were apparently sent from Cloudhopper, a service that Twitter bought in 2010 to improve SMS service. Whether this service is at fault remains to be determined.

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John Solomon is angry.

Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)

A major headline from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) latest inspector general report is that fired FBI Director James Comey mishandled classified information. But you’d never know it from most of the day-after media reporting on the historic findings. The internal DOJ watchdog documented, irrefutably, that Comey leaked the contents of a classified memo to his legal team, first orally and then by providing a copy of the document. Some of the memo’s content was then leaked to a media organization by one of his lawyers. I first reported this when sources contacted me in late July and told me the inspector general (IG) had referred Comey to the Justice Department for possible prosecution for mishandling classified information.

Attorney General William Barr’s team declined to bring charges. My reporting was directly confirmed when the IG released its final report Thursday. The information I laid out in my July 31 column was laid bare in the IG report’s official timeline. IG Michael Horowitz declared Comey’s conduct so egregious that it created a “dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.” For some reason, not one but two Washington Post columns have emerged, suggesting I misled readers. Media critic Erik Wemple suggested I had “slimed” Comey. Another columnist, Aaron Blake, suggested my reporting led to a misleading narrative on Fox News.


When confronted like this, a professional journalist has an obligation: Either retract and correct what you got wrong, or show the public the facts that affirm the reporting. I will do the latter.

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“I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump..”

Fish Fry (Kunstler)

[..] certain remorseless legal machinery has been set in motion now that could send a whole boardroom of former Obama administration higher-ups into disgrace, infamy, and possibly the federal slammer. Think: former CIA Director John Brennan in his future role as ping-pong round-robin manager at the Allenwood, PA, penitentiary; Loretta Lynch paring turnips at Camp Alderson, WV; James Clapper trying to catch a little tan in the ‘yard’ at Lompoc…. Somewhere along the line, someone is going to point a finger at Mr. Obama and those who were around him in the dear dead days of 2016.

There’s no precedent for this, of course, not even the case of ole Tricky Dick Nixon, who never had to take a witness chair in the Watergate matter and received a pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, which made the whole tiresome business go away pronto. Wouldn’t it be a kind of poetic justice if Mr. Trump had to do the same for Mr. Obama? The New York Times would surely find a way to spin that as “racist.” CNN would declare war on FlyoverLand and send Don Lemon to Kentucky in a Lincoln Navigator with a light-saber to subdue the Ku Klux Klan and the satanic hosts of White Supremacy. Well, you see how easily this country could lose its shit.

In the meantime, cries of consternation rise from Right at the DOJ’s demurral to actually indict Mr. Comey on any of the charges listed rather explicitly in the new report. The explanation goes something like this: Comey gave an official FBI memo of his own composition to pal (and attorney) Daniel Richman, and instructed him to leak the contents (though not the memo itself) to a New York Times reporter. The memo involved recollections of a one-to-one meeting with Mr. Trump in which the case of General Flynn came up, with Mr. Trump making the case that there was nothing illegal about the National Security Advisor speaking with the Russian ambassador — since, after all, that is precisely what ambassadors from foreign lands are in Washington to do.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump — before the president grokked that he was being personally set-up for an obstruction-of-justice rap and issued Mr. Comey a pink slip. In sum, this particular matter amounted to a rinky-dink charge, where Mr. Barr’s prosecutors are concerned, compared to the greater and darker matter of Mr. Comey’s role in defrauding the FISA judges to get warrants to spy on US citizens. That will likely be Mr. Comey’s true Waterloo. So, he greeted this week’s IG report with a smarmy Twitter tweet celebrating his imagined “exoneration.” Imagine instead what his cortisol level will be in the months ahead as he awaits further moves by Messrs Barr, Durham, and IG Horowitz.

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Insulting millions of people who died in the war.

WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

Having US and former Axis leaders attend the 80th anniversary of WWII, but not inviting Russia, shows the event in Poland has nothing to do with paying respects to history, and everything to do with present-day politics. The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 is universally considered as the start of the Second World War. To mark 80 years since that fateful date, the Polish authorities have chosen to invite “present allies and partners in NATO and the EU” to a commemoration that has been moved to Warsaw for the occasion. This means US Vice President Mike Pence will be at the ceremony, alongside the leaders of many countries that were members of the Axis during the war – from Germany and Italy to Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania. Yet Russia will not be welcome.


For the past week the media in both Poland and the West have harped on about the non-aggression pact signed by the USSR and Germany on August 23, 1939 and known as Molotov-Ribbentrop, after their respective foreign ministers. The pact “doomed half of Europe to decades of misery,” argued the governments of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania this week, pointing out that its anniversary has since been declared the “European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes,” by which they mean “Nazism and Stalinism.” It’s a bit baffling the Latvians are complaining about Nazism, actually, since they keep celebrating their participation in the Waffen-SS. As for the Romanians, would those “victims” include their 3rd and 4th Armies that got crushed at Stalingrad? Which, for the geographically challenged, is about 1,500 kilometers east of the Romanian border…

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Aug 082019
 


Edward Hopper Ground swell 1939

 

The US government has to come up with very very strong legislation for social media, and it has to do that very soon. Because if it doesn’t, it risks those same social media inciting a civil war (that’s no hyperbole, that is real) on American soil.

And beyond as well, but as Donald Trump said about European efforts to curtail Twitter, Facebook et al’s activities, they’re American companies and hence America’s responsibility. Well, cool, but that means you have to do your job, and you ain’t doing it. Those EU efforts by the way were all about financial issues, tax paying etc., not inciting civil wars or being undemocratic. In short, Brussels doesn’t get it yet either.

Now, the Automatic Earth was kicked off Facebook years ago and never received an explanation for why an account with 1000s of followers was just choked in the bud, so I can’t be expected to celebrate its great achievements for mankind. We still have a Twitter account, but how much longer after I post this essay? There’s no telling, and that is the heart of the entire issue. If I, or you, say anything that anyone at these companies don’t like, they can ban us.

Facebook and Twitter continue to operate on the notion that they are private companies who are entitled to ban anyone they don’t like. In the case of Facebook, that covers half the world population. It’s like running the UN as a private enterprise. And it’s not even the owners or the board, they don’t have time to check who they like or not. Instead, they have hired 10s of 1000s of young -because cheap- kids to do the (shadow-) banning for them.

The companies are all based in Silicon Valley, i.e. California, i.e. NOT Trump territory, and the cheap young kids hired to decide what people can and cannot say on their so-called private platforms reflect that territory and its ideas. But Washington can no longer tolerate that. It must act now. The question is: will it?

 

Why wouldn’t it? Because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al have become the US Intelligence’s dream tools to spy on their own people as well as those abroad. The CIA couldn’t even ever have dreamt of a platform that encompasses 3.5 billion people. But Mark Zuckerberg handed it to them on a platter. My idea is Trump would love to go against them, because they go against him and his voters, but US Intelligence, CIA, FBI, may be holding him back from it. Bad, bad idea.

Picked up Charles Nenner on his war cycles at Greg Hunter’s USA Watchdog site, and I wasn’t terribly convinced at first sight, but that was before I read about Mitch McConnell being threatened at his own house.

 

Civil War Cycle Heating up in America

“Years ago when we talked about my war cycles, I said I am more worried about internal social war in the United States than outside wars. I think there is a bigger chance in the United States than in Europe. They say it’s Trump’s fault . . . . I say it’s the other way around. If the Democrats would just get things organized and people would not get that angry. . . . The media will always take the other side, so they will never solve it. I think it is the Democrats whose fault it is that all these killings are there and not the Republicans. . . .


So, there is a cycle of social unrest in the United States, which is 60 years old. So, you go back to what happened in the 1960’s. It could explode, and I think it is going to explode, and there is going to be a major problem. . . . I don’t know how bad it is going to be, but based on cycles, it has to be worse than the 1960’s. Each cycle always is worse. . . . WWII was worse than WWI, so every cycle becomes worse than the first cycle. . . . I don’t feel comfortable living in the United States anymore because people are so aggressive on everything.

Nenner also talks in that piece about how he visited Putin, who is interested in the war cycles idea, so maybe I should read up on those war cycles.

But that Mitch McConnell story interferes and disperses into the whole tale. There apparently were groups of people outside his home, caught on video, who were calling for him to be violently attacked. And when his campaign posted a video of these people on Twitter, the campaign’s account was shut down.

 

“Just Stab The Motherfu*ker”: Twitter Suspends McConnell Campaign For Posting Video Of Violent Threats

“I just want him to have a stroke, that is all,” the woman added. “One of those heart attacks where they can’t breathe, and they’re holding their chest and they fall backwards” “He’s in there nursing his broken arm. He should have broken his raggedy, wrinkled-ass neck,” she said at one point in the video. “Everybody needs to show up wherever this ho is at and make him just regret his fucking life, period,” she added. At one point in the protest, a male protester commenting on McConnell’s recent injury said that he may have been the victim of a “voodoo doll” curse. -Daily Caller


Kevin Golden, McConnell’s 2020 campaign manager noted that “Twitter will allow the words of ‘Massacre Mitch’ to trend nationally on their platform, but locks our account for posting actual threats against us.” Golden says that they appealed to Twitter, which stood by their decision, saying that the account will remain locked until they delete the video. Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra was similarly locked out of his Twitter account for posting the video. “Twitter asked me yesterday to delete this tweet,” Saavedra recounted in a massive tweetstorm. “It showed a person allegedly calling for violence against Mitch McConnell. The person appears to be a BLM activist who has met with Elizabeth Warren.”

And I know, people are going to react to this saying: Oh, it’s Daily Caller, Mitch McConnell, Ryan Saveedra, it’s right wing, but that is so far beyond the point it disqualifies you from any conversation at all. Mitch McConnell, aka MoscowMitch or MassacreMitch, is very far removed from being my favorite person on the planet, but he’s the Senate Majority Leader, and as such an important part of the American political system.

If you don’t like that, there’s a mechanism to express that: the ballot box. Calling for him to be physically attacked right outside the place where he and his family live is not done. Unless perhaps you want the same to happen to you at your residence. But you don’t, do you?

This has nothing to do with left vs right anymore. This is about people who have convinced themselves they are so right in their ideas that anything at all is justified to get their views and their points across, including violence. Well, there’s the seeds of your civil war then.

Now, note that this started well over 3 years ago with the invention out of thin air of Russiagate. Now that that ‘theory’ has been debunked, where are the inventors, i.e. losers, going to hide? Apparently in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home.

And what’s next? Right-wing protesters setting up camp outside Mark Zuckerberg’s home, or Adam Schiff’s, Jerry Nadler’s, Elijah Cummings’? We may not be that far removed from that happening. And if it does, Facebook and Twitter will be crucial in organizing it.

Which is why Trump and AG Bill Barr must come up with very strong rules, very soon, defining what social media are allowed to do and what not. And barring Mitch McConnell’s campaign from posting direct threats to the man uttered mere feet away from where he lives doesn’t seem to be the way forward.

The Age of -corporate- Innocence that Zuck and @jack keep trying to hide behind while counting their billions has long gone. They have become bigger political players than the New York Times, CNN and Jeff Bezos. Stop them now or you risk the 2020 elections leading to outright warfare. Mr. Trump, sir, this is your responsibility more than anyone else’s. You have no choice. But you do have the power.

Not many Americans, far as I can see, take the threat of a civil war seriously, including you, Mr. Trump. But you really should. Take on the social media, and you’re halfway there to preventing it.

 

 

 

 

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


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

 

 

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

 

 

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

The Ham of Fate (Fintan O’Toole)

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

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

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

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

Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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@Jack has gone into politics. Bad move.

Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Or is that the Liberals?

Are Libertarians the New Neocons? (Daniel McAdams)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Voyage (Kunstler)

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


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

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Jul 102019
 


Pablo Picasso Guernica [Study] V 1937

 

Jeffrey Epstein Shipped Himself A 53-Pound Shredder (Grim)
Doubts Over Deutsche Bank Turnaround Plan Dent Shaky Shares (R.)
Trump’s Twitter Blocking Violates Constitution – Appeals Court (CNN)
Ocasio-Cortez Sued Over Twitter Blocks (Hill)
Facebook’s New Policy Says It’s OK to Post Death Threats Against Me (PJW)
EU Subsidy Loss ‘Could Wipe Out UK Farms’ Like The Coal Industry (BBC)
UK, France To Send Forces To Syria … But Americans Will Pay (RT)
U.S Wants Military Coalition To Safeguard Waters Off Iran, Yemen (R.)
US Urges Turkey To Halt Drilling Operations Off Cyprus Coast (R.)
EU To Cut Contacts, Aid To Turkey Over Cyprus Drilling Violations (K.)
Turkey Rejects Greek, EU Claims That Drilling Off Cyprus Illegitimate (R.)
Holland Covers Hundreds Of Bus Stops With Plants As Gift To Honeybees (Ind.)
David Attenborough: Polluting Planet May Become As Reviled As Slavery (G.)
Glacial Melting In Antarctica May Become Irreversible (G.)

 

 

The news will be all over Epstein for a long time to come. This overview from Ryan Grim is as good as the next one. We must wait till details start leaking out. Trump Labor Sec. Acosta will be gone, but who else pops up?

Jeffrey Epstein Shipped Himself A 53-Pound Shredder (Grim)

Jeffrey Epstein shipped a shredder from the U.S. Virgin Islands to his Palm Beach home in July 2008, shortly after reaching a non-prosecution agreement with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, maritime records show. Then, in March of this year, shortly after a Florida federal judge invalidated that agreement, Epstein shipped a tile and carpet extractor from the Virgin Islands to his Manhattan townhouse, the records show. Epstein, a billionaire financier, was arrested in New Jersey last Saturday on charges of running a sex trafficking ring that involved luring underage girls to his New York and Florida residences, and taking them on global flights on his airplane, dubbed the “Lolita Express.”

Epstein was first accused of abusing underage girls, some of them as young as 14, more than a decade ago, and he evaded prosecution potentially due to his high-profile connections. A key challenge investigators faced when first targeting Epstein in the mid-2000s was an inability to obtain evidence through subpoena. A 2005 search of Epstein’s Palm Beach home came up empty in its quest for computers that investigators suspected contained critical evidence connected to his alleged sexual abuse of young girls. In 2007, a federal grand jury subpoenaed the computers. That August, Acosta, who is now Donald Trump’s labor secretary, entered into plea agreement discussions with Epstein.

Because of those talks, a motion to compel production of Epstein’s computers was delayed, according to the Miami Herald. Epstein held out, however, resisting the deal because it would require him to register as a sex offender. The FBI continued investigating and in March 2008, according to the Miami Herald, preparations were being made to take the case to a new federal grand jury. That would prove unnecessary, as Epstein agreed to a deal with Acosta. Without notifying the 32 identified victims, the federal government reached a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein in exchange for his guilty plea in state court to a minor offense. He pleaded guilty on June 30.

