Mar 112020
 


Gordon Parks A scene at the Fulton Fish Market, New York Jun 1943

 

Cancel Everything (Mounk)
An Italian Financial Crisis Is Certain – But How Contagious Will It Be? (G.)
Johns Hopkins Doctor: ‘What Happened In Wuhan Could Happen Here’ (CNBC)
Johns Hopkins Doctor: ‘What Happened In Wuhan Could Happen Here’ (CNBC)
Leaked: US Hospitals Prep For 96 Million Infections & 480k Deaths (SHTF)
Merkel Expects 60-70% Of Germans To Be Infected With Coronavirus (PJW)
China Eases Curbs As Infections Retreat, Imported Cases Tick Up (R.)
Pope Francis Tells Clergy To Go To Sick People, Defying Italy’s Lockdown (RT)
Air Freight Rates Skyrocket As Passenger Flights Cut, China Restarts (R.)
Pollution Cuts May Mean Coronavirus Saves More Lives Than It Costs (F.)
Customs and Border Protection Agents Quarantined At DC Airport (Attkisson)
Things Take a Turn (Kunstler)
Weinstein Sent Desperate Emails to Mike Bloomberg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos (V.)
All-Star Warmonger Lindsey Graham Urges NATO: Get More Involved In Idlib (RT)
Putin Backs Proposal Allowing Him To Remain In Power Beyond 2024 (G.)
The Waters Parted For Joe Biden (IC)
Twitter ‘Manipulated’ Tag For Trump’s Biden Video Manipulates US Electorate (RT)
Hunter Biden Aims to Skip Court Appearance, Cites Corona, Pregnant Wife (FB)

 

 

Cases 119,389 (+ 4,775 from yesterday’s 114,614)

Deaths 4,300 (+ 270 from yesterday’s 4,030)

 

It appears to be a day of minor milestones, as the US first goes over 1,000 cases (31 deaths), the death toll outside China passes 1,000, and Italy has over 10,000 infections, 2nd only to China

Someone made a graph that illustrates my point in The Virus is a Time Machine, that the virus’ progress moves in waves:

“France, Spain and Germany are about 9 to 10 days behind Italy in #COVID19 progression; the UK and the US follow at 13 to 16 days. In Italy we waited too long, these countries should really start implementing aggressive containment measures now.”

It may well be too late for those containment measures at this stage, even if New York creates a containment zone in New Rochelle. I’m not sure about the US in this graph anyway, I’m still tempted to log it in with France, Spain and Germany, rather than the UK. Let’s see in the rest of this week.

 

 

On the same topic::

 

As is obvious from last night’s Worldometer data, the rise in infections has definitely shifted to Europe for now, with France and Spain “leading the way”, and Scandinavia having lift-off, with Denmark cases more than doubled overnight. Denmark, Sweden and Norway now have over 1,100 cases and not one death.

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

We have an idea by now how poorly the US is testing, but what are the Scandinavians doing?

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Same graph again. Waves. Good example from 1918 Philly vs St. Louis.

Cancel Everything (Mounk)

We don’t yet know the full ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But three crucial facts have become clear in the first months of this extraordinary global event. And what they add up to is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways—right now. The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112. The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world.

Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March. Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today. The second fact is that this disease is deadlier than the flu, to which the honestly ill-informed and the wantonly irresponsible insist on comparing it. Early guesstimates, made before data were widely available, suggested that the fatality rate for the coronavirus might wind up being about 1 percent. If that guess proves true, the coronavirus is 10 times as deadly as the flu.

[..] so far only one measure has been effective against the coronavirus: extreme social distancing. Before China canceled all public gatherings, asked most citizens to self-quarantine, and sealed off the most heavily affected region, the virus was spreading in exponential fashion. Once the government imposed social distancing, the number of new cases leveled off; now, at least according to official statistics, every day brings more news of existing patients who are healed than of patients who are newly infected. A few other countries have taken energetic steps to increase social distancing before the epidemic reached devastating proportions. In Singapore, for example, the government quickly canceled public events and installed medical stations to measure the body temperature of passersby while private companies handed out free hand sanitizer. As a result, the number of cases has grown much more slowly than in nearby countries.

[..] hen the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing tens of millions of people, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death. As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died. In St. Louis, a public-health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total, roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)

Read more …

The finance guys want their “normal” back. But money won’t cure this. And certainly not after the fact. “Bank of England cuts rate from 0.75% to 0.25%, Europe sets up $25 billion fund”, no use.

An Italian Financial Crisis Is Certain – But How Contagious Will It Be? (G.)

The decision by the Italian government to suspend mortgage payments for its quarantined citizens is a drastic step in the battle to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus but is commensurate with the predicament the country finds itself in. Italy is the eurozone’s weak link. Even before the current lockdown it was facing a fourth recession in little more than a decade and there has been only minimal growth in living standards in two decades. Its manufacturing sector is dominated by low-cost producers vulnerable to disruption in the global supply chain. Government debt is high and its banking system is weak. And it is a strategically important economy: the eurozone’s third biggest . Put simply, if there was one EU country that the European commission and the ECB would have chosen to avoid a severe outbreak of the coronavirus it would have been Italy.


The issue is not whether Italy will have a recession. With schools, universities, theatres and cinemas shut and its hugely-important tourist industry facing a washout summer, the economy is going to shrink in both the first and second quarters of 2020. Nor is it really a question of how deep the downturn will be – although the early estimates are that it is going to be a bad one. Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior European economist at Capital Economics, thinks the economy will shrink by 1% in the first three months of the year and by a further 1.5% in the second quarter. But that assumes the quarantine lasts until the end of April and is then gradually lifted. Were the economy to remain effectively immobilised until the end of June, Allen-Reynolds says there could be a 4.5% drop in output in the second quarter.


Death rate in Lombardy: 8.1%. Rest of Italy: 3.7%

Read more …

US health care will be overrun. In for profit health care, contingency is anathema.

Johns Hopkins Doctor: ‘What Happened In Wuhan Could Happen Here’ (CNBC)

The coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. could grow to be as serious as it is in Wuhan, China, Johns Hopkins University Dr. Marty Makary told CNBC on Tuesday. “What happened in Wuhan could happen here. Why do we think otherwise?” Makary said on “Squawk Box,” referencing the Chinese city where the new virus originated in December. The city of 11 million people was locked down on an unprecedented scale as the outbreak intensified. It remains on lockdown even as new cases in the region decline. New cases in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province have dropped to below 50 a day, according to figures from the Chinese government, even as the disease spreads at greater rates across the globe. “The American immune system is not stronger than the Chinese immune system,” said Makary, a surgeon and professor of health policy and management.


“Viruses don’t care about politics and they don’t care about location.” [..] There are now more than 750 confirmed cases in the U.S., with 26 deaths. “We need to tell people right now to stop all nonessential travel. I feel strongly about that,” Makary said, adding he does not “like the idea of talking about contingency plans, but we’ve got to start making these plans.” “We’ve got to brace for a three-month problem..” Makary urged that the U.S. should take the disease more seriously, saying he’s was worried about the capacity of the nation’s health-care system to handle a serious spike in cases. America has about 100,000 intensive care unit beds that “operate at full capacity or near full capacity,” he said. “If we get 200,000 critical care cases, we’re going to be overrun,” he warned. “So we need to do more.”

Read more …

An 0.5% death rate. Optimism galore. But these numbers should be public, people need to understand how bad things can get. Thing is, media and politics play a role that forbids it.

Leaked: US Hospitals Prep For 96 Million Infections & 480k Deaths (SHTF)

Leaked medical conference documents have warned that hospitals across the United States are preparing for 96 million coronavirus infections. Not only that, but the same document wants hospitals to make preparations for 480,000 deaths from this outbreak. .. the American Hospital Association (AHA) conference in February reveal that US hospitals are preparing for: – 96 million coronavirus infections – 4.8 million hospitalizations from the infection – 480,000 deaths in the United States

According to Business Insider, these leaked documents are telling. Dr. James Lawler, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, presented the harrowing “best guess” estimates of the extent of the outbreak to hospitals and health professionals as part of the AHA webinar called What Healthcare Leaders Need to Know: Preparing for the COVID-19 on February 26. These documents paint a bleaker picture for those who are over the age of 60. According to the leaked documents: People aged 80 and over have a 14.8% chance of dying if they contract the infection, the slides revealed. The risk declines with youth, though those aged 70-79 and 60-69 are still placed at a significant risk, with 8% and 3.6% mortality rates respectively. –Business Insider

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Dr. Lawler’s estimate of 480,000 deaths would indicate a death rate of just half a percent (0.5%), which is significantly lower than death rates being reported by the WHO (3.4%) and the nation of Italy (5%). If the death rate in the United States reached just 2% while 96 million Americans are infected, that would result in 1.92 million deaths. The United States has fewer than one million hospital beds, and they are typically around 75% occupied by existing patients, unrelated to the coronavirus. Natural News has calculated that U.S. hospital beds will be overrun by May 30th if nothing is done to stop the exponential spread of the coronavirus.

Read more …

53 million infected. At a 1% death rate, that means….

Merkel Expects 60-70% Of Germans To Be Infected With Coronavirus (PJW)

Angela Merkel says she expects around 60-70 per cent of Germans will be infected with the coronavirus, which equates to about 53 million people. Reportedly, the German Parliament fell completely silent when Merkel stated the number. News outlet Bild reported the German Chancellor’s comments, which echoed numbers forecast by Berlin virologist Christian Drosten, who added that such a total could take 2 years or longer to reach. Given the fact that coronavirus has a mortality rate of around 1 per cent, this could equate to over half a million deaths, although new methods of fighting the virus could reduce this number.


The World Health Organization’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claimed that the death rate was higher at 3.4 per cent, although this has been disputed. Germany, which has recorded 1,565 coronavirus cases and two deaths so far, has yet to impose the kind of quarantine measures seen in Italy, where the entire country has been placed on lockdown. German health authorities have said that people should avoid attending concerts, clubs or football games to limit the spread of the illness.

Read more …

I hadn’t heard from Osterholm in years.

This Is A Coronavirus Winter, And We’re In The First Week (CNBC)

The U.S. is not prepared for what is coming as COVID-19 spreads rapidly across the country, public health and infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm told CNBC on Tuesday. The virus has surpassed the containment stage, he said, and the U.S. government is not responding appropriately for the magnitude of spread the country will likely see. “Right now we’re approaching this like it’s the Washington, D.C., blizzard — for a couple days we’re shut down,” the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “This is actually a coronavirus winter and we’re in the first week.”

The U.S. is not containing the virus, Osterholm added, warning that it is substantially more contagious than some U.S. officials have warned. He said the most important thing is to protect people who are most at risk of dying from the virus, mostly older people and those with underlying health conditions. “This is just going to keep spreading. We have to stop fooling people into thinking this is only by close contact where I have to be within 2 or 3 feet. We’re going to see much more transmission,” he said. “There will be widespread transmission of this virus around the country, and what we have to do is keep people who are at high risk of having bad outcomes, older, underlying health conditions, from being exposed.”

Osterholm called on U.S. officials to more clearly communicate to the American public the threat COVID-19 poses. “What I find really concerning is we’ve really not set the agenda here for the American public I think in a realistic way,” he said. “We’re going to see transmission for many, many more weeks to come,” Osterholm said. “We have to prepare for that.”

Read more …

“Total infections in mainland China stood at 80,778″… “79 of overall cases in China have come from abroad..”

Say no more: “Imported Cases Tick Up”…

China Eases Curbs As Infections Retreat, Imported Cases Tick Up (R.)

More places in China lowered emergency response levels to the coronavirus epidemic and relaxed travel restrictions a day after President Xi Jinping visited the epicenter of the outbreak, signaling authorities were turning the tide. Total infections in mainland China stood at 80,778 with 24 new cases by Tuesday, while 22 more deaths took the toll to 3,158, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. All the latest deaths occurred in Wuhan, the central city which was visited by Xi for the first time on Tuesday since the outbreak began there in December. Home to 11 million people, the provincial capital of Hubei province was placed in lockdown in late January. The most encouraging trend to be taken from the latest infection figures, was lower rate of transmission within communities in China as 10 of Tuesday’s 24 new cases involved people traveling from abroad.


Currently, just 79 of overall cases in China have come from abroad, but as that number increases, authorities are turning their focus on how to deal with that risk. The capital of Beijing saw six new cases on Tuesday involving individuals who traveled from Italy and the United States, while Shanghai had two imported infections, Shandong province one and Gansu province one. Taiwan too has begun reporting an uptick in imported cases. The government said on Wednesday the island’s 48th case was a woman in her 30s who had returned from holiday in Britain and had most likely been infected while overseas. New infections in Hubei continued to stabilize, with new cases declining for the sixth day. All 13 new cases in Hubei were recorded in Wuhan. Amid slowing domestic infections, a few cities in Hubei have started to ease curbs on movement of people and goods.

