The investigation into the crash of the MH17 Malaysia Airlines plane in East Ukraine was always compromised, right from the start. The crash on July 17 2014 came shortly after the “Euromaidan revolution” in Kiev – which first began in November 2013 and culminated in the ousting of elected president Yanukovich on 23 February 2014, happily helped along by John McCain, Victoria Nuland and then-US ambassador to Ukraine (now ambassador to Greece) Geoffrey Pyatt for the USA, as well as various EU actors.
Russia reacted by “annexing” Crimea – a large majority of whose people had voted for Yanukovich, thereby safeguarding its access to its only warm water port. Not a shot was fired there, but it was very different in East Ukraine (Donbass), where people -of Russian origin- also didn’t want to be subjected to a new regime under Nuland’s puppet Yatsenyuk -and later Poroshenko. They started a civil war which continues to this day.
It was in that heated political climate that the MH17 came down, killing all its 298 passengers, 196 of whom had the Dutch nationality. 3 weeks later, on August 8, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed, which was to be led by Holland, and to also include representatives from Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. Which is odd, since at that time, Ukraine certainly was a potential perpetrator of the downing.
Malaysia joined only in December, allegedly because only then did it finally agree to allow Ukraine, a nation that was a suspect, a veto over any conclusions that the team would publish. Malaysia had already been handed the black boxes by pro-Russian rebels in the area, and passed them on to the team in August. Summarized, the way the JIT was formed was highly curious. The countries even signed a secret agreement.
Immediately after the crash, people like then-US VP Joe Biden, as well as Frans Timmermans, then-Dutch Foreign Minister and today candidate for the EU top job, pointed the finger at Russia as the party responsible for shooting down the plane. Also curious, since there had been no investigation and the plane crashed in a civil war zone where access was almost impossible. There was talk at the time of the US having satellite images, but none have ever been produced.
In that atmosphere, the JIT yesterday, June 19 2019, held another press conference, in which it accused four men, three from Russia and one from Ukraine, of being “involved” in shooting down the plane. But again, almost 5 years after the incident, the team produced no evidence for its accusations, saying it will only be presented 9 months from now when a trial will start in the Netherlands.
It also again accused Russia of refusing to cooperate, though Russia has offered its help ever since the MH17 came down. It’s just not the help the people want who have accused the Russians since before there was any hint of evidence it was involved. And there still is no evidence. Russia has filed long and detailed reports on the incident despite being ignored, but these reports have been … ignored.
The trial will take place starting March 9 2020 without the accused, since Russia doesn’t extradite its citizens, and neither does Ukraine. Moreover, the one Ukrainian who is accused is thought to be in the Donbass, where the government has no access.
So this will be a show trial. And one must wonder why it is staged. What’s the use of a trial where defendants don’t defend themselves? Sure, the official line is they would love to have the men provide a defense, but that smells a bit too much like what has happened to Julian Assange. What are the odds of a fair trial when so many conclusions have been drawn at such early times?
There is not a soul in Europe west of the Russian border who doesn’t believe the Russians did it. The media take care of that. Nor is there in the US. But the Malaysian PM himself yesterday, again, said the team has proven nothing, and only provided hearsay. I kid you not, I read a piece on the BBC today that asked if the 93-year-old who lost 43 of his countrymen only said that because he wanted to sell palm oil to Russia.
And in the meantime, the evidence is not there, and won’t be for another 9 months, if ever, and the EU today added another year to its Russia sanctions over Crimea, and 4 men can deny their involvement all they want, but they can make their case only in March 2020, and only at a show trial, with international search warrants hanging over their heads.
The four men in question, by the way, are not accused of firing the BUK missile that supposedly downed the MH17. They are only accused of facilitating the transport of the missile and launcher from Russia to Ukraine -and back. The JIT Ukrainian team bases the entire story of that transport on serial numbers it says it has found.
On September 17 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense in a YouTube response to a May 24 2018 JIT exhibition, said it had tracked down those serial numbers, 8868720, and 1318869032, and 9M38, and said both the launcher and missile corresponding to the numbers were purchased by Ukraine from Russia as far back as 1986, transferred there, and had never left the country since.
I get that information from a lengthy, deep-digging and highly recommended essay by Eric Zuesse, from December 2018, MH17 Turnabout: Ukraine’s Guilt Now Proven, which I’ve been reading the past few days, in which Eric says: “…if the JIT’s supplied evidence is authentic — which the Ukrainian team asserts it to be — then it outright convicts Ukraine. This is an evidentiary checkmate, against the Ukrainian side.”
Zuesse also details, in that article, contentions from multiple sources that, while the MH17 may have been hit with a BUK missile, it certainly wasn’t the only thing that hit it. There was at least one fighter jet seen close to the plane before it came down, as multiple eye-witness reports claim, and it is alleged that they fired on the cockpit for sure and perhaps other parts of the plane. It is an excellent article that is very well researched and chock-full of links to prove its points.
There are many things wrong with the MH17 investigation. Having the PM of one of your member investigative countries complain that after 5 years you produce only hearsay and no evidence may be the least of the worries. The Netherlands, as main victim, leading the investigation, is strange. How neutral could they be? Their Foreign Minister blamed Russia way before any investigating was done. And Holland was a main sponsor in the “Euromaidan revolution”, i.e. the ousting of an elected president.
Still, Ukraine’s position in all this must be the biggest warning sign. They stood a lot to gain from committing atrocities and then blaming Russia for them. Plus, Yatsenyuk and Nuland and the US and the EU were mightily angry that Russia had outsmarted them all over Crimea.
But instead of keeping Ukraine out of the investigation, they became a major contributor, and were even given veto rights on anything that came out of it, as far as we know the only party with such rights. If you present a crime novel or movie with ingredients like that, nobody would believe you. Such things don’t happen in real life.
There never was a rape case vs Assange. So it cannot be reopened. There were never any charges at all. They refused to talk to Assange for 6 years. The British told them not to close the acse. It is obvious what the intention is: get him to Sweden which will extradite him to the US. Who cares about laws?
Swedish prosecutors have announced they are reopening an investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange. Prosecutors dropped the investigation in 2017 because they were unable to proceed while Assange remained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. They said at the time that the investigation could be reopened if the situation changed. Assange, 47, was removed from the embassy last month after seven years inside, after the Ecuadorian government abruptly withdrew his asylum. He was arrested for breach of bail. A lawyer for one of the women involved in the Swedish allegations subsequently asked for the investigation to be resumed. Assange had also faced investigation for a second sex-related allegation, which was dropped in 2015 because time had run out. He denied both allegations.
Ecuador’s Attorney General has informed a Julian Assange lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder’s files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search at the London embassy and sent to the US. After an unsuccessful attempt by WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson to retrieve Assange’s personal belongings from Ecuador’s UK embassy, where Assange had been holed up for almost 7 years before his arrest and incarceration last month, the Ecuadorian government reportedly greenlighted the US request to provide it access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April, 11.
The searches inside the embassy quarters formerly occupied by Assange are set to be conducted by police on May 20, El Pais reported, citing a notice sent to Assange’s Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda. Assange’s personal files, his computer, mobile phones, memory sticks, CDs and any other electronic devices uncovered during the searches will then be seized and sent to the US as a part of Ecuador’s response to the Department of Justice’s judicial request. The US is currently building a case to extradite on hacking charges. The files contain troves of sensitive information, include Assange’s communication with his lawyers and other legal documents – which, the lawyers argue, deprive him of the right to proper defense.
Having this data will potentially allow the US to “build and create new charges” to extradite Assange in violation of Ecuador’s own asylum policies. The news of the looming handover came as a bolt out of the blue for Assange’s defense team, Poveda told RT Spanish, adding that it’s impossible to be sure his things in the embassy haven’t been tampered with already. “Since Mr. Assange left the embassy, we cannot know for sure what has been happening inside these rooms.” The lawyers have requested CCTV records for the period since Assange’s arrest, Poveda said.
Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning said Sunday she again plans to refuse to testify before a grand jury about her leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks – even if it means returning to jail. Manning, who served seven years in prison over her transfer of secret diplomatic and military documents, recently spent another two months in lock-up for contempt of court after refusing to answer the grand jury’s questions. Federal prosecutors have for years been investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and they apparently want Manning to testify about her dealings with him.
Her release last week came on a technicality – that grand jury’s term was expiring. But a new grand jury has been convened and called on her to appear this week. “They’ve already stipulated they want to ask the same questions,” Manning told CNN. “I am going to refuse,” she added. “I have nothing new to provide.” Manning admitted that while she and her legal team do not know if she will be jailed again, she believes she has a “much stronger case in terms of the legal objections.” “We’re certainly going to raise every single legal challenge that we have,” said Manning…
The State Department has largely avoided scrutiny from GOP-led investigations of the Steele dossier, but that changed this week with the release of notes that a State Department official took during an October 2016 meeting with dossier author Christopher Steele. In letters this week to Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina pressed Pompeo for details about the Oct. 11, 2016 meeting, which was held at Foggy Bottom between Steele and Kathleen Kavalec, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Steele, a former British spy, was investigating President Donald Trump and his campaign on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Kavalec’s notes from the meeting, which were released this week, show that Steele told her about contacts he had with the media, including The New York Times and Washington Post. They also showed that Steele said that his client for his anti-Trump research campaign (which he did not identify at the time) was “keen” to see information on Trump released prior to the Nov. 8, 2016 election. Steele also made dubious or inaccurate claims to Kavalec, including that Russia had planted a mole within the DNC and that the Russian government had a consulate in Miami. The trio of Republicans say that the notes contradict some of the claims that the FBI made in applications for surveillance warrants against Carter Page, the former Trump campaign adviser.
The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s unverified dossier to obtain the spy warrants. In a letter sent to Pompeo on Thursday, Grassley and Johnson, who chair the Senate Banking and Senate Homeland Security Committees, respectively, asserted that any contacts that Steele had with the media would contradict what the FBI claimed the Carter Page warrants. “If true, that would contradict the Carter Page FISA application where the FBI repeatedly represented to the court that Steele did not have unauthorized contacts with the press prior to October 2016,” they wrote. “Based on the publicly-released version of the typed notes of the meeting, it appears Steele’s intent of the meeting with the State Department was to maximize the impact of the unverified information that he had acquired in an effort to undermine the Trump campaign,” they added.
[..] In a letter sent Friday to Pompeo, Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sought communications between Steele and State Department employees, as well as between State employees and the Justice Department regarding Steele. He is also asking Pompeo to make Kavalec available for a transcribed interview. Victoria Nuland, who served as Kavalec’s boss at the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, was the government official who approved an FBI agent in Rome meeting Steele in early July 2016.
Now in its third year, Russiagate is the worst, most corrosive, and most fraudulent political scandal in modern American history. It rests on two related core allegations: that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “attack on American democracy” during the 2016 presidential campaign in order to put Donald Trump in the White House, and that Trump and his associates willfully colluded, or conspired, in this Kremlin “attack.” As I have argued from the outset—see my regular commentaries posted at TheNation.com and my recent book War With Russia?—and as recently confirmed, explicitly and tacitly, by special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report, there is no factual evidence for either allegation.
Nonetheless, these Russiagate allegations, not “Putin’s Russia,” continue to inflict grave damage on fundamental institutions of American democracy. They impugn the integrity of the presidency and now the office of the attorney general. They degrade the many Democratic members of Congress who persist in clinging to the allegations and thus the Democratic Party and Congress. And they have enticed mainstream media into one of the worst episodes of journalistic malpractice in modern times. But equally alarming, Russiagate continues to endanger American national security by depriving a US president, for the first time in the nuclear age, of the diplomatic flexibility to deal with a Kremlin leader in times of crisis.
We were given a vivid example in July 2018, when Trump held a summit with the current Kremlin occupant, as every president had done since Dwight Eisenhower. For that conventional, even necessary, act of diplomacy, Trump was widely accused of treasonous behavior, a charge that persists. Now we have another alarming example of this reckless disregard for US national security on the part of Russiagate zealots. On May 3, Trump called Putin. They discussed various issues, including the Mueller report. (As before, Putin had to know if Trump was free to implement any acts of security cooperation they might agree on. Indeed, the Russian policy elite openly debates this question, many of its members having decided that Trump cannot cooperate with Russia no matter his intentions.)