On July 7, 2008, federal prosecutors told Epstein’s attorneys via email that they intended to notify the 32 victims about the agreement. Epstein’s lawyers and the prosecutors debated how much of the agreement to reveal, settling on a less than full accounting. A week later, on July 15, Epstein received a shipment at his Palm Beach home from the port in the U.S. Virgin Islands closest to his home there, according to maritime shipping records compiled by ImportGenius and provided to The Intercept. The shipment was a 53-pound shredder.

For the next decade, Epstein’s legal troubles appeared to be behind him. Then, in November 2018, the Miami Herald published a new investigation into Epstein’s alleged child sex trafficking ring, which prompted federal investigators to take a new look at the case. However, the agreement not to prosecute first had to be invalidated. That came on February 21, when a Florida federal judge ruled that Acosta’s office had violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by keeping the women in the dark.

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They’re on “on a week-long roadshow to explain the restructuring”?! What century is this?

Doubts Over Deutsche Bank Turnaround Plan Dent Shaky Shares (R.)

Deutsche Bank shares extended losses on Tuesday on investor doubts that its chief executive can revive the lender by shrinking the investment bank and returning to its roots as banker to corporate Germany. Christian Sewing, CEO for just over a year, and his finance chief are on a week-long roadshow to explain the restructuring. To underline his commitment, Sewing plans to invest a quarter of his fixed salary — around 820,000 euros — in Deutsche shares, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Deutsche’s stock price has fallen 10 percent since Sunday’s restructuring announcement to cut 18,000 jobs in a 7.4 billion euro ($8.3 billion) “reinvention”. It is the biggest two-day decline in almost three years.


By 1312 GMT, shares were down 3.8% on the day, after sliding as much as 6.5% earlier. The bank’s bonds also fell. Analysts and investors say Sewing, who joined Deutsche Bank in 1989, is right to cut back its trading desks but question if he can make his plan work when interest rates are still low and U.S. banks have expanded their share of the German market. “There seems to be some concerns around the plan details, particularly the ability for the bank to retain revenues while cutting costs,” one of the bank’s top 25 shareholders told Reuters, citing worries the bank would need fresh equity to execute Sewing’s plan.

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But if this applies to Trump, who’s next?

Trump’s Twitter Blocking Violates Constitution – Appeals Court (CNN)

An appeals court said Tuesday that President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking users on Twitter. The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a New York judge’s ruling and found that Trump “engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by utilizing Twitter’s ‘blocking’ function to limit certain users’ access to his social media account, which is otherwise open to the public at large, because he disagrees with their speech.” “We hold that he engaged in such discrimination,” the ruling adds. The judges on the appeals court concluded that “the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”


The challenge to Trump’s unprecedented use of Twitter in office came from seven individuals he blocked, as well as the Knight First Amendment Institute, which argued that the President’s personal account is an extension of his office. The Justice Department argued in March that the President wasn’t “wielding the power” of the federal government when he blocked certain individuals from his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, because while the President sends tweets in his official capacity, he blocks users as a personal matter. But the appeals court disagreed with that view.

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The goose and the gander.

Ocasio-Cortez Sued Over Twitter Blocks (Hill)

One former Democratic state lawmaker and one Republican congressional hopeful announced this week that they are suing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) over being blocked from her personal Twitter account. Former state assemblyman Dov Hikind (D) and congressional candidate Joseph Saladino, who is running in a Republican primary for the chance to battle Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), announced lawsuits this week against the freshman Democratic congresswoman, seeking injunctive relief in the form of a court order demanding they be unblocked. Saladino announced in a press release that he had filed suit in the Southern District of New York, while Hikind told Fox News that he had filed his claim in the state’s Eastern District.

“I have officially filed my lawsuit against AOC for blocking me on twitter,” Saladino tweeted. “Trump is not allowed to block people, will the standards apply equally? Stay tuned to find out!” “If we can’t talk to one another, the whole system breaks down,” Saladino added in his press release. “Look what is happening in my district when entrenched NeverTrumpers are confronted by America First ideas. Like it or not we live in the same city and we need to be professional.” In an interview with Fox News, Hikind pointed to a recent court ruling declaring that President Trump is not allowed to block critics from his official Twitter account because of his status as a public official as legal precedent for his claim.

“Just today the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that elected officials cannot block individuals from their Twitter accounts, thereby setting a precedent that Ocasio-Cortez must follow,” Hikind told the network. “Twitter is a public space, and all should have access to the government officials on it.”

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Think of Paul Joseph Watson what you like, but this is insane. Time to tackle Zuck.

Facebook’s New Policy Says It’s OK to Post Death Threats Against Me (PJW)

Facebook has issued a new policy update saying it’s acceptable to post death threats and incite violence against me, despite this being a crime in the United Kingdom. No, I’m not joking. A Community Standards update published by Facebook states (emphasis mine); “Do not post: Threats that could lead to death (and other forms of high-severity violence) of any target(s) where threat is defined as any of the following: “Statements of intent to commit high-severity violence; or Calls for high-severity violence (unless the target is an organization or individual covered in the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy)….”

Back in May, Facebook and Instagram banned me under the justification that I was a “dangerous individual”. They provided no evidence whatsoever that I had behaved in a “dangerous” manner or violated any of their policies. Facebook has designated me a “dangerous individual” and now says it’s acceptable for its users to issue death threats against me. This is a crime in the United Kingdom under the 1988 Malicious Communications Act which states, “Any person who sends to another person a letter, electronic communication or article of any description which conveys….a threat….is guilty of an offence.” The largest social media company in the world with over 2 billion users literally says its fine to incite violence against me, despite this being illegal. They are painting a target on my back.

[..] Two months ago, via my lawyers, I filed a Subject Access Request demanding Facebook turn over all information relating to me. Facebook has yet to respond to this request, despite it being a legal requirement to respond within 30 days. If and when Facebook ever responds to this legal demand, the next step will be to begin litigation proceedings. The fact that Facebook has literally said it’s OK to incite violence against me is going to be a very interesting potential addition to those proceedings.

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Maybe the coal industry is not the best example in the time of climate crisis.

EU Subsidy Loss ‘Could Wipe Out UK Farms’ Like The Coal Industry (BBC)

With three months to go before the UK could leave the European Union (EU), farmers say they still face uncertainty about future subsidy levels. Last year farmers received £3.5bn in financial support through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). One farmer from York said he feared farms could soon be “wiped out like the coal industry”. The government said farmers had been told subsidy levels would be maintained until the next general election. But the National Audit Office said farmers had been left unable to plan for the future and the main farming union called for “cast-iron commitments” from the government. CAP funding is one of the EU’s biggest policies with a Europe-wide budget worth more than £50bn a year.


The subsidies are designed to support the farming industry and help farmers and landowners maintain their land. Some farmers have said without long-term guarantees about future subsidy levels, farms could disappear from the landscape. “We could be wiped out like the coal industry,” said Roger Hobson, whose 4,500-acre farm near York qualifies for a subsidy worth £100,000 a year. “This is not just about growing food, these subsidies help us improve the landscape and protect endangered species. “What we fear is that in the future the farm industry will have to go to the government and compete for funding alongside the NHS and other public services. “In that situation the government is always going to pick the NHS over farmers.”

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Don’t.

UK, France To Send Forces To Syria … But Americans Will Pay (RT)

With US President Donald Trump hungry for a withdrawal from Syria, a new report claims Britain and France will send their own forces to pick up the slack, along with other allies. But the swap will cost Washington. Between 1,000 and 2,000 American troops are presently stationed in northeastern Syria, supporting anti-government Kurdish fighters. However, as the US looks to wind down its presence in Syria, the Trump administration has looked to its allies to pick up the slack. Germany rebuffed a request for ground troops on Monday, citing “well known” German policy. Britain and France, on the other hand, are willing to heed Washignton’s call, according to a new report from Foreign Policy.


Both countries have a limited number of special forces on the ground in Syria, and will commit to a troop increase of between 10 and 15 percent to allow the US to withdraw. President Trump is no fan of outsourcing American jobs to foreigners, so why have Britain and France to do America’s dirty work? Well, for one thing, it’ll silence saber-rattlers like John Bolton. Trump announced the US’ complete withdrawal from Syria in December, a country that he said at the time was “sand and death.” The move was seen as a return to the non-interventionist platform he touted during his election campaign, when he mused “why aren’t we letting ISIS go and fight Assad and then we pick up the remnants?”

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Yeah, we really need Europeans involved in the Saudi war on Yemen.

U.S Wants Military Coalition To Safeguard Waters Off Iran, Yemen (R.)

The United States hopes to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks, the top U.S. general said on Tuesday. Under the plan, which has only been finalized in recent days, the United States would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts for the military coalition. Allies would patrol waters near those U.S. command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation’s flags. Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, articulated those details to reporters following meetings on Tuesday about it with acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.


“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Dunford said. “And so I think probably over the next couple of weeks we’ll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we’ll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that’ll support that.” Iran has long threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes, if it was unable to export its oil, something U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has sought as a way to pressure Tehran to renegotiate a deal on its nuclear program.

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Or what? Sanctions? Erdogan is a wounded animal, beware.

US Urges Turkey To Halt Drilling Operations Off Cyprus Coast (R.)

The US State Department on Tuesday urged Turkish authorities to halt energy drilling operations off the Cypriot coast in the Mediterranean, a day after Cyprus protested a Turkish ship dropping anchor there. “This provocative step raises tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region,” a US State Department spokeswoman said in a statement. Turkey and the internationally recognized government of Cyprus have overlapping claims in that part of the Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich in natural gas.


Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has discovered natural gas in areas off the southern coast of the disputed island, though nothing has been extracted. Turkey contests the rights of Cyprus to explore for gas, sending its own drilling ships to stake claims around the island. Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed a Turkish ship arrived off the east coast of Cyprus earlier this week. Another Turkish vessel has been spotted off the west of Cyprus since early May. The Cypriot presidency on Monday accused Turkey of a “grave violation,” and an EU statement also rebuked the Turkish action.

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“Such action could target companies, individuals, and Turkey’s deep-sea hydrocarbon exploration and production sectors..”

EU To Cut Contacts, Aid To Turkey Over Cyprus Drilling Violations (K.)

The European Union is considering suspending most high-level contacts with Turkey and cut the flow of funds in protest of the Turkish drilling activities in the Cyprus EEZ, Bloomberg reports. A range of measures will reportedly be discussed by EU ministers on Wednesday in Brussels. One measure could limit the European Investment Bank’s sovereign-backed lending in Turkey and confirm a cut of some 146 million euros ($163 million) in aid for next year. The options proposed by the European Commission also include suspending all ministerial and leaders’ meetings, as well as ongoing talks between the two sides on an aviation agreement.


The European External Action Service would also advise member states to refrain from high-level contacts with Turkey. Bloomberg reports that EU leaders have sided with Cyprus in the dispute, declaring last month that they are ready to consider sanctions if Turkey continues drilling. Such action could target companies, individuals, and Turkey’s deep-sea hydrocarbon exploration and production sectors, though they aren’t currently on the menu of the commission’s proposals. The measures will likely be agreed Wednesday and approved by EU foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels next week.

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Turkey claims northern Cyprus is Turkish land.

Turkey Rejects Greek, EU Claims That Drilling Off Cyprus Illegitimate (R.)

Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it rejected statements by Greek and European Union officials that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate and said the EU could not be an impartial mediator on the Cyprus problem. The ministry said in a statement that Turkey’s Fatih ship had started drilling activities to the west of the Mediterranean island at the start of May and its Yavuz ship had recently arrived to the east of Cyprus and would conduct drilling activities.

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Sometimes it’s the simplest things. But when they start blabbing about “completely clean public transport”, you know they don’t really have a clue. A long struggle lies ahead.

Holland Covers Hundreds Of Bus Stops With Plants As Gift To Honeybees (Ind.)

The roofs of hundreds of bus stops have been covered in plants as a gift to honeybee, by a city in the Netherlands. Mainly made up of sedum plants, a total of 316 have been covered in greenery in Utrecht. The shelters not only support the city’s biodiversity, such as honey bees and bumblebees, but they also help capture fine dust and store rainwater. The roofs are looked after by workers who drive around in electric vehicles, and the bus stops have all been fitted with energy-efficient LED lights and bamboo benches.

The city aims to introduce 55 new electric buses by the end of the year and have “completely clean public transport” by 2028. The electricity used to power the buses will come directly from Dutch windmills. Utrecht also runs a scheme which allows residents to apply for funding to transform their own roofs into green roofs.

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He woke up late, but he did.

David Attenborough: Polluting Planet May Become As Reviled As Slavery (G.)

The attitude of young people towards tackling the environmental crisis is “a source of great hope”, David Attenborough has told MPs, as he predicted that polluting the planet would soon provoke as much abhorrence as slavery. Giving evidence to the business, energy and industrial strategy committee on how to tackle the climate emergency, the naturalist and TV presenter said radical action was required. Asked by the Tory MP Patrick McLoughlin, a committee member, whether the government’s new commitment of net zero carbon emissions for the UK by 2050 was rapid enough, Attenborough said such targets were not necessarily the best approach. “In a way I would think that is not the way of focusing on the problem,” he said.

“We cannot be radical enough in dealing with the issues that face us at the moment. The question is: what is practically possible? How can we take the electorate with us in dealing with these things?” He said: “The most encouraging thing that I see, of course, is that the electors of tomorrow are already making themselves and their voices very, very clear. And that is a source of great comfort in a way, but also the justification, the reality, that these young people are recognising that their world is the future. “I’m OK, and all of us here are OK, because we don’t face the problems that are coming. But the problems in the next 30 years are really major problems that are going to cause social unrest, and great changes in the way that we live, and what we eat. It’s going to happen.”

Asked by the Labour MP Vernon Coaker to expand on how public attitudes were shifting, Attenborough replied: “There was a time in the 19th century when it was perfectly acceptable for civilised human beings to think that it was morally acceptable to actually own another human being for a slave. And somehow or other, in the space of 20 or 30 years, the public perception of that totally transformed.” He said: “I suspect that we are right now in the beginning of a big change. Young people in particular are the stimulus that’s bringing it about.

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Not surte that talking about things that MIGHT happen in 600 years is very useful…

Glacial Melting In Antarctica May Become Irreversible (G.)

Antarctica faces a tipping point where glacial melting will accelerate and become irreversible even if global heating eases, research suggests. A Nasa-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier meant there would probably come a point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise. Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable. Recent research found the rate of ice loss from five Antarctic glaciers had doubled in six years and was five times faster than in the 1990s. Ice loss is spreading from the coast into the continent’s interior, with a reduction of more than 100 metres in thickness at some sites.

The Thwaites glacier, part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, is believed to pose the greatest risk for rapid future sea level rise. Research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found it was likely to succumb to instability linked to the retreat of its grounding line on the seabed that would lead to it shedding ice faster than previously expected. Alex Robel, an assistant professor at the US Georgia Institute of Technology and the study’s leader, said if instability was triggered, the ice sheet could be lost in the space of 150 years, even if temperatures stopped rising. “It will keep going by itself and that’s the worry,” he said.