Read more …

Greek church does the same. G-d will save you if he wants to.

Pope Francis Tells Clergy To Go To Sick People, Defying Italy’s Lockdown (RT)

As Italy scrambles to enact strict quarantine measures to stem the rampant spread of the coronavirus, Pope Francis is issuing a very different directive to the priests under his command: get out and be with those who are sick. At a personal mass on Tuesday morning, and as Italy enters a complete lockdown, the Holy See implored clergymen to “have the courage to go out and go to the sick people.” The Pope’s remarks starkly contradict all the core advice administered by the Italian government – namely to stay home and not to travel unless it’s a medical emergency. With the highest death toll outside of mainland China – hiking from 463 to 631 on Tuesday – Italy is rightly concerned that it could become the super-spreader of Europe.


So why has arguably the most influential religious leader on the planet shunned the expert advice and sent his priests out into this new world of contagion? Well, no-one is quite sure. On other occasions, Francis has been exceedingly health-conscious. He has missed several engagements, live-streamed his general audience events and even ordered a cut-back on the mass gathering of pilgrims. But with today’s short remarks, the Pope has laid waste both to the safety of his own priests and to the many others who may catch the virus as a result of the ministry visits. The Pope’s comments speak of a depressingly common thread running through the response of many religious groups to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Read more …

Put your 737 MAX’s to good use.

Air Freight Rates Skyrocket As Passenger Flights Cut, China Restarts (R.)

Air freight rates are skyrocketing after the grounding of many passenger flights in Asia has left shippers scrambling to book limited spots on cargo planes as Chinese industrial production restarts, according to industry insiders. About half of the air cargo carried worldwide normally flies in the belly of passenger jets rather than in dedicated freighters. But deep flight cuts in response to the coronavirus outbreak have made the market more dependent on freight haulers. Freight forwarder Agility Logistics said on its website that China’s air cargo capacity was down 39% in February relative to last year because of the passenger flight cuts.


Shippers wishing to rush products out of China by air face sticker shock, said Refael Elbaz, chief executive of Israel-based Unicargo, which specializes in freight forwarding for Amazon.com sellers. “The price is three times higher – at least – because there is just no capacity,” Elbaz said. Freight Investor Services said in an update to clients on Monday that cargo pricing on China-to-U.S. routes had reached “abnormal highs” and that intra-Asia traffic was up by 22% over the previous week. TAC Index data shows China-U.S. cargo rates have risen by 27% over the last two weeks to $3.50 a kilogram.

Read more …

Silver lining. But it won’t last: they’re all already geared towards burn baby burn again.

Pollution Cuts May Mean Coronavirus Saves More Lives Than It Costs (F.)

The global lockdown inspired by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has shuttered factories and reduced travel, slashing lethal pollution including the greenhouse gases that are heating the climate. The lockdown may save more lives from pollution reduction than are threatened by the virus itself, said François Gemenne, director of The Hugo Observatory, which studies the interactions between environmental changes, human migration, and politics. “Strangely enough, I think the death toll of the coronavirus at the end of the day might be positive, if you consider the deaths from atmospheric pollution,” said Gemenne, citing, for example, the 84,000 people who die annually in France because of atmospheric pollution and the more than one million in China.


Scientists estimate the U.S. death toll from air pollution at more than 100,000 per year, and the World Health Organization estimates the global toll at 7 million. The global death toll of the pandemic remains largely a matter of conjecture. The most dramatic projections that have been released—too hastily to be peer reviewed—put the global death toll of an unchecked pandemic in the millions total—not annual. Most credible estimates are much less. Some experts have compared it to the 1957 flu outbreak that killed just over 1 million. Reductions in air pollution and global heating could save more lives. “More than likely the number of lives that would be spared because of these confinement measures would be higher than the number of lives that would be lost because of the pandemic,” Gemenne said in an appearance on France 24’s The Debate.

Read more …

Infecting tourists, are we?

Customs and Border Protection Agents Quarantined At DC Airport (Attkisson)

Five Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Dulles International Airport have been ordered to self-quarantine due to possible coronavirus exposure. The information was provided late Tuesday during an official briefing for members of Congress, Just the News has learned. One CBP National Targeting Center (NTC) officer was also ordered to self-quarantine. The NTC center in Sterling, Virginia, works to “catch travelers and detect cargo that threaten our country’s security.” All six CBP officers have reportedly been told to isolate themselves until March 14. Several additional coronavirus deaths were reported in the U.S. late Tuesday. Most of the fatalities to date have occurred among the elderly in Washington State in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Officials say there have been no serious cases or deaths reported among young Americans.

Read more …

“..a world made by hand..”

Things Take a Turn (Kunstler)

The new disposition of things is upon us, and the sooner we get with the program, the better. Welcome to The Long Emergency and its aftermath, a world made by hand. Expect that a lot of things crashing, grinding to a halt, and falling to pieces will not get patched back together and restarted. When the dust settles from all that, we’ll discover one of the primary conditions of the new era: we’re poorer — a lot of what we took to be money, or things that represented money, were figments. “Money” itself, as manifested in currencies, may become a slippery concept, with low credibility. If that’s the case, people ought to ask themselves: how can I be useful or helpful to the others around me in a way that will raise my own social capital and accumulate, at least, the good will of these other people, and perhaps some of their help or service in return for mine?

That is the beginning of building a local community — people bound together by mutual obligations, responsibilities, duties, and rewards. We’re lucky for one thing: this crisis of advanced civilization is striking at the very start of the planting season. If you’re prudent, you can begin at once to organize serious gardening efforts, if you live in a part of the country where that is possible. I’d go heavy on the potatoes, cabbages, winter squashes, and beans, because they’re all keepers over winter. Baby chicks sell at the local ag stores for a few bucks each now and you’ll be very grateful for the eggs. Get a rooster — even though they can be a pain-in-the-ass — and you won’t have to buy any more chicks.

If you live in a part of the country where the terrain is rugged and well-watered — as I do — start scoping out local hydro sites that might potentially generate electricity or drive machinery directly from water power. We will probably need more of that. Around here many of those sites are signified by the ruins of decommissioned factories and hydro-stations from not much more than a century ago. They were originally built with a lot less machine power than we would use today, and a lot more power of men working in groups. We’ve forgotten how effective men can be working together with pretty simple tools. We were too busy devaluing men in recent decades for the sake of a moral crusade to erase “gender” differences. Well, that will be bygone so fast your head will spin.

Read more …

Throw away the key please.

Weinstein Sent Desperate Emails to Mike Bloomberg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos (V.)

Newly unsealed court documents put Harvey Weinstein’s Rolodex on full display. The fallen movie mogul — who is now a convicted rapist facing up to 29 years in jail and will be sentenced Wednesday — once tried to save his career by emailing his famous peers, including billionaires, powerful agents and Hollywood titans. In emails, reviewed by Variety on Tuesday afternoon at the New York City criminal courthouse, where roughly 1,000 pages of documents were unsealed, Weinstein wrote to the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Quentin Tarantino, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook and Eddy Cue. The documents made available by the court did not include any responses from these people to Weinstein.

The New York Times broke its bombshell story, which revealed decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, on Oct. 5, 2017. Just days later, on Oct. 8, Weinstein sent out a flurry of emails to his powerful contacts, pleading for help to revive his career, and urging people to quickly send him letters of support. That same day, Weinstein was forced out of his own company. Writing to the heads of Apple, Cook and Cue, Weinstein said, “I don’t need you to make any public statements — just a private one to my gmail address, saying that you support me getting therapy and the help I need before the board fires me. I’m in a tough spot. Many of the allegations are false, but I need your help with this private letter of support. I’m going to get well, and if I pass the therapist test, then we can talk about reinstatement et cetera.

But for now, I’m going to take a leave of absence and get healthy. If they fire me now, it’ll destroy me personally and cause a huge legal battle, based on my rights with the company. But if I have support from someone like you getting me going into treatment and having the shot at a second chance (because people deserve a second chance), it would be very helpful. I would need something today if you can — I so appreciate it.”

Read more …

War to deflect attention away from the virus? The risk is too great that troops infect each other.

All-Star Warmonger Lindsey Graham Urges NATO: Get More Involved In Idlib (RT)

Veteran chickenhawk Lindsey Graham once again beat his over-used war drum, this time because he wants NATO to get involved in Idlib, Syria to stop “Syrian aggression.” Yes, when will Syria stop intervening in its own country? The South Carolina senator said that he fully supports US President Donald Trump’s efforts to “get NATO more involved in Syria,” arguing that the defensive alliance should aid Turkey as it “defends Idlib against Russian/Syrian aggression.” He further argued that the “fall” of Idlib would result in a humanitarian crisis felt around the world, which is why NATO should be more “supportive” of its Turkish ally. The senior statesman apparently doesn’t seem particularly fazed by the fact that Idlib is part of Syria – making accusations of “Syrian aggression” slightly nonsensical.


The province is now home to the last bastion of extremist jihadist militias, some of which are directly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. This is hardly the first time that the US hawk has demanded direct intervention in Idlib. In February, he called on the Pentagon to impose a no-fly zone over the Syrian province, claiming it would help stop the “destruction” of Idlib by Syrian, Iranian, and Russian forces. As far back as September, Graham was issuing statements warning over “the wholesale massacre” of civilians in Idlib, insisting that “we either act now [in Syria] or pay a heavy price later.” The senator’s melodramatic representation of a terrorist-infested Syrian province being under siege by the Syrian military shouldn’t come as a surprise to US political observers. Graham has been portrayed as part of former Arizona Senator John McCain’s “foreign policy club” – a euphemism for hardcore neocon interventionism.

Read more …

After years of anti-Putin rhetoric it’s lost on westerners, but Putin would love to retire to his dasha. Only, he’s afraid the neocons would jump in as soon as he does, and there’s no-one ready to take his place to defend his beloved motherland. Yeah, that’s pretty tragic in a way.

Putin Backs Proposal Allowing Him To Remain In Power Beyond 2024 (G.)

Vladimir Putin has moved to cement his hold on power in Russia beyond the middle of the decade, backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to seek another two terms in the Kremlin. The Russian president is required by the constitution to step down in 2024, and there have been months of conjecture about how he could stay in power beyond then, or at least ensure a safe transition for himself. In the end, the puzzle was resolved in an afternoon, in a series of choreographed political steps that took just over three hours and could result in Putin staying on as president until 2036.

The venture began in parliament, where a member of Russia’s ruling party proposed amending the constitution in a way that would “reset” Putin’s presidential term count back to zero. Putin then announced he would come to address the parliament himself, prompting breathless coverage on state television about whether he would accept or turn down the proposal. “In principle, this option would be possible,” he said at the end of a half-hour speech. “But on one condition – if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution.” He also said the move would have to be approved by the public in a referendum next month.

[..] In January, he told a veteran of the second world war that he was worried about a return to the 80s, when Kremlin leaders “stayed in power until the end of their days” and did not provide for a transition of power. On Tuesday, he walked back that statement, saying that modern Russia’s elections made it impossible to return to a Soviet-style procession of leaders-for-life. “I won’t hide that I was wrong,” he said. “It was an incorrect statement because during the Soviet Union there were no elections.” [..] It is unclear whether Putin had planned to stay on as president all along or had come to the decision more recently. In his speech, he said he hoped that one day the institution of the presidency in Russia would not be “so personified in a single person”, but added: “that is how all of our history ended up and of course we can’t not take that into account”.

Read more …

Yes, it went very fast.

The Waters Parted For Joe Biden (IC)

It feels like the closing of a loop. In March 1988, a dramatic upset in Michigan by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign brought him into a tie with Michael Dukakis, panicking the Democratic establishment and opening a window to a different future for the party. In March 2016, Sanders delivered a stunning upset to Hillary Clinton in the Rust Belt state, momentarily resetting the primary. Eight months later, Donald Trump did the same to Clinton in Michigan, sealing his Electoral College victory. On Tuesday, Michigan dealt a crushing blow to Sanders’s second presidential campaign — despite an endorsement on Sunday from Jackson.