A major subject of the conversation was unavoidably the growing conflict over Venezuela, where Washington and Moscow have long-standing economic and political interests. Trump administration spokespeople have warned Moscow against interfering in America’s neighborhood, ignoring, of course, Washington’s deep involvement for years in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia. Kremlin representatives, on the other hand, have warned Washington against violating Venezuela’s sovereignty. Increasingly, there is talk, at least in Moscow policy circles, of a Cuban Missile–like crisis, the closest the United States and Russia (then Soviet Russia) ever came to nuclear war.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said on Sunday that Joe Biden’s Ukraine corruption scandal should be off limits as the 2020 US election approaches, and that President Trump shouldn’t be allowed to investigate – or encourage Ukraine to investigate. Biden has come under fire for a March, 2016 incident in Kiev in which he threatened to withhold $1 billion in US loan guarantees to Ukraine unless President Petro Poroshenko fired his head prosecutor, General Viktor Shokin, who was leading a wide-ranging corruption investigation into natural gas firm Burisma Holdings. As it so happens, Joe’s son Hunter Biden sat on Burisma’s board, and waas indirectly paid as much as $50,000 per month.
‘I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” bragged Biden, recalling the conversation with Poroshenko. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Biden gloated. Biden claims he didn’t know Hunter was on the Burisma board for an entire two years (Hunter reportedly joined in April 2014, two years before Biden’s threat), and that the effort to remove Shokin had nothing to do with [this]. “Shokin was fired because he attacked the reformers within the prosecutor general’s office,” And this should be completely off limits to Trump, according to Adam Schiff
Schiff told ‘This Week’ that Congress should take up legislation banning political campaigns from working with foreign governments in an effort to influence US elections, responding to news that Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had planned to travel to Ukraine to encourage them to further investigate the Biden matter. Giuliani has since canceled the trip. In March, The Hill’s John Solomon revealed that Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
[..] To recap; Biden didn’t know his son Hunter was on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas firm for a full two years, before threatening to withhold $1 billion in US loan guarantees if the President of Ukraine didn’t fire the guy investigating the Biden-linked Burisma, and Adam Schiff thinks that should be off limits to investigate, or for voters to consider, going into the 2020 election.
China will never surrender to external pressure, the government said on Monday, though stopped short of announcing how Beijing will hit back after Washington renewed its threat to impose tariffs on all Chinese imports in an escalating trade dispute. The trade war between the world’s top two economies jumped up a gear on Friday, with the United States hiking tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods after President Donald Trump said Beijing “broke the deal” by reneging on earlier commitments made during months of negotiations. Trump also ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin imposing tariffs on all remaining imports from China, a move that would affect about an additional $300 billion worth of goods.
Beijing has vowed to respond to the latest U.S. tariffs, but has announced no details yet. “As for the details, please continue to pay attention. Copying a U.S. expression – wait and see,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing. “We have said many times that adding tariffs won’t resolve any problem. China will never surrender to external pressure. We have the confidence and the ability to protect our lawful and legitimate rights,” Geng added, responding to a question on Trump’s threat of putting duties on all Chinese imports. [..] “At no time will China forfeit the country’s respect, and no one should expect China to swallow bitter fruit that harms its core interests,” China’s top newspaper, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in a commentary.
Rideshare unicorn Uber doesn’t do anything small. When it was in the game of raising money, it raised close to $25 billion. When it loses that money—and it does every single quarter—it loses it at astronomical burn rates. It finally debuted on the New York Stock Exchange today, in the middle of international trade uncertainty and following a massive, international strike by its own drivers, how’d it do? According to University of Florida professor Jay Ritter, Uber’s 7.62 percent decline since hitting the NYSE makes it “bigger than first day dollar losses of any prior IPO in the U.S.” In terms of percentage losses, Uber’s dip doesn’t even scratch the surface of the worst IPOs.
But the staggering valuation of the company makes it, in raw scale, “among the top 10 IPOs ever” including companies outside the U.S., Ritter told Gizmodo in a phone interview. That single digit decline resulted in an estimated $617 million paper losses. Consider also that Uber’s debut valuation of $76.5 billion was a considerable drop from the between $90 billion and $120 billion the company had been worth in some analysts estimation just a month earlier—one meant to stanch the forthcoming bleeding that had begun with competitor Lyft’s bellyflop IPO. This defensive position did little to keep Uber or its investors from taking on water within a single day of trading.
Pakistan has reached an accord with the International Monetary Fund for a three-year, $6 billion bailout package aimed at shoring up fragile public finances and strengthening a slowing economy, officials said on Sunday. The deal, which still needs approval by the IMF board in Washington, would be the 13th such bailout since the late 1980s Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told PTV television he hoped it would be Pakistan’s last. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government came to power last year determined to avoid another bailout and initially sought billions of dollars in funding from friendly countries including China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
But with inflation climbing to over 8 percent, the rupee losing a third of its value over the past year, and foreign exchange reserves barely enough to cover two months of exports, it was forced to turn to the IMF. “Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment, with lackluster growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position,” the IMF said in a statement outlining the framework deal. The IMF forecasts Pakistan’s economic growth slowing to 2.9% this fiscal year from 5.2% in 2018, while the central bank has cut its estimate to between 3.5-4%. As the bailout talks neared culmination, Khan shook up his top economic team, replacing Asad Umar with Hafeez Shaikh as finance minister and making IMF economist Reza Baqir central bank governor instead of Tariq Bajwa.
A Saudi ship, prevented by rights groups from loading an arms cargo at the French port of Le Havre on Friday, arrived at the Spanish port of Santander early on Monday. It was not clear what the Saudi ship was doing in Santander or how long it would stay docked there. Spain’s interior ministry said they had no information regarding the ship. The defense and foreign ministries were not immediately available for comment. French rights group ACAT argued in a legal challenge on Thursday that the arms consignment contravened a U.N. treaty because the weapons might be used against civilians in Yemen, though the case was thrown out by a French judge.
A classified report written by France’s DRM military intelligence agency and published by investigative website Disclose in April showed French arms were being used against civilians in the civil war in Yemen. The Saudi vessel Bahri-Yanbu set course for Santander shortly after the ruling but without the weapons it was charged with collecting. In Yemen, with fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels backed by Iran, tens of thousands of people have been killed and fighting has spawned what the UN calls the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis. France’s President Emmanuel Macron defended the arms shipment to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying Riyadh had assured him the weapons would not be used against civilians.
Exhausted, emaciated gray whales are going belly up along the coast of San Francisco this year at a rate seen only once — during a two-year period 20 years ago — since whaling was banned and the leviathans were pulled from the brink of extinction. The death toll, part of a disturbing mass die-off from Mexico to Alaska, is happening largely because there is too little food in the ecosystem to sustain the behemoths on one of the world’s longest migrations, experts say. The hulking carcasses of nine gray whales, several of them starving, have been found since March in San Francisco Bay and along the coast from Pacifica to Point Reyes. That’s an unusually large number for the region.
“It’s definitely not normal,” said Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, which has for decades been monitoring the spectacular whale migrations along the San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma county coasts. The desperately hungry grays are taking dangerous detours into San Francisco Bay to look for food, a treat for whale watchers who have been seeing the gargantuan beasts in the estuary since February — but not such a good sign for those who care about their survival. “They are attempting to forage in the bay’s ‘dire straits’ with their ship-strike risk, unknown toxins in the bay mud, and other threats,” Schramm said. “Some cannot make it any farther and are simply giving up the ghost.”
The strandings are happening along the entire coast of California, where 31 dead gray whales have been found this year, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. In all, 48 gray whales have been found dead along the coasts of California, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, fisheries service officials said. That’s not as bad as 1999, when 91 dead grays were recovered, or 2000, when 131 were found dead. But that die-off came in the wake of an unusually strong El Niño weather pattern that spread warm water along the entire West Coast and disrupted the food web. There is a mild El Niño this year, and water temperatures are higher than normal, but marine biologists say the balmy conditions locally do not fully explain the increased death toll, which also rose the previous two years.
View from Singapore. If the only way people can look at extinction is from a point of view of how man could have profited, forget about it. Nature has its own value, independent of us, independent of monetary value.
Human activities are putting a million species worldwide at risk of extinction, threatening ecosystems that people around the world depend on for survival, a United Nations (UN) assessment has found. [..] Global plant and animal species’ extinction is now “10 to hundreds of times” higher compared to that over the last 10 million years. Many of these extinctions will happen within decades, and that rate is set to climb, the report said. At least 680 vertebrate species have already been driven to extinction by human action in the last 500 years. The loss of habitats, overconsumption and pollution will result in countless more facing a similar fate. The extensive report illuminates the interconnectedness of nature with the economy, food security and health, said Nature Society Singapore’s president Shawn Lum.
[..] academic reports have revealed that Somali piracy has largely been driven by a lack of economic opportunities for local fishermen due to illegal fishing by foreign vessels depleting the fish population. Many organisms like fungi, maggots and houseflies also play an important role in the ecosystem to break down waste and dead creatures so that nutrients return to the system. While “hardly the face of conservation”, these species are crucial to every ecosystem. The loss of these species would have vast implications on plants and animals higher up the food chain, a group of environmental studies undergraduates at the National University of Singapore (NUS) explained. The UN report pointed out that 70 per cent of the world’s cancer drugs are natural and synthetic products inspired by nature.
An argument for conservation is that the loss of biodiversity could also result in undiscovered species which could potentially have served an important role in medicine. Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency Louis Ng noted that the extinction of species on such a wide scale has severe implications on human beings. However, he believes that people should also consider the “intrinsic value” that these species play, and to conserve them simply to retain their existence. Said Mr Ng, who is also founder and chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society: “Human beings need animals for our survival, but the animals don’t need us.”
Hawksbill turtles, a critically endangered species, in the Indian Ocean coral reef, Maldives. Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock.com
“If all these peoples’ ideas were not relevant, or popular, they would not need to be banned.”
It’s World Press Freedom Day today. Painfully ironic. We can’t let Facebook police our world. Or, rather, be police, judge and henchman all in one. We need laws for this and we need to apply them.
I don’t do Facebook anymore since they froze our account, what is it, 3 years ago?! I see Paul Joseph Watson every now and then on Twitter and though I don’t see myself becoming his best friend, he is an intelligent and articulate guy who has never violated Facebook’s regulations. Other than he has a link to Alex Jones. It’s easy to say Good Riddance, but you are next.
Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopoulos have been unpersonned by the digital tech giant Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram. They’re coming for you, next. Or more likely, for us. Human Events stands shoulder-to-shoulder with those being routinely targeted by the would-be ‘Masters of the Universe’, no matter if we agree with them or not. Also banned was Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the repugnant Nation of Islam group. But Farrakhan, like the others, should not have his fate decided by some little nerd in Silicon Valley who has decided his or her feelings are hurt. His fate should be decided in the court of public opinion, with sunlight acting as the greatest disinfectant.
Unfortunately, recent precedent has informed Big Tech that its methods to some extent work. The removal of people like Laura Loomer, Milo, and Tommy Robinson has directly impacted their livelihoods, their work, and their fundamental freedoms. And while Farrakhan is far from someone we would be seen dead around, it is only intellectually consistent if the rules apply both ways. For the psychopaths of Silicon Valley however, intellectual considerations come a distinct last to power, profit, and pandering. The likelihood is Farrakhan’s inclusion on the list is simply a sop to make the decision seem less of a one way street. If I were him, I’d be especially pissed off at being the fall guy in this regard.
But Jones, Loomer, Milo, and Watson have a claim to massive anger too, given they are being lumped in with a man who has said “white people deserve to die”, and who has said to Jewish people, “…don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Tommy now struggles to gain traction – albeit with a smile on his face – and a plan to drive a bus around the country with a big screen on it, to highlight the censorship he faces. Milo – and he will probably hate me for saying this – faces total financial ruin. Alex Jones has had a massive business ripped out from under him. And Laura Loomer has been relegated to staging protests on the front lawns of those who needlessly aggress her.
Now that more of us are consuming news media more often than ever, a higher number of Americans are being fed a steady mental diet of outrage, fear, and hostility wrapped in clickbait headlines designed to make us even more contemptuous of those whose political beliefs clash with our own. Many media outlets have transformed emotionally charged, but ultimately irrelevant, stories into their bread and butter, manipulating their audiences into giving them their precious clicks in exchange for a dose of anger and panic. Otherwise unimportant stories are catapulted into the mainstream simply because the press knows Americans will tune in and boost their ratings.
The Covington kids fiasco is a prime example. What should have been a local matter was morphed into an issue of national importance by a left-wing media apparatus that wanted to further their “MAGA Hat-wearing white people are the spawn of Satan” narrative. In the end, what is accomplished? For the press, it is higher ratings and more clicks. But for the American public, it is a heightened sense of fear, hatred, and stress – a toxic brew rending the social fabric. It is no wonder that many are predicting another civil war. It would be easy to dismiss such claims as pure alarmism, but given how the Fourth Estate wields their influence, this reality is not hard to imagine. Is it possible to reverse course? Sure, but it won’t be easy. The media is in this game for two reasons: To earn a profit, and to achieve their political objectives. They have no incentive to inform rather than persuade. If the trend persists, things are sure to get uglier before they get better.