Modelling simulations suggested extensive ice loss would start in 600 years but the researchers said it could occur sooner depending on the pace of global heating and nature of the instability. Hélène Seroussi, a jet propulsion laboratory scientist at Nasa, said: “It could happen in the next 200 to 600 years. It depends on the bedrock topography under the ice, and we don’t know it in great detail yet.”

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May 272019
 
 May 27, 2019  Posted by at 9:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Landscape 1928

 

Europe’s Biggest Blocs Lose Grip On Power (BBC)
Centrist Bloc Loses Majority In EU (CNBC)
UK Tories And Labour Savaged As Voters Take Brexit Revenge (G.)
Nigel Farage Demands A Seat At Brexit Talks (R.)
US Efforts To Jail Assange For Espionage Grave Threat To Media (Rusbridger)
S&P 500 Would Be 19% Lower Between 2011 And Q1 2019 Without Buybacks (CNBC)
Fiat Chrysler Puts Merger Offer To Renault Board (R.)
China’s Small Bank Bailouts Duck Bankruptcy Test (R.)
US Army Twitter Question Highlights Toll Of America’s Wars (AFP)
Peru, Colombia, Ecuador And Bolivia Denounce Decision On Amazon Domain (R.)
World’s Rivers ‘Awash With Dangerous Levels Of Antibiotics’ (G.)

 

 

They’ve managed to fool people into thinking this has relevance. Both big blocks lose bigly, but they will still deliver Juncker’s successor. And the Commission decides the big issues. Yawn.

Europe’s Biggest Blocs Lose Grip On Power (BBC)

The big centre-right and centre-left blocs in the European Parliament have lost their combined majority amid an increase in support for liberals, Greens and nationalists. The centre-right European People’s Party remains the largest bloc, and is expected to form a pro-EU coalition. The Liberals and Greens had a good night, while nationalists were set for victory in Italy and France. Turnout was the highest for 20 years, bucking decades of decline. Populists gained ground in some countries but fell short of the very significant gains some had predicted.


In the UK, the newly-formed Brexit Party claimed a big victory, and a strong performance by the Liberal Democrats came amid massive losses for the Conservatives and Labour. Analysts said the EPP was likely to form a “grand coalition” with the Socialists and Democrats bloc, with support from the Liberals and Greens. The turnout bucked a long trend of decline in voter numbers, rising to just under 51% of eligible voters across the 28 member states.

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751 overpaid lackeys.

Centrist Bloc Loses Majority In EU (CNBC)

The EU Parliament will be much more fragmented over the next five years with the established centrist bloc set to fall short of securing a majority at this week’s election, early results show. The current projection from the European parliament is that center-right and center-left blocks will end up with a total of 329 seats out of 751.The lack of a majority for the centrist bloc — the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the center-left Socialist and Democrats (S&D) which has held power in Brussels for several decades — could further complicate decision-making at the European Union.


Pro-EU parties will hold onto two-thirds of the seats at the EU Parliament, but their nationalist opponents have also produced solid results. Italy’s anti-immigration Lega party has reportedly secured 28 seats, essentially doubling its level of national support. Euroskeptic groups in France and the U.K. look to have held the gains they saw in 2014 but that said, the results on Monday morning suggested a strong showing for Liberal and Green parties.

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Time for Corbyn to leave.

Fun: both sides, remain and leave, claim that overall, they won.

UK Tories And Labour Savaged As Voters Take Brexit Revenge (G.)

An insurgent Brexit party and reinvigorated Liberal Democrats have delivered a harrowing night for the Conservatives and Labour at the European elections, prompting profound soul-searching at the top of both major parties. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party humiliated the Conservatives in their rural heartlands but also made sweeping gains in cities such as Cardiff, Leeds and Sheffield, as well as in Hillingdon, the home of Boris’ Johnson’s seat where the Tories were pushed into fourth. Farage’s success campaigning in favour of a no deal Brexit is likely to push the Conservative leadership candidates into hardline positions on leaving the EU.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, warned the Conservative were facing an “existential threat”, while Johnson said it was a “crushing rebuke” to the government’s failure to take the UK out of the EU. The night also confirmed an extraordinary revival of the Lib Dems, who overtook the Tories in Theresa May’s Maidenhead seat and came first in Jeremy Corbyn’s north London home of Islington. Overnight, the Brexit party gained 28 seats, with the Lib Dems in second on 15 seats. Labour held 10, having lost seven so far, the Green party won seven, a gain of four, and the Tories were languishing in fifth place, with just three seats.


The results so far show that the hard Brexit vote totalled 34.9% – with the Brexit party on 31.6% and Ukip on 3.3%. The overall total for pro-leave parties was up at 44% including the Conservatives on a historically low 9.1%. The pro-remain vote added up to 40.3% – with the Lib Dems on 20.3%, the Greens on 12.1%, the SNP on 3.5%, Change UK on 3.4% and Plaid Cymru on 1%. Labour, which tried to appeal to both sides with a soft Brexit pitch or a possible confirmatory referendum, was on 14.1%.

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A Brexit now would lead to civil war. Don’t do it. Postpone.

Nigel Farage Demands A Seat At Brexit Talks (R.)

Nigel Farage demanded a seat at Brexit negotiations on Monday after his new party swept to victory in the United Kingdom’s European Parliament election, warning that he would turn British politics upside down if denied. Farage, a bombastic 55-year-old commodities broker-turned anti-establishment supremo, won by riding a wave of anger at the failure of Prime Minister Theresa May to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union. As May’s Conservative Party prepares to pick a new leader, Farage had a warning for the next prime minister: A say in the United Kingdom’s biggest decision since World War Two.


“We should be part of the team now, that’s pretty clear,” Brexit Party leader Farage told Reuters at an election count in the southern English city of Southampton. After repeated delays to Brexit, Farage said the United Kingdom had to leave the EU on Oct. 31, the current deadline for Britain’s parliament to agree an exit deal. Farage would prefer to leave without a deal. “If we don’t leave on that day, then you can expect the Brexit Party to repeat this kind of surprise in the next general election,” he said.

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Alan Rusbridger is the former editor of the Guardian that publishes Luke Harding’s smear pieces on Assange. But now it’s the very same Guardian that feels threatened.

US Efforts To Jail Assange For Espionage Grave Threat To Media (Rusbridger)

As editor of the Guardian, I worked with Assange when we jointly (along with newspapers in the US and Europe) published other material Manning had leaked. Vanity Fair called the resultant stories “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years… they have changed the way people think about how the world is run”. The stories were, indeed, significant – but the relationship with Assange was fraught. We fell out, as most people eventually do with Assange. I found him mercurial, untrustworthy and dislikable: he wasn’t keen on me, either. All the collaborating editors disapproved of him releasing unredacted material from the Manning trove in September 2011. Nevertheless, I find the Trump administration’s use of the Espionage Act against him profoundly disturbing.


The Espionage Act was a panic measure enacted by Congress to clamp down on dissent or “sedition” when the US entered the First World War in 1917. In the subsequent 102 years it has never been used to prosecute a media organisation for publishing or disseminating unlawfully disclosed classified information. Nobody prosecuted under the act is permitted to offer a public interest defence. Whatever Assange got up to in 2010-11, it was not espionage. Nor is he a US citizen. The criminal acts this Australian maverick allegedly committed all happened outside the US. As Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has observed: “Under this rubric, anyone anywhere in the world who publishes information that the US government deems to be classified could be prosecuted for espionage.”

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Lowballing.

S&P 500 Would Be 19% Lower Between 2011 And Q1 2019 Without Buybacks (CNBC)

Buybacks have gotten a bad rap from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers this year. But the stock market would be trading at a much lower level without them. Data compiled by Ned Davis Research shows the S&P 500 would be 19% lower without buybacks. The firm looked at the S&P 5002 s performance between the first quarter of 2011 and the first three months of 2019. Then they subtracted the amount of net monthly repurchases to arrive to that conclusion. The broad market is up more than 125% in that time while net buybacks have totaled about $3.5 trillion. “Without focusing too much on numbers, we can say that the S&P 500 index would probably be lower today if not for buybacks versus other uses of cash”, Ed Clissold, chief U.S. strategist at Ned Davis Research, wrote in a note last month.

Lawmakers on both sides are bashing buybacks and want to make it harder for companies to repurchase their own stock. They argue that buybacks inflate corporate executives’ pay and share price at the expense of a company’s workers. In a Feb. 20 Medium post, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, said companies should reinvest their capital differently. Earlier in February, Schumer and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT — a presidential hopeful — proposed in a New York Times op-ed that companies should provide living wages and health benefits to workers if a buyback program is launched. “At a time of huge income and wealth inequality, Americans should be outraged that these profitable corporations are laying off workers while spending billions of dollars to boost their stock’s value to further enrich the wealthy few, ” the senators wrote in the op-ed.

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Still owned by governments, for Pete’s sake. What year is this?

Fiat Chrysler Puts Merger Offer To Renault Board (R.)

Fiat Chrysler has made a “transformative” merger proposal to Renault, the Italian-American carmaker said, in a deal that would create a new third-ranked global manufacturer. The proposal, finalised in overnight talks with Renault, was being discussed at a meeting of the French group’s board early on Monday. The deal would create a carmaker selling 8.7 million vehicles annually with a strong presence across key regions, automotive markets and technologies, FCA said. It would generate 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in estimated annual savings. The “broad and complementary brand portfolio would provide full market coverage, from luxury to mainstream,” it added.

If successful, the FCA-Renault tie-up would alter the competitive landscape for rival carmakers from General Motors to Peugeot maker PSA Group, which recently held inconclusive talks with FCA. It could also have profound repercussions for Renault’s 20-year-old alliance with Nissan, already weakened by the crisis surrounding the arrest and ouster of former chairman Carlos Ghosn late last year. The FCA-Renault plan would see the two carmakers merged under a listed Dutch holding company. After payment of a 2.5 billion-euro dividend to current FCA shareholders, each investor group would receive 50 percent of stock in the new company.


[..] The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15% stake, supports the merger in principle but will need to see more details, its main spokeswoman said on Monday. France will be “particularly vigilant regarding employment and industrial footprint,” another Paris official said – adding that any deal must safeguard Renault’s alliance with Nissan, which had recently rebuffed a merger proposal from the French carmaker. The Italian government may also seek a stake in the combined group to balance France’s holding, a lawmaker from the ruling League party said on Monday. [..] Nissan, which is 43.4%-owned by Renault, would be invited to nominate a director to the 11-member board of the new combined company, under the plan presented on Monday.

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“Shanghai’s Pudong Development Bank was fined for using 1,493 shell companies to hide non-performing loans.”

China’s Small Bank Bailouts Duck Bankruptcy Test (R.)

China is ducking a bankruptcy test. Baoshang Bank, linked to missing billionaire Xiao Jianhua, has been brought under state control. Despite threats, Beijing remains wary of allowing even disgraced local lenders to fail. Interest in Baoshang, based in Inner Mongolia, comes thanks to its colourful history. Its biggest stakeholder – and a major borrower – was Tomorrow Holdings, run by Xiao until he vanished in 2017 from a Hong Kong hotel. The insurance conglomerate’s assets are now being sold off piecemeal. Rickety municipal lenders are common in China, even if Baoshang is more precarious than most: a 2018 analysis by Jason Bedford of UBS named Baoshang as one of a trio of lenders with Tier 1 capital adequacy ratios below 8 percent, the lowest in his national survey.


City banks held just 13% of total assets in the first quarter of 2019, and rural lenders another 7%, but they represent an outsize share of the country’s financial risk. As the state giants attract the best, government-guaranteed clients, small fry make do with the rest, which means more duff debt. Ruses to cover up the damage are not uncommon: in 2018, Shanghai’s Pudong Development Bank was fined for using 1,493 shell companies to hide non-performing loans. Other lenders, like Bank of Dalian, have been bailed out repeatedly. The People’s Republic rolled out a deposit protection scheme in 2015. This theoretically allows poorly run banks to collapse without hurting ordinary depositors. But work is still in progress. The national insurance fund had only $12 billion at the end of September, and officials were still talking about creating an implementation agency in March.

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What did the army expect would happen?

US Army Twitter Question Highlights Toll Of America’s Wars (AFP)

Days ahead of an annual holiday when Americans remember those who died while serving in the armed forces, the US Army’s Twitter account asked people how their time in the military affected them and received an outpouring of grief. The question drew some 10,000 replies since it was posted late last week — many of which were anonymous or included details that could not be independently confirmed, but which paint a harrowing picture of the toll America’s wars have taken on those who fought them. “OEF, OIF ptsd with chronic pain,” one Twitter user wrote, using the US military’s acronyms for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the abbreviation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The US launched the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Iraq war in 2003.


The conflicts left thousands of American service members dead and many more wounded. US troops are still deployed in both countries to this day. “My dad came back from fighting in Iraq and was abusive, constantly angry, paranoid, and following that went through a lot of therapy but his mental and physical health are still off and he was definitely changed through all he had been through,” another user wrote. “My son served and did one tour of OEF, he made it back, re-enlisted, and shot himself in the head,” said another. “The ‘Combat Cocktail’: PTSD, severe depression, anxiety. Isolation. Suicide attempts. Never ending rage. It cost me my relationship with my eldest son and my grandson. It cost some of my men so much more,” another Twitter user wrote. “How did serving impact me? Ask my family.”

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Priorities. Question should be: which came first?

Peru, Colombia, Ecuador And Bolivia Denounce Decision On Amazon Domain (R.)

The presidents of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia criticized a recent decision by the organization that manages internet protocol to grant global retailer Amazon Inc the rights to the .amazon domain. Amazon Inc has been seeking the exclusive rights to the .amazon domain name since 2012. But Amazon basin countries – including Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia – have argued it refers to their geographic region and should not be the monopoly of one company. The four leaders – Peru’s Martin Vizcarra, Colombia’s Ivan Duque, Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno and Bolivia’s Evo Morales – vowed to join forces to protect their countries from what they described as inadequate governance of the internet.


Last week, the global Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees internet addresses, said it decided to proceed with the designation requested by Amazon Inc pending a 30-day period of public comment. The decision sets “a grave precedent by prioritizing private commercial interests above the considerations of state public policies, the rights on indigenous people and the preservation of the Amazon,” Vizcarra, Duque, Moreno and Morales said in a joint statement on Sunday after a gathering in Lima of the Andean Community regional bloc. They added that Latin American and Caribbean countries agreed in 2013 to reject any attempt to appropriate the Amazon name or any other name that refers to geography, history, culture or nature without the consent of countries in the region.

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Intelligent species.

World’s Rivers ‘Awash With Dangerous Levels Of Antibiotics’ (G.)

Hundreds of rivers around the world from the Thames to the Tigris are awash with dangerously high levels of antibiotics, the largest global study on the subject has found. Antibiotic pollution is one of the key routes by which bacteria are able develop resistance to the life-saving medicines, rendering them ineffective for human use. “A lot of the resistance genes we see in human pathogens originated from environmental bacteria,” said Prof William Gaze, a microbial ecologist at the University of Exeter who studies antimicrobial resistance but was not involved in the study. The rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a global health emergency that could kill 10 million people by 2050, the UN said last month.