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office said it would not release official results until midday Wednesday due to a large number of absentee ballots, but several networks called the state for Biden not long after polls closed at 8 p.m. With half the votes counted, Biden sat on a comfortable 14-point lead. The win for Biden comes after a swing toward the former vice president — what Nate Silver described as “probably the fastest in the history of the primaries.” Sanders moved from being the clear frontrunner on February 23, the day after the Nevada caucuses, to a stalled candidate on March 1, the day after South Carolina, to trailing on March 4, the day after Super Tuesday. Polls continued to slide away from Sanders over the next week, leading to his eventual loss in Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri as early returns came in on Tuesday.

The autopsies will begin soon, even as the campaign struggles forward, with Florida, Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio set to vote in a week — where two critical House contests will pit insurgent primary challengers Morgan Harper in Columbus, Ohio and Marie Newman in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois against Democratic incumbents. Those autopsies will look closely at the decisions made in those days between Nevada and this Tuesday by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also competed in the progressive lane until dropping out after Super Tuesday. The main question they’ll have to answer is why the Sanders campaign was unable to turn out the young, working class electorate he needed to beat the more moderate opponent, who dominated him among older white suburban voters as well as older black voters.

Read more …

Twitter says Americans are not smart enough to conclude on their own that Biden does’t support Trump. For once, @jack may be on to something. And it’s not that Americans are not smart enough.

Twitter ‘Manipulated’ Tag For Trump’s Biden Video Manipulates US Electorate (RT)

Imagine thinking so little of Americans’ intelligence to label a factual video clip ‘manipulated’ because it’s being used as a meme in the presidential election campaign. Twitter just did that, following in Facebook’s footsteps.
For the first time ever, Twitter applied a ‘manipulated’ tag to a video retweeted by President Donald Trump and shared by his social media director Dan Scavino. Mainstream media critics of the president were really excited at the news, calling the video “deceptively edited.” “We cannot get re-elect [sic]….we cannot win this re-election… excuse me, we can only re-elect Donald Trump,” the video shows Democrat front-runner Joe Biden telling a crowd. According to Twitter and the mainstream media, this is deceptive because the clip leaves out the ending: “…if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here.”

The full video of Biden’s remarks makes it clear that he didn’t really endorse Trump. Of course, no actual person out there would think he did, merely that the 78-year-old establishment Democrat is having trouble stringing a coherent sentence together, even with the help of a teleprompter. Last month, when Twitter announced that it would flag posts containing “synthetic or manipulated” media, the only thing clear about its rules was that their wording was so vague they would effectively be arbitrary. According to those rules, a tweet may be labeled as “deceptive” if the context in which it is shared “could result in confusion or misunderstanding” or “suggests a deliberate intent to deceive people.” Who gets to decide that? Twitter. Or should that be the Ministry of Truth?

Keep in mind that the US has constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech – which through some rather creative legal reasoning does not actually apply to private companies, so Twitter, or Facebook, or YouTube have in effect been able to throttle, demonetize, shadowban or just plain kick off anyone whose politics they disagree with. A Project Veritas undercover video from January 2018 shows a Twitter employee explaining the workings behind “shadowbanning.” A July 2019 story in the Washington Examiner documents the political activism of a senior engineer at the company – which continues to this day. Just last week, there was another social media first, when Facebook removed a series of Trump re-election ads. This happened after complaints by Democrat activists, lawmakers and media that the “official census” wording was “misleading” and confusing.

While that may have been true about the titles of the ads, the actual text made it clear they were requesting voters to voluntarily share their information with the campaign – not harvesting it without asking, like, say, Facebook. Quoting politicians out of context is indeed misleading. It’s also the oldest tactic in the book. The mainstream media have happily done it to Trump over and over – recall the “fine people” remark about Charlottesville, or insinuation he called all Mexicans “rapists,” or all illegal immigrants “animals.” There were no corrections, no apologies, no flagging for misleading or doctored edits for those. [..] The entire argument that fake news or “manipulated” social media posts swayed US elections has always been an insult to Americans’ intelligence, coming from people who clearly believe democracy is too important to be left to the voters.

Read more …

Tries to wiggle out of a case on child support payments using another -expected- child as an excuse. But read between the lines and you see he’s going to use his dad as a reason not to comply.

Hunter Biden Aims to Skip Court Appearance, Cites Corona, Pregnant Wife (FB)

Hunter Biden’s lawyers alerted the Arkansas judge presiding over the child support lawsuit against him that he will be unable to attend his scheduled court deposition this week, citing travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus and the approaching due date of his pregnant wife. Biden was ordered last Thursday to appear at the court on Wednesday, March 11, for a deposition in the ongoing child support case, but his lawyers told the court in a Wednesday filing that Biden would be unable to attend. “Defendant requests continuance of the hearing as he is unavailable to attend due to his wife’s due date in 2 and a half weeks or less and risks involved with travel,” the new filing states.

Biden’s lawyers further argue that it is unreasonable for him to be required to travel to Arkansas at all, saying the appearance is “burdensome and oppressive.” “It is unsafe for the Defendant to travel, as travel restrictions have been implemented both domestically and internationally, particularly on airlines, due to the coronavirus,” the filing states. “Setting aside personal endangerment, Defendant reasonably believes that such travel unnecessarily exposes his wife and unborn child to this virus. California, in particular, has been the site of numerous reported cases of exposure.”

The latest filing in the case also points to “intense media scrutiny” on Biden due to his father Joe Biden’s campaign for president. “The tremendously elevated media scrutiny creates some physical risks and logistics difficulties with travel to Arkansas, invades the privacy of the Defendant and his 8 and a half month pregnant wife, threatens to complicate the Court’s ability to conduct a public hearing, creates a highly prejudicial environment from Defendant, and cannot be in the child’s or his mother’s interest in any way,” the lawyers argue. Biden has already been declared the father of the nearly two-year-old Arkansas child, but has repeatedly avoided appearances in court. Lawyers for the child’s mother, Lunden Alexis Roberts, last Friday called for the court to hold Biden in contempt for his continued failure to provide financial documents.

“The defendant has continued to flaunt the orders of this Court by failing to answer discovery, comply with court orders, and provide his financial information,” lawyers for Roberts argued.

Read more …

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Feb 182020
 


Jack Delano Entrance to colored drivers’ lunchroom at truck service station on U.S. 1 (New York Avenue) 1940

 

338 Americans Flown Home From Cruise Ship, Including 14 With Coronavirus (R.)
US Breaks Cruise Ship Quarantine (ZH)
Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan (Chow)
Disease Modelers See The Future Of COVID-19 (STAT)
China Faces Back To Work Concerns As Firms Report Coronavirus Infections (SCMP)
Apple Unlikely To Meet Revenue Guidance Due To Coronavirus Impact (R.)
American Factories In China Unable To Staff Production Lines (SCMP)
At Stake (Jim Kunstler)
Senate Braces For Fight Over Impeachment Whistleblower Testimony (Hill)
NYC Taxpayers Spend Millions on Cyber Center with Ties to Israeli Intel (Webb)
WikiLeaks Locked Out of Twitter Account One Week Before Assange Hearing (GP)
Doctors Call For End Of Assange ‘Torture’ (AAP)
Julian Assange Must Be Freed, Not Betrayed (John Pilger)
Amazon’s Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Climate Change Fight (R.)

 

 

Actually saw a Reuters headline that said “Coronavirus Infections Slow In China…”, and I thought: why would you say that, the number of new cases is still above 2,000, in spite of all the measures and containment and quarantines in the country.

But it was probably because of the second part of the headline that said “…As Apple Warns Of iPhone Shortages”. That’s what it took for people to take notice, though iPhones are a poor indicator of the economic consequences of the virus; the Big Hurt won’t be in the biggest firms. Look around your home and your stores and see how much stuff come from China. iPhones are but a blip on that radar.

Obviously, another matter people notice is the evacuation of Americans and other people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama. If only because it allows CNN and BBC to endlessly lament the “terrible ordeal” their compatriots have endured. As entire families in Wuhan have been wiped out, and people are banned from any social activities.

 

• Cases 73,433 (+ 2,103 from yesterday)

• Deaths 1,873 (+ 98 from yesterday)

 

 

 

 

The Westerdam cruise ship unwind is even crazier than the Diamond Princess, and that’s saying something.

338 Americans Flown Home From Cruise Ship, Including 14 With Coronavirus (R.)

More than 300 Americans who had been stuck on a cruise ship affected by the coronavirus were back in the United States on Monday, flown to U.S. military bases for two more weeks of quarantine after spending the previous 14 days docked in Japan. Among those repatriated on a pair of U.S.-chartered jets were 14 people who tested positive for the fast-spreading virus, seven on each plane. The Diamond Princess cruise ship held by far the largest cluster of cases outside China, with more than 400 people infected out of some 3,700 on board. The coronavirus outbreak has killed 1,770 people in China and five elsewhere, with Chinese officials reporting another 2,048 cases on Monday, raising the total to 70,548.

Washington previously flew hundreds of Americans from China to military bases in the United States, and then arranged to bring back the 338 cruise ship passengers once their 14-day quarantines on board had expired. Another 60 Americans remained in Japan for monitoring, State Department officials said. A further 200 U.S. citizens were stuck in Cambodia, among them 92 still on board another cruise ship, the Westerdam, that was also affected by the virus. The Diamond Princess was ordered to stay under quarantine at Yokohama port on Feb. 3 after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man, who was on board from Jan. 20 to Jan. 25, developed the virus. U.S. officials previously pledged to keep infected Americans in Japan for treatment. But they said they were forced to change plans after the passengers disembarked and were on their way to the airport when Japanese officials informed them that 14 of those in transit had tested positive.

“It was only when they were loaded onto these buses that we were made aware these positive results had come back from the government of Japan,” Dr. William Walters, a senior medical official for the State Department, told a news briefing. “They were then taken off the bus, moved into the aircraft and that dedicated isolation area, which was the safest place for them to get away from the rest of the passengers and give us time to make decisions,” Walters said. The infected passengers were isolated in specialized containment areas aboard the two chartered jets. They were exposed to other passengers for about 40 minutes during the bus ride.

Read more …

The US accuses Japan of utter failure, but never in those words. Main ally.

US Breaks Cruise Ship Quarantine (ZH)

[..] the Princess Cruises ship was carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew when it set sail and was quarantined after 10 cases of coronavirus were reported Feb. 4. Since then the number of cases on board has exploded, and on Monday alone, Japan announced an additional 99 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship’s total number of cases to 454. And since most of the people on the ship have yet to be tested, the real number of infections may not be known for days. Where things gets problematic, is that whereas until now most of those on board the cruise ship had remained in isolation, the self-imposed quarantine is now over, and on Sunday, fourteen evacuees from the Diamond Princess were allowed to fly back to the United States Sunday despite testing positive for coronavirus, the U.S. State Department and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.


Why were they released? Because supposedly they were not symptomatic, and in a very ominous twist, they had tested negative initially! “These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” the statement, published Sunday, read. The State Department was unaware the individuals had coronavirus when they were being removed from the ship; they had tested negative just a few days before, Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, said on a phone call with reporters. “If those results had come back four hours earlier before we’d started to disembark the ship and before these people were evacuees within an evacuation system, then it would’ve been a different discussion.” Dr. William Walters, director of operational medicine at the U.S. Department of State, said on the call.

In other words, the quarantine that had isolated the biggest incubator of coronavirus cases outside of Wuhan was broken simply because an initial test had given a false negative, and subsequents test confirmed that at least 14 indeed had the coronavirus. Kadlec said that individuals received multiple screenings when moving from ship to bus to plane and a more extensive medical assessment upon arrival. In any case, the Diamond Princess quarantine is now broken, and two charter flights carrying at least 14 infected passengers landed at military bases in California and Texas overnight, starting the clock on a 14-day quarantine period to ensure those passengers don’t have coronavirus. In total, approximately 380 Americans were on board the Diamond Princess ship for the duration of the cruise and quarantine at sea.


[..] Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told the USA TODAY editorial board and reporters Monday that the original idea to keep people safely quarantined on the ship wasn’t unreasonable. Yet where the entire story falls on its face is that even with the quarantine process on the ship, virus transmission still occurred. One can only hope that there are proper precaution pathways in place to prevent transmission now that at least 13 infected cruise passengers are now on US soil. “ The quarantine process failed,” Fauci said. “I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don’t know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship.”

Read more …

Mild? Mildly contagious? One wonders.

Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan (Chow)

A Chinese film director and his entire family have died from the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Chang Kai, a film director and an external communications officer at a Hubei Film Studio subsidiary, died in hospital on Feb. 14 from the virus now called COVID-19, according to a statement from the studio. He was 55. But Chang’s death was not the first in his family—the Chinese media reported that Chang’s father and mother were infected and died one after the other. Chang and his sister, who looked after their parents at home, were both infected with the virus as a result. His sister died just hours later. Chang’s wife is also infected, still alive, and is still battling the virus in an intensive care unit.