In recent years, there has been enormous concern about the time we spend on our web-connected devices and what that might be doing to our brains. But a related psychological shift has gone largely unremarked: the way that, for a certain segment of the population, the news has come to fill up more and more time – and, more subtly, to occupy centre stage in our subjective sense of reality, so that the world of national politics and international crises can feel more important, even more truly real, than the concrete immediacy of our families, neighbourhoods and workplaces. It’s not simply that we spend too many hours glued to screens. It’s that for some of us, at least, they have altered our way of being in the world such that the news is no longer one aspect of the backdrop to our lives, but the main drama. The way that journalists and television producers have always experienced the news is now the way millions of others experience it, too.
From a British or American standpoint, the overwhelmingly dominant features of this changed mental landscape are Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. But the sheer outrageousness of them both risks blinding us to how strange and recent a phenomenon it is for the news – any news – to assume such a central position in people’s daily lives. In a now familiar refrain, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof bemoans his social circle’s “addiction to Trump” – “at cocktail parties, on cable television, at the dinner table, at the water cooler, all we talk about these days is Trump.” But Trump’s eclipse of all other news is not the only precondition for this addiction. The other is the eclipse of the rest of life by the dramas of the news.
Excellent point. But there’s more: how does Assange’s freedom relate to that of the people who got banned from Facebook yesterday? Most of us will initially react to that question with something about what and who we like, but that’s not good enough.
Did international media and free press advocates who once celebrated Assange, utilized his revelations and heaped awards on Wikileaks, collectively agreed to abandon their erstwhile hero? And why the turnaround? (It’s not easy to explain although one observer suggests former associates actually conspired to depose him.) Increased silence from within Assange’s refuge presaged his recent ‘capture’. Then, when he suddenly appeared, subdued by dozens of guards, how shamelessly international media rushed to cheer his arrest. They seemed to delight in highlighting scant, salacious details of his condition at the time of his arrest. Reprehensible. Dismaying. Will those gloating journalists care what his captors do to Assange in detention?
This for the man whose political analyses and Wikileaks revelations had been daily headlines not long ago. This for a journalist and publisher who introduced a profound strategy to expose a government’s sinister diplomatic schemes, excesses and crimes documented by their own internal reports. This for an organization gathering evidence of government wrongdoing at a critical time, starting in 2006 when U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being reevaluated by a sobering public. Rumors of military crimes, cover-ups, torture, black-site prisons, etc. had gradually, although belatedly, gained credibility and, following the Abu Graib Prison revelations, Wikileaks provided irrefutable evidence of how U.S.A. and its allies conducted their wars.
From the WSJ Editorial Board yesterday: “Mr. Barr has since released the full Mueller report with minor redactions, as he promised, and with the “context” intact. Keep in mind Mr. Barr was under no legal obligation to release anything at all. Mr. Mueller reports only to Mr. Barr, not to the country or Congress.
Mr. Barr has also made nearly all of the redactions in the report available to senior Members of Congress to inspect at Justice. Yet as of this writing, only three Members have bothered—Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking House Republican on Judiciary Doug Collins. Not one Democrat howling about Mr. Barr’s lack of transparency has examined the outrages they claim are hidden.”
Doug Collins’ tirade is a good listen. No need to agree with him.
Refusing to allow the fact that AG Barr chose not to attend today’s Mueller Report hearing, angry Democrats took full advantage of the photo-op to conjure images of a terrified attorney general cowering from the truth and protecting a clearly guilty-of-something president. Despite Barr’s decision last night not to attend, because he objected to Democratic demands that their staff counsel be able to question him, Democrats went forward with the theater of the hearing anyway, setting up an empty chair for the absent attorney general. As The Hill reports, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to the morning event, and accused Barr of being a coward after it ended. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tore into Barr, accusing him of failing to check President Trump’s “worst instincts” and misrepresenting Mueller’s findings.
“He has failed the men and women of the Department by placing the needs of the President over the fair administration of justice,” Nadler said. “He has even failed to show up today.” Republicans did not take it lying down with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) noted vociferously that “Judiciary Democrats say AG Barr is “terrified.” Yesterday he testified for over five hours in an open hearing. Today, they cut off my microphone.” And, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) accused Nadler of staging a “circus political stunt” and said the Democratic chairman wanted the hearing to look like an impeachment hearing. “That is the reason. The reason Bill Barr is not here today is because the Democrats decided they didn’t want him here today. That’s the reason he’s not here,” Collins said. “Not hearing from him is a travesty to this committee today.”
Over the 206-year history of this committee, staff have never questioned witnesses in an oversight hearing. Never. Not once. So, to say Chairman Nadler’s demands are unprecedented would be an understatement. pic.twitter.com/CCWKGr3QOM
When the Mueller Report was released on April 18th, most commentators focused on the “explosive” factual allegations. But other than the shocking revelation that the President once used an expletive in private, very few of those facts were novel; most were leaked long ago. At the end of Volume II of the Mueller Report, however, there were 20 pages of genuinely new material. There, the former FBI director turned Special Counsel Robert Mueller defended his “Application of Obstruction-Of-Justice Statutes To The President.” These overlooked 20 pages were dedicated to defending Mueller’s interpretation of a single subsection of a single obstruction-of-justice statute: 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2).
That’s quite strange, but you know what’s stranger still? In June 2018, Bill Barr, then in private practice at Kirkland & Ellis, wrote a detailed legal memorandum to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This memo came to light in December, when Barr was nominated for Attorney General. The subject was Mueller’s interpretation of the aforementioned 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). [..] Reading Barr’s June 2018 memo alongside the last twenty pages of the Mueller Report is a curious experience. Together, they read like dueling legal briefs on the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2); the type of material one would expect to see from adversarial appellate litigators.
So-why did Robert Mueller dedicate 20 pages of his report to a seemingly obscure question of statutory interpretation? Why did Bill Barr write a detailed legal memorandum to Rod Rosenstein about that very same statute? And how, exactly, did Bill Barr know that that § 1512(c)(2) was central to Mueller’s obstruction theory – in June 2018, when he was still in private practice at Kirkland? [..] why, exactly, was the interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) so contested? Let’s start by looking the statute, excerpted here: (c) Whoever corruptly— (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so [is guilty of the crime of obstruction].
Why was this so important to Mueller? Because most of the obstruction statutes couldn’t possibly apply to President Trump’s behavior, as they require that a defendant obstruct a “pending proceeding” before an agency or tribunal. It is settled law that an FBI investigation does not constitute such a proceeding. But § 1512(c) applies to acts of obstruction done with the intent of impairing evidence for a future, potential proceeding. That made it potentially usable against the President.
The boomerang from the Democratic Party’s failed attempt to connect Donald Trump to Russia’s 2016 election meddling is picking up speed, and its flight path crosses right through Moscow’s pesky neighbor, Ukraine. That is where there is growing evidence a foreign power was asked, and in some cases tried, to help Hillary Clinton. In its most detailed account yet, Ukraine’s embassy in Washington says a Democratic National Committee insider during the 2016 election solicited dirt on Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and even tried to enlist the country’s president to help.
In written answers to questions, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly’s office says DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa sought information from the Ukrainian government on Paul Manafort’s dealings inside the country, in hopes of forcing the issue before Congress. Chalupa later tried to arrange for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to comment on Manafort’s Russian ties on a U.S. visit during the 2016 campaign, the ambassador said. Chaly says that, at the time of the contacts in 2016, the embassy knew Chalupa primarily as a Ukrainian-American activist, and learned only later of her ties to the DNC. He says the embassy considered her requests an inappropriate solicitation of interference in the U.S. election.
It was yet another dismal month for US auto sales in April, continuing a recessionary trend that has been in place not only in the US, but globally, for the better part of the last 12 months and certainly since the beginning of 2019. The nonsense-excuse-du jour for this month’s disappointing numbers is being placed on the weather on seasonality on rising car prices, which easily pushed away an overextended, broke and debt-laden U.S. consumer. In a nutshell, US auto sales in April tumbled by 6.1% – the biggest monthly drop since May 2011 – to just 16.4 million units, the lowest since October 2014.
Aside for an incentive-boost driven rebound in March, every month of 2019 has seen a decline in the number of annualized auto sales. Furthermore, as David Rosenberg notes, the -4.3% Y/Y trend is the weakest it has been for the past 8 years. Adding “fuel to the fire”, the average price of a new car in April came in at $36,720, the highest ASP so far this year, according to The Detroit News. It comes at a time where interest rates remain above 6% on average, further pressuring sales.
Global foreign direct investment flows plunged by another 27% in 2018 — after having already plunged 16% in 2017 — to just $1.1 trillion, the equivalent of 1.3% of global GDP, the lowest ratio since 1999, according to new data released by the OECD. It was the third consecutive annual plunge in global FDI flows, as more and more companies either choose not to invest in businesses or assets in other countries or are prevented from doing so. At the peak in 2015, before the trade wars began, before the Brexit vote happened, and before China began cracking down on the capital outflows that had fueled big-ticket purchases of strategic companies across the globe as well as surging asset prices in multiple jurisdictions, global FDI flows totaled $1.92 trillion and represented around 2.5% of global GDP. FDI has since collapsed by 43%.
The OECD apportions much of the blame for the latest fall in FDI flows on the US tax reform in 2017, which prompted many US companies to repatriate large amounts of earnings held with foreign affiliates in countries such as Ireland and Switzerland, which both suffered a massive reduction in inward foreign investment last year. The U.S. is traditionally the world’s biggest source of FDI, but last year it recorded negative outflows for the first time since 2005, as the movement of funds from U.S. investors into global businesses and assets reversed and flowed back toward the U.S., at least on paper. The total sum of outflows last year was -$48 billion, compared to $316 billion in 2017.
A lot of people like to argue that the central bank and the central government are independent and autonomous powers. And the argument goes that because of this autonomy, central governments like the US aren’t really all-powerful because the central bank can simply refuse to create more IOUs. I think this is a ridiculous argument, though. The central bank is the central government’s agent. And it exists only as a vehicle for executing banking and monetary policies in the government’s interest. The independence it enjoys is entirely at the central government’s discretion – mostly to create the appearance of non-politically motivated policy which would create inflation and debase the currency. If push came to shove, the central government would do whatever it took to issue IOUs to promise to pay the bearer of its money the required sum of fiat currency.
Notice, though, that Euro Zone governments don’t have the same power because they cannot create euros. Sure, they can enforce tax in euros with the coercive power of the penalty of prison as an incentive. But, when their euro taxes fall short, they can’t create euros to make up the shortfall. The euro is not their IOU. They are just like any other debtor in the eurozone. And the MMT crowd were onto this right from the start. In fact, one of the MMT forefathers, Wynne Godley, predicted the European Sovereign Debt Crisis when the euro was first conceived in 1992. On the other hand, most mainstream economists were caught flat-footed by the crisis. They were operating under the assumption that the bond vigilantes had the same power over all debtors including sovereigns.
They said the bond vigilantes just gave sovereigns more leeway. And that’s still their position today despite all evidence to the contrary. How do you trade that? For me, I trade that by saying Germany is the de facto ‘sovereign’ in the euro zone because of its size and fiscal rectitude. The euro would have to cease to exist before German sovereign debt came under attack from bond vigilantes. Now, if Deutsche Bank went bankrupt and Germany bailed it out at great cost and went on a deficit binge to boot and government debt to GDP ended up ballooning to 120% of GDP, things would be different.
If the Swedish allegations against Julian Assange were genuine and not simply a ruse to arrest him for extradition to the United States, where is the arrest warrant now from Sweden and what are the charges? Only the more minor allegation has passed the statute of limitations deadline. The major allegation, equivalent to rape, is still well within limits. Sweden has had seven years to complete the investigation and prepare the case. It is over two years since they interviewed Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. They have had years and years to collect all the evidence and prepare the charges. So where, Swedish prosecutors, are your charges? Where is your arrest warrant?
Julian Assange has never been charged with anything in Sweden. He was merely “wanted for questioning”, a fact the MSM repeatedly failed to make clear. It is now undeniably plain that there was never the slightest intention of charging him with anything in Sweden. All those Blairite MPs who seek to dodge the glaring issue of freedom of the media to publish whistleblower material revealing government crimes, by hiding behind trumped-up sexual allegations, are left looking pretty stupid. What is the point of demanding Assange be extradited to Sweden when there is no extradition request from Sweden? What is the point in demanding he face justice in Sweden when there are no charges? Where are the charges from Sweden?