The drugs find their way into rivers and soil via human and animal waste and leaks from wastewater treatment plants and drug manufacturing facilities. “It’s quite scary and depressing. We could have large parts of the environment that have got antibiotics at levels high enough to affect resistance,” said Alistair Boxall, an environmental scientist at the University of York, who co-led the study. The research, presented on Monday at a conference in Helsinki, shows that some of the world’s best-known rivers, including the Thames, are contaminated with antibiotics classified as critically important for the treatment of serious infections. In many cases they were detected at unsafe levels, meaning resistance is much more likely to develop and spread.

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Don’t think I ever heard of this girl until recently. She’s haunting.

 

 

 

 

May 052019
 


Giovanni Bellini The transfiguration c1490

 

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)
Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)
Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)
Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)
Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)
Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)
May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)
Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)
Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)
American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)
US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)
Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

 

 

The Democrats, as personified by Pelosi, Schumer, Hillary, Biden etc., have no identity other than being against everything Trump. There are people in the party who do have ideas and an identity, like Tulsi Gabbard, AOC, and I’m not saying they’re all great ideas, but at least they have some. But they’re being sidelined.

And it’s of course funny to see Pelosi “pre-accusing” Trump of doing what she has done for 2+ years now. Accuse your opponent of what you yourself have done. Classic.

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)

In a New York Times interview on Saturday, Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal), shared her concerned that President Trump would not voluntarily step down unless Democrats win by a “big” enough margin in 2020. The Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative, expressed her concern over a possible scenario where Trump would not accept the election results if he were to lose re-election by a slim margin, the NY Times reported. “We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Pelosi told the newspaper Wednesday.


“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election,” said Ms. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections. “He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat these people,” she added. “We had to win. Imagine if we hadn’t won — oh, don’t even imagine. So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach.” In recent weeks Ms. Pelosi has told associates that she does not automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election short of an overwhelming defeat.

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Biden literally has nothing at all. Other than scolding Trump.

Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)

As Joe Biden storms through Iowa and prepares for his first visit as a presidential candidate in South Carolina, the Democratic front-runner has said he doesn’t “have the time” to lay out the details of his healthcare plan. “I don’t have time; I don’t want to keep you standing any longer,” Mr Biden said recently in Iowa City, declining to lay out his vision for America’s healthcare future to the assembled crowd, according to POLITICO. Likewise Mr Biden has been less than exhaustive when it comes to his other plans, be it foreign policy, or how to tackle climate change. The approach — one in which the former vice president has focused on the values needed in an American president, instead of on specifics of policy — stands in contrast to some of his stiffest competition from fellow Democrats hoping to shake up Democratic politics as we know it.


For months now, his closest competitor in the polls, Bernie Sanders, has been plugging his universal healthcare plan on the campaign trail, which he has dubbed Medicare for All. It’s a policy the Vermont senator has introduced repeatedly in Congress, and ran on in 2016, too. But Mr Sanders isn’t alone in pushing policy in the race. Elizabeth Warren has become known for doing so, offering up plans on issues ranging from healthcare – increase consumer subsidies, force insurers to accept tougher rules, and make insurance cheaper in the US — to improving accountability for private companies in charge of military housing.

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Two different takes on the same topic. First, the Press Association, which labels Paul Joseph Watson and James Woods as “Right-Wing Extremists”. A bit much, perhaps? Other labels I see flash by are far-right, alt-right, extremist conservatives. Isn’t it the labeling itself that is extremist?

Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)

US president Donald Trump has criticised social media companies after Facebook banned a number of extremist figures and has declared he was “monitoring and watching, closely!!” Mr Trump, who tweeted and retweeted complaints on Friday and Saturday, said he would “monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms”. He has previously claimed social media companies are biased against conservatives, something the companies have rejected as untrue. His comments came after Facebook this week banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban on “dangerous individuals”.


The company also removed right-wing personalities Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Mr Jones’s site, Infowars, which often posts conspiracy theories. The latest bans apply to Facebook’s main service and to Instagram, and extend to fan pages and other related accounts. Facebook’s move signalled new effort by the social media giant to remove people and groups promoting objectionable material such as hate, racism and anti-Semitism. The company said it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology. On Twitter, Mr Trump cited a number of individuals he said were being unfairly treated by social media companies, including Mr Watson and actor James Woods. He insisted it was “getting worse and worse for Conservatives on social media!”

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But here’s how Cristina Laila at Gateway Pundit, the site known for Cassandra Fairbanks’ reporting on Julian Assange, phrases the issue. Whole different vocabulary.

Still, there’s a much bigger issue here. As I wrote in the comments the other day: What Facebook and Google are doing is very dangerous for the fabric of society. They’re turning us into China. It’s equal to saying: you cannot have a car, or gas, or a phone, a home. Because you grow a beard, or you have a crappy old car, or whatever.

Or it’s like saying you cannot drive on a certain road, maybe that’s a better example. At some point infrastructure must be available to everyone. You can’t say: this is private, go build your own road, or put up your own telephone poles, because your skin is black and we don’t like that around here.

“Facebook is a private company” is dead before you hit the water (for the same reason as AT&T). Problem is, no politician wants to burn their hands on the issue, which they don’t understand to begin with, until it’s too late. It’s much easier to say: look over there, those guys don’t do anything either.”

So, should Facebook be able to throw people out that haven’t been accused of anything criminal?

Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)

The tech tyrants at Facebook went into overdrive this week and banned Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones — without any explanation, the conservative journalists were labeled “dangerous” by Facebook. President Trump fired off a tweetstorm Friday evening on the social media censorship of conservatives and named James Woods and Paul Joseph Watson. “I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!” Trump tweeted. “We’re looking into it,” Trump said as he defended his friends Diamond and Silk.

“So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook!” Trump said linking to a Breitbart article on Twitter’s silencing of James Woods. Paul Joseph Watson works for Infowars and has been employed by Alex Jones for several years. On Thursday Paul Joseph Watson was banned from Facebook for being associated with Infowars and Alex Jones. Paul Joseph Watson has NEVER broken Facebook rules… But he associates with Alex Jones. Facebook is now banning anyone who is linked to Infowars or has shared too many stories from the conservative Infowars page. But it’s even worse… It is now a violation of Facebook policy to speak positively ANYWHERE about people they don’t like.

Twitter also banned conservative actor James Woods last weekend for paraphrasing American essayist, poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, for “abusive behavior.” James Woods tweeted, “If you try to kill the King, you better not miss.” #HangThemAll – similar to a quote from an essay Emerson wrote on Plato:“When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

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If Americans were interested in the truth, they’d insist on their politicians and media and intelligence talking to the VIPS and Julian Assange. The fact that they haven’t, tells you all you need to know.

Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)

George Orwell would have been in stitches Wednesday watching Attorney General William Barr and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spar on Russia-gate. The hearing had the hallmarks of the intentionally or naively blind leading the blind with political shamelessness. From time to time the discussion turned to the absence of a legal “predicate” to investigate President Donald Trump for colluding with Russia. That is, of course, important; and we can expect to hear a lot more about that in coming months. More important: what remains unacknowledged is the absence of an evidence-based major premise that should have been in place to anchor the rhetoric and accusations about Russia-gate over the past three years. With a lack of evidence sufficient to support a major premise, any syllogism falls of its own weight.


The major premise that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee and gave WikiLeaks highly embarrassing emails cannot bear close scrutiny. Yes, former CIA Director John Brennan has told Congress he does not “do evidence.” In the same odd vein, Brennan’s former FBI counterpart James Comey chose not to “do evidence” when he failed to seize and inspect the DNC computers that a contractor-of-ill-repute working for the DNC claimed were hacked by Russia. Call us old fashioned, but we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) still “do evidence” — and, in the case at hand, forensic investigation. For those who “can handle the truth,” the two former NSA technical directors in VIPS can readily explain how the DNC emails were not hacked — by Russia or anyone else — but rather were copied and leaked by someone with physical access to the DNC computers.

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The Fed is a socialist organization.

Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)

Before 2009, the Fed did not pay interest on banks’ excess reserves held at the Fed. This practice was introduced as a taxpayer-funded subsidy to the banks during the crisis (taxpayer-funded because the Fed turns over any profit at the end of the year to the Treasury). After beginning this practice, the Fed’s chief trader, Simon Potter, realized it could be used to raise interest rates without expelling excess reserves from the Fed, by sucking liquidity out of the short-term markets. In fall 2015, it began raising the interest rate on excess reserves, with the anticipated effect. At a current rate of about $36 billion a year, this is a cost to the Treasury that is indefensible. This amount is about half the budget for food stamps, for example, which politicians want to cut. There is no provision for these funds ever to be paid back. It is welfare for the bankers.

If the banks had been required to take excess reserves back onto their books it would have required financial disclosure of their quality, which is probably toxic for many. However, with the Financial Accounting Standards Board recently promulgating Financial Accounting Statements 56 and, previously, 157, the “extend and pretend” statement, it would seem they feel less and less need for financial disclosure of any kind. FAS 56 states that the government does not have to disclose what it spends taxpayers’ money on because of national security concerns.

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Lose big and do a deal. It would be voted down.

May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has stepped up calls on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree a cross-party deal to leave the European Union, following poor results for both parties in local elections on Thursday. May’s Conservatives lost more than a thousand seats on English local councils that were up for re-election, and Labour – which would typically aim to gain hundreds of seats in a mid-term vote – instead lost 81. Both parties have been locked in talks for the past few weeks to try to broker a Brexit deal that can get a majority in Parliament, after May’s minority government suffered three heavy defeats on her preferred deal earlier this year.

Senior Conservatives said on Saturday there was an increased need for compromise after the local election results, and the leader of the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party said a deal with Labour could be done within days. May added her voice to these calls in an essay published in a Sunday newspaper. “To the Leader of the Opposition I say this: Let’s listen to what the voters said in the local elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal,” she wrote in the Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Times reported that the Conservatives would offer new concessions to Labour when talks restart on Tuesday, including a temporary customs union with the European Union, which would last until a national election due in June 2022.

“At that point Labour could use their manifesto to argue for a softer Brexit if they wanted to and a new Conservative prime minister could argue for a harder Brexit,” a source cited by the Sunday Times said.

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There is no solution. the sooner everyone understands that the better. Even a national government is now out of the question.

Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)

Last-ditch efforts by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to strike a compromise on Brexit looked doomed on Saturday as the party leaders faced mounting revolts from their own MPs and activists. Following Thursday’s local elections, in which both the Conservatives and Labour were punished severely by voters for failing to break the political deadlock, May and Corbyn have insisted their parties must now urgently agree a way forward in cross-party talks which will resume on Tuesday. On Saturday the prime minister reiterated her appeal, saying: “We have to find a way to break the deadlock. I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency to this.”

But opposition MPs and Tory Brexiters warned any deal the leadership teams stitch up behind the scenes would face inevitable defeat in parliament and cause more acrimony in the parties. The Observer can reveal that 104 opposition MPs, mainly from Labour but also SNP, Change UK, Green and Plaid Cymru, have written to May and Corbyn insisting they will not back a “Westminster stitch-up” unless there is a firm guarantee that any deal is then put to a confirmatory referendum. The MPs say: “The very worst thing we could do at this time is a Westminster stitch-up whether over the PM’s deal or another deal. This risks alienating both those who voted leave in 2016 and those who voted remain.”

They say that, “whatever the deal” is, it must be the subject of another referendum so voters can have the “final say”. Separately, senior Tory MPs insisted that any deal struck with Labour that involved anything close to a customs union – Corbyn’s central demand in the talks – would be rejected by more than 100 of the party’s MPs, who would see it as a betrayal of May’s promises on Brexit.

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No, both.

Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)

In my book Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment (2015), I pointed out that the “age of austerity” experienced during the post-1945 Attlee government was unavoidable as a debilitated UK adapted from a wartime economy to peacetime. Resources were strictly limited, and production had to be channelled away from armaments towards the normal needs of the population. Spending power was restricted because goods and food were in short supply. The austerity policy imposed by the Cameron-Osborne administration in 2010-15 – in coalition, let us not forget, with the Lib Dems – was a policy choice. George Osborne, in particular, seized the opportunity of the financial crisis of 2007-09 to cut back on public spending, or at least restrain its rate of growth.


The most obvious victims were local authorities and the electors they serve. Cuts varying between 30% and 40% were imposed on central government grants to local authorities, and the consequences were cumulative. Hardly a day goes by without sad reports of the impact the cuts are having on public services, one of the most recent being the way teachers in overstretched state schools are having to dip into their own pockets to provide textbooks. There are countless other examples. We were told by Theresa May and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, that austerity was coming to an end. But there is precious little sign of it. Which brings us back – I know you have been waiting for it – to the way that Brexit would compound the deleterious effects of austerity, a conclusion reached by every forecast I have examined.

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Big Ag wants it all. But YOU can still go look for a farmers’ market.

American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)

The collapse of multi-generational family farms has sent bankruptcies in the Midwest to ten-year highs. “Bankruptcies in three regions covering major farm states last year rose to the highest level in at least 10 years. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, had double the bankruptcies in 2018 compared with 2008. In the Eighth Circuit, which includes states from North Dakota to Arkansas, bankruptcies swelled 96%. The 10th Circuit, which covers Kansas and other states, last year had 59% more bankruptcies than a decade earlier,” reported WSJ. Steffes Group, a top auction firm in the upper Midwest, has seen auction activity rise 40% in 2019. “Up until now, there wasn’t a lot of motivation to exit farming,” said auctioneer Scott Steffes. “Now, what I’m hearing from folks is, ‘It’s no longer fun to farm.’”

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There are far too many trucks anyway.

US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)

Orders for Class-8 trucks – the heavy trucks that haul consumer goods, equipment, commodities, and supplies across the US to feed the goods-based economy – plunged 52% in April compared to April last year, to 16,400 orders, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence on Friday. It was the lowest April since 2016 when the industry cycled through its last transportation recession. This comes after orders had already plunged 67% year-over-year in March, 58% in February and January, and 43% in December. The collapse in orders is on the scale of the last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016. The chart shows the percent change of orders for each month compared to a year earlier:

The industry is very cyclical with big swings in both directions. Trucking companies get exuberant when capacity tightens and freight rates shoot up as they did in late 2017 and 2018, and they’re inclined to order when business is booming, but it takes a while to get these trucks built, and order backlogs at truck manufacturers piled up to reach close a year at the peak in 2018. Fear of not getting the equipment when they need it can cause industry-wide bouts of over-ordering at the peak of the cycle, which was summer 2018. But as capacity rises, and the cyclical freight business backs off from its blistering growth phase and ticks down a little as it has been since late 2018, trucking companies adjust by reducing their orders, and when push comes to shove, if they can still do it, by cancelling their orders. And that’s what is happening here.

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I think perhaps everyone intuitively understands how to re-design cities. Cars must go first.

Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

The current climate and ecological crisis demands a radical redesign of how we live and organise our societies. Yet these urgent changes, though complex, are far from impossible. Some of them are simple, beautiful, and beneficial to all. By greening our cities with street trees, urban parks, and community and rooftop gardens, we can keep ourselves cool amid rising temperatures, reverse the steady erosion of the rich tapestry of life on Earth, and foster happiness and social connection in the process. It is widely known that greenery in urban spaces helps improve city microclimates.