A note written by Chang, said to be his last words, has gone viral on the Chinese Internet. Chang wrote that his father succumbed to the illness on the first day of the Lunar New Year (January 25). “My father had a fever, cough and trouble breathing. [We] tried to send him to the hospital but none of the hospitals we visited took him, because they had no more beds,” he wrote. Instead, Chang brought his father home where ha died a few days later, having passed on the virus to the other family members. Chang’s note said that he and his wife were denied the opportunity to be treated early. Wuhan built a new hospital in six days, but capacity to handle the virus remains strained. Chang bade farewell to his family, friends and his son, who is reportedly studying in the U.K.

Read more …

Too many unknowns. Too easily lost in various favorite interpretations.

Disease Modelers See The Future Of COVID-19 (STAT)

At least 550,000 cases. Maybe 4.4 million. Or something in between. Like weather forecasters, researchers who use mathematical equations to project how bad a disease outbreak might become are used to uncertainties and incomplete data, and Covid-19, the disease caused by the new-to-humans coronavirus that began circulating in Wuhan, China, late last year, has those everywhere you look. That can make the mathematical models of outbreaks, with their wide range of forecasts, seem like guesswork gussied up with differential equations; the eightfold difference in projected Covid-19 cases in Wuhan, calculated by a team from the U.S. and Canada, isn’t unusual for the early weeks of an outbreak of a never-before-seen illness.

But infectious-disease models have been approximating reality better and better in recent years, thanks to a better understanding of everything from how germs behave to how much time people spend on buses. “Year by year there have been improvements in forecasting models and the way they are combined to provide forecasts,” said physicist Alessandro Vespignani of Northeastern University, a leading infectious-disease modeler. That’s not to say there’s not room for improvement. The key variables of most models are mostly the same ones epidemiologists have used for decades to predict the course of outbreaks. But with greater computer power now at their disposal, modelers are incorporating more fine-grained data to better reflect the reality of how people live their lives and interact in the modern world — from commuting to work to jetting around the world.

These more detailed models can take weeks to spit out their conclusions, but they can better inform public health officials on the likely impact of disease-control measures. Models are not intended to be scare machines, projecting worst-case possibilities. (Modelers prefer “project” to “predict,” to indicate that the outcomes they describe are predicated on numerous assumptions.) The idea is to calculate numerous what-ifs: What if schools and workplaces closed? What if public transit stopped? What if there were a 90% effective vaccine and half the population received it in a month?

“Our overarching goal is to minimize the spread and burden of infectious disease,” said Sara Del Valle, an applied mathematician and disease modeler at Los Alamos National Laboratory. By calculating the effects of countermeasures such as social isolation, travel bans, vaccination, and using face masks, modelers can “understand what’s going on and inform policymakers,” she said.

Read more …

Said it a few times before: factories become petri dishes too, the virus loves those.

China Faces Back To Work Concerns As Firms Report Coronavirus Infections (SCMP)

Cracks have appeared in China’s eagerness to resume economic activities amid the coronavirus outbreak, with a number of work-related cases reported. Gree Electric, the country’s biggest air-conditioner manufacturer located in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province, was forced to take emergency action last week to check and quarantine its employees after a bus driver was found to have had close contact with a suspected case, according to a notice published by the company’s labour union on its social media account. The contracted driver, surnamed Feng, had been driving employees to and from work last week until Saturday, with Gree now “intensely” checking the condition of employees who had travelled on the bus.

In addition, Feng was found to have had a meal with three colleagues last week, which was against his company’s policy concerning coronavirus control. According to the statement, Gree recommended that the contractor sack all four drivers despite the quartet, plus Feng’s son, later testing negative. The Gree statement, which was later removed, did not provide details on how many workers have been placed under quarantine. Gree was one of the first to resume production in Guangdong, with provincial party secretary Li Xi visiting the plant last week, two days after 11,000 workers – around one third of the total workforce – resumed operations, according to a report by the official Nanfang Daily.

In another case in Chongqing, more than 130 employees of Chongqing Titanium Industry, a unit of Pangang Group, had to be quarantined and the factory was again forced to halt production after two members of staff were confirmed as being infected at the start of last week, according to a notice by the local industrial estate where the plant is based. In Guangzhou, an employee tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the company to quarantine its remaining members of staff since Friday.

Read more …

This sinks the “markets”. And shows how dumb the people in them are.

Apple Unlikely To Meet Revenue Guidance Due To Coronavirus Impact (R.)

Apple warned on Monday it was unlikely to meet a sales target set just three weeks ago amid lost production and weakening demand in China from the coronavirus outbreak. The illness has killed 1,770 in China and stricken some 70,500 people, with millions of others confined to their homes and factories slow to reopen after the Chinese New Year holiday break was extended due to the virus. Manufacturing facilities in China that produce Apple’s iPhone and other electronics have begun to reopen, but they are ramping up more slowly than expected, Apple said. That will mean fewer iPhones available for sale around the world, making Apple one of the largest Western firms to be hurt by the outbreak.


Some of its retail stores in the country remain closed or are operating at reduced hours, which will hurt sales this quarter. China accounted for 15% of Apple’s revenue, or $13.6 billion, last quarter, and supplied 18% of revenue in the year-ago quarter. In late January, Apple had forecast $63 billion to $67 billion in revenue for the quarter ending in March. It did not offer a new revenue estimate nor provide a profit forecast on Monday. “The magnitude of this impact to miss its revenue guidance midway through February is clearly worse than feared,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note. Apple’s stock is expected to face a knee-jerk reaction on Tuesday, when Wall Street reopens after the Presidents Day holiday, Ives said.

Read more …

It’s irresponsible to open most of these factories.

American Factories In China Unable To Staff Production Lines (SCMP)

As China tries to put its economy back to work amid a novel coronavirus outbreak that has left swathes of the country on lockdown, American manufacturers have warned that they do not have enough staff to man their production lines. The Lunar New Year holiday was officially extended until February 10 in a bid to stem contagion, but factories begun reopening last week across the country, with differing rules applying across China’s almost 3,000 counties.
A survey of 109 companies in the manufacturing powerhouse of the Shanghai region found that while two-thirds of factories were up and running by the end of last week, 78 per cent did not have enough workers to kick-start full production. Almost half, meanwhile, said that their global operations have already been hit by the spread of the coronavirus.


Companies in the area, which includes Suzhou, Nanjing and the wider Yangtze River Delta, had to apply for permission to reopen, and of those that were granted a licence, just 58 per cent were permitted to open all of their production lines, according to the survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Shanghai between February 11 and 14. “The biggest problem is lack of workers as they are subjected to travel restrictions and quarantines, the number one and number two problems identified in the survey. Anyone coming from outside the immediate area undergoes a 14 day quarantine,” said Ker Gibbs, AmCham Shanghai president. “Therefore, most factories have a severe shortage of workers, even after they are allowed to open. This is going to have a severe impact on global supply chains that is only beginning to show up.

Read more …

A convenient list of names.

At Stake (Jim Kunstler)

I have a theory about the McCabe case: The Attorney General has taken the rinky-dink “lying to the FBI” charge off the table. It has become a liability, virtually the emblem for government misconduct, and Mr. Barr is getting rid of it in these matters. It has already caused too much mischief, insulted Americans’ sense of justice, and damaged the DOJ’s standing. Note, Andrew McCabe has been let off only on this charge, stemming from only one particular IG referral; he may well yet be liable for more serious charges-to-come. From here on, there will be no more rinky-dink lying charges against any of those implicated in the coup, only the most serious charges, and only those that add up to a solid case.

The coup has been so broad, deep, and thick that I predict cases will have to be brought under the RICO statutes in batches for different groups in separate agencies and branches of government. For instance, there is the Intel Mob, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intel (DNI) James Clapper, current Intel IG Michael Atkinson, so-called whistleblower (he that cannot be named, E*** C**********) and International Man of Mystery Joseph Mifsud. There is gang from the State Department who helped engineer UkraineGate, including former Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, former Sec’y of State John Kerry, and others. There is that big herd of rogue lawyers in the DOJ and its stepchild, the FBI, the names widely disseminated by now, Comey, Strzok, Baker, Boente, Carlin, Clinesmith, et. al.

There’s Robert Mueller and his henchpersons, Andrew Weissmann, Jeannie Rhee, et. al. There’s another a band of seditionists in Congress that includes Mark Warner of the Senate Intel Committee, the now notorious idiot Adam Schiff over in the House, and staffers who worked for both. There’s a bunch in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment that paid over a million dollars to Alternate International Man of Mystery (actually, CIA asset) Stefan Halper to run entrapment schemes against people working for Mr. Trump. There’s a swarm from Barack Obama’s White House, including Valarie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, Alexandra Chalupa, former Vice-President Joe Biden and the former President himself.

And finally, there is the 800-pound-gorilla over in the Democratic Party thicket, namely Hillary Clinton, and those connected to her and her charity fraud, the Clinton Foundation, which is the real and actual predicate for the whole sordid affair — a list that includes Viktor Vekselberg of Russia’s Skolkovo Project, $25-million donor Russian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, and Dmitri Alperovich of CrowdStrike, (Russian collusion, anyone?) as well as rascally freelancers such as Christopher Steele, Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, lawyer / Lobbyist Adam Waldman, and Hillary errand boys Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer. The stories behind those names are all over the web, in case you want to hjedify yourself.

Read more …

The networks are bent in a strange pretzel to justify keeping the long known identity “secret”. It’s not about the identity, it’s about having an excuse not to let him testify.

Senate Braces For Fight Over Impeachment Whistleblower Testimony (Hill)

Senators are reviving the fight over the whistleblower complaint at the center of the months-long impeachment effort against President Trump. With Trump’s trial in the rearview mirror, the Senate Intelligence Committee is quietly shifting its attention back to its investigation into the complaint process after hitting pause on the inquiry as the impeachment effort consumed Washington. The probe will force senators to decide if, and how, they speak with the whistleblower — a controversial call that could test the bipartisan reputation the Intelligence panel has maintained even amid deeply partisan fights in Congress. Asked by The Hill if he was willing to formally compel and subpoena the whistleblower to testify, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) didn’t rule out the possibility.

“I think you can rest assured that I’m prepared to do whatever we have to to interview the whistleblower,” Burr said. The renewed interest in speaking with the whistleblower comes after committee staff and lawyers for the individual hit a stalemate late last year over potential questioning. Lawyers for the individual made offers at the time to both the House and Senate Intelligence committees that their client was willing to provide written answers under oath, but Burr rejected that offer. The North Carolina senator indicated no progress had been made since then in trying to reach a deal on testimony and that while he hadn’t spoken recently with Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s lawyers, his plan is “an interview with committee staff.”

[..] A Democratic committee source said that protecting the whistleblower’s safety and anonymity “is a top priority.” “We do not expect to be asked to cooperate with any effort that might endanger his or her safety,” the source said. The prospect of calling the whistleblower to speak with the committee has been talked up most recently not by a member of the panel but by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of the president. “The Senate Intel Committee under Richard Burr has told us that we will call the whistleblower,” Graham said earlier this month during a Fox News interview. He added in a subsequent interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the “whistleblower episode needs to be investigated by Richard Burr” and in an interview with Fox News Radio that “the Intel Committee should be looking at whether or not the whistleblower had a bias.”

Read more …

Whitney with a new angle. Includes some Epstein.

NYC Taxpayers Spend Millions on Cyber Center with Ties to Israeli Intel (Webb)

Early last week, the city of New York launched — with little media scrutiny — one of two new massive cybersecurity centers that will be run by private Israeli firms with close ties to Israel’s government, the so-called “Mega Group” tied to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and prominent pro-Israel lobby organizations operating in the United States. The centers were first announced in 2018 as was the identity of the firms who would run them: Israel-based Jerusalem Venture Partners and SOSA. As MintPress has reported on several occasions, all three of these entities have a history of aggressively spying on the U.S. federal government and/or blackmailing top American politicians, raising concerns regarding why these companies were chosen to run the new centers in the heart of Manhattan.

The news also comes as Israeli cybersecurity companies tied to Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 were revealed to have access to the U.S. government’s most classified systems and simulating the cancellation of the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The new cybersecurity centers are part of a new New York City public-private partnership called “CyberNYC” that is valued at over $100 million and officially aims to “spur the creation of 10,000 cybersecurity jobs and make New York City a global leader in cyber innovation.” CyberNYC is an initiative of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation. However, the companies that will be responsible for creating those cybersecurity jobs will benefit foreign companies, namely Israeli and most of the jobs to be created will go to foreigners as well, as media reports on the partnership have quietly noted.