The answer to that is silence. Sweden was always a fit-up designed to get Assange to the USA. And now they don’t need it, so Sweden has quietly gone away. All the false left who were taken in by the security services playing upon a feminist mantra should take a very hard look at themselves.
Assange had been residing at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly seven years before his asylum was revoked on 11 April, followed by his arrest and further extradition to the Westminster Magistrate’s Court. Julian Assange’s lawyers have filed a lawsuit against a group of Spaniards, members of staff at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as well as Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry over extortion, AFP reported, citing Assange’s defence team. Earlier, Spanish media reported that the group of Spaniards had got hold of Assange’s videos and personal documents, which they threatened to publish unless paid $3.3 million by the WikiLeaks team. The lawsuit was reportedly brought forward in Spain. The source also noted that an investigation into the matter was ongoing, adding that Assange was allegedly spied on in the embassy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit out at a US court’s sentencing of agent Maria Butina, dubbing it “an outrage” and a “travesty of justice”. Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday after trying to infiltrate US political groups in an effort to sway American policies in favour of Moscow. The 30-year-old had pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent. But the Russian president said the sentence was an attempt to save face. In his first public remarks since the sentencing, Mr Putin on Saturday said it was “not clear what she was convicted of or what crime she committed”. “I think it’s a prime example of ‘saving face.’ They arrested her and put the girl in jail. But there was nothing on her, so in order not to look totally stupid they… fixed her up with an 18-month sentence to show that she was guilty of something,” he told reporters in Beijing.
Speaking to the court on Friday, Butina said: “I destroyed my own life.” The Russian gun rights activist had been in custody since her arrest in July. While initially pleading not guilty, she reversed her position after reaching a deal with prosecutors and admitted to a single count of conspiracy in December. The judge noted on Friday that Butina had provided “substantial assistance” to law enforcement. But despite Butina’s plea for leniency, the sentencing fully complied with the government’s recommendation. “This was no simple misunderstanding by a overeager foreign student,” Judge Chutkan said. The 18-month sentence includes the nine months Butina has already served. She will face immediate deportation after her sentence is complete. At the end of the sentencing, Judge Chutkan said she wished Butina “the best of luck.”
As Donald Trump began his meteoric rise to the presidency, the Obama White House summoned Ukrainian authorities to Washington to coordinate ongoing anti-corruption efforts inside Russia’s most critical neighbor. The January 2016 gathering, confirmed by multiple participants and contemporaneous memos, brought some of Ukraine’s top corruption prosecutors and investigators face to face with members of former President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), FBI, State Department and Department of Justice (DOJ). The agenda suggested the purpose was training and coordination. But Ukrainian participants said it didn’t take long — during the meetings and afterward — to realize the Americans’ objectives included two politically hot investigations: one that touched Vice President Joe Biden’s family and one that involved a lobbying firm linked closely to then-candidate Trump.
[..] The other case raised at the January 2016 meeting, Telizhenko said, involved Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company under investigation in Ukraine for improper foreign transfers of money. At the time, Burisma allegedly was paying then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter as both a board member and a consultant. More than $3 million flowed from Ukraine to an American firm tied to Hunter Biden in 2014-15, bank records show. According to Telizhenko, U.S. officials told the Ukrainians they would prefer that Kiev drop the Burisma probe and allow the FBI to take it over. The Ukrainians did not agree. But then Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in March 2016, as I previously reported. The Burisma case was transferred to NABU, then shut down. [..] Ukraine is riddled with corruption, Russian meddling and intense political conflicts, so one must carefully consider any Ukrainian accounts.
But Telizhenko’s claim that the DOJ reopened its Manafort probe as the 2016 election ramped up is supported by the DOJ’s own documents, including communications involving Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, his wife, Nellie, and ex-British spy Christopher Steele. [..] Previously, Politico reported that the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington assisted Clinton’s campaign through a DNC contractor. The Ukrainian Embassy acknowledges it got requests for assistance from the DNC staffer to find dirt on Manafort but denies it provided any improper assistance. Now we have more concrete evidence that the larger Ukrainian government also was being pressed by the Obama administration to help build the Russia collusion narrative. And that onion is only beginning to be peeled. But what is already confirmed by Ukrainians looks a lot more like assertive collusion with a foreign power than anything detailed in the Mueller report.
More than half the public – 55% – now think it would have been better never to have held the EU referendum given the difficulties of reaching an agreement on Brexit, according to the latest Opinium/Observer poll. Strikingly, more Conservative voters (49%) now think the referendum was a bad idea than believe it was the right thing to have done (43%). Among Labour supporters, 72% believe it would have been better never to have staged the vote, while 18% say it was worthwhile. The Conservatives are down 3 percentage points on 26% compared with a fortnight ago and continue to trail Labour (also down 3pts on 33%) by seven percentage points. Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party, meanwhile, has established itself in a clear third place on 17%, having been included in the national poll for the first time.
The Liberal Democrats are down 2 points on 6%, the SNP unchanged on 5%, Ukip down 7 on 4%, the Greens unchanged on 4%, Change.UK (also included for the first time) is on 4% and Plaid Cymru is unchanged on 1%. When voters were asked how they intended to vote in the European elections, the news was even better for the Brexit party. Support for Nigel Farage’s new party and Labour stands level at 28% – double that for the Conservatives, on 14%. The pro-remain Liberal Democrats and ChangeUK parties both stand on 7%, while the Greens are on 6%, the SNP 5%, Ukip 3% and Plaid Cymru 1%. If a second referendum were held between the options of leaving the EU on the prime minister’s deal or remaining in the EU, 46% say they would vote to remain (unchanged on a fortnight ago) while 34% would vote to leave (down 4%).
Labour’s ruling body will decide on Tuesday whether the party will campaign for a public vote on any Brexit deal, Jeremy Corbyn has said on the campaign trail in leave-voting Peterborough. Almost 90 Labour MPs and MEPs, including a number of frontbenchers, wrote to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to demand that its European election manifesto include a “clear commitment to a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal”. However, Corbyn declined to guarantee the commitment. He stressed that he was not a dictator and that the matter would be for the NEC to decide.
“The national executive will decide on Tuesday what will be in the European election manifesto, and we will reflect the decisions made [at] last year’s Labour party conference, which were for a customs union, market access and rights protection within – with – the European Union,” he said. “We would prefer to have a general election, but failing that, if we get that agreement, we are prepared to consider putting it to a confirmatory vote. That is a decision the national executive of the party will make. “It’s important that the party, which is a democratic party structure, makes those decisions. Sadly – or perhaps it’s a good thing – I’m not a dictator of the Labour party.”
Labour will this week force a vote in parliament to declare a national environmental and climate change emergency as confidential documents show the government has spent only a fraction of a £100m fund allocated in 2015 to support clean air projects. Jeremy Corbyn’s party will demand on Wednesday that the country wakes up to the threat and acts with urgency to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, which will require global emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” before 2050. The move will place Conservative MPs under pressure to back the plan, or explain why they refuse to do so, now fears over the combined problems of air pollution and climate change have risen to the top of the political agenda.
On Saturday night Corbyn said the recent wave of protests were “a massive and necessary wake-up call” that demanded “rapid and dramatic action, which only concerted government action and a green industrial revolution can deliver.” He said that if parliament backed the move and became the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency it would “trigger a wave of action from governments around the world”. [..] The motion will call for new targets on the mass rollout of renewable and low carbon energy and transport, proper funding of environmental protection, reversing species decline and developing plans to move towards a zero waste economy.
The plan comes as confidential minutes of a government advisory group obtained by the Observer show how all but a small proportion of a £100m pot allocated to Highways England to combat air pollution “on and near our roads” in 2015 has not been spent, despite a 2020 deadline. Minutes of a meeting of the Highways England designated funds advisory group from last December and marked “Sensitivity – Official”, reveal concerns at the highest level that the money may not be spent within the defined timetable. Highways England is the government company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads. The minutes state that a “key risk remains of fully investing all remaining air quality designated funding by the end of March 2020. By the end of October 2018 just £2.82m had been invested.”
The government’s fracking tsar has quit the post after just six months, claiming policy relating to the controversial process means there is “no purpose” to her job. Natascha Engel told the business secretary, Greg Clark, that developing the industry would be “an impossible task” despite its “enormous potential”. In her resignation letter, she said environmental activists had been “highly successful” in encouraging the government to curb fracking. Engel, a former Labour MP, wrote the letter following two weeks of protests by the Extinction Rebellion group, which brought parts of London to a standstill with demands to cut emissions to zero by 2025.
She wrote: “A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.” Engel complained that a traffic light system that halts fracking when a tremor with a magnitude of 0.5 is recorded “amounts to a de facto ban”. “The UK could be on the cusp of an energy revolution the like of which we have not seen since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas,” she wrote.
The Ecuadoran government announced Saturday it will appeal a ruling won by the country’s Waorani indigenous tribe that blocks oil companies’ entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands for exploration activities. The Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Natural Resources said in a statement it “will appeal the decision, given that although documents and videos were presented and compliance with all standards was demonstrated, these were not taken into account.” After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, on Friday accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration.
The lands are protected under Ecuador’s constitution that establishes the “inalienable, unseizable and indivisible” rights of indigenous people “to maintain possession of their ancestral lands and obtain their free adjudication.” Crucially, however, the wealth in the subsoil is owned by the state. The constitution also enshrines the need for prior consultation on any plans to exploit the underground resources, given the probable environmental and cultural impacts on tribal communities. The state reached an agreement with the Waorani over oil exploration in 2012, but the tribe’s leaders said they were duped. The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights..
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido used his latest mass rally on Saturday to reiterate an appeal to the army to end its support for Nicolas Maduro’s regime, and announced massive Mayday protests to oust the embattled president. Guaido told supporters at the rally in Caracas that the support of the army was “fundamental” to oust Maduro, “but time is passing and the wait cannot be eternal.” He reminded military leaders they have “a historic opportunity resting on their shoulders.” Despite support from more than 50 states who recognize him as interim president, US-backed Guaido has been unable to affect Maduro’s grip on the military, which continues to keep him in power, along with allies China and Russia.
Guaido will aim to keep up the street pressure on the regime with a huge Mayday protest on Wednesday that he said would be “the largest in the country’s history.” At his rally on Saturday, he held a swearing-in ceremony for “freedom commandos” — volunteers he has put in charge of organizing ongoing protests against the government. The government has also called for mass pro-Maduro demonstrations to be held as part of its annual Mayday parade. [..] Leftist firebrand Maduro has presided over a crumbling economy in which inflation is projected to soar to a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year, with millions of Venezuelans having fled in the face of a shortage of basic goods. Washington has hit Venezuela with a raft of sanctions aimed at cutting off financial support for Maduro and his top officials. An oil embargo comes into effect on Sunday.
The idea of a Green New Deal first sprouted in the U.S. — which is only fair, since we did the first New Deal, after all. Depending on the results of this weekend’s elections, though, Spain might be the first country to actually put one into place. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, or PSOE, took over at the national level last summer following a corruption scandal that hobbled longtime Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his right-wing Popular Party, the PP. PSOE struck a tenuous bargain with the country’s regional nationalist parties, allowing party leader Pedro Sánchez to become prime minister. That agreement fell apart over budget negotiations earlier this spring, forcing Sánchez to call for a snap election that will take place on Sunday. PSOE is ahead in the polls and could potentially form a government with the left populist party Podemos, formed in 2014 out of Spain’s Occupy Wall Street-esque 15-M movement.
Should PSOE remain in power, Spain — Europe’s fifth-largest economy — could become a testing ground for rolling out a Green New Deal nationwide. Sánchez came out in support of the U.S. Green New Deal — sometimes translated as “El New Deal Verde” or “El Green New Deal de España” — in January and has campaigned on it throughout the election. Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, told me by phone earlier this month that a Green New Deal “accepts that we are in an emergency moment where we need to transform,” calling it an “opportunity to update our economy and our industry.” She sees it, too, as an opportunity to draw vital connections between income and wealth inequality and the degradation of the environment, “transforming that into a positive agenda.”
Thousands of trade unionists and activists from leftwing parties marched with gilet jaune (yellow vest) protesters through Paris on Saturday to present a united front against French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest reforms package. The demonstration, which passed off peacefully, came before the main gilets jaunes march in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where protesters clashed with police trying to enforce a ban in parts of the city centre. Veterans of the protests, which have been running for six months, led off the Paris march, which was organised by the militant CGT union. Many senior figures from the radical left marched with them, including Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of France Unbowed and one of Macron’s most vocal critics.