Thanks to heat generated by traffic and industrial activity, as well as the spread of heat-trapping concrete buildings that have steadily replaced plant life, urban air temperature is often higher than in rural environments. Hotter cities compel urban denizens to opt for air conditioners in order to stay cool, which further strains energy demands and worsens the urban heat island effect. Plants can help cool cities through the water that evaporates from their leaves when exposed to the sun’s rays, and by shading surfaces that otherwise might have absorbed heat. Research has found that on a sunny day, a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than ten air-conditioning units.

Plants also help keep harmful pollutants such as microscopic particulate matter at bay through a complex process known as dry deposition, whereby particles penetrate and become trapped in the wax or cuticles of leaves. Although banning or at least restricting vehicle use in city centres is crucial, mass greening can further reduce pollution and keep cities cool in the increasingly scorching summers that lie ahead.

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Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon
– Susan Ertz

 

 

Feb 052019
 
 February 5, 2019  Posted by at 10:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


René Magritte Meditation 1936

 

How Much Could Negative Rates Have Helped the US Recovery? (FRBSF)
Bill Gross Retires (R.)
SOTU (Jim Kunstler)
EU Goods Will Be Waved Through British Ports In Case Of No Deal Brexit (Sun)
Nissan Was Offered Secret UK State Aid To Cope With Brexit (G.)
Merkel Says ‘Still Time’ To Find Brexit Solution (AFP)
An Italian Debt Crisis Could Take Down The EU (ZH)
Australia Central Bank Stays Calm As Shoppers Go Missing (R.)
Recognising Juan Guaidó Risks A Bloody Civil War In Venezuela (Ponceleon)
The Venezuelan Coup and Gilets Jaunes: Great-Power Politics (Pieraccini)
Italy Vetoes EU Recognition Of Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido (RT)
Twitter Erupts After 2,000 Pro-Venezuelan Accounts Are Deleted (Telesur)

 

 

As Trump has dinner with Powell, some San Francisco Fed theorist waxes enthusiastically about what more the Fed could have done. Not pre-2008, when the crisis caused by Fed policies erupted, but post-2008, when it tried to repair the damage it had done -and ‘failed’. Get these guys out of your economy or you’re going to see a real crisis. The Fed serves rich people only. All these people claim to defend a free market, but the Fed is the biggest enemy of a free market.

How Much Could Negative Rates Have Helped the US Recovery? (FRBSF)

The Federal Reserve responded aggressively to the most recent financial crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-2009 by cutting the target for its benchmark short-term interest rate, known as the federal funds rate, to a range just above zero in December 2008, where it stayed until the end of 2015. Traditionally, it has been assumed that nominal interest rates cannot fall below zero, known as the “lower bound.” Ever since 2008, researchers have debated how much monetary policy was constrained by this lower bound and how much it affected economic outcomes. To work around this constraint, the Federal Reserve turned to unconventional monetary policy tools such as forward guidance and large-scale asset purchases.

Other central banks—in Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, and the euro area—took unconventional policy one step further and challenged the traditional view on the lower bound by setting their target rates below zero. In this Economic Letter, I consider whether pushing rates below zero would have improved economic outcomes in the United States in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Model estimates suggest that reducing the effective lower bound for the federal funds rate to –0.75% would have reduced economic slack by as much as one-half at the trough of the recession and sped up the ensuing recovery. While the boost to the economy would have been negligible after 2014, inflation would have been higher throughout the recovery by about half a percentage point on average.

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Alternative headline: Fed policies killed Bill Gross. Can’t support stocks without killing bonds. It’s about pensions, don’t you know.

Bill Gross Retires (R.)

Bill Gross, once the bond market’s most influential investor, will retire from Janus in coming weeks, ending attempts to reclaim the stature he enjoyed leading the world’s largest fixed-income investing firm. Gross, who turned to investing after serving as U.S. naval officer, co-founded Pacific Investment Management Co in 1971, attaining rock-star status in investing circles as he attracted hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. Under his watch, Pimco blossomed into a $2 trillion asset-management powerhouse, one so influential that the U.S. Federal Reserve tapped it to help implement its program of emergency bond purchases in the financial crisis in 2008. At Janus, however, Gross was unable to repeat his earlier success, with the performance of the fund he managed ranking near the bottom. Gross told Reuters on Friday that low rates are distorting returns.

His tenure at Pimco ended abruptly and acrimoniously in September 2014, when he was ousted. His flagship Total Return Fund – which hit a peak of $292.9 billion in assets in April 2013 – was hemorrhaging assets. At the end of April 2015, the Pimco Total Return Fund had lost its title as the world’s biggest bond mutual fund to the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund, which had $117.3 billion of assets. “You have to give Bill a lot of credit because he was the prime mover, popularizing active management,” Dan Fuss, vice chairman at Loomis, Sayles & Co LP, and one of Gross’ biggest competitors, said in a telephone interview. “I had hoped he’d be out and about and stay in the business because I know he would have wound up doing a good job.”

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Here’s hoping he rips them all another one. That the SOTU may be as exciting as the Super Bowl was dull.

SOTU (Jim Kunstler)

It’s conceivable, in a nation that absolutely can’t make sense of itself, that Mr. Trump’s annual report to congress will be as incomprehensible as this year’s Superbowl halftime show. Even the weather in Atlanta was a complete mystery with Maroon 5’s front man, Adam Levine, capering half-naked in tattoo drag amid artificial fires-of-hell, and then local hero rapper Big Boi’s triumphal entry in a limo, nearly lost inside what looked like the pelt of a giant ground sloth — an eight-year-old’s idea of what it means to be important. Or maybe it was just all code for two sides of the climate change debate. You can be sure the atmosphere will be frosty to the max when the Golden Golem of Greatness lumbers down the aisle of congress’s house on Tuesday night.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Democratic majority turns its backs on him during the always excruciating preliminaries and then just walks out of the chamber. Don’t expect the usual excessive rounds of applause from the president’s own party this time, either, in the big, half-empty room. They don’t know what to do about him at this point… or what to do with themselves, for that matter. The running theme for State of the Union (SOTU) messages going back to Ronald Reagan is American Wonderfulness, so expect at least forty minutes of national self-esteem therapy, which nobody will believe. Throw in another ten minutes of elevating sob stories about “special guests” up in the galleries. But leave a little time for Mr. Trump to roll a few cherry bombs down the aisles. He must be good and goddam sick of all the guff shoveled at him for two years.

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Smugglers rejoice!

EU Goods Will Be Waved Through British Ports In Case Of No Deal Brexit (Sun)

GOODS shipped to Britain from the EU are to be waved through 20 UK ports without checks in a No Deal to avoid huge jams – HMRC has declared. In official advice released today, HM Revenue & Customs said that “for a temporary period” it would allow “most” shipments into the country before companies have even informed them they’ve arrived. Exporters would have just over 24 hours to then fill in an electronic declaration. The revelation comes just months after HMRC bosses warned the UK’s post-Brexit customs system would not work properly for two years in a No Deal. HMRC chief John Thompson told MPs last year that the Government would have a choice to make – whether to keep trade moving, ensure security at the border, or collect revenues.

Insiders said it appeared that HMRC had decided it was essential to keep trade moving rather than risk huge queues on the way to ports such as Dover or at Eurotunnel terminals. Hauliers have been furious at the lack of guidance from HMRC and the Government over how the customs system would work in the event of a No Deal. Today’s “updated guidance” warns that anyone importing into Brexit Britain will have to fill out a customs form before checking goods onto a ferry or train on the EU side. But it adds: “For a temporary period, HMRC will allow most goods moving from the listed roll on roll off locations to leave the UK port or train station before you’ve told us that the goods have arrived.”

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What other secret plans are there?

Nissan Was Offered Secret UK State Aid To Cope With Brexit (G.)

The business secretary has been forced to admit the existence of a previously secret package of state aid to Nissan that could have been worth up to £80m had the carmaker gone ahead with plans to manufacture a new model X-Trail in Sunderland after Brexit. Greg Clark released a letter dated October 2016 in which he pledged tens of millions of taxpayer support and promised the Japanese company it would not be “adversely affected” after the UK left the EU. Yet, at the time the commitments were first made, Downing Street had said “there was no special deal for Nissan” and Clark refused six times to answer a question about what was on offer when interviewed on the BBC. He even appeared to suggest no money was involved. Asked on BBC One’s Question Time about the deal, he said: “There’s no chequebook. I don’t have a chequebook.”

Clark and the government had repeatedly refused to release the 2016 letter until the promises turned out to be worthless, because Nissan had abandoned its future investment plan, partly because of uncertainty over Brexit. The four-page document, sent by Clark to Nissan’s then chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, committed the government to “a package of support in areas such as skills, R&D and innovation” which “could amount to additional support of up to £80m”. The state aid package ultimately turned out to be worth £61m when it was formally awarded to Nissan in June 2018, a fact only acknowledged by Clark in a second letter sent on Monday to the Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who chairs the business select committee.

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Merkel seems to open a door just to slam it shut again the next instant.

“..she was clear that any solution could only come via the political declaration attached to the withdrawal agreement – rather than re-opening talks on the actual exit deal.”

Merkel Says ‘Still Time’ To Find Brexit Solution (AFP)

There is still time to find a solution to Britain’s exit from the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday, voicing optimism on a political deal over the tricky “backstop” that has stymied progress. Speaking to Japanese and German business leaders in Tokyo, Merkel stressed that “on the one hand, time is pressing” and businesses using “just-in-time” delivery processes could not afford lengthy customs procedures. However, she added: “From a political point of view, there is still time. Two months is not a long time but there is still time, and this should be used by all sides.” Britain is poised to leave the EU at the end of March following a 2016 referendum. Merkel acknowledged the issue of the unpopular Northern Ireland backstop provision was “complicating” Brexit talks.

The backstop is intended to ensure there is no return to a hard border with Ireland, but Brexit supporters fear it will keep Britain tied to EU customs rules. She said the issue with the backstop was a “problem that is precisely defined and therefore one should be able to find a precisely defined solution”. “But this solution depends on the question of what the future relationship between Britain and the EU will be like and what type of trade deal we sign with each other,” added the chancellor. Throwing the ball into London’s court, she stressed: “It will be very important for us to know what exactly the British side sees as its future relationship with the EU.” [..] she urged “creativity” and “goodwill” to find a solution. However, she was clear that any solution could only come via the political declaration attached to the withdrawal agreement – rather than re-opening talks on the actual exit deal.

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French banks. And Wall Street.

An Italian Debt Crisis Could Take Down The EU (ZH)

Plagued by another run of bank bailouts and simmering tensions between the partners in its ruling coalition, Italy’s brief reprieve following the detente between its populist rulers and angry bureaucrats in Brussels is already beginning to fade. As Bloomberg reminded us on Monday, Italy’s $1.7 trillion pile of public debt – the third largest sovereign debt pool in Europe – is threatening to set off a chain reaction that could hammer banks from Rome, to Madrid, to Frankfurt – and beyond. Just the mention of the precarity of Italian debt markets “can induce a shudder of financial fear like no other” in bureaucrats and businessmen alike – particularly after Italy’s economy slid into a recession during Q4. While much of Italy’s debt burden is held by its banks and private citizens, lenders outside of Italy are holding some €425 billion ($486 billion) in public and private debt.

The Bloomberg analysis of Italy’s financial foibles follows more reports that Italy’s ruling coalition between the anti-immigrant, pro-business League and the vaguely left-wing populist Five-Star Movement has become increasingly strained. Per BBG, the two parties are fighting a battle on two fronts over the construction of a high speed Alpine rail and a legal case involving League leader Matteo Salvini over his refusal to let the Dicotti migrant ship to dock in an Italian port last summer. After M5S intimated that it could support the investigation, the League warned that such a move would be tantamount to “blackmail” against Salvini, whose lieutenants have been pushing for him to take advantage of the party’s rising poll numbers and push for early elections later this year. However, Salvini has rebuffed these demands, warning that there’s nothing stopping Italian President Sergio Mattarella from calling for a new coalition instead of new elections.

[..] To keep operating without massive budget cuts (something neither party in the ruling coalition has shown any sign of supporting) Italy must sell 400 billion euros ($457 billion) of debt per year. But since Italy’s banks hold so much of the country’s debt, declines in the price of Italian bonds inevitably hurts the shares of Italian banks, and also forces them to hold more capital on their books to ensure liquidity from the ECB. This creates the potential for a negative feedback loop known as the “doom loop”. Put another way, “a government crisis could drag down the banking system or a banking crisis could suck in the government.”

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And the Chinese withdraw.

Australia Central Bank Stays Calm As Shoppers Go Missing (R.)

Australia’s central bank warned of risks to growth on Tuesday but wrongfooted rate bears by steering clear from an explicit easing signal, even as data showed shoppers slashed spending during Christmas in another sign of cooling economic momentum. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left rates at a record low 1.50 percent for a 30th straight month, saying accommodative policy was supporting the economy and that further progress was expected in reducing unemployment and lifting inflation over time. The local dollar jumped as the statement sounded less dovish than the markets had wagered on.

“The main message from the RBA today was that they are still positive on the growth outlook, and particularly on the labor market, and they see the economy as still on track towards lifting inflation back to their target,” said HSBC Australia’s chief economist Paul Bloxham. Yet, interest rates futures continued to price in a 50-50 chance of a rate cut by the end of the year, reflecting the deteriorating growth momentum in the face of rising global and domestic risks. Lowe expects Australia’s A$1.8 trillion economy ($1.3 trillion) to expand at an above-trend rate of around 3 percent this year. That is a slightly more cautious view compared to “a little above 3 percent” in its previous statement.

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Temir Porras Ponceleon was chief of staff to Nicolás Maduro from 2007 to 2013. He is now a visiting professor at Sciences Po, Paris.

Stangely missing from this piece: the CIA.

Recognising Juan Guaidó Risks A Bloody Civil War In Venezuela (Ponceleon)

Falsely presented as a “fresh face”, Guaidó first came to prominence in 2007, as a member of a generation of students who led protests against Chávez’s socialism, despite his landslide presidential victory in 2006. Guaidó is part of an opposition that never stopped challenging Chávez’s popular legitimacy even in his heyday, and who naturally doubled down as soon as the less assertive Maduro took office. The challenges to Maduro’s legitimacy began the moment he was elected. His presidential opponent, Henrique Capriles, labelled the 2013 election a fraud (without providing any supporting evidence). Capriles called on his followers to ventilate their “anger” in the streets, a move resulting in the killing of a number of Chavistas.

In January 2014 Guaidó’s political party, Voluntad Popular, launched a nationwide insurrectionary movement aimed at forcing Maduro out of office. This was only nine months into Maduro’s term, and long before the country faced any serious economic or social problems. In fact, in early 2014 oil prices were at record highs, and Venezuelans were still enjoying their highest levels of income ever, in terms of GDP per capita. [..] And then oil prices collapsed in June 2014, leaving an ill-prepared country frozen in inaction. Living standards started to deteriorate, and while a Maduro-led Chavismo remained a large and organised political force, it lost its dominance. Maduro suffered a humiliating defeat in the December 2015 legislative elections, which allowed an opposition coalition to seize a potentially devastating two-thirds supermajority in the national assembly.