Those reports also stated that, while the stated purpose of the centers is to create new jobs, the Israeli firms chosen to run them — Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and SOSA — view it as an opportunity to provide Israeli cybersecurity companies with a foothold into the American market and to see Israeli cybersecurity products adopted by both small and medium-sized American businesses, not just large corporations and government agencies. [..] the founder of JVP and former Knesset member, Erel Margalit, told the Jerusalem Post that “the center we are setting up [in New York] will assist Israeli hi-tech companies in collaborating with customers and companies in the US and around the world.”

Read more …

I think I saw it’s been restored. Twitter saying it had been compromised or something like that.

WikiLeaks Locked Out of Twitter Account One Week Before Assange Hearing (GP)

WikiLeaks has been locked out of their Twitter account just one week before Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin in the UK. WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tweeted on Monday that “all attempts to get it reopened via regular channels have been unsuccessful. It has been impossible to reach a human at twitter to resolve the issue.” A source familiar with the situation explained to the Gateway Pundit that WikiLeaks social media admins received an automated email on February 9 saying that they needed to reset their password to regain access, but were not able to do so. They were unsure about the reason for the email in the first place — whether it was a glitch from Twitter, a targeted effort, or a hack.

The source said that when the WikiLeaks admins attempted to change the password and log in they received responses from Twitter saying that they were unable to verify them as the owner of the account and that the email on file did not match the one that they were using. WikiLeaks maintains that they are indeed using the same email that has been associated with the account for years. Efforts by WikiLeaks to reach someone at Twitter, since the 9th, have been unsuccessful. Assange’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on February 24 at Belmarsh Magistrates Courts, which is a court under the jurisdiction of South London Magistrates Courts.

Assange faces charges under the Espionage Act in the United States for his publication of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. If extradited and convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years for the “crime” of publishing material that the US government did not want the public to know. On Monday evening, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Gateway Pundit that the “account was locked due to indicators it was compromised.”

Read more …

February 14 is the next hearing.

Doctors Call For End Of Assange ‘Torture’ (AAP)

A group of 117 doctors and psychologists has called for an end to what it calls “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange”. WikiLeaks founder Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison awaiting a hearing on February 24 which could see him extradited to the US. In a 1200-word letter published in the medical journal The Lancet, the Doctors For Assange group expresses concern over his fitness for the legal proceedings. The letter says that “Assange is in a dire state of health due to the effects of prolonged psychological torture in both the Ecuadorian embassy in London and Belmarsh Prison, where he has been arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (Nils Melzer) has warned, he will have effectively been tortured to death,” the letter states. “Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors’ watch. The medical profession cannot afford to stand silently by, on the wrong side of torture and the wrong side of history, while such a travesty unfolds.” The first hearing into the United States’ request for Assange’s extradition was held on May 2, 2019. When asked by the judge if he consented to the extradition, Assange said: “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people.”

A copy of the Doctors For Assange letter has been sent to the Australian minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, following up on a previous letter sent on December 16, calling on Ms Payne to bring Assange home to Australia for urgent medical care. A copy has also been sent to the UK Government, which the doctors accuse of violating Assange’s human right to health. The letter condemns what it calls the “torture” of Assange and “the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate healthcare”. It adds: “Politics cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to health and the practice of medicine.

“Abuse by politically motivated medical neglect sets a dangerous precedent, ultimately undermining our profession’s impartiality, commitment to health for all, and obligation to do no harm. “Our appeals are simple: we are calling upon governments to end the torture of Mr Assange and ensure his access to the best available healthcare, before it is too late.” The letter is signed by Stephen Frost, Lissa Johnson, Jill Stein and William Frost on behalf of 117 signatories.

Read more …

“..the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange.”

Julian Assange Must Be Freed, Not Betrayed (John Pilger)

WikiLeaks has informed us how illegal wars are fabricated, how governments are overthrown and violence is used in our name, how we are spied upon through our phones and screens. The true lies of presidents, ambassadors, political candidates, generals, proxies, political fraudsters have been exposed. One by one, these would-be emperors have realised they have no clothes. It has been an unprecedented public service; above all, it is authentic journalism, whose value can be judged by the degree of apoplexy of the corrupt and their apologists. For example, in 2016, WikiLeaks published the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, which revealed a direct connection between Clinton, the foundation she shares with her husband and the funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East — terrorism.


One email disclosed that Islamic State (ISIS) was bankrolled by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, from which Clinton accepted huge “donations”. Moreover, as U.S. Secretary of State, she approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her Saudi benefactors, worth more than $80 billion. Thanks to her, U.S. arms sales to the world — for use in stricken countries like Yemen — doubled.

[..] Revealed by WikiLeaks and published in The New York Times, the Podesta emails triggered a vituperative campaign against editor-in-chief Julian Assange, bereft of evidence. He was an “agent of Russia working to elect Trump”; the nonsensical “Russiagate” followed. That WikiLeaks had also published more than 800,000 frequently damning documents from Russia was ignored. On an Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme, Four Corners, in 2017, Clinton was interviewed by Sarah Ferguson, who began: “No one could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at [the moment of Donald Trump’s inauguration] … Do you remember how visceral it was for you?” Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, the fawning Ferguson described “Russia’s role” and the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange.


Clinton replied, “He [Assange] is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And he has done their bidding.” Ferguson said to Clinton, “Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr of free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him?” Again, Clinton was allowed to defame Assange — a “nihilist” in the service of “dictators” — while Ferguson assured her interviewee she was “the icon of your generation”. There was no mention of a leaked document, revealed by WikiLeaks, called Libya Tick Tock, prepared for Hillary Clinton, which described her as the central figure driving the destruction of the Libyan state in 2011. This resulted in 40,000 deaths, the arrival of ISIS in North Africa and the European refugee and migrant crisis.

Read more …

1) Be as destructive as you can and get rich off your efforts. 2) Spend 1-2% of your dirty wealth and expect to be hailed as a philantropist.

Amazon’s Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Climate Change Fight (R.)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will commit $10 billion to fund scientists, activists, nonprofits and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change, he said on Monday. Cutting emissions will be challenging for Amazon. The e-commerce company delivers 10 billion items a year, has a massive transportation and data center footprint, and has faced criticism from within its own workforce. Bezos, the world’s richest man, is among a growing list of billionaires to dedicate substantial funds to battling the impact of global warming. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said in an Instagram post. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”


The Bezos Earth Fund will begin issuing grants this summer as part of the initiative. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals,” Bezos said. Counteracting climate change has become a popular cause for U.S. billionaires in recent years, with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer counted among the world’s wealthiest environmental philanthropists. Last year, Bezos pledged to make online retailer Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040 – the first major corporation to announce such a goal – and to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from U.S. vehicle design and manufacturing startup Rivian Automotive.

Read more …

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth cannot survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. If you read us, please support us.

 

Feb 082020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Very disturbing videos available of people being forced into quarantine.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

How about those who only look Chinese?

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

What Zero Hedge received a permanant Twitter ban for.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Then again, how bad is a Twitter ban?

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

Twitter Accounts Of Facebook, Messenger Hacked (R.)

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Bolsonaro to the rescue.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Slapstick Suicide (Kunstler)

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

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

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

Read more …

Bring T-shirts.

Antarctic Base Records Hottest Temperature Ever (R.)

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


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

Read more …

 

 

 

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

 

Nov 272019
 
 November 27, 2019  Posted by at 7:23 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Female bust R 1943

 

For political, but, much more, monetary reasons, the media makes their mark, and therefore Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews, Julian Assange is an unwashed rapist and Donald Trump is Putin’s handpuppet. And if you object, you’re a suspect human being. In order to make money, and retain or gain power, the media and intelligence services, along with the political powers friendly to them, inject opinions into the populace. How Orwellian do you want it?

And I get it, depending on where people lean politically, they will think these are entirely separate stories. The right will be against Corbyn, the left against Trump. And all of them together against Assange.

I was starting to write about Jeremy Corbyn yesterday, about the innuendo and allegations concerning his alleged antisemitism, and then I thought: wait, Corbyn and Trump is the same story. And Assange. They are very different people, and their stories may appear to be very very different too, but they are not really.

My personal opinion is that Assange has far too little support, and that worries me a lot every single day, while Corbyn and Trump just drown in social media and MSM nonsense. The problem is, that nonsense poses as truth today. That is what Corbyn has failed to understand, what Trump made his own to the extent that he could, and what Assange, who saw all of this better and earlier than anyone, has been entirely isolated from. But it’s still the same thing in all three cases. It’s about the media. They have become the story, instead of reporting it.

I’ve already said that I don’t think the time is right -and ripe- for Corbyn’s radical plans for Britain -if it will ever be-, but I sure don’t think Brexit should be decided on a pack of lies and smears. Still, it very much looks like it will be. “Social” media, don’t you know.

Jeremy Corbyn has long sympathized with the Palestinian people. It appears that this stance will now decide the Brexit issue. Because it allows for his detractors to label him an antisemite. Throw in an editorial once every two days or so which states that even if Corbyn himself is not an antisemite (press insurance policy), he’s guilty by association because he didn’t root out antisemitism in his party strongly enough, and you’re free to go.

But apparently the right wing is not convinced it’ll be enough, so the UK Chief Rabbi throws some more oil on the flames, and so does his close friend, the leader of the Church of England. Corbyn should have spoken out loud and clear a long time ago. He’s the right wing’s toy now. I saw this very long list of things Corbyn said and did to support the British Jewish population, but it doesn’t matter anymore. He’s got a swastika painted on his forehead now.

Corbyn keeps reasoning something like: it’s not true, so I have nothing to fear, but that’s old world thinking. Today things become reality by the grace of being endlessly repeated and, thereby, amplified. He didn’t catch the spirit of the time. He should perhaps have had a Twitter feed like Trump’s, and denounced the allegations from there. Never had a chance in the traditional media anyway.

But Corbyn does not appear to get it. Still, imagine Trump without Twitter, or Corbyn with it.

The Guardian runs a handy guide:

Antisemitism and Labour: Everything You Need To Know

• Critics of Corbyn say that criticism of Israel among some of his supporters, for example about the treatment of the Palestinian people, can too readily tip over into a generalised condemnation which becomes antisemitic. They say also that those within Labour who challenge this can face abuse and persecution. Labour says that while such incidents must be dealt with robustly, the context is that complaints connected to antisemitism amount to 0.1% of party membership, while prejudice in the Conservative party is more widespread.

• Aside from internal Labour investigations, in May the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it had placed Labour under formal investigation over whether the party had unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they were Jewish.

• Labour faced criticism from some Jewish groups after it adopted a working definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, but left out one of the 11 examples given in the definition, which said it would be antisemitic to claim “that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour”. Labour later adopted all 11 examples.

Yeah, no, you don’t fight these things by directly addressing them. It’s like “when did you stop beating your wife” or “does this dress make me look fat”, there are no correct answers. Corbyn lost 2-3 years framing his response, and now it’s too late. That Chief Rabbi:

UK Chief Rabbi Attacks Labour Party

The Chief Rabbi has strongly criticised Labour, claiming the party is not doing enough to root out anti-Jewish racism – and asked people to “vote with their conscience” in the general election. In the Times, Ephraim Mirvis said “a new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root” in the party. Labour’s claim it had investigated all cases of anti-Semitism in its ranks was a “mendacious fiction”, he added. Jeremy Corbyn says Labour is tackling anti-Semitism by expelling members. It comes as Labour launches a “race and faith manifesto”, which aims to improve protections for all faiths and tackle prejudice.

Labour has been beset by allegations of anti-Semitism for more than three years, leading to the suspension of a number of high-profile figures such as Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson, and an unprecedented investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. In his article, the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – who is the spiritual leader of the United Synagogue, the largest umbrella group of Jewish communities in the country – says raising his concerns “ranks among the most painful moments I have experienced since taking office”. But he claims “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory in 12 December’s general election.

He writes: “The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people. “It has left many decent Labour members and parliamentarians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, ashamed of what has transpired.” He adds that it was “not my place to tell any person how they should vote” but he urged the public to “vote with their conscience”.

[..] Jenny Manson, the co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Labour group which is not officially affiliated to the party, told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme she was “horrified” by the Chief Rabbi’s intervention. She added that there was no threat to Jews in the Labour Party but there was a threat from the far-right.