Welcoming this show of unity, Melenchon told BFM TV: “It’s the first time that there has been a call of this kind, that’s to say union organisations, associations and political movements.” It was a government plan to increase diesel prices and raise taxes on pensions last November that initially sparked the protests in rural France, which quickly ballooned into a full-scale anti-government rebellion. But in the early months of the movement, its leading figures resisted attempts by parties on the far left and the far right to hijack their cause for their own ends, as they saw it. [..] Organisers see the Paris demonstration as a dry run for Wednesday’s May Day rally, which will bring together several unions from different sectors.
VIPS Blast Mueller Over Refusal To Interview Assange.
Yes, I feel vindicated because yes, the VIPS are saying exactly what I’ve been saying for a long time: Mueller has no evidence of either Assange’s or the Russian government’s involvement in email hacks. If he went to talk to Assange, he would have to prove that involvement. If he doesn’t, he can let the accusation linger.
That is precisely why I said Robert Mueller Is A Coward And A Liar. And Mueller, what a surprise, ignores the VIPS as well, because they, too, would destroy the US intelligence narrative that he made his own.
“The bug in Mueller’s report released on Thursday is that he accepts that the Russian government interfered in the election. Trump should challenge that, says VIPS…”
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: The Fly in the Mueller Ointment
April 16, 2019
The song has ended but the melody lingers on. The release Thursday of the redacted text of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” nudged the American people a tad closer to the truth on so-called “Russiagate.” But the Mueller report left unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president. And that melody will linger on for the rest of your presidency, unless you seize the moment.
Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth, apparently in the lack of any disinterested, independent forensic work. Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC (through a cutout). We brought the lack of independent forensics to the attention of Attorney General William Barr on March 13 in a Memorandum entitled “Mueller’s Forensic-Free Findings”, but received no reply or acknowledgement.
In that Memorandum we described the results of our own independent, agenda-free forensic investigation led by two former Technical Directors of the NSA, who avoid squishy “assessments,” preferring to base their findings on fundamental principles of science and the scientific method. Our findings remain unchallenged; they reveal gaping holes in CrowdStrike’s conclusions. We do not know if Barr shared our March 13 Memorandum with you. As for taking a public position on the forensics issue, we suspect he is being circumspect in choosing his battles carefully, perhaps deferring until later a rigorous examination of the dubious technical work upon which Mueller seems to have relied.
I was sent a humourous Birthday card, depicting Jesus holding his mobile phone; his thought bubble reads: “Twelve followers so far. Sweet!”. As a Catholic, one often thinks of historical parallels and what insights into the Human Condition can be gleaned from old stories – looking for parables? It is Holy Week this week, a rapid 7 days in which Christ goes from the celebrity status of Palm Sunday, through to the Last Supper, Agony in the Garden in which he pleads for this chalice to pass his lips, betrayal by Judas, arraigned before the religious courts, and then delivered to the Romans for their judgement.
When Pilate can find no guilt, the crowds are influenced by temple agents to demand his crucifixion. Christ is duly tormented, humiliated and put to very public and agonising death on the cross, but with his last words, he pleads for his tormentors: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Meanwhile his followers go into hiding, terrified that they will be next. But what has this story got to do with us now? Although the cartoon depiction of Jesus doesn’t look much like Julian Assange, it provoked a thought exercise: imagine being witness to those events 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. There is something biblical about fleeing into exile for 7 years.
One overarching parallel is the dominance of the Roman Empire akin to that of the American influence and the craven subjugation of the British Establishment – and other territories under Roman/American Rule. Many supporters of Assange have already labelled Lenin Moreno as Judas having sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver. (Note to Moreno: it didn’t end well for Judas). Imagine how the tabloids and MSM would treat Jesus today: “He mixes with lepers and is probably leprous himself”; “What about that long-haired Mary Magdalene who seems overly attentive to his needs?” “His hair looks like he just spent 40 days in the wilderness”. Meanwhile, the alternative media has become the voice in the wilderness, unsettling Herod’s peace of mind.
Most people don’t understand what it is to not only be personally investigated for something you didn’t do but also have your friends, family members and associates placed in legal jeopardy over it. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team systematically targeted the people around the president, squeezing them like lemons, indicting them on mostly process crimes created by the investigation itself. They reviewed everyone’s emails, text messages, phone calls, bank statements — and yet their conclusion on collusion was clear and definitive. It has to be believed. I was there working with former President Clinton in 1998 when he pondered whether to send missiles against Osama bin Laden but was concerned it would be viewed as “wagging the dog.”
We missed bin Laden that day. It was symbolic of how everything in the White House was affected by the Monica Lewinsky investigation; it changed everything we did. And, yes, there was a good bit of cursing then, too. The big difference between today and what happened in 1998 or during the Nixon era is that, at the end of the day, the Mueller investigators found no stained dress, no break-in, no hush money, no enemies list. There never was a crime, and what seemed far-fetched was simply that — this time, a duly elected president was investigated for a crime that never even existed. In fact, evidence is mounting that the investigation itself was launched on phony grounds.
And so, the screaming partisan antics of Democrats in the House are likely to set the Democratic Party back a decade if they do not get a grip on themselves. In partisan unison, with scripted talking points, they keep calling everyone else “partisan.” It simply does not pass the laugh test at this point. But the problem is that Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) are congressmen from safe districts who are nobodies if they have no investigations to launch. It’s in the interest of their egos to keep it all going so that they can have daily press availabilities.
[..] had Hillary won, as expected, none of this would have seen the light of day. We wouldn’t know that a hyper-partisan FBI had spied on the Trump campaign, as Attorney General William Barr put it during his April 10 Congressional testimony. We wouldn’t know that a Clinton-linked operative, Joseph Mifsud, seeded Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos with the rumor that Russia had ‘Dirt’ on Hillary Clinton – which would later be coaxed out of Papadopoulos by a Clinton-linked Australian ambassador, Alexander Downer, and that this apparent ‘setup’ would be the genesis of We wouldn’t know about the role of Fusion GPS – the opposition research firm hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to commission the Steele dossier.
Fusion is also linked to the infamous Trump Tower meeting, and hired Nellie Ohr – the CIA-linked wife of the DOJ’s then-#4 employee, Bruce Ohr. Nellie fed her husband Bruce intelligence she had gathered against Trump while working for Fusion, according to transcripts of her closed-door Congressional testimony. And if not for reporting by the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross and others, we wouldn’t know that the FBI sent a longtime spook, Stefan Halper, to infiltrate and spy on the Trump campaign – after the Obama DOJ paid him over $400,000 right before the 2016 US election (out of more than $1 million he received while Obama was president).
According to the New York Times, the tables are turning, starting with the Steele Dossier. T]he release on Thursday of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, underscored what had grown clearer for months — that while many Trump aides had welcomed contacts with the Russians, some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false, and others were impossible to prove. Mr. Mueller’s report contained over a dozen passing references to the document’s claims but no overall assessment of why so much did not check out.
Now the dossier — financed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and compiled by the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele — is likely to face new, possibly harsh scrutiny from multiple inquiries. -NYT. While Congressional Republicans have vowed to investigate, the DOJ’s Inspector General is considering whether the FBI improperly relied on the dossier when they used it to apply for a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The IG also wants to know about Steele’s sources and whether the FBI disclosed any doubts as to the veracity of the dossier. Attorney General Barr, meanwhile, said he will review the FBI’s conduct in the Russia investigation after saying the agency spied on the Trump campaign.
The ‘powers-that-be’ at CNN – ground zero for the Trump’s-a-traitorous-Putin-Puppet propaganda – have allowed the publication of an op-ed amid their hallowed pages that casts blame at the anointed one. CNN contributor Scott Jennings – soon to be exiled from every social media platform we suspect – dared to point out that the Mueller report looks bad for Obama. The partisan warfare over the Mueller report will rage, but one thing cannot be denied: Former President Barack Obama looks just plain bad. On his watch, the Russians meddled in our democracy while his administration did nothing about it.
The Mueller report flatly states that Russia began interfering in American democracy in 2014. Over the next couple of years, the effort blossomed into a robust attempt to interfere in our 2016 presidential election. The Obama administration knew this was going on and yet did nothing. In 2016, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice told her staff to “stand down” and “knock it off” as they drew up plans to “strike back” against the Russians, according to an account from Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump”.
In a popular Ukrainian TV series, comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy played a president who is scrupulously honest and outwits crooked lawmakers and shadowy businessmen who try to stand in his way. Zelenskiy’s character in the show “Servant of the People” was loved by Ukrainians fed up with how their country had been governed since independence in 1991. On Sunday, they turned fantasy into reality after voters elected Zelenskiy by a landslide, according to exit polls, thrusting an actor with no prior political experience and few detailed policies into the presidency of a country at war.
Zelenskiy’s sudden rise comes at a time voters around the world have upended the status quo, propelling anti-establishment forces such as U.S. President Donald Trump and Italy’s 5-Star Movement, which was also once led by a comedian, to power. His victory reflected voters’ frustration with politics as usual. Just 9 percent of Ukrainians trust their national government, the lowest of any electorate in the world, a Gallup poll in March showed. Critics question Zelenskiy’s political inexperience and he remains something of an unknown quantity for investors who want reassurances that he will accelerate reforms and keep Ukraine in an International Monetary Fund program.
Zelenskiy’s unorthodox campaign put the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko on the backfoot right from the start. He announced his bid for the presidency on New Year’s Eve, upstaging Poroshenko who was giving a traditional televised address to the nation. Eschewing traditional rallies, his campaign relied heavily on quirky social media posts to his millions of online followers, jokey posters, comedy gigs and winking allusions to the fictional president he portrays on screen. He traded insults and accusations with Poroshenko in tit-for-tat social media videos and the two met in a raucous policy debate in a soccer stadium in Kiev last Friday in front of thousands of their followers.
Back in February, when asked in an interview with Reuters what sets him apart from other candidates, Zelenskiy pointed to his face. “This. This is a new face. I have never been in politics,” he said. “I have not deceived people. They identify with me because I am open, I get hurt, I get angry, I get upset. I do not hide my emotions on camera, I do not try to look different. If I’m inexperienced in something, I’m inexperienced. If I don’t know something, I honestly admit it.”
One day following last Thursday’s bombshell Mueller report — or rather we should say the report which ended three years of nonstop ‘Russiagate’ hysteria with a not-so-dramatic whimper — the Russian embassy in the US issued its own scathing report, calling the collusion conspiracy which Mueller’s team sought to uncover “hollow and laughable”. The Russian embassy also said it was “no surprise” that the investigation delivered “no tangible result” in its own massive 120-page study, released online Friday, even the title of which pulled no punches — The Russiagate Hysteria: A Case of Severe Russiaphobia.
The publication blasted a list of “groundless accusations” repeated since Trump’s 2016 election, including allegations of Russian election meddling, the Kremlin’s supposedly being behind the DNC hack, as well as Trump’s working with Russian intelligence. “After three years, more than 8,000 publications in just four main outlets (Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and MSNBC), endless congressional inquiries, 22 months of the work of Robert Mueller that cost taxpayers an estimated $32 million, more than 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witnesses interrogated, and as many search warrants, an obvious conclusion is reached – there was no collusion.”
The report also outlines multiple instances where Moscow had “fruitlessly” asked Washington to provide “hard proof” of the allegations, even going so far to offer cooperation in any investigation, but “the US refused every single time.”During the entirety of the ordeal, the embassy report finds, “All this time, Russia pointed to the obvious made-up nature of these insinuations. ”Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ripped continued lack of US cooperation related to already agreed upon US-Russia initiatives to foster US-Russian economic and business ties.
Chris Hedges discusses with Nation reporter Aaron Mate how despite the categorical statement in Robert Mueller’s report that Donald Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia, the conspiracy theories by the nation’s mainstream media show little sign of diminishing.
“Despite Washington’s propaganda campaign against him and Washington’s attempt to instigate violent street protests and Maduro’s overthrow by the Venezuelan military, whose leaders have been offered large sums of money, Maduro has the overwhelming support of the people..”
Today (April 17) I heard a NPR “news” report that described the democratically elected president of Venezuela as “the Venezuelan dictator Maduro.” By repeating over and over that a democratically elected president is a dictator, the presstitutes create that image of Maduro in the minds of vast numbers of peoples who know nothing about Venezuela and had never heard of Maduro until he is dropped on them as “dictator.” Nicolas Maduro Moros was elected president of Venezuela in 2013 and again in 2018. Previously he served as vice president and foreign minister, and he was elected to the National Assembly in 2000.
Despite Washington’s propaganda campaign against him and Washington’s attempt to instigate violent street protests and Maduro’s overthrow by the Venezuelan military, whose leaders have been offered large sums of money, Maduro has the overwhelming support of the people, and the military has not moved against him. What is going on is that American oil companies want to recover their control over the revenue streams from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves. Under the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavez, continued by Maduro, the oil revenues instead of departing the country have been used to reduce poverty and raise literacy inside Venezuela.