[..] Unless the international community is willing to risk a needless war on the American continent, it must urgently create conditions for a national dialogue aimed at reaching a political agreement. [..] The idea that Maduro has managed to remain in office during the past six years solely through corruption and the use of force is a gross misrepresentation. It ignores that, beyond the president, the Chavismo social movement counts millions of supporters, primarily from lower-income communities, and is strongly embedded within the Venezuelan military.

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“The protests seen in France and the interference in the domestic politics of Venezuela highlight Western double standards, which stand in contrast to the respect for international law maintained by China, India and Russia.”

The Venezuelan Coup and Gilets Jaunes: Great-Power Politics (Pieraccini)

In France on November 17, 2018, hundreds of thousands of citizens, angered by the diminishing quality of their lives, the social iniquity in the country, and the widening gap between rich and poor, took to the streets in protest. The protests can easily be encapsulated in the following slogan: “We the people against you the elite.” This slogan has been a recurring theme throughout the West over the last three years, shaking up the British establishment with the pro-Brexit vote, discombobulating the United States with Trump’s victory, overturning Italy with the Lega/Five-Star government, and bringing Merkel’s star crashing down in Germany.

Now it is the turn of Macron and France, one of the least popular leaders in the world, leading his country into chaos, with peaceful protests drawing a bloody response from the authorities following ten weeks of unceasing demonstrations. In Venezuela, Western elites would like us to believe that the situation is worse than in France in terms of public order, but that is simply a lie. It is a media creation based on misinformation and censorship. In Europe, the mainstream media has stopped showing images of the protests in France, as if to smother information about it, preferring to portray an image of France that belies the chaos in which it has been immersed for every weekend over the last few months.

In Caracas, the right-wing, pro-American and anti-Communist opposition continues the same campaign based on lies and violence as it has customarily conducted following its electoral defeats at the hands of the Bolivarian revolution. The Western mainstream media beams images and videos of massive pro-government Bolivarian rallies and falsely portrays them as anti-Maduro protests. We are dealing here with acts of journalistic terrorism, and the journalists who push this narrative, instigating clashes, should be prosecuted by a criminal court of the Bolivarian people in Caracas.

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Good on them. All these EU countries don’t deem it needed to explain why they do it, other than: Maduro is a dictator. Well, his approval rating is higher than any of theirs.

Italy Vetoes EU Recognition Of Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido (RT)

Rome has effectively derailed an EU statement meant to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader if President Nicolas Maduro fails to set up snap elections, a Five Star Movement source confirmed to RT. Italy announced the veto at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers that started on January 31 in Romania, the source said. The statement, which was supposed to be delivered by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini recognized Guaido as interim president if snap elections were not held. The European Parliament is the first European body to recognize Guaido “as the only legitimate interim president of the country until new free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be called in order to restore democracy.”

The parliament urged the EU to follow suit but the effort stalled due to internal discord. A range of European nations have separately recognized the opposition chief as Venezuela’s acting president, including the UK, France, Sweden, Spain, and Austria. The coordinated move came after an eight-day deadline for Maduro to call presidential elections expired on Monday. The US announced that it is backing the new interim leader and pledged their full support immediately after what has been labeled “a coup” by officials in Caracas. However Russia, China, Turkey and Iran said they see Maduro as the only legitimate leader, warning against meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

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Orwell.

Twitter Erupts After 2,000 Pro-Venezuelan Accounts Are Deleted (Telesur)

Nearly 2,000 pro-Venezuelan Twitter accounts have been removed for “engaging in a state-backed influence campaign,” the social media company said in a blog post on Thursday. A total of 1,196 social media accounts based in Venezuela suspected of attempting to “influence domestic audiences” were purged last week. Another 764 accounts were deleted, although the San Francisco-based company told users, “We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country.” Allegations of censorship soon filled the site’s timeline.

Television host for the investigatory series, Empire Files, Abby Martin tweeted, “While pro-coup Venezuelans & right-wing exiles dominate the media sphere, tech companies are actively censoring pro-government accounts they say are working to “influence” people.” Another journalist, Ben Norton, accused the company of catering to “U.S. government interests:” Twitter is now removing thousands of accounts supposedly linked to Venezuela’s sovereign government. This comes after Twitter suspended Venezuelan government accounts 1.5 years ago. Social media corporations act as an extension of US government interests.” In another blog post, Twitter announced the release of five new datasets which were allegedly created in relation to suspected foreign interference efforts it had encountered.

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Oct 262018
 


Ernst Haas Greece 1952

 

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)
Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)
Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)
ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)
UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)
Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)
World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)
Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)
Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)
Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)
Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

 

 

So what’s the net effect of QE?

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)

October has been a terrible month for equities. Yet, this is only a start of what’s to come.

Despite the rout, the S&P is just barely down for the year.

Expect a “Lost Decade”

Why?

The Shiller PE Ratio also known as “CAPE”, the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings Ratio, is in the stratosphere. It’s not a timing mechanism, rather it’s a warning mechanism. The main idea is that earnings are mean reverting. On that basis, stocks are more overvalued than any time other than the DotCom era. But that is misleading. In 2000 there were many sectors that were extremely cheap. Energy was a standout buy then. So were retail and financials. It’s difficult to find any undervalued sectors now other than gold.

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Another Reuters headline says: “World stocks head for worst losing streak in over half a decade..”

Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)

Asian shares skidded to 20-month lows, S&P futures fell sharply and China’s yuan weakened at the end of a turbulent week for financial markets on Friday, as anxiety over corporate profits added to lingering fears about global trade and economic growth. The gloom enveloping Asia was at odds with a bounce on Wall Street overnight, highlighting fragile investor confidence, as shares of tech titans Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc fell sharply after the closing bell on disappointing earnings. In Friday’s Asian session, S&P E-mini futures slumped 0.88 percent, setting up a potentially rough session for U.S. markets which had crumbled on Wednesday on concerns about earnings and sent global equities into a tailspin.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.04 percent, erasing tiny gains made in the opening hour and hitting its lowest level since February 2017. Not helping was a slide in the Chinese yuan past a key level, refocusing market attention on slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. Shares in Europe are seen following Asia down, with London’s FTSE expected to open 0.9 percent lower, Germany’s DAX off 1 percent and France’s CAC 40 down 1.2 percent, according to David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK. “There’s no question that the weight of sentiment has been building,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut in Brisbane, highlighting in particular rising geopolitical tensions including Brexit, and “internal financial tension” in China.

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Big tech big losses.

Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)

So far in October, the S&P 500 has booked 13 losing days, including October 10, when the index dropped 3.3%, and October 24, when it dropped 3.1%. Then came today, with the feel-good moment of a boisterous 1.9% gain. And then came after-hours trading, and nearly everything went to heck, particularly the FANGMAN stocks that weigh so heavily on the index with their $4-trillion market cap. And Friday morning looks already ugly.

All of the FANGMAN stocks were in the red in late trading:
Facebook [FB]: -2.3%
Amazon [AMZN]: -7.4%
Netflix [NFLX]: -2.8%
Google’s parent Alphabet [GOOG]: -3.7%
Microsoft [MSFT]: -1.5%
Apple [AAPL]: -0.4%
NVIDIA [NVDA]: -2.8%

There were some standout reasons: Amazon plunged after it reported record profit but missed on revenues and guided down Q4 expectations for sales and profits, a sign of slowing revenue growth. It was down as much as $150 a share, or almost 9%. Google’s parent Alphabet reported that revenues grew 22%, which missed expectations. Earnings beat, but a considerable slice – $1.38 billion! – of those earnings came from the gains in its portfolio of equity securities. CFO Ruth Porat warned that traffic acquisition costs would increase further as consumers are shifting search activity from desktop computers to mobile devices. Shares plunged up to 5%.

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Can Draghi stop purchasing Italian bonds?

ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)

The European Central Bank (ECB) took no action on Thursday, leaving its benchmark interest rates unchanged. However, the ECB confirmed that its plan to end monetary easing by the end of the year remains on track. “Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council will continue to make net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the new monthly pace of 15 billion euros until the end of December 2018,” the ECB said in a statement. “The Governing Council anticipates that, subject to incoming data confirming the medium-term inflation outlook, net purchases will then end,” the bank added.

The decision takes place as concerns mount over Italy’s fiscal policies and their potential impact over the stability of the euro area. The end of the ECB’s massive crisis-era stimulus program could be a challenging moment for European bonds, given that the ECB will no longer be in the market purchasing sovereign paper and providing some sort of backstop. This could add further pressure, mainly on Italy, given the widespread concerns over its debt pile.

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There’s a taste of Italy here, though political leanings are very different.

UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said Labour would reverse cuts made by the government since 2010 as Labour highlighted more than £108bn needed to “end austerity”. Labour’s pre-budget review said it would take £42bn to reverse departmental spending cuts. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) had already highlighted another £19bn needed to stop further cuts to government. Some £33.5bn would be required to reverse cuts to social security and social care, Labour said. McDonnell pledged to increase spending on the National Health Service, adult social care, and schools, at a speech in London to business and trade union representatives.

Earlier this month the prime minister, Theresa May, also said she would end the policy of austerity instituted by her predecessor David Cameron and continued by the current government. May told the Conservative party conference: “After a decade of austerity, people need to know that their hard work has paid off.” However, policy experts have highlighted that the government’s pledge leaves room for manoeuvre. The £19bn bill calculated by the IFS, a non-partisan thinktank, would be needed to prevent further cuts in spending to government departments whose budgets are not protected, under one definition of “ending austerity”.

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Why invite more of the same?

Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)

Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, has referred the lawyer Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick, one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, for criminal investigation. In a statement, Grassley said he was referring the two to the justice department for a “criminal investigation relating to a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation”. Swetnick, who was represented by Avenatti, came forward in late September to allege that Kavanaugh took part in efforts to gang-rape women at drunken parties. She said she too was gang-raped at one such party, but did not directly accuse Kavanaugh of being involved.

Kavanaugh categorically denied the accusations calling them “a joke” and “a farce” in his testimony before the Senate. Avenatti has become an increasingly high-profile opponent of Donald Trump after coming to prominence as the lawyer of Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Avenatti has been an outspoken critic of Trump on cable TV and social media. He is also mulling a run for the White House in 2020. Swetnick was the third woman to come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process for the supreme court. The Senate approved Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 50-48 vote in early October.

Grassley accused Swetnick and Avenatti of knowingly misleading the committee. “That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth,” said the Iowa Republican. “It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons. Thankfully, the law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future,” Grassley said.

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Inequality has become a dangerous game, but greed wins the day every day.

World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)

Billionaires made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history. The richest people on Earth increased their wealth by a fifth to $8.9tn (£6.9tn), according to a report by Swiss bank UBS. The fortunes of today’s super-wealthy have risen at a far greater rate than at the turn of the 20th century, when families such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast wealth. The report by UBS and accountants PwC said there was so much money in the hands of the ultra-rich that a new wave of rich and powerful multi-generational families was being created. “The past 30 years have seen far greater wealth creation than the Gilded Age” the UBS Billionaires 2018 report said.

“That period bred generations of families in the US and Europe who went on to influence business, banking, politics, philanthropy and the arts for more than 100 years. With wealth set to pass from entrepreneurs to their heirs in the coming years, the 21st century multi-generational families are being created.” The world’s 2,158 billionaires grew their combined wealth by $1.4tn last year, more than the GDP of Spain or Australia, as booming stock markets helped the already very wealthy to achieve the “greatest absolute growth ever”. More than 40 of the 179 new billionaires created last year inherited their wealth, and given the number of billionaires over 70 the report’s authors expect a further $3.4tn to be handed down over the next 20 years.

“A major wealth transition has begun,” the report said. “Over the past five years, the sum passed by deceased billionaires to beneficiaries has grown by an average of 17% each year, to reach $117bn in 2017. In that year alone, 44 heirs inherited more than a billion dollars each.

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Completely insane.

Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)

Twitter has suspended noted anti-war commentator, economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts, 79, served in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1982. He was formerly a distinguished fellow at the Cato Institute and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and has written for the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. Roberts maintains an active blog. He’s also vehemently against interventionary wars around the world, and spoke with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news in a Tuesday article – in which Roberts said that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty was a handout to the military-security complex.

The former Reagan administration official clarified that he does not think “that the military-security complex itself wants a war with Russia, but it does want an enemy that can be used to justify more spending.” He explained that the withdrawing from the INF Treaty “gives the military-security complex a justification for a larger budget and new money to spend: manufacturing the formerly banned missiles.” [..] The economist highlighted that “enormous sums spent on ‘defense’ enabled the armaments corporations to control election outcomes with campaign contributions,” adding that in addition, “the military has bases and the armaments corporations have factories in almost every state so that the population, dependent on the jobs, support high amounts of ‘defense’ spending.”

“That was 57 years ago,” he underscored. “You can imagine how much stronger the military-security complex is today.” -Sputnik. Roberts also suggested that “The Zionist Neoconservatives are responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the INF treaty, just as they were responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty [in 2002], the Iran nuclear agreement, and the promise not to move NATO one inch to the East.”

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So Assange still doesn’t have his internet back, but he does talk to an Ecuador court via video link.

Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)

The presiding judge in WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s case against the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry has reportedly said that the court made a mistake by appointing an English translator who doesn’t speak Australian. The anecdote was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday and allegedly took place at the first hearing of Assange’s lawsuit against the ministry. Speaking via video link, Australian-born Assange complained to the court that his state-appointed translator from English to Spanish was not cutting it. It’s unclear what exactly the issue was, but Judge Karina Martinez apparently thought Assange’s Australian accent was thick enough to warrant a dedicated expert.

While Australian English is the most spoken dialect Down Under, it is by no means a separate language. The Australian dialect originated in the late 18th and early 19th century from convicts who were the first British settlers to arrive in New South Wales. Admittedly, the Australian vernacular is quite distinct, has rich slang, and peculiar terms. Differences in pronunciation and vocabulary can at times leave an average British or American English speaker perplexed. Assange’s accent, however, is far from the thickest around. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia, accusing the government of violating his “fundamental rights and freedoms” with a set of new rules.

The government files released by an Ecuadorian opposition lawmaker last Tuesday outline the efforts of the Latin American country to prevent Assange from engaging in activities that “could be considered political or interfering with the internal affairs of other states.” They also limit Assange’s visitation rights, force him to pay his own medical bills, and even threaten to take away his cat if he doesn’t look after it properly. Assange’s lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, has accused Valencia of “isolating and muzzling” the fugitive, himself an Ecuadorian citizen since December 2017. Garzon said Assange still has no access to the internet, despite Ecuador’s earlier announcement it would restore communications.

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Worth a try.

Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)

A group of Canadian doctors are to begin prescribing trips to an art gallery to help patients suffering a range of ailments become a picture of health. A partnership between the Francophone Association of Doctors in Canada (MFdC) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) will allow patients suffering from a number of physical and mental health issues, along with their loved ones, to take in the benefits of art on health with free visits. The pilot project is unprecedented globally, according to its organizer. The project will see participating physicians prescribe up to 50 visits to the MMFA during treatment, each pass valid for up to two adults and two minors.

So far 100 doctors have enrolled to take part over the course of a year, Nicole Parent, head of the MFdC, told AFP Thursday. The numbers offer proof that doctors have “a sensitivity and openness to alternative approaches if you want” Parent said, citing scientifically proven benefits of art on health. The benefits are similar to those patients can get from physical activity, prompting the secretion of a similar level of feel-good hormones, and can help with everything from chronic pain to depression, stress and anxiety. The pilot program will allow organizers to gather data and analyze results, allowing for the development of protocol for identifying patients.

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This summer (which starts Dec 20).

Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

Mass bleaching and coral death could be likely along the entire Great Barrier Reef this summer, according to a long-range forecast that coral experts say is “a wake-up call” for the Australian government. The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has forecast a 60% chance that the entire Great Barrier Reef will reach alert level one, which signals extreme heat stress and bleaching are likely. The forecast period covers November 2018 to February 2019 and the risk extends to the southern Great Barrier Reef, which escaped the mass mortality seen in the middle and northern parts of the reef in 2016 and 2017.

“This is really the first warning bells going off that we are heading for an extraordinarily warm summer and there’s a very good chance that we’ll lose parts of the reef that we didn’t lose in the past couple of years,” said marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. “These are not good predictions and this is a wake-up call.” Hoegh-Guldberg said it was particularly worrying that the long-range forecasts were already showing high chances of bleaching and mortality before March, which is the main month of the year for bleaching events.

He said if the models proved accurate it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. “To really have the full picture we’re going to have to wait for those projections that cover the main part of bleaching season,” he said. “Given sea temperatures usually increase as we get towards March, this is probably conservative.”

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Oct 232018
 


Pablo Picasso Still life 1918

 

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)
Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)
Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)
Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)
The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)
Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)
Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)
EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)
By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)
US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages
Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)
Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

 

 

Timing’s a bit weird. As Erdogan prepares his speech fior noon local time (5am EDT), I’m doing this with what may soon be old news. Trump flew CIA head Gina Haspel to Ankara overnight, did she convince Erdogan not to talk?

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)

Turkey has not yet shared any information with any country from its probe into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, hours before President Tayyip Erdogan was due to reveal what he has said were details in the case. Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comment in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency. Cavusoglu also said that Turkey is ready cooperate with any international investigation into Khashoggi’s killing. Authorities have been investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2. After weeks of denial, Saudi Arabia at the weekend said the journalist had been killed at the consulate. Erdogan has said that he would share the information of the investigation in a speech on Tuesday.

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Or so he says.

Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears primed to assemble two weeks of leaks, insinuation and police evidence in an explosive speech in the Turkish parliament on Tuesday alleging that the Saudi Arabian government murdered the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Turkish soil. After weeks of leaks by Turkish police implying that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have known of a premeditated murder, there was no last-minute sign that the Turkish president would hold back from revealing what he has described as the “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s death. On Monday an aide vowed: “Nothing will remain secret.” Erdogan’s statement to members of his AK party coincides with the opening by the crown prince himself of an investment conference in Riyadh. Aides say Erdogan will address Saudi Arabia’s belated admission that Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate, where he was last seen on 2 October.

[..] Erdogan also has the chance in his speech to reveal details of an audio recording that purportedly exists of the moments of Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment. Reports on Monday suggested Saud al-Qahtani, an influential adviser to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, participated in a Skype call to the room in the consulate where Khashoggi was held. A Turkish intelligence source told Reuters that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. “Bring me the head of the dog,” he said. If true, the allegations would confirm reporting in the Guardian on Sunday that Turkey had intercepted the hit squad’s communications.

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The info drip-drip continues to the last minute.

Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)

Turkish authorities believe part of Jamal Khashoggi’s body was transported out of Turkey by one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bodyguards, sources have told Middle East Eye. Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, an intelligence officer implicated in the killing of the Saudi journalist, is thought to have taken the body part out in a large bag, the sources said. Mutrib, who is often seen travelling with the heir to the Saudi throne, left Istanbul on 2 October, the day of Khashoggi’s death, on a private jet that departed at 18:20 local time. His bags were not checked as he passed through the VIP lounge at Ataturk airport and neither was the plane, with tail registration HZ-SK1.

This was because the plane left before the alarm was raised. A second plane was searched from top to bottom and nothing was found, according to the sources. Mutrib, who carried a diplomatic passport, appeared to be in a hurry, they said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to reveal the “naked truth” over the killing of Khashoggi, saying that he would make a new statement on the case on Tuesday. “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.

Erdogan held a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Sunday where the two leaders agreed the Khashoggi case needed to be clarified “in all its aspects,” a Turkish presidential source said. Saudi Arabia, which on Friday finally admitted after 17 days that its officials had killed Khashoggi, says it does not know the body’s whereabouts. Anonymous Saudi officials have told media that the body was rolled into a carpet and handed to a “local collaborator” to be disposed of. However, on Sunday a Turkish source told MEE that Khashoggi’s body was cut into 15 pieces. “They did not roll anything up in anything,” the source said.

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Lots of theories. This one’s an option.

Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)

At about noon on Tuesday two regional leaders are due to make landmark addresses. In Riyadh, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, will open an investment showpiece declaring the kingdom open for business. In Ankara, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to make a speech that may well shut down the beleaguered kingdom. Such are the stakes when Erdogan takes to a podium to discuss the death of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi that the region may not be the same when he’s finished. Three weeks to the day since Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Erdogan has pledged to table the “naked truth” about what happened to the columnist and critic, whose fate continues to grip both countries and polarise the Middle East.

If he stays true to his pledge, much of the evidence that Turkey has gathered, incriminating Saudi Arabia in a plot to kill Khashoggi, will be revealed: in pictures, video and even bloodcurdling audio said to document his torture and death. Setting the scene on Monday, a spokesman for the ruling party for the first time described Khashoggi’s death as a “complicated murder” that was “monstrously planned”. [..] Erdogan has the Saudis – in particular, the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (AKA MbS) – right where he wants him. Out of crisis has come opportunity for the veteran Turkish leader, who has never warmed to the brash 33-year-old, and thinks even less of his regional allies.

The two men have vastly different visions for the future of the region: Erdogan has been a champion of political Islam both at home and abroad, particularly since the rise and fall of Mohamed Morsi, the ill-fated former president of Egypt who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish president has partnered with Qatar, Riyadh’s regional foe, given shelter to those exiled after Morsi fell, and remained a bulwark for a movement that Riyadh and its ally the United Arab Emirates see as existential threats. But he has remained on the losing end of the struggle for regional power and influence.

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Not entirely my view, but good bits for sure.

The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)

He’s the average American in exaggerated form—blunt, simple, willing to fight, mistrustful of intellectuals. Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared. The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again. For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful. Not that every leftist hates America. But the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable.

Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents. Mr. Trump lacks constraints because he is filthy rich and always has been and, unlike other rich men, he revels in wealth and feels no need to apologize—ever. He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton.

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On what authority? Jones must sue Jack.

Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)

Twitter Inc confirmed on Monday it has removed more accounts affiliated with Infowars, the website of U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The company confirmed a CNN report, which said Twitter permanently suspended 18 accounts, partly because of their attempts to help Infowars and Jones circumvent the ban placed on them by Twitter in September. Last month, Twitter permanently banned Jones and Infowars from its platform, saying in a tweet that the accounts had violated its behavior policies. Twitter had said back then that it would evaluate any reports regarding other accounts potentially associated with Jones and Infowars. Tech companies like Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Facebook have also recently banned Infowars and content produced by Jones while payments processor PayPal had ended its business relationship with the website in September.

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The idea is better than the article.

Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)

If Tom Wolfe were still alive, he might be turning his critical pen towards people like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or the Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, playfully describing the disruption that their companies bring to our lives on a daily basis. Just as Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities focused on the financiers whose greed defined the economy of the 1980s, the writer might today focus on the behaviour of these entrepreneurs whose technological innovations are overthrowing the old economy, creating entirely new digital marketplaces. And rather than the greed of the 1980s, ethics might be the focus of Wolfe’s attention. Not the ethics of the algorithms running these businesses, for algorithms don’t have ethics. Even smart algorithms don’t have ethics.

Algorithms are just bits of mathematics. Algorithms do, however, capture the ethics of the people behind them. And there is so much material Wolfe could write about this in 2018. Wind back the clock nearly two years. In October 2016, the investigative nonprofit newsroom ProPublica discovered that Facebook let advertisers exclude black, Hispanic and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing adverts. In the United States, housing and job adverts that exclude people based on race, gender and similar factors are prohibited by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Facebook admitted this was “a failure” and promised to prevent such discrimination in the future. More than a year later, in November 2017, ProPublica found Facebook was still allowing such adverts to be placed.

[..] This isn’t the first time we’ve faced such problems. In the first industrial revolution, some of the first to benefit were so rapacious they became known as the “Robber Barons”. Chief among them was the industrialist John D Rockefeller, arguably the wealthiest man to live in modern times. Rockefeller was notorious for the unethical and illegal business practices that helped his company Standard Oil control up to 90% of the world’s oil refineries. The History of the Standard Oil Company, published by Ida Tarbell in 1904, described the espionage, price wars and courtroom antics that allowed the company to dominate the oil business. Eventually Standard Oil became so powerful it had to be broken up into 34 new companies.


John D Rockefeller (left). Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

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The EU doesn’t understand what the internet is, how it has changed news and info dissemination. They don’t understand the amount of information, and how it necessitates changes. They’re handing the internet to America and taking it away from their own citizens.

EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)

YouTube’s CEO has urged creators on the popular video site to organize against a proposed EU internet regulation, reinforcing fears that the infamous Article 13 could lead to content-killing, meme-maiming restrictions on the web. The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law – with platforms being liable for any alleged copyright infringement. If enacted, the legislation would threaten “both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned the site’s content creators in a blog post on Monday.

The regulation would endanger “hundreds of thousands of job,” Wojcicki said, predicting that it would likely force platforms such as YouTube to allow only content from a hand-picked group of companies. “It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content,” Wojcicki wrote. While acknowledging that it was important to properly compensate all rights holders, the YouTube chief lamented that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.” She encouraged YouTubers to use the #SaveYourInternet hashtag to tell the world how the proposed legislation would impact them personally.

[..] The proposal has stirred considerable controversy in Europe and abroad, with critics claiming that the legislation would essentially ban any kind of creative content, ranging from memes to parody videos, that would normally fall under fair use. Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, has opposed Article 13 for months. The measure was advanced in June by the European Parliament. A final vote on the proposed regulation is expected to take place sometime next year. World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also spoken out against Article 13.

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Playing hardball is all Brussels knows how to do.

By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)

Former Dutch Minister of Finance and former President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, went on CNBC on Friday to declare all-out financial war on Italy. That’s the way Zerohedge put it. As a ‘former’ big wig it was his job to go out and state the position of those currently in power who can safely hide behind his words. And if you watch the clip from CNBC in the linked article you’ll note that CNBC excised the most important quotes, where Dijsselbloem threatened the Italians that no exit from the euro is on the table. But, why would he say this when Italy hasn’t brought it up at all? In fact, Italy’s leadership has been nothing but supportive of the European Project while standing firm on it adopting fairer rules for member countries.

[..] As always, the heavy-handed Djisselbloem has his thumb on the pulse of the EU’s problems, opening his mouth and making things worse, just like he did with Greece. In Greek negotiations, the EU was calm. It told Greece over and over, “No.” Greece threatened the nuclear option, leaving the euro and its bluff was called. So, Dijesselbloem’s warning is just like Greece’s threats and they are going nuclear on Italy. They have to. The EU has zero leverage over Italy. The so-called populists in charge in Italy know exactly what they are doing. They are killing the EU with kindness. Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio reiterated over the weekend that there is “no Plan B” for leaving the EU. The goal is to reform it from within.

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Nice, but as teh Guardian adds: “The judge said in her ruling Monday that if Johnson did not accept the lower punitive damages, she would order a new trial for Monsanto.”

US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages (R.)

A U.S. judge on Monday affirmed a verdict against Bayer unit Monsanto that found its glyphosate-based weed-killers responsible for a man’s terminal cancer, but said the $250 million punitive damages portion of the award had to be reduced. According to a ruling in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, Judge Suzanne Bolanos said she would slash the punitive damages award to $39 million if lawyers for school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson agreed. Monsanto, which denies the allegations, had asked the judge to throw out the entire original $289 million verdict or order a new trial on the punitive damages portion. A jury on Aug. 10 found the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including RoundUp and Ranger Pro, had caused Johnson’s cancer and that the company failed to warn consumers about the risks.

The verdict wiped 10 percent off the value of the company and marked the first such decision against Monsanto, which faces more than 8,000 similar lawsuits in the United States. “The court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal,” Bayer said in a statement. [..] Lawyers for Johnson in a statement on Monday said they were still reviewing whether to accept the reduced award or retry the punitive damages portion. “The evidence presented to this jury was, quite frankly, overwhelming,” the lawyers said.

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But we’re still going to poison most of our food, and that of others?

Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)

Cutting out pesticides by eating only organic food could slash your cancer risk by up to 86 percent, a new study claims. The biggest impact was seen on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk, which plummeted among those who shunned chemical-sprayed food, according to the survey of nearly 70,000 French adults. Overall, organic eaters were 25 percent less likely to develop any cancer, and their risks of skin and breast cancers dropped by a third. The finding comes amid a flurry of interest in the cancer risks of pesticides, spurred by this summer’s Monsanto trial, when a jury awarded a cancer-suffering groundsman $250 million after concluding that Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer. The health benefit was far greater for obese people, they found.

However, the diet had no significant effect on bowel cancer – which is soaring in numbers globally – or prostate cancer. ‘Our results indicate that higher organic food consumption is associated with a reduction in the risk of overall cancer,’ lead author Dr Julia Baudry of the Centre of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne, Paris said. ‘We observed reduced risks for specific cancer sites – postmenopausal breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and all lymphomas – among individuals with a higher frequency of organic food consumption. ‘Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.’

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By the time we acknowledge how bad this is, we’ll be full of plastic already.

Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

Scientists have discovered up to nine different types of plastic in the faeces of every person who took part in a Europe-wide study. On average, researchers found 20 microplastic particles in every 10 grams of stool, suggesting humans are swallowing them in food. Particles between 50 and 500 micrometres across were found, the most common being polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Diaries kept by each participant in the week before the stool tests showed that they were all exposed to plastic by consuming plastic-wrapped food or drinking from plastic bottles. Plastic in the gut could suppress the immune system and aid transmission of toxins and harmful bugs or viruses, experts believe.

Lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabi, from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, said: “Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. “Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.” The pilot study recruited eight participants from the UK, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria. None were vegetarians, and six ate sea fish. It is estimated up to 5 per cent of all plastics produced end up in the sea.