And his Christian friend:

Justin Welby Backs Chief Rabbi After Labour Antisemitism Remarks

The archbishop of Canterbury has in effect backed the chief rabbi’s comments on the Labour leadership’s record on antisemitism with a tweet highlighting the “deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews”. Justin Welby does not explicitly refer to the Labour party, but his intervention a few hours after the chief rabbi’s excoriating public criticism of Jeremy Corbyn is significant.

In an article in the Times, Ephraim Mirvis, Britain’s most senior Jewish leader, accused Corbyn of allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in the party, saying the way the Labour leadership had dealt with anti-Jewish racism was “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people”.

Welby posted on Twitter: “That the chief rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews. They should be able to love in accordance with their beliefs and freely express their culture and faith.”

Acknowledging the Church of England’s own history of antisemitism – the subject of a major report last week – Welby continued: “None of us can afford to be complacent. Voicing words that commit to a stand against antisemitism requires a corresponding effort in visible action.”

The chief rabbi’s comments were also supported by Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a crossbench peer, who said the Jewish community had been gripped by anxiety. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lady Neuberger said that under Corbyn’s leadership “there has been this insidious antisemitic tone to quite a lot of what’s happened and an unwillingness to really face it.”

She added: “If they’re not willing to tackle that, if they’re not willing to apologise for it, if they’re not willing to sympathise, then something is going very wrong. “A political party where some of its members leave because of antisemitic taunting, which still cannot deal with it, makes people feel very uncomfortable.”

That same archbishop of Canterbury’s church was chided for, wait for it, antisemitism, but that’s safely in the past, or so they say. So now he gets to chide others for the exact same thing. No, it’s not in the church, and not in the Conservative party, let’s focus on Corbyn, just so he loses.

Church of England Says Christians Must Repent For Past Antisemitism

Christians must repent for centuries of antisemitism which ultimately led to the Holocaust, the Church of England has said in a document that seeks to promote a new Christian-Jewish relationship. However, the church’s move to take responsibility for its part in Jewish persecution was impaired by stinging criticism by the chief rabbi of the continued “specific targeting” of Jews for conversion to Christianity.

[..] The document acknowledged that two C of E cathedrals, Norwich and Lincoln, were associated with the spread of the “blood libel” in the late Middle Ages. Jewish communities were falsely accused of abducting and killing Christian children to use their blood in the making of Passover matzos (unleavened bread). “This allegation, originating in England, became the catalyst for the murder of many Jews in this country and across Europe, especially in pogroms at Eastertide.”

[..] In a foreword to the document, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury – known to be personally close to the chief rabbi – said Mirvis’s comments were “written as a friend, and they are received in a similar spirit, however tough they are to read”. He added: “The chief rabbi has opened, with characteristic honesty and affection, a challenge upon which we must reflect. We cannot do that reflection honestly until we have felt the cruelty of our history.”

Yes, boys and girls, it’s election time, and all is fair in love and war and elections. But please pay at least some attention, don’t let these idiots frame your opinions or shape your emotions. They’re doing it for their own gains, not yours. They don’t represent you, they’re using you and will spit you out at the first occasion they see as profitable.

OffGuardian had this nice graph on how big the Labour antisemitism problem really is:

 

 

That’s right, the problem doesn’t exist. At 0.08%, nothing is a problem, it’s a rounding error. Stop listening to these people. I know, I know, too late now, and Corbyn must take the blame for that. You can’t win in 2019 with only the tools and worldview of 1969. I’m neutral on Brexit, though I don’t think the Tories’ approach, doing nothing and then expecting everything to solve itself, is good for Britain. Feels like a scam to me. Britain hasn’t made its own laws in 40 years, and it’s fine if it wants to start doing that again, but it takes a real effort. But where is that effort?

Moreover, after decades of Maggie Thatcher, neocon Tony Blair and successive Tory governments, I’m not at all surprised to read that Parts Of England ‘Have Higher Mortality Rates Than Turkey’. And so I’m not surprised either that Corbyn is so much of a threat to Boris that they send the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury to finish him off, on “out of hot air” grounds.

Summarized, the media have/has changed far more than people acknowledge. Corbyn can’t win with 1969 tools, but it appears that perhaps the press can. For me this is not about Trump or Corbyn, they are merely symbolic of what is happening, the main point is that our view of the world in increasingly being pre-cooked and pre-chewed, and far too few people see what’s going on with their opinions.

They still think they’re their own opinions. But the reason why they’re fed these stories is because the media make money of off selling these opinions to them, not because of some loftier ideal.

Nice point in case is this tweet from George Monbiot, environmental writer for the Guardian:

 

 

You see, Monbiot is employed by the Guardian, at a plush salary, and he pretends to stand up for Assange here. But his employer is one of the main reasons why Assange is where he is. The Guardian has run a concerted smear campaign against Assange like nobody else I’m aware of. The entirely false story about Paul Manafort visiting Assange in the Ecuador embassy is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

So you would think George mentions that, and tells you he despises his own mealticket. You would think Monbiot perhaps would say: I only had 140 characters in that tweet. And I would say: no, George, you have zero character.

 

 

Please support the Automatic Earth on Paypal and Patreon so we can continue to publish.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.

 

 

 

Oct 082019
 


Paul Gauguin Breton woman and goose by the water 1888

 

Trump Appears to Reverse Syria Decision (USNews)
Trump Vows To OBLITERATE Turkish Economy If It Does ‘Anything Off Limits’ (RT)
Joe, Hunter Biden Could Be Forced To Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial (WT)
A Hard Rain (Jim Kunstler)
US Federal Deficit Estimated At $984 Billion, Highest In Seven Years (Hill)
US Blacklists China Organisations Over Xinjiang ‘Uighur Abuse’ (BBC)
Court Rejects Latest Request To Force PM To Ask For Brexit Extension (G.)
Irish Border Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Not Technology (Fintan O’Toole)
Convicted Pedophile Gary Glitter To Earn Big From ‘Joker’ Movie (CNBC)
Twitter, Facebook Could Face Billions In Fines After Ireland Probes (CNBC)
Ecuadorians Revolt Against Moreno’s IMF-Imposed Neoliberal Policies (GZ)
Russian, US Visitors Targets For Spanish Firm That Spied On Assange (El Pais)

 

 

Less war? Condemnation on all sides of all aisles.

Trump Appears to Reverse Syria Decision (USNews)

A senior administration official on an organized call with reporters appeared to contradict President Donald Trump about Syria policy late Monday, refuting interpretations of his statements from earlier in the day that prompted broad outrage from supporters and opponents alike. The U.S. is not removing its forces from Syria in the face of a Turkish incursion, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Rather, the president ordered roughly 50 special operations troops in northern Syria to relocate to a different part of the country after he learned that Turkey has planned an offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. The official said that offensive had not yet begun.

The latest assertion, however, appears to conflict with a flurry of tweets the president issued Monday, further explaining a White House statement late Sunday that first announced the withdrawal, but offered few details. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump wrote in one tweet. The idea of the U.S. withdrawing any of its roughly 1,000 troops still in Syria – even just from the front lines where they operate with Kurdish allies – prompted widespread outrage on Capitol Hill, including from some of the president’s staunchest allies like Sen. Lindsay Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They feared that the decision amounted to abandoning the Kurds, who have been instrumental in defeating the Islamic State group, but which Turkey has labeled as terrorists and vowed to attack.

Read more …

Pleasing Erdogan is never a good idea.

Trump Vows To OBLITERATE Turkish Economy If It Does ‘Anything Off Limits’ (RT)

In a fairly blunt warning to the NATO ally, US President Donald Trump vowed to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if he thinks it’s stepped out of line in Syria. He then told Ankara to “watch over” ISIS fighters in the US’ absence. “If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” the president threatened via tweet on Monday – an odd turn of phrase for what otherwise seemed like a dire warning to a supposed ally. Trump called for Turkey to join “Europe and others” in “watch[ing] over the captured ISIS [Islamic State] fighters and families” just hours after announcing the US would finally pull out of northern Syria on Monday.


The announcement triggered howls of fury from hawks in Congress and the media, as well as sudden experts in Middle Eastern politics who cried that leaving Syria would abandon the Kurds to be torn apart by Turkey. The Pentagon “does not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” a Pentagon statement issued on Monday clarified, stating “the US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation.” While Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia an extension of the banned terrorist group PKK, the US has been arming and protecting the Kurds for years – and, as Trump pointed out in his earlier announcement, paying them “massive amounts of money and equipment.”

Read more …

Ukraine as Pandora’s box.

Joe, Hunter Biden Could Be Forced To Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial (WT)

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter could be forced to testify if the Senate ends up holding an impeachment trial of President Trump, say congressional aides who questioned whether Democrats have thought through the full implications of their impeachment drive. Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said.


For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.

Read more …

A lifelong liberal has had his fill.

A Hard Rain (Jim Kunstler)

A lot of readers (some of them former readers now) have been angrily twanging me by email for writing about the three-year Resistance effort to un-do the 2016 election. I did not vote for Mr. Trump (or Mrs. Clinton) but I resent the coup mounted to overthrow him. I object to the bad faith and dishonesty of the Resistance. I object to the criminal misconduct among the federal bureaucracy, and the mendacity of its partners in the news media, and the hysteria they continue to generate — at the expense of other matters that concern our future. The political disorder spooling out is the political expression of the long emergency that the nation faces as it finally encounters the limits to growth we were warned about decades ago.

The techno-industrial phase of history is ending, and we are left only with inadequate fantasies for coming to terms with it and moving forward. The dynamic relationship between affordable energy supplies and the operations of money roils at the core of this predicament. They are undoing each other and the result will be a contraction of human activity. The big question we refuse to face is how to cope with contraction. Beyond the ongoing orchestrated coup stands a reality-optional political Left consumed by serial hysterias, uninterested in truth, steeped in social despotism, and apparently willing to do anything to gain power. We should be very concerned with what they intend to do with that power.


As they attempt to redistribute wealth, they will make the unhappy discovery that the wealth itself is subject to the wholesale contraction underway. The overvalued “assets” representing “money” hoarded by the “wealthy” will turn out to be figments of a runaway debt crisis. We have already debased the operations of banking, and the tokens that banks issue — currencies and securities — levitate over an abyss. We already have plenty of evidence for what the Left will do to the principle of political liberty. Their shibboleths of “diversity” and “inclusion” really mean shutting down free speech and telling everybody how to think. They are less interested in “social justice” than in plain coercion, the pleasure they take in pushing people around. What’s worse is that they want to use government as the instrument for enforcing their will.

Read more …

Who’s counting anymore? The US will end up with only the rich and the desolate.

US Federal Deficit Estimated At $984 Billion, Highest In Seven Years (Hill)

The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of GDP and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday. The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis. The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent. The CBO has warned that the nation’s debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs.


Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year. Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks. “This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse,” he added.

Read more …

Always fun to see the US accuse others of its own signature practices.

US Blacklists China Organisations Over Xinjiang ‘Uighur Abuse’ (BBC)

The US has blacklisted 28 Chinese organisations for their alleged involvement in abuses against ethnic Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province. The organisations are now on the so-called Entity List, which bars them from buying products from US companies without approval from Washington. The 28 targets include both government agencies and technology companies specialising in surveillance equipment. It is not the first time the US has put Chinese groups under a trade ban. In May, the Trump administration added telecommunications giant Huawei to the Entity List because of security fears over its products.


A Commerce Department filing said the organisations are “implicated in human rights violations and abuses”. Rights groups say Beijing is severely persecuting the mostly Muslim Uighurs in detention camps. China calls these “vocational training centres” to combat extremism. The Commerce Department said in its decision on Monday that these 28 entities are implicated in “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.” Xinjiang province’s Public Security Bureau is on the list, along with 19 other smaller government agencies.

Read more …

But ties him down in the process. The Court also has the power to write the extension request for the PM.

Court Rejects Latest Request To Force PM To Ask For Brexit Extension (G.)

Anti-Brexit campaigners have failed in an attempt to force Boris Johnson to ask for an extension to article 50 if he is unable to get a Brexit deal through parliament. Lord Pentland, sitting in the court of session in Edinburgh, rejected their request for a court order instructing the prime minister to seek an extension if he cannot get a deal passed by the Commons this month. Pentland said he had to take at face value pledges made by the UK government on Friday that Johnson would write the letter seeking an extension on 19 October as required under the so-called Benn act. Pentland said those assurances were unequivocal.