The opposition to Maduro inside Venezuela comes from the elites who have been traditionally allied with Washington in the looting of the country. These corrupt elites, with the CIA’s help, temporarily overthrew Chavez, but the people and the Venezuelan military secured his release and return to the presidency. Washington has a long record of refusing to accept any reformist governments in Latin America. Reformers get in the way of North America’s exploitation of Latin American countries and are overthrown. With the exceptions of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, Latin America consists of Washington’s vassal states. In recent years Washington destroyed reform governments in Honduras, Argentina and Brazil and put gangsters in charge.
Just as it looked like the fallout from the Boeing 737 MAX crashes was finally fading into the background, the New York Times is raising new questions about an entirely different Boeing plane, the Dreamliner 787. Workers at a Boeing plant in South Carolina are complaining about “defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations”. An investigation that incorporated reviewing hundreds of emails and documents, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, has arrived at the conclusion that Boeing pushed speed over quality when it came to its Dreamliners – a story similar to the 737 MAX, which we reported faced similar critiques. This has lead to the question whether the issues at Boeing are limited to the 737, or if they are systemic.
According to the report, Boeing’s North Charleston plant has come under fire for safety lapses, and the facility has also drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators. In fact, Qatar Airways even stopped taking planes from the factory after “manufacturing mishaps damaged jets and delayed deliveries”. On top of that, there have been nearly 12 whistleblower claims about the plant with regulators. They describe issues like manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations. Additional whistleblowers have skipped that step and gone right to suing Boeing, claiming that they were victims of retaliation for bringing up manufacturing mistakes. Joseph Clayton, a technician at the North Charleston plant claimed he often found debris dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits. He said: “I’ve told my wife that I never plan to fly on it. It’s just a safety issue.”
Almost one million children from poor backgrounds will lose the right to free school meals if Theresa May pushes through cuts in the Conservative manifesto, an educational think tank has warned. The Prime Minister announced last week that universal free lunches for infants will be stopped if the Tories win the June 8 general election, with free breakfasts on offer instead. The move will cost families around £440 a year for each child affected and is thought likely to save around £650 million a year, according to the research by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).
The EPI found that those losing hot lunches would include 100,000 from families living in relative poverty, and 667,000 from those it defined as coming from “ordinary working families” of the kind that Theresa May has said she wants to help. Those from the poorest backgrounds will still be entitled to a free midday meal. EPI executive director Natalie Perera told The Observer: “Around 900,000 children from low-income families will lose their eligibility for free school meals under these proposals. Around two-thirds of those children are from what the Government considers to be ‘ordinary working families’. “The typical annual cost for an ordinary working family would increase under these proposals to around £440 for each child aged between four and seven.”
Right now, Julian Assange is languishing in south London’s Belmarsh maximum security prison. He’s facing up to 12 months inside for breach of bail. And he’ll appear in Westminster Magistrates Court via video link on 2 May for a hearing related to his possible extradition to the US. It’s common knowledge that US authorities are pursuing Assange over the publication of classified US government documents. However, the charge the US hope to extradite the Australian journalist on is one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The decision to pursue a hacking charge is hardly surprising though, as following former Australian PM Julia Gillard referring to Assange’s activities as “illegal” back in 2010, the AFP found it couldn’t identify that he’d committed any offence where Australia would have the jurisdiction to prosecute.
And while the US has decided it has jurisdiction to pursue a hacking offence allegedly attempted on foreign soil, it seems it was the 2011 musings of then Senator George Brandis in regard to Assange’s possible involvement in soliciting leaks that led US authorities to take this avenue. So, it’s an opportune time to take a look at the 700,000-odd classified, or highly-sensitive, military and diplomatic documents that Chelsea Manning passed onto Wikileaks – some of which were on a compact disc marked “Lady Gaga”- that led US authorities to want to punish Assange.
In the wake of the WikiLeaks founder’s arrest by British authorities on behalf of the U.S. for charges stemming from the publication of classified military documents in 2010, members of the American media condemned Julian Assange Friday for the reckless exposure of how they could be spending their time. “We denounce Julian Assange in the strongest possible terms for his negligence in publicly demonstrating the kinds of work journalists could actually be doing to investigate government malfeasance and hold the powerful accountable,” said Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, speaking on behalf of many of the leading members of the media who castigated Assange for never once considering the harm that bringing rampant government criminality to light no matter the consequences could do to other news publications’ reputations.
“It’s abundantly clear that Mr. Assange was focused on exposing documented evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan without so much as a thought for the journalists who faithfully parroted the U.S. military’s talking points when we could have been investigating information that ran contrary to that narrative—does he realize how that makes us look? The fact that he’d just publish information vital to the public interest from primary sources exactly as it was written instead of working with government officials to omit the most damaging parts in exchange for keeping access channels open is simply beyond the pale. The fact that the American public now knows what we’re actually doing day to day is incredibly harmful to this nation.”
The story is basic: Lenin Moreno gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar (as revealed in the INA papers) , and seeks to use Assange as a way to deflect attention from that. Photos of his family life years ago in Europe surfaced online, and he blames Assange and WikiLeaks for that. Summary: stupid story.
But what is even worse, though nobody seems to have noticed, is that the Guardian have the story written up be none other than Dan Collyns (in Lima, Peru), who in November with Luke Harding wrote the soon fully discredited (by Robert Mueller, no less) article: Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy.
The Guardian is officially entirely shameless. Collyns and Luke Harding still work there, as does Kathy Viner, their editor. Not one word of apology was ever uttered for making things up out of thin air just to smear people. Trump should have his people look into this.
Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, has said the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had “repeatedly violated” the conditions of his asylum in the country’s London embassy, where he has lived for close to seven years. Speaking to the Ecuadorean radio broadcasters association on Tuesday, Moreno said under the terms of his asylum “Assange cannot lie or, much less, hack into private accounts or private phones” and he could not “intervene in the politics of countries, or worse friendly countries”. Moreno fulminated that “photos of my bedroom, what I eat and how my wife and daughters and friends dance” had been circulated on social media but stopped short of directly accusing WikiLeaks of circulating hacked photos of his family and wiretapping his phone calls and private conversations.
The Ecuadorean government, however, has said it believes the whistleblowing organization shared the photos, which date back several years to when Moreno and his family lived in Geneva. Moreno’s outburst was yet another sign of the Ecuadorean president’s waning tolerance for Assange’s prolonged occupancy of the country’s London embassy since mid-2012. “We should ensure Mr Assange’s life is not at risk but he’s violated the agreement we have with him so many times,” Moreno said of the WiklLeaks founder. The Ecuadorean government directly referred to WikiLeaks in a formal complaint to the special rapporteur for the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, at the UN’s human rights council on Monday.
It accused the organization of using social media to spread hacked private photos and personal information from Moreno’s personal computers, tablets and other devices. WikiLeaks tweeted on Tuesday that Moreno had said he would take a decision about Assange’s fate “in the short term” after it had reported on an “offshore corruption scandal wracking his government”. Known in Ecuador as the Ina Papers, the scandal alleges Moreno corruptly benefitted from an offshore account in Panama. Moreno denies any wrongdoing.
In March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rejected a lawsuit filed by Assange which argued that stringent house rules applied since October 2018 in the embassy violated “his fundamental rights and freedoms”. The legal move was also rejected by an Ecuadorean judge last year. Ecuador’s foreign minister, José Valencia, told the Guardian Assange’s conditions were in line with international law and a failure to follow them would breach the terms of his asylum. Moreno has also accused his predecessor turned arch enemy Rafael Correa of spying on him. In September 2017, months after taking office, he accused the former Ecuadorean president of planting a hidden camera in the wall of his presidential office. Correa denies any wrongdoing.
Maduro’s stay in power has Washington as well as various regional neighbor countries worried about the situation. It seems that Venezuela’s neighbors followed a false promise to get rid off the Venezuelan President rather quickly. According to the report, allies of the U.S. are disappointed with the result and are now questioning their decision to recognize Juan Guaido as interim president. A military invasion seems to be the only method available to accomplish their goal, and such a scenario doesn’t sit all too well with countries like Colombia and Brazil, according to the report. Self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido has also upped his rhetoric on a foreign military intervention as people start to question his own intentions.
During a rally in Los Teques, near Caracas, Guaido spoke to a crowd of people expressing his will to have a foreign power bomb his own country. “Of course, we will refer to 187. We did not speak here between the lines, here we spoke very clearly.” Referring to article 187.11 of the Venezuelan constitution, which regulates the authorization of a foreign military mission in the country. The U.S. has been shown to be growingly desperate over the situation in Venezuela. Trump’s Special Envoy to Venezuela and convicted war-criminal, Elliot Abrams, has even resorted to threats against Venezuela’s ally Russia, saying they would “pay a high price” for their support of the country.
Venezuelan lawmakers loyal to President Nicolas Maduro stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido’s immunity Tuesday – and authorized the high court to criminally prosecute him for proclaiming himself the crisis-hit country’s ruler. Guaido – whose claim is recognized by over 50 countries – had earlier expressed fears of being abducted by government agents following a request by the Supreme Court to the Constituent Assembly to lift his parliamentary immunity. Critics of the controversial two-year-old body say it was created to rubber-stamp Maduro’s decisions and sideline the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
The Constituent Assembly’s president, Diosdado Cabello, announced pro-Maduro lawmakers had unanimously authorized the Supreme Court to prosecute Guaido, leaving him also liable to be charged for breaching a January 29 government ban on leaving the country. The court had been investigating Guaido for usurping Maduro’s powers by declaring himself interim president on January 23 – a move which rapidly gained international support. “The people are determined and nothing is going to stop us,” said a defiant Guaido in response. “There is no turning back in this process.” Guaido recognizes neither the court nor the Constituent Assembly and insisted the decision was invalid.
Debt repayments by the world’s poorest countries have doubled since 2010 to reach their highest level since just before the internationally organised write-off in 2005, campaigners have warned. The Jubilee Debt Campaign (JDC) said a borrowing spree when global interest rates were low had left many developing nations facing repayments bills that were forcing them into public spending cuts. Plunging commodity prices, a stronger dollar and rising US interest rates had combined to increase debt repayments by 85% between 2010 and 2018, the JDC said. The bid to reduce the unaffordable debts of the world’s poorest countries was prompted by grassroots activism in the late 1990s and early 2000s, first with the Jubilee 2000 campaign and then with Make Poverty History.
But the financial position of many developing nations has again deteriorated in recent years. Repayments account for more than 12% of government revenue on average, the highest level since 2004, the year before the G8 summit held at Gleneagles agreed a comprehensive package of financial assistance involving aid and debt relief. The International Monetary Fund has become increasingly concerned at the financial vulnerability of poor countries and will discuss the issue at its spring meeting in Washington DC next week. Two-fifths of low-income countries are assessed by the IMF to be at “elevated risk of debt distress”, a doubling since 2013.
Theresa May is expected to meet Jeremy Corbyn later after she said she wanted to work with the Labour leader to break the Brexit deadlock. The prime minister hopes the two of them can come up with a modified version of her deal with the EU that can secure the backing of MPs. Mr Corbyn says he wants a customs union and workers’ rights to be priorities. But Tory Brexiteer Boris Johnson has accused Mrs May of “entrusting the final handling of Brexit to Labour”. Jacob Rees-Mogg, another prominent Brexiteer, described the offer as “deeply unsatisfactory” and accused Mrs May of planning to collaborate with “a known Marxist”.
Mrs May announced her plan to meet Mr Corbyn – as well as her intention to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline – after more than seven hours of talks with her cabinet on Tuesday. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says the latest move means the prime minister is likely to adopt a closer relationship with the EU – a softer Brexit – than she has agreed so far. Mr Corbyn said he was “very happy” to meet Mrs May an recognised his own “responsibility” to try to break the deadlock. But the meeting is not expected to take place before this afternoon, at the earliest, says our political editor, who was told by Mr Corbyn’s team that he was not available on Wednesday morning for talks with the PM.
The closer the Brexit doomsday clock ticks to midnight, the more of a certain type of machismo we get. I find it extremely encouraging. It suggests that if and when all else fails, the Brexit ultras can either fight or fuck their way out of this. Happily, not one of them feels miscast in this hypersexualised action hero role. “How are you feeling tonight?” Sky News inquired of Steve Baker, who last week was wishing he could tear down parliament and bulldoze it into the Thames. “Well, everyone knows I’m Brexit hardman Steve Baker,” came the reply from the man everyone knows needed a cuddle off Jacob Rees-Mogg after the aforementioned ’dozer speech. To me, Steve reads like a come-and-get-me plea to Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark, but we will deal with the rest of his posturing a bit later.