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Oct 122018
 
 October 12, 2018  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


M. C. Escher Order and chaos 1950

 

Donald Trump is Right About the Fed (Whalen)
Stocks Could Fall 40% To 50% To Reach Fair Value – Yusko (CNBC)
4 Pillars of Debt in Danger of Collapse (Nomi Prins)
The Dollar and its Discontents (Eichengreen)
China September Exports Surge, Creating Record Surplus With US (R.)
Facebook, Twitter Purge More Dissident Media Pages (CJ)
Italian Parliament Approves Controversial New Spending Targets (AP)
Turks Had Saudi Consulate Bugged With Audio (ZH)
Journalist’s Disappearance Hardens Congress Stance On Saudi Arms Deals (R.)
More Than A Million UK Residents Live In ‘Food Deserts’ (G.)

 

 

Chris Whalen on the absence of price discovery.

Donald Trump is Right About the Fed (Whalen)

President Donald Trump has been criticizing the Federal Open Market Committee for raising interest rates. The reaction of the US equity markets is self explanatory. But while the economist love cult in the Big Media may take umbrage at President Trump’s critique of the central bank, in fact Trump is dead right. First, the Fed’s actions in terms of buying $4 trillion in Treasury debt and mortgage paper has badly crippled the value of the fixed income market as a measure of risk. The Treasury yield curve no longer accurately describes the term structure of interest rates or risk premiums. This means that the Treasury yield curve is useless as an indicator of or guide for policy. Nobody at the Federal Reserve Board understands this issue or cares.

Second, Operation Twist further manipulated and distorted the Treasury market. By selling short-term paper and buying long dated securities, the Fed suppressed long-term interest rates, again making indicators like the 10-year Treasury bond useless as an measure of risk. Without QE 2-3 and Operation Twist, the 10-Year Treasury would be well over 4% by now. Instead it is 3% and change and will probably rally to test 3% between now and year end. Third is the real issuing bothering President Trump, even if he cannot find the precise words, namely liquidity. We have the illusion of liquidity in the financial markets today. Sell Side firms are prohibited by Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule from deploying capital in the cash equity and debt markets. All bank portfolios are now passive. No trading, no market making. There is nobody to catch the falling knife.

The only credit being extended today in the short-term markets is with collateral. There is no longer any unsecured lending between banks and, especially, non-banks. As we noted in The Institutional Risk Analyst earlier this week, there are scores of nonbank lenders in mortgages, autos and consumer unsecured lending that are ready to go belly up. Half of the non-bank mortgage lenders in the US are in default on their bank credit lines. As in 2007, the model builders at the Fed in Washington have no idea nor do they care to hear outside opinions. If you understand that the Fed’s previous “extraordinary” policy actions have the effect of understating LT interest rates by at least a percentage point, then you know why President Trump is howling like a wounded hound. Nobody understands the danger of leverage better than a real estate developer.

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But nobody says it’ll take 70-80%. Why?

Stocks Could Fall 40% To 50% To Reach Fair Value – Yusko (CNBC)

Investors should brace themselves for a significant stock market correction, as well as a recession in the first half of next year, investor Mark Yusko warned on Thursday. In fact, he says, fair value for equities would be down about 40 percent to 50 percent. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the stock market will have to go to fair value, Yusko said. “If interest rates keep normalizing, if liquidity keeps falling, if earnings go to where I think they are going to go, which is lower, I think we are going to have a meaningful correction,” the founder and chief investment officer at Morgan Creek Capital said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”

Yusko, a noted stock picker who took first place in Portfolios with Purpose’s fantasy stock-picking contest in 2016, predicts a recession in the first or second quarter of 2019. “Things are paying out now just like they did in 2000, 2001, 2002,” he said. In the back part of 2000, the stock market went down, 2001 brought a recession, and in 2002 the stock market took a big turn down. “It’s just going to be painful for a while to adjust this overvaluation,” Yusko added. [..] Yusko also questioned whether the economy is really strong. “We had one good quarter. We’ve been sub 2 percent [economic growth] for six years,” he said. Plus, forecasts are that GDP is going to be lower than expectations in the third quarter and even lower in the fourth quarter, and there are bad demographics and bad debt, he added.

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“..there’s now even less reason to believe the Fed will raise rates at the next meeting in December.”

4 Pillars of Debt in Danger of Collapse (Nomi Prins)

Last month I was in a series of high-level meetings with members of Congress and the Senate in Washington. While there’s been major news about the Supreme Court, my discussions were on something that both sides of the aisle are coming to consensus over. You see, issues that impact your own bottom line are way more about economics than they are about politics. On Capitol Hill, leaders know that. They also know that voters react to what impacts their money. That’s why, behind the scenes, I’ve been discussing issues focused on protecting the economy. Behind closed doors, we’ve been working on how to shield the economy from Too Big to Fail banks and how the U.S. can better fund infrastructure projects. These are initiatives that all politicians should care about.

Underneath the surface of the economy is a financial system that is heavily influenced by the Federal Reserve. That’s why political figures and the media alike have all tried to understand what direction the system is headed. Also last week I joined Fox Business at their headquarters to discuss the economy, the Fed and what they all mean for the markets. On camera, we discussed this week’s Federal Reserve meeting and the likely outcomes. Off camera, we jumped into a similar discussion that those in DC have pressed me on. Charles Payne, the Fox host, asked me what I thought of new Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, in general. Payne knew that I view the entire central bank system as a massive artificial bank and market stimulant.

What I told him is that Powell actually has a good sense of balance in terms of what he does with rates, and the size of the Fed’s book. He understands the repercussion that moving rates too much, too quickly, or selling off the assets, could have on the global economy and the markets. Savvy investors know that if the U.S. economy falters, because everything is connected, it could reverberate on the world. That’s why I could forecast that the Fed would raise rates by 25 basis points last week ahead of time. And they did. However, there’s now even less reason to believe the Fed will raise rates at the next meeting in December.

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Could USD lose its position in just 5-10 years?

The Dollar and its Discontents (Eichengreen)

It is worth recalling how the dollar gained international prominence in the first place. Before 1914, it played essentially no international role. But a geopolitical shock, together with an institutional change, transformed the dollar’s status. The geopolitical shock was World War I, which made it hard for neutral countries to transact with British banks and settle their accounts using sterling. The institutional change was the Federal Reserve Act, which created an entity that enhanced the liquidity of markets in dollar-denominated credits and allowed US banks to operate abroad for the first time. By the early 1920s the dollar had matched and, on some dimensions, surpassed sterling as the principal vehicle for international transactions.

This precedent suggests that 5-10 years is a plausible time frame over which the US could lose what Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then France’s finance minister, famously called the “exorbitant privilege” afforded it by issuing the world’s main international currency. This doesn’t mean that foreign banks and companies will shun the dollar entirely. US financial markets are large and liquid and are likely to remain so. US banks operate globally. In particular, foreign companies will continue to use dollars in transactions with the US itself.

But in an era of US unilateralism, they will want to hedge their bets. If the geopolitical shock of Trump’s unilateralism spurs an institutional innovation that makes it easier for European banks and companies to make payments in euros, then the transformation could be swift (as it were). If Iran receives euros rather than dollars for its oil exports, it will use those euros to pay for merchandise imports. With companies elsewhere earning euros rather than dollars, there will be less reason for central banks to hold dollars in order to intervene in the foreign exchange market and stabilize the local currency against the greenback. At this point, there would be no going back.

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Before more tariffs kick in.

China September Exports Surge, Creating Record Surplus With US (R.)

China reported on Friday an unexpected acceleration in export growth in September and a record trade surplus with the United States, which could exacerbate an already-heated dispute between Beijing and Washington. September exports rose 14.5 percent from a year earlier, Chinese customs data showed. That blew past forecasts for an 8.9 percent increase in a Reuters poll and was well above August’s 9.8 percent gain. Growth in imports for September instead showed a moderate slowdown to 14.3 percent from 19.9 percent in August, slightly missing analysts’ forecast of a 15.0 percent growth.

China’s trade surplus with the United States widened to a record in September despite wider application of U.S. tariffs, an outcome that could push President Donald Trump to turn up the heat on Beijing in their trade dispute. The politically-sensitive surplus was $34.13 billion in September, surpassing the record of $31.05 billion in August. China’s export data has been surprisingly resilient to tariffs, possibly because companies ramped up shipments before broader and stiffer U.S. duties went into effect.

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Is it election time?

Facebook, Twitter Purge More Dissident Media Pages (CJ)

Facebook has purged more dissident political media pages today, this time under the pretense of protecting its users from “inauthentic activity”. In a statement co-authored by Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher (who also happens to be the former White House National Security Council Director of Cybersecurity Policy), the massive social media platform explained that it has removed “559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

This “inauthentic behavior”, according to Facebook, consists of using “sensational political content -regardless of its political slant- to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites,” which is the same as saying they write about controversial things, and posting those political articles “in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites.” In other words, the pages were removed for publishing controversial political content and trying to get people to read it. Not for writing “fake news”, but for doing what they could to get legitimate indie media news stories viewed by people who might want to view it.

[..] Two of the most high-profile pages which were shut down have probably been seen at some point by any political dissident who uses Facebook; the Free Thought Project, which had 3.1 million followers, and Anti-Media, which had 2.1 million. [..] As if that wasn’t creepy enough, some of the accounts purged by Facebook appear to be getting censored on Twitter as well, bringing back memories of the August cross-platform coordinated silencing of Alex Jones. The aforementioned Anti-Media has now been suspended from Twitter just hours after tweeting about being removed from Facebook, along with one of its top writers Carey Wedler, and a Unicorn Riot activist named Patti Beers who had more than 30,000 Twitter followers has just been removed from both sites as well.

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“EU rules do not allow the ECB to help a country unless this has already agreed on a rescue “program”..

Italian Parliament Approves Controversial New Spending Targets (AP)

Italy’s parliament approved on Thursday deficit-raising spending targets, defying markets and Italy’s eurozone partners who had been pressing for changes. The parliamentary vote clears the proposals to be forwarded to the European Commission for review. But the document already has been criticized as unrealistic by the parliament’s own budget office and the Bank of Italy. The new spending targets are set to raise Italy’s deficit to 2.4 per cent of GDP next year. In a slight softening, Italy’s leaders pledged to lower the deficit in the subsequent two years. But that has done little to assuage concern over the boost in spending to meet a raft of campaign promises made by the two populist parties that formed the governing coalition, and the impact it will have on Italy’s high public debt.

Also on Thursday, five senior sources told Reuters that the European Central Bank won’t come to Italy’s rescue if its governments or bank sector run out of cash unless the country secures a bailout from the European Union. Italy has seen its borrowing costs surge on financial markets since its new government unveiled plans to increase its budget deficit, defying EU rules and reawakening concerns about its huge pile of public debt. The sources, attending an economic summit in Indonesia, said Italy could still avoid a debt crisis if its government changed course but should not count on the central bank to tame investors or prop up its banks.

This is because EU rules do not allow the ECB to help a country unless this has already agreed on a rescue “program” – political jargon for a bailout in exchange for belt-tightening and painful economic reforms, an option the Italian government has firmly rejected. Any attempt to circumvent those rules would damage the ECB’s credibility beyond repair and undermine acceptance of the monetary union in creditor countries, such as Germany, the sources said. “It’s a test-case to show Europe and its mechanisms work,” said one of the sources on the sidelines of the IMF’s annual meetings in the Indonesian resort town of Nusa Dua.

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You don’t need 15 guys to kill someone.

Turks Had Saudi Consulate Bugged With Audio (ZH)

The Washington Post has provided further details on its prior reporting that US intelligence knew full well that Saudi Arabia was seeking to lure the now disappeared and allegedly murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi to its embassy in Istanbul in order detain or kill him. In an interesting new revelation the Post speculates based on intel sources that the whole October 2nd incident may have been an attempted “rendition” gone wrong. As more damning evidence emerges showing a Saudi “hit team” of 15 military and intelligence individuals murdered Khashoggi and chopped up his body to carry out of the country, there now appears a strong consensus that the order may have come straight from the top, most likely from crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) himself.

Middle East Eye, for example, concludes based on WaPo’s prior report, “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, ordered an operation targeting journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi… citing US intelligence intercepts.” What’s more is that NBC now reports that the Turks had the Saudi consulate bugged with listening devices before the disappearance and what now appears to be gruesome murder — which suggests Turkey is currently in possession of an audio recording of the alleged killing.

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Yeah, right..

Journalist’s Disappearance Hardens Congress Stance On Saudi Arms Deals (R.)

The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has hardened resistance in the U.S. Congress to selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, already a sore point for many lawmakers concerned about the humanitarian crisis created by Yemen’s civil war. Even before Turkish reports said Khashoggi was killed at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Democratic U.S. lawmakers had placed “holds” on at least four military equipment deals, largely because of Saudi attacks that have killed Yemeni civilians. President Donald Trump was wary of halting arms sales over the case, saying on Thursday the kingdom would just move its money into Russia and China.

[..] An informal U.S. review process lets the top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees stall major foreign arms deals if they have concerns such as whether weapons would be used to kill civilians. Corker said he recently told a defense contractor not to push for a deal with the Saudis, even before the Khashoggi case. “I shared with him before this happened, please do not push to have any arms sales brought up right now because they will not pass. It will not happen. With this, I can assure it won’t happen for a while,” Corker said. While details of all the blocked Saudi deals were not immediately available, one was the planned sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of high-tech munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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“She occasionally gets a taxi but finds that depletes her food budget. “A taxi is a meal..”

More Than A Million UK Residents Live In ‘Food Deserts’ (G.)

More than a million people in the UK live in “food deserts” – neighbourhoods where poverty, poor public transport and a dearth of big supermarkets severely limit access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, a study has claimed. Nearly one in 10 of the country’s most economically deprived areas are food deserts, it says – typically large out-of-town housing estates and deprived inner-city wards served by a handful of small, relatively expensive corner shops. Public health experts are concerned that these neighbourhoods – which are often also “food swamps” with high densities of fast-food outlets – are helping to fuel a rise in diet-related conditions such as obesity and diabetes, as well as driving food insecurity.

The most deprived areas include Marfleet in Hull, Hartcliffe in Bristol, Hattersley in Greater Manchester, Everton in Liverpool and Sparkbrook in Birmingham. Eight of Scotland’s 10 most deprived food deserts are in Glasgow, and three of Wales’s nine worst are in Cardiff. The study, by the Social Market Foundation thinktank and food company Kellogg’s, says poor, elderly and disabled people are disproportionately affected, as they cannot afford or are physically unable to travel to large supermarkets.

Food deserts are defined by the report as neighbourhoods of between 5,000-15,000 people served by two or fewer big supermarkets. In “normal” areas of this size there are typically between three and seven large food stores, it says. Small shops are less likely to sell fresh or healthy food. The report cites Lisa Cauchi, a mother of eight in Salford, in the north-west of England, who said the nearest reliable source of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables was a big supermarket half an hour’s walk away. She occasionally gets a taxi but finds that depletes her food budget. “A taxi is a meal,” she said.

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