“I approach matters on the basis that it would be destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the crown for the prime minister or the government to renege on what they have assured the court that the prime minister intends to do,” the judge ruled. [..] Anti-Brexit campaigners are expected to appeal against the decision on Tuesday, when they will ask another Scottish court to write the article 50 extension letter if Johnson fails to do so. The campaigners – Dale Vince, a green energy entrepreneur, Jolyon Maugham QC, an anti-Brexit campaigner, and Joanna Cherry QC, a Scottish National party MP – want the inner house of the court of session to use its unique nobile officium powers to act on Johnson’s behalf. Those powers allow the court of session to take action in a situation where a remedy is needed, but this case is seen as highly unusual.

Read more …

“Essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.”

Irish Border Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Not Technology (Fintan O’Toole)

Spaff some money on some geeks.” According to Chris Cook’s excellent account of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations with Brussels, that was the instruction issued to the civil service by May’s enforcer Fiona Hill in late 2016. It had finally dawned on the British government that it had committed itself to two incompatible things. One was that under no circumstances would there be a return to a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The other was that all of the UK was going to leave the EU’s customs union. May faced exactly the same problem that her successor Boris Johnson is struggling with: you can do one or other of these things but you cannot do both. If Northern Ireland leaves the customs union, there will be border controls.

And so May tried to do what Johnson is still proposing: throw money at nerds and hope that they can somehow transform a political problem into a technical issue. The old (superbly condescending) joke was that whenever the Irish question was about to be solved, the Irish would change the question. But the British government has been trying to solve the riddle of Brexit’s Irish question not just by changing the question, but by changing the entire conceptual framework. It has to be removed from a discourse of history and geography and memory and translated into the languages of technology and managerialism. That is how Johnson sought to define the problem in his speech to the Tory party conference last week: “Essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.”


Previously, of course, he suggested that crossing the Irish border was similar to going from one borough of London to another, and that any problem it creates could be solved with the same technology used to operate the city’s congestion charge. This is a way of minimising and dismissing an inconvenient truth. But it also goes to the heart of the complete failure of Johnson’s proposals for a replacement of the backstop designed to keep the border invisible. Everybody in Ireland, north and south, knows that there are many technical questions thrown up by Brexit. But nobody – not even Johnson’s DUP allies – really believes that what Brexit does to John Bull’s Other Island is a matter for a “technical discussion”. In Ireland, it’s about lives – and deaths.

Read more …

Every single sports stadium in the US has played Rock and Roll Part 2 all the time for decades. He should be filthy rich already.

Convicted Pedophile Gary Glitter To Earn Big From ‘Joker’ Movie (CNBC)

The contentious inclusion of a song by convicted pedophile Gary Glitter in “Joker” has sparked a wave of criticism from moviegoers, with many concerned the disgraced former glam rock singer will be entitled to lucrative music royalties. The R-rated comic book movie smashed box office records over the weekend, with Warner Bros. hauling in $93.5 million in the U.S. alone. That marked the highest debut for a film released in October in cinematic history. “Joker” also garnered $140.5 million internationally, bringing the film’s total ticket sales to $234 million, Warner Bros. said Sunday. But, despite the film’s opening weekend success, the makers of the movie have stoked controversy for featuring Glitter’s 1972 hit “Rock and Roll Part 2” in a lengthy scene.


The song plays for approximately two minutes as Joaquin Phoenix, who has received rave reviews for his portrayal of the eponymous villain, dances down a long flight of steps outside his Gotham City apartment. Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, is reportedly expected to receive a lump sum for allowing the recording to be used in “Joker.” He is also thought to be in line for music royalties depending on the success of movie theater ticket sales, DVD sales and film soundtrack sales. The 75-year-old was jailed for a total of 16 years in 2015 for attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one count of having sex with a girl under 13. All six offenses were committed in the 1970s and 1980s. He was first jailed in 1999 when he admitted to possessing images of child abuse.

Read more …

Let’s see it first.

Twitter, Facebook Could Face Billions In Fines After Ireland Probes (CNBC)

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has concluded investigations into Facebook’s WhatsApp and Twitter over possible breaches of EU data privacy rules, a spokesperson for the agency revealed to CNBC Monday. The investigations will now move into the decision-making phase, according to Graham Doyle, head of communications for Ireland’s DPC. During this next phase, Ireland’s chief data regulator, Helen Dixon, will issue draft decisions, which are expected to come toward the end of the year. These would mark Ireland’s first decisions related to U.S. multinational companies since Europe’s privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 2018.


In her draft decisions, Dixon will determine the penalty, if any, that either company faces for breaching data privacy rules. Companies can be fined up to 4% of global annual revenues for breaching Europe’s data privacy law called GDPR. For Facebook, that could mean a fine of more than $2 billion based on its fiscal year 2018 revenue. Because many big tech companies have their EU headquarters in Ireland, the Irish DPC supervises the firms under GDPR. Ireland’s DPC has opened more than a dozen investigations into big tech companies including Facebook, Apple, Google and Twitter.

Read more …

Delivers Assange, gets loan, turns against his people, declares state of emerrgency, flees the capital and moves it elsewhere.

Ecuadorians Revolt Against Moreno’s IMF-Imposed Neoliberal Policies (GZ)

“Se acabó la zanganería” — “The zanganería is over.” With these words, uttered on October 4, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. [..] The decision to cut the government’s decades-old fuel subsidies was just one element in a package of neoliberal economic reforms presented by the Moreno government on October 1. The program was part of a bid to satisfy the demands of the IMF. This October, the reform package set off an explosion of mass protests across the nation. Moreno claimed the drastic new economic measures were necessary to reduce “wasteful” public spending and balance the government’s budget.


The most controversial measure of all has been the elimination of the petrol subsidies that had been in place since the 1970s. This removal led to a staggering 123 percent rise in the price of diesel, with similar increases in the price of other fuels. The package also introduced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees, and initiated plans to privatize pensions and removed workplace security and job security safeguards. When he announced the wildly unpopular austerity package, President Lenin Moreno sensed that large protests against his government were inevitable. So he declared a national “state of emergency,” and immediately deployed both the police and the military against protesters in the capital of Quito and other areas around the country.

Read more …

The lawlessness is staggering.

“Employees of UCE Global took apart and photographed the cellphones of North American journalists who visited the founder of WikiLeaks..”

Russian, US Visitors Targets For Spanish Firm That Spied On Assange (El Pais)

David Morales, the director and owner of Undercover Global S. L., the Spanish defense and security company in charge of protecting the Ecuadorian embassy in London during Julian Assange’s long stay there, called on his team to catalogue “the Russian and American citizens” who visited the cyberactivist as a maximum priority, according to testimonies and documents to which EL PAÍS has had access. The company allegedly spied on the WikiLeaks founder for the US intelligence services, and in the wake of revelations published by this newspaper is being investigated by the Spanish High Court, the Audiencia Nacional. Morales gave written instructions to his employees in London for them to give advance warning of the priority targets from both countries.

All of the information collected about these and other visitors was sent to an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server in Jerez de la Frontera, the headquarters of UCE Global S. L., in southern Spain. This kind of “big brother” was the place were all of the information collected was stored in an orderly fashion, including files from cellphones, profiles by nationality (Russians, North Americans, Germans, etc.), professions, and documents from attorneys, diplomats, journalists, doctors, and so on. Employees who worked for UCE Global S. L. have told this newspaper that the CIA had access to this server, and that Morales did not want to reveal the identity of “his American friends” when there were technical problems and there was a request for contact with the client.


The IP numbers registered come from the US and one of them corresponds to a company that provides security services for the FBI. A study of the reports that were created over a period of years by this company reveals that international current affairs and events surrounding the cyberactivist defined and modified the objectives of the company and its “North American clients.” [..] The monitoring of the dozens of people who visited Assange during the seven years he was in the embassy was comprehensive. But in the case of the priority targets – North Americans, Russians, attorneys and journalists – it was intensified as much as possible. Employees of UCE Global took apart and photographed the cellphones of North American journalists who visited the founder of WikiLeaks, according to testimony and graphic documents to which EL PAÍS has had access.

Read more …

 

How the top tax rate for highest incomes has changed in the US.

 

 

 

 

Oct 012019
 


Paul Gauguin Sunken lane 1884

 

Dear America, Civil War Is Not A Joke – Or A Picnic (RT)
Civil War On (Kunstler)
Impeachment…or CIA Coup? (Ron Paul)
Hillary Clinton’s Big Comeback Begins Tuesday (WT)
US Dollar Status as Global Reserve Currency Slides (WS)
No End In Sight For ECB’s Inflation Problem (MW)
Twitter Executive For Middle East Is British Army ‘Psyops’ Soldier (MEE)
Johnson Planning To Bypass Brussels In Bid For New Brexit Deal (Ind.)
UK Proposes Customs Posts On Both Sides Of Irish Border (RTE)
France’s Overtures Toward Russia (Moisi)
Assange’s Lawyers Were Under Surveillance. That’s Not The Whole Story (Canary)

 

 

Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT, lived through the Yugoslavia civil war.

Dear America, Civil War Is Not A Joke – Or A Picnic (RT)

Critics have reacted to President Donald Trump’s Twitter warning about his impeachment causing a civil war with both shrieks of outrage and jokes. Notably absent: any self-awareness of what such a war would be like or how to avoid it. “If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal,” Texas televangelist Robert Jeffress said Sunday night on Fox News. Trump quoted him in a tweet the next morning, and Twitter lost its collective mind. The typical response was to accuse Trump of calling for a new civil war, mind-reading what he must have really meant by the quote. He was “priming his base” to think of war, according to unnamed “experts of fascism,”a liberal comedian argued in just one example.

Others dismissed the very notion of a civil war as crazy, joking about bringing the potato salad and biodegradable forks – or hamberders and covfefe – to the fight, as soon as they get out of yoga class, using the hashtag #CivilWarSignup. There were also scornful takes about Americans being too fat to fight, or rural Americans being too scared to “take the subway in New York or drive in Los Angeles,” much less take a rifle and “take their country back from elite urbanites.” It’s unclear whether the people joking about bringing food to the fight were deliberately channeling the spirit of Washingtonians who turned out to the first Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, in June 1861, as if it were a picnic, bringing baskets and blankets to enjoy the show.

As anyone who’s studied that era of US history knows, their glee quickly turned to horror and panic, when the Union army lost – and they found themselves shoved aside on crowded roads leading back to Washington by the routed troops in blue. Wars never go as planned. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, who also gets a vote. If there is one ironclad rule of war through the ages, no matter the level of technology, that is it. Yet the corollary is that civilians always forget about it, and it comes back to bite them.

Read more …

“Does this sound a little like part of the origin story of RussiaGate? Is that not exactly the potential criminal matter that the current attorney general, Mr. Barr, is officially investigating?”

Civil War On (Kunstler)

Someone in Impeachmentville is not paying attention. Of course, diverting the rubes is exactly the point of the latest CIA operation to negate the 2016 election. Has nobody noticed that there is treaty between Ukraine and the USA, signed at Kiev in 1998 and ratified by the US Senate in 2000. It’s an agreement on “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.” Here, read the cover letter for yourself:

What part of the following do Nancy Pelosi and the news media not understand? “The Treaty is self-executing. It provides for a broad range of cooperation in criminal matters. Mutual assistance available under the Treaty includes: taking of testimony or statements of persons; providing documents, records, and articles of evidence; serving documents; locating or identifying persons; transferring persons in custody for testimony or other purposes; executing requests for searches and seizures; assisting in proceedings related to restraint, confiscation, forfeiture of assets, restitution, and collection of fines; and any other form of assistance not prohibited by the laws of the requested state… ([etc].”


How does this not permit Mr. Trump asking the president of Ukraine for “assistance” in criminal matters arising out of “collusion with Russia,” as specified within the scope of Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor activities? For instance, the matter of CrowdStrike. The cybersecurity firm was co-founded by Russian ex-pat Dmitri Alperovitch, who also happens to be a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian think tank funded by Ukrainian billionaire, Viktor Pinchuk, who donated at least $25 million to the Clinton Foundation before the 2016 election. Crowdstrike was the company that “examined” the supposedly hacked DNC servers, while somebody in the Obama administration prevented the FBI from ever seeing them. Does this sound a little like part of the origin story of RussiaGate? Is that not exactly the potential criminal matter that the current attorney general, Mr. Barr, is officially investigating?

Read more …

Obvious nonsense though it may be, people will continue to accuse me of supporting Trump. But you can’t accuse Ron Paul of that.

Impeachment…or CIA Coup? (Ron Paul)

You don’t need to be a supporter of President Trump to be concerned about the efforts to remove him from office. Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced impeachment proceedings against the President over a phone call made to the President of Ukraine. According to the White House record of the call, the President asked his Ukrainian counterpart to look into whether there is any evidence of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election and then mentioned that a lot of people were talking about how former US Vice President Joe Biden stopped the prosecution of his son who was under investigation for corruption in Ukraine.