For now, onwards to his equally virile ERG colleague Mark Francois, who you may know serves as Second Lieutenant in the Brexit Catering Corps (Territorial). “My message to the chancellor is simple,” honked Mark, of Philip Hammond’s suggestion that Brexiters such as him not voting for Brexit was making a customs unions more likely. “Up yours!” Oh dear. I would like to say that Mark was last seen boasting about his penis size to readers of his local newspaper, but in reality that was at least 287 of his media appearances ago. Indeed, my message to the voters in Mark’s Rayleigh and Wickford constituency would be: thank you for your service. You guys basically elected a forehead vein. Mark is currently to be found bulging on TV three times an hour.
The carefully crafted illusions the May administration were founded on have crumbled into dust. After three years of civil service expertise wasted, billions of pounds of growth lost and two years’ worth of legislative time squandered, Theresa May stopped trying to get Brexit through with Tory votes and turned to Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn will be asked to co-author a new version of the political declaration acceptable to Labour or, failing that, to help engineer a majority in the Commons, either for a Norway-style deal or a customs union. In effect, May has bottled out of a fourth “meaningful vote”, ditched the threat of no deal completely and, in a desperate attempt to avoid an election, has thrown herself on the mercy of parliament. It should show no mercy.
Labour’s proposed Brexit deal would sign Britain up to the customs union and enter a state of “dynamic alignment” with the rules of the single market. This is not the equivalent of a Norway-style deal, because it allows Britain to participate fully in the single market – with the obligation to accept freedom of movement – but to diverge over time by paying a price in lost market access. If May can accept this to the letter, and is prepared to whip her MPs for it, splitting the Tory party for a generation, Corbyn should consider the offer. But I doubt she will do so. Indeed, I doubt she will retain a shred of authority once the Tory grassroots and backbenches understand the scale of the climbdown she has made.
Echoes of the trenches … Kapoor’s work, titled A Brexit, A Broxit, We All Fall Down. Photograph: Anish Kapoor
Anish Kapoor has exposed a bottomless void at the heart of Britain. You could topple in there and never stop falling. In fact, that is exactly what we have done – and solid ground still seems to be nowhere in sight. This artwork, which Kapoor has created for the Guardian, is his response to our current predicament and the new Britain that appeared after the leave vote. Although the Mumbai-born artist has given it a title – A Brexit, A Broxit, We All Fall Down – he does not wish to make any further comment about the piece, preferring to let it speak for itself. The use of colour to suggest infinite voids is one of Kapoor’s most mind-bending abilities as an artist – as a visitor to an exhibition in Portugal recently discovered.
The man actually fell into one work, a black hole in the floor of the gallery. The artist’s use of the world’s blackest paint, which is actually called Kapoor Black, made it impossible to gauge the hole’s depth. When the man fell in, it turned out to be a lot shallower than it looked, luckily for him. This wound, however, is anything but shallow. Britain has inflicted a dreadful injury on itself: a gory rip stretching from Glasgow to the south coast. Our fellow Europeans are watching aghast from across the water as we near the abyss of a no-deal Brexit. Kapoor suggests the damage is even visible from space. His artwork might serve as a warning to any passing flying saucers: avoid this riven nightmare of a nation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday sought to quell a crisis that threatens his chances of re-election, expelling from party ranks two former Cabinet members he said had undermined the ruling Liberals. Trudeau said former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board chief Jane Philpott would no longer be allowed to sit as Liberal legislators. They were also barred from running for the party in the federal election this October. The Liberals have been in turmoil since Wilson-Raybould said in February that officials had inappropriately pressured her last year while she was justice minister to ensure that construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc escape a corruption trial.
“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken,” Trudeau told an emergency meeting of caucus. “Civil wars within parties are incredibly damaging because they signal to Canadians that we care more about ourselves than we do about them,” said Trudeau, 47, who took office in November 2015 and faces a tough re-election battle this autumn. Wilson-Raybould, who tweeted news of her ouster before Trudeau’s announcement, was demoted in January and resigned the next month. Philpott quit shortly afterward, saying she had lost confidence in how Trudeau was handling the matter.
“I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Biden recalled telling Poroshenko.”
Two years after leaving office, Joe Biden couldn’t resist the temptation last year to brag to an audience of foreign policy specialists about the time as vice president that he strong-armed Ukraine into firing its top prosecutor. In his own words, with video cameras rolling, Biden described how he threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, sending the former Soviet republic toward insolvency, if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. “I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Biden recalled telling Poroshenko.
“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations event, insisting that President Obama was in on the threat. Interviews with a half-dozen senior Ukrainian officials confirm Biden’s account, though they claim the pressure was applied over several months in late 2015 and early 2016, not just six hours of one dramatic day. Whatever the case, Poroshenko and Ukraine’s parliament obliged by ending Shokin’s tenure as prosecutor. Shokin was facing steep criticism in Ukraine, and among some U.S. officials, for not bringing enough corruption prosecutions when he was fired. But Ukrainian officials tell me there was one crucial piece of information that Biden must have known but didn’t mention to his audience: The prosecutor he got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.
[..] U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia. The general prosecutor’s official file for the Burisma probe — shared with me by senior Ukrainian officials — shows prosecutors identified Hunter Biden, business partner Devon Archer and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of money. Shokin told me in written answers to questions that, before he was fired as general prosecutor, he had made “specific plans” for the investigation that “included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.”
The Senate Commerce Committee is launching a probe into whistleblower complaints accusing the Federal Aviation Administration of improperly training its safety inspectors to review the Boeing 737 Max jets. “In light of recent 737 crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, the committee is investigating any potential connection between inadequate training and certification of Aviation Safety Inspectors who may have participated in the FSB evaluation of the 737 MAX,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the committee, wrote to FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell on Tuesday. “Allegations from these whistleblowers include information that numerous FAA employees … had not received proper training and valid certifications.” Wicker said that the FAA may have been notified about these deficiencies as early as August 2018 and that an agency investigation into the allegations may have already been completed.
Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, a landmark government report has found, warning that drastic action is the only way to avoid catastrophic outcomes. “The science is clear – Canada’s climate is warming more rapidly than the global average, and this level of warming effectively cannot be changed,” Nancy Hamzawi, assistant deputy minister for science and technology at Environment and Climate Change Canada, told reporters on Monday. The report, released late on Monday by Environment and Climate Change Canada, paints a grim picture of Canada’s future, in which deadly heatwaves and heavy rainstorms become a common occurrence. Forty-three government scientists and academics authored the peer-reviewed report.
While global temperatures have increased 0.8C since 1948, Canada has seen an increase of 1.7C – more than double the global average. And in the Arctic, the warming is happening at a much faster rate of 2.3C, the report says. While the increased warming in the Arctic is not yet fully understood, snow and ice play a critical role in reflecting the sun’s radiation and heat. But scientists say the retreat of glaciers and disappearing sea ice both contribute to a feedback loop of warming, which is one of the factors contributing to Canada’s disproportionate temperature increase. The report suggests the majority of warming felt in Canada and around the globe is the result of burning fossil fuels.
Canada has already pledged to cut emissions by 200m tonnes by 2030 – a cornerstone of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national climate strategy – largely through a federally mandated carbon tax and shuttering coal-fired plants. [..] The report makes clear that Canada faces markedly different outcomes, depending on the policies it chooses to reduce emissions. Under a scenario in which global emissions are dramatically reduced, average temperatures will rise only 3C across the country by 2100, including the Arctic region. But if countries – including Canada – fail to act aggressively, increases of 7-9 degrees are likely, and the Arctic faces the prospect of 11 degrees of warming. Under the report’s worst-case scenario, the risk of deadly heatwaves increases tenfold bring with it droughts and forest fires.
The life expectancy of children born today will be shortened by 20 months on average by breathing the toxic air that is widespread across the globe, with the greatest toll in south Asia, according to a major study. Air pollution contributed to nearly one in every 10 deaths in 2017, making it a bigger killer than malaria and road accidents and comparable to smoking, according to the State of Global Air (SOGA) 2019 study published on Wednesday. In south Asia, children can expect to have their lives cut short by 30 months, and in sub-Saharan Africa by 24 months, because of a combination of outdoor air pollution caused by traffic and industry, and dirty air indoors, largely from cooking fires.
In east Asia, air pollution will shorten children’s lives by an estimated 23 months. However, the life expectancy burden is forecast to be less than five months for children in the developed world. “That the life of children is being shortened so much came as really quite a shock,” said Robert O’Keefe, the vice-president of the Health Effects Institute, which produced the report. “There is no magic bullet but governments should be taking action.”
“I have a better education than them, I’m smarter than them, I went to the best schools; they didn’t. Much more beautiful house, much more beautiful apartment. Much more beautiful everything. And I’m president and they’re not,” declared Trump at his Michigan MAGA rally, refusing to take profit on the trade. You see, Mueller found him innocent of Russian collusion. And while the report stopped short of exonerating him for obstruction, Mueller’s overall ruling was an enormous windfall. A typical trader would take at least some profit, selling into the euphoria, rising above it all, extending a hand to broaden his base.
“Trump is going to go full-animal on his political opponents now that he’s no longer in the shadow of Mueller’s investigation,” predicted Bannon, the President’s former Chief Strategist. Steve’s usually right. And as Trump ordered OPEC to lower oil prices, his economic advisor Larry Kudlow and Federal Reserve nominee Stephen Moore called for an immediate 50bp interest rate cut from the Fed – desperate to fire up the economy heading into 2020. “The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit, partisan investigations or whether they will apologize to the American people and join us to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and bring down the cost of health care and prescription drugs,” taunted Trump.
And as his MAGA crowd went wild, replacing “Lock Her Up” with “AOC Sucks”, Democrats entered the five stages of grief: denial comes first, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And naturally, it would be so much easier if the Dems could just take a loss. But in today’s internecine conflict, with tribes fighting for absolute victory or utter defeat, no one seems willing to extend a hand, take a profit or a loss and move onward, upward, as The United States of America.
"This is going to be the most vitriolic period in American history since before the Civil War," Steve Bannon predicts of the next few months. President Trump is "going to get off the chain…it's going to be payback," he tells @RichardEngel. "People better strap in and watch it." pic.twitter.com/DkndyoCFMf
For all his New York rough-and-tumble, Trump was an innocent abroad when he arrived in Washington. Way back in January 2017, he was warned by old-timer Chuck Schumer that “intel officials have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” The Senate minority leader–Deep Stater par excellence–knew whereof he spoke. But Trump somehow survived the storm, although sometimes it seemed as if he wouldn’t. Now, some of the obvious parties –John K. Brennan and James Clapper with their apparatchik miens — have suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs [..]
More’s afoot here, however, considerably more because the entire American intelligence system and the unique power referred to by Schumer are also now in those same crosshairs, as they should be. But many of the men and women involved are less overtly Soviet in their style than Mssrs. Brennan and Clapper and slip more easily under the radar. Notable among these, and perhaps able to reveal much of the McGuffin to the mystery of where this all started and how, is Stefan Halper. Mr. Halper is “an American foreign policy scholar and Senior Fellow at the University of Cambridge where he is a Life Fellow at Magdalene College and directs the Department of Politics and International Studies.” He is also a spook who worked for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, no less, and was a principle American connection to the UK’s MI-6.
Mr. Halper has (ahem) other connections: “A top FBI official admitted to Congressional investigators last year that the agency had contacts within the Trump campaign as part of operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” which sounds a lot like FBI “informant” Stefan Halper – a former Oxford University professor who was paid over $1 million by the Obama Department of Defense between 2012 and 2018, with nearly half of it surrounding the 2016 US election.”
According to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), world trade plunged to its weakest levels not seen since the financial crisis. The report published last week shows world trade expanded by 2.3% in January after the index tumbled in 4Q18. The recent rebound was broad-based with the strongest seen in emerging markets Asia (+6.2%), which followed a decline of -6.5% in December. The three-month global trade momentum shows a downward trend of -1.8%, indicating economic growth across the world continues to slide into 2Q. Bloomberg said, “that’s the biggest drop since May 2009.” On a y/y basis, global trade posted its first decline in nearly nine years in the three months.
The global 1H19 outlook remains in a cyclical downturn, which could hinder world trade further. The epicenter of the slowdown originates in China, which is partly due to a combination of China’s growth supercycle coming to an end, developed world economies slowing, Federal Reserve tightening monetary policy, and the US-China trade war that disrupted supply chains in Asia. This has global consequences: “For example, eurozone manufacturing PMI weakened to 47.6 in March according to Markit, marking the second consecutive month this year that manufacturing activity and export orders declined in the eurozone. The indices for January and February indicate contracting manufacturing activity in most of the east-Asian economies as well,” said ING.