Democrats, who spent more than two years convinced that “Russiagate” would enable them to remove Trump from office only to have their hopes dashed by the Mueller Report, now believe they have their smoking gun in this phone call. It this about politics? Yes. But there may be more to it than that. It may appear that the Democratic Party, furious over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, is the driving force behind this ongoing attempt to remove Donald Trump from office, but at every turn we see the fingerprints of the CIA and its allies in the US deep state. In August 2016, a former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, wrote an extraordinary article in the New York Times accusing Donald Trump of being an “agent of the Russian Federation.”

Morell was clearly using his intelligence career as a way of bolstering his claim that Trump was a Russian spy – after all, the CIA should know such a thing! But the claim was a lie. Former CIA director John Brennan accused President Trump of “treason” and of “being in the pocket of Putin” for meeting with the Russian president in Helsinki and accepting his word that Russia did not meddle in the US election. To this day there has yet to be any evidence presented that the Russian government did interfere. Brennan openly called on “patriotic” Republicans to act against this “traitor.” Brennan and his deep state counterparts James Comey at the FBI and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper launched an operation, using what we now know is the fake Steele dossier, to spy on the Trump presidential campaign and even attempt to entrap Trump campaign employees. Notice a pattern here?

Read more …

Too predictable to be newsworthy.

Hillary Clinton’s Big Comeback Begins Tuesday (WT)

Media attention will intensify on Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. The former first lady, senator, secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate is ready for another round in the public arena. She has a new book arriving, written with the help of a very close relative. Behold. Here comes “The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience” — all 464 pages of it. Indeed, the new book of essays now landing on the shelves is written by Mrs. Clinton and her daughter Chelsea Clinton, is published by Simon & Schuster. Some informed observers speculate the book could be yet another indicator — along with increased public appearances and commentary — that Mrs. Clinton pines for a political comeback.


What kind of comeback? Oh, maybe the bumper stickers will read BIDEN/CLINTON 2020, WARREN/CLINTON 2020 — or even CLINTON/CLINTON 2020. Who the heck knows? “Word on the political street now is the rumbling that the impeachment probe launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be the crack that opens the door for another presidential run by Hillary Clinton. This time, the thinking goes, Hillary would be running with vindication that the 2016 election was ‘stolen’ from her and she can ascend in 2020 to reclaim the mantle for her party and the majority of the country that voted for her,” writes Nate Ashworth, editor in chief of Election Central.

Read more …

Wolf Richter mostly manages to deny his own headline.

US Dollar Status as Global Reserve Currency Slides (WS)

If the US dollar loses its hegemony as a global reserve currency, it would be a sea change globally, and specifically for the US economy. Today, we got the next installment in that saga, via the IMF’s quarterly COFER data on foreign exchange reserves. Total global foreign exchange reserves in all currencies ticked up 1.1% from the first quarter, to $11.7 trillion. US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves rose only 0.7% to $6.79 trillion, and their share of total global foreign exchange reserves fell to 61.63%, down from 61.86% in the prior quarter. And this has been going on for years in baby steps:

The US dollar’s share of global reserve currency declines when central banks other than the Fed proportionately reduce their dollar-denominated assets and add assets denominated in other currencies. Compared to the mega-moves in the 1970s, the recent moves have been muted. Nevertheless, the current share of USD-denominated foreign exchange reserves of 61.63% is the lowest since the year-end in 2013. The bump in 2014, 2015, and 2016 has now been unwound:

These US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves are US Treasury securities, US corporate bonds, and other financial assets that central banks other than the Fed are holding in their foreign exchange reserves. The Fed’s own holdings of Treasury securities and Mortgage-Backed Securities are not included in “foreign exchange reserves.” However, the Fed’s holdings of foreign-currency denominated assets are included in the other currencies. Unlike some other central banks, the Fed holds just a smidgen in foreign currency assets – currently $20.6 billion worth, compared to, for example, China’s $3.1 trillion in foreign exchange reserves.


[..] The chart below shows the dollar’s slowly declining but still hegemonic share of foreign exchange reserves, the euro’s essentially flat share, and the other reserve currencies’ comparatively tiny share. The renminbi (RMB) is the short red line near the very bottom:

To shed some light on the tangle of currencies at the bottom of the chart above, it’s useful to look at them without the US dollar and the euro overshadowing the neighborhood:

Read more …

Inflation is not Europe’s problem. The ECB is.

No End In Sight For ECB’s Inflation Problem (MW)

Unemployment in the eurozone declined to 7.4% in September, its lowest level since August, 2008, the EU’s statistics institute Eurostat said Monday. But this good news about the European economy helps underline the predicament the European Central Bank has long struggled with: the persistent low level of inflation. The ECB has undershot its official price stability target, set at “below but close to 2%”, every year since 2013. Keeping the eurozone on that steady inflation path is the only official remit of the ECB. It hasn’t been tasked with other economic policy objectives, like the U.S. Federal Reserve on employment, or the Bank of England on supporting the government’s economic objectives.


Inflation in the eurozone stood at an annual 1% in August, according to Eurostat. The closest the ECB was to its target was last year, when inflation reached 1.8%. That was up from 1.5% in 2017, and 0.2% in both preceding years. The risk of debilitating deflation – falling prices – was the rationale behind the ECB’s first massive quantitative easing program, launched in 2015. The central bank is now citing the financial markets’ declining inflation expectations for 2021 as the main reason for its latest monetary easing package, announced on September 12: They have fallen from 1.8% to 1.5% since the beginning of this year, according to ECB chief economist Philip Lane.

Read more …

“..the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level..”

Twitter Executive For Middle East Is British Army ‘Psyops’ Soldier (MEE)

The senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, Middle East Eye has established. Gordon MacMillan, who joined the social media company’s UK office six years ago, has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 in order to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war. The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.

Carter says the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level”; to shape perceptions of conflict. Some soldiers who have served with the unit say they have been engaged in operations intended to change the behaviour of target audiences. What exactly MacMillan is doing with the unit is difficult to determine, however: he has declined to answer any questions about his role, as has Twitter and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). Twitter would say only that “we actively encourage all our employees to pursue external interests”, while the MoD said that the 77th Brigade had no relationship with Twitter, other than using it for communication.

The 77th Brigade’s headquarters is located west of London. It brought together a number of existing military units such as the Media Operations Group and the 15 Psychological Operations Group. At its launch, the UK media was told that the new unit of “Facebook warriors” would be around 1,500 strong, and made up of both regular soldiers and reservists. In recent months, the army has been approaching British journalists and asking them to join the unit as reservists.

Read more …

In reality, he’s preparing to blame everyone else for his own failures. And Dominic Cummings will blame Boris.

Johnson Planning To Bypass Brussels In Bid For New Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Boris Johnson is to attempt a last-ditch charm offensive on EU leaders to get a Brexit deal over the line, after delivering his proposals for a new withdrawal agreement to Brussels as early as the end of this week. With EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier viewed in Downing Street as a stickler for rules who will be hard to shift from the deal struck with Theresa May, Mr Johnson is keen to speak with key European leaders who may be ready to show flexibility ahead of the crunch Brussels summit on 17 October. Plans were made to fly the prime minister to the funeral of ex-president Jacques Chirac for talks in the margins with sympathetic leaders, but it was decided the opportunity did not justify breaking off his attendance at the Conservative conference in Manchester.


London believes a key to any deal will be securing the acceptance of Irish premier Leo Varadkar and German chancellor Angela Merkel. News that negotiator David Frost has finalised a legal text of the UK proposals – said by a senior government source to be “game changing” – emerged as ministers attending cabinet admitted that they were not absolutely sure what the PM plans to do if his hopes of a deal fall flat. With speculation that the plan is known only to a tiny circle around Mr Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings, housing minister Esther McVey said she did not “know what is necessarily going on in Boris’s head”, while even chancellor Sajid Javid when asked if he knew what the PM would do could say only that “I think I do”.

Read more …

And you thought they’d steer clear of hammering Good Friday…

UK Proposes Customs Posts On Both Sides Of Irish Border (RTE)

The UK has proposed the creation of a string of customs posts along both sides of the Irish border as part of its effort to replace the backstop, RTÉ News understands. The ideas, which would be highly controversial, are contained in proposals sent from London to the European Union – extracts of which have been seen by RTÉ News. The proposals would effectively mean customs posts being erected on both sides of the border, but located perhaps five to ten miles ‘back’ from the actual land frontier. This is because under British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK is insisting that Northern Ireland remain completely outside the EU’s customs union for industrial goods and agri-food products.

Even more controversial is a proposal that the goods moving from a so-called “customs clearance site” on the northern side of the border to a similar site on the southern side would be monitored in real time using GPS via mobile phone data, or tracking devices placed on trucks or vans. The ideas are contained in one of four so-called ‘non-papers’ submitted by UK officials during recent technical discussions in Brussels. Under the British proposals, both the UK and EU would create what are believed to be called “customs clearance sites”, but to all intents and purposes a customs post. Traders would have a choice of either a straightforward customs declaration which would have to be lodged and cleared on either side of the border, or the so-called ‘transit’ system.

Under a transit scheme, the exporter becomes a registered ‘consigner’ at base, and the importer becomes a registered ‘consignee’. The method requires a bond from a financial institution to guarantee that the relevant customs duty, excise and VAT have been paid and that the goods do not go illegally off the beaten track en route. The UK proposals have been discussed in technical talks with the European Commission’s Brexit Task Force under Michel Barnier. However, the details of the four non-papers have not been disclosed to EU member states.

Read more …

Macron playing Napoleon again. He can’t stop himself.

France’s Overtures Toward Russia (Moisi)

French President Emmanuel Macron is convinced that now is the right time to reset relations with Russia. He has therefore made it a diplomatic priority to restore a climate of trust between Paris and Moscow. Three compelling reasons underlie this move… First and foremost, the international strategic context has changed dramatically. China is rising, while the United States, although still the world’s dominant power, is distancing itself from its global responsibilities. And Russia, with an aging, shrinking population and a huge, largely uninhabited landmass, is a natural prey for China’s long-term ambitions. European leaders should not resign themselves passively to seeing Russia, lacking any other alternative, align with China.

Instead, they should try to convince Russians that their future is with Europe, and not as China’s junior partner in a deeply unbalanced relationship. Russia’s destiny lies in the West, not the East. Moreover, although Russia is no match for China, it has returned as a serious global actor. Many current conflicts, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, simply cannot be addressed without involving Russia. This represents a triumph of sorts for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who first came to power nearly 20 years ago pledging to restore his country’s geopolitical clout. In particular, Putin wanted the US to treat Russia not as a mere object of history, as it had done under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, but as a real interlocutor.

And while it might be impossible to restore the bipolar world of the Cold War years, at least the US would be forced to recognize the importance of a modernized and operational Russian army that could intervene in the former Soviet sphere and beyond. This represents a triumph of sorts for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who first came to power nearly 20 years ago pledging to restore his country’s geopolitical clout. In particular, Putin wanted the US to treat Russia not as a mere object of history, as it had done under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, but as a real interlocutor.

Read more …

If these revelations don’t stop Assange’s extradition, nothing will. And Britain will be nothing but a deep black hole.

Assange’s Lawyers Were Under Surveillance. That’s Not The Whole Story (Canary)

A private security company organised 24/7 surveillance of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. This included confidential meetings between Assange and members of his legal team. The surveillance was provided directly to the CIA. These revelations could possibly jeopardise the viability of the US extradition case. But within this story there lies another that raises serious questions about the establishment media and allegiances. According to El Pais, Spanish security firm UC Global was responsible for the surveillance of Assange when he was a guest of the Ecuadorian government at their London embassy. UC Global, a firm with an address in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz), was hired by Senain, the former Ecuadorian intelligence service, ostensibly to provide protection for Assange.


However, it’s now been revealed that the company’s owner David Morales passed on the results of the operations to the CIA. He even installed a video streaming service direct to the US. Also monitored were meetings between Assange and his lawyers, including Melynda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson, and Baltasar Garzón. After Rafael Correa was replaced by the right-wing Lenín Moreno as president of Ecuador in May 2017, the latter cancelled the UC Global contract. Moreno then issued a new contract to Ecuadorian company Promsecurity. Video recordings and photos taken by that firm were subsequently used in an extortion attempt.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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…”)

Read more …

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

Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)

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

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

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

Read more …

“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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

@Jack has gone into politics. Bad move.

Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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!).

Read more …

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!”

Read more …

“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.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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?”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

“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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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!”

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.’”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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