Theresa May’s government is on the verge of meltdown as cabinet ministers prepare to clash over whether to support plans for a softer Brexit and a possible lengthy delay before leaving the European Union. In a decisive intervention, David Gauke, the justice secretary, said on Sunday that the prime minister would have to accept the possibility of backing a customs union if the measure is supported by parliament this week. This was dismissed by Brexiters, including those in cabinet, who have threatened to resign if May accepts a customs union or submits to a delay that goes beyond 22 May. Those threatening to quit were reported to include Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary.
In another twist, Julian Smith, the chief whip, told the BBC on Monday that a softer Brexit was “inevitable” after the government lost its majority after the 2017 election. It comes as May and her dwindling number of supporters prepare to face a second round of “indicative” votes on alternatives to her deal on Monday. Concerned by the possibility of cabinet resignations, May is being urged by some ministers to allow a free vote on any customs union proposal. If parliament backs a customs union, ministers believe May will be forced to make a decision that will lead to resignations when the cabinet meets on Tuesday.
With 12 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, Gauke said the prime minister would have to “look very closely” if MPs back a customs union in a fresh round of indicative votes. “If parliament is voting overwhelmingly against leaving the European Union without a deal but is voting in favour of a softer Brexit, then I don’t think it’s sustainable to ignore parliament’s position and therefore leave without a deal,” Gauke said.
Julian Smith has lashed out at Theresa May’s cabinet ministers for attempting to destabilise the prime minister, as he criticised them over the “worst example of discipline in British political history”. In an unprecedented intervention, the chief whip also criticised the government’s approach to Brexit, suggesting a softer exit from the bloc was inevitable after Ms May gambled away the Tories’ majority in 2017. The remarks from Mr Smith, who also confessed he is “knackered”, came as MPs prepare for string of key votes in the Commons on different Brexit options during the second round of “indicative votes” later today. “The thing that people forget is that the Conservative Party went to get a majority in order to deliver Brexit [and] failed to get a majority,” the chief whip told the BBC.
He added: “The government as a whole probably should just have been clearer on the consequences of that. The parliamentary arithmetic would mean that this would be inevitably a softer type of Brexit.” While the strategy was apparently misjudged, Mr Smith said he was “frustrated” by MPs who “don’t see the light as clearly as I do”. However Mr Smith highlighted that a lack of discipline extended all the way to the Cabinet, with ministers “sitting around the Cabinet table … trying to destabilise her [Mrs May]”. Pointing to the lack of discipline at the top levels of government, he claimed: “As you aware discipline is not as good as it should be. This is I think the worst example of ill-discipline in Cabinet in British political history.”
March 29 came and went without any change in the U.K.’s relationship with the EU. For now, the U.K. remains an EU member. But the U.K. Parliament has now rejected the proposed Withdrawal Agreement for a third time. Unless there is a major political shift in the next two weeks, the country is on course for no-deal Brexit on April 12. For the Leave supporters who gathered outside Parliament on March 29, April 12 can’t come soon enough. They had planned a celebration, but instead found themselves protesting at what they see as betrayal by the U.K. Government. Furiously angry, they are now worried that Parliament could try to secure a much longer delay or perhaps a second referendum. They have reason to be worried. On Monday, April 1, Parliament will vote on a set of alternative proposals.
The votes won’t commit the government to any particular course of action, but they will indicate what Parliament’s preferred outcome might be. The proposals likely to be up for consideration include a permanent customs union, which Theresa May has previously ruled out but is implied in the Political Declaration. There is also likely to be a vote on whether to hold a second referendum to “confirm” Parliament’s eventual choice. However, the previous set of “indicative votes,” taken on Wednesday March 27, resulted in no majority for anything. True, Parliament resoundingly rejected no-deal Brexit, but it was completely unable to agree on what alternative form Brexit should take, or even if it should happen at all. If this second set of votes is equally inconclusive, then no-deal Brexit it will be, unless by some miracle Mrs. May manages to persuade Parliament to vote for her ghastly deal after all.
Anti-Brexit campaigners protested at six different points of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland on Saturday, fearing a return of customs checks could risk peace, jobs and their way of life. The currently seamless 500 km (350 mile) border would be the United Kingdom’s only land frontier with the EU after Brexit and the question of how it is kept open has become a major hurdle in efforts to ensure the UK quits the bloc in an orderly fashion. Organisers estimated more than 1,000 locals gathered from the northwest village of Bridgend to Carrickcarnon on the east coast, two of the more than 200 crossings that some 30,000 people cross each day for work.
“People are very concerned, they voted to remain (in the EU) here,” said John Sheridan, a farmer from the Border Communities Against Brexit group who led the protest in the Northern Ireland border village of Belcoo. “We feel like we’re going to be left behind again and have a border imposed on us.” The group also held a candle-lit vigil across the border in the Irish village of Kiltyclogher at 2300 GMT on Friday, when Britain had been scheduled to leave the EU until its departure was extended by at least two weeks. It has held other protests since the 2016 Brexit referendum and again erected mock customs checkpoints on Saturday, to demonstrate the disruption they could cause and the resistance their return would meet.
The EU is running out of patience with Britain over Brexit, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has warned. In an interview with Italian state TV, Mr Juncker said he would like MPs in the UK to be able to reach an agreement over the way forward in the coming days. “We have had a lot of patience with our British friends but patience is coming to an end,” he told RAI. The commission president added: “So far we know what the British parliament says no to, but we don’t know what it might say yes to.” Asked if a second referendum might be possible, Mr Juncker said that was an issue exclusively for the British people.
His words were reported by his deputy chief spokesman Mina Andreeva. She tweeted that Mr Juncker had told the Italian interviewer he would “like that the UK tells us which way they want to follow now”. It comes ahead of a series of key votes in Parliament on Monday which could pave the way for a “softer” Brexit. Several Tory ministers have urged Theresa May to heed the will of MPs if they manage to unite around a customs union during the second round of “indicative votes”.
The party of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost control of the capital, Ankara, in local elections in a setback to his 16 years in power. The opposition is also ahead in the contest for mayor of the largest city, Istanbul, the election commission says. Nationally, the president’s AKP-led alliance has won more than 51% of the vote in the municipal elections. The vote, see as a verdict on Mr Erdogan’s rule, has been taking place during an economic downturn. The currency, the lira, has been losing value recently and the economy went into recession in the last three months of 2018. The president had previously said the poll was about the “survival” of the country and his party. Commenting on the results in a speech on Sunday, he said: “If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them.”
The actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy has taken a commanding lead in the first round of the Ukraine’s presidential elections, early results have shown. With just over half of the ballots counted early on Monday, Zelenskiy had 30.2% of the votes. The incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, was in a distant second place with 16.6% followed by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko on 13%, the national elections commission said. The results were closely in line with a major exit poll. The final results were expected to be announced later on Monday. With no one expected to secure a majority, a runoff with the leading two candidates will be held on 21 April.
As the results of exit polling were announced, a cheer erupted at Zelenskiy’s headquarters in a sleek lounge in Kyiv. The candidate was mobbed as he made his way to a stage to say thank you to his supporters. The vote could see a comedy actor with no political experience move a step closer to becoming the country’s next president. Zelenskiy, who plays the president in the television series Servant of the People, had been the favourite to win Sunday’s vote in a rebuke of the country’s leadership.
Yeah, no, more Fed crap and comments about markets and I’ve had enough. A market should be recognized as an action, a process, not as a thing or an object. And the action is price discovery. If that is not taking place you don’t have a market. Anything the Fed props up is not a market. One necessary aspect of price discovery is honesty, people must believe they’re not being tricked. With the way people talk about this now, the language they use risks losing all meaning. Enough already, and that goes for Jesse Colombo too. Who also posted this one on Twitter, which is a lot more relevant than his article. But that’s just me.
The bull market of the past decade since the Great Recession has been an unusual one: despite all of the economic damage that occurred during the global financial crisis and rising risks (including global debt rising by $75 trillion), it has been the longest bull market in history. The explanation for this paradox is simple: it’s not an organic bull market because the Fed and other central banks keep stepping in to prop up the market every time it stumbles. Though the Fed has two official mandates (maintaining stable consumer prices and maximizing employment), it has taken on the unofficial third mandate of supporting and boosting the stock market since the Great Recession.
The chart below, which was inspired by market strategist Sven Henrich, shows how the Fed or other central banks have stepped in with more monetary stimulus (quantitative easing, promises to keep interest rates low, etc.) every time the S&P 500 has stumbled over the past decade:
An economy that is growing at 2%, inflation near zero, and Central banks globally required to continue dumping trillions of dollars into the financial system just to keep it afloat is not an economy we should be aspiring to. But despite commentary the financial system has been ‘put back together again,’ then why are Central Banks acting?
The Fed has a new plan for what to do with its balance sheet and today announced several major components of it:
• Begin tapering the “runoff” of Treasury securities in May. • End the runoff of Treasury securities on September 30. • Continue shedding mortgage-backed securities (MBS) at the current maximum of $20 billion a month, essentially until their gone. • After September, reinvest MBS principal payments into Treasury securities. • Chair Jerome Powell said during the press conference that the balance sheet will by then be “a bit above $3.5 trillion.” • The balance sheet will remain at this level even as the economy grows, thus slowly shrinking in relationship to GDP. • The Fed may sell MBS outright to speed up the process of getting rid of them. • No decision has been made on the delicate issue of the maturity composition of the balance sheet – which would require buying short-term bills for the first time in years to replace longer-term notes and bonds.
The stated balance-sheet doctrine now is that the Fed wants to have sufficient reserves (money that banks deposit at the Fed) to conduct monetary policy efficiently. The interest it pays the banks on those reserves is one of its major tools to manage short-term interest rates.
Donald Tusk has put a no-deal Brexit back on the table by saying EU leaders will only agree to a short delay if MPs back Theresa May’s deal next week, on a day of high drama in Brussels and London. After belatedly receiving the prime minister’s formal letter requesting a three-month extension of article 50, and taking a late afternoon phone call with her, the European council president admitted that success appeared “frail, even illusory” on the eve of Thursday’s summit. The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, tweeted: “The letter from Theresa May has not solved any problem yet. If the European council [summit of leaders] is to decide on an extension of the deadline for Britain, we would like to know what is the concrete purpose.”
But Tusk said the EU would seek until the very last moment to avoid the UK crashing out without a deal and show “patience and goodwill” despite the “Brexit fatigue” in the capitals. The EU27’s heads of state or government would be likely to agree in principle at the summit on Thursday to an extension up to 23 May or 30 June, and sign it off without needing to meet next week should May be able to find a majority in the Commons at the third time of asking, he said. The European commission is insisting that an extension beyond the date of the European elections on 23 May would require British MEPs to be elected, although others believe there is little risk as long as the UK has left by 1 July when the parliament formally convenes.
“In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days I believe that a short extension will be possible but to be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk said. “A question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal of the 30 June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. Leaders will discuss this tomorrow.”
The frustration and “tension”, as one senior EU diplomat described it, was made clear by the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who told the French parliament on Wednesday afternoon that Paris was willing to block an extension. He said there were only two ways to leave the EU: ratify the withdrawal agreement or a no-deal exit. If parliament did not ratify the withdrawal agreement “the central scenario is a no-deal exit”, he said, adding: “We’re ready.” He stated that if May could not present “sufficient guarantees of the credibility of her strategy” that would lead to the extension being refused and a no-deal exit.
Nearly two-thirds of people would vote to remain in the EU rather than for Theresa May’s deal if a referendum offering those options were called, a snap poll by YouGov has found. Sixty-one per cent of the population would vote to remain while 39 per cent would opt for the existing deal, However, if people were asked in a public vote whether they would prefer to remain in the EU or leave with no deal in place, Remain would still win, though by the smaller margin of 57-43 per cent. It shows a 22-point lead for Remain over Ms May’s deal, or a 14-point lead for Remain over no deal at all.
The poll, carried out on behalf of the Put it to the People campaign, comes as second referendum expectations have risen. [..] A march in support of a Final Say second referendum takes place on in central London on Saturday and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of protesters. Meanwhile a “Leave means Leave” protest, also known as the “Brexit betrayal march”, is underway with Brexit supporters walking for two weeks from Sunderland to London demanding the UK leaves the EU on 29 March.
Theresa May is facing a furious backlash from her own backbenchers and calls for her resignation after she blamed squabbling MPs for delaying Brexit. In a defiant statement on Wednesday night she told the British public: “I am on your side,” and now hopes to force her deal through parliament next week at the third time of asking. Less than an hour earlier, she had been warned in a private meeting with Conservative MPs that her bid to delay leaving could end up losing her even more votes from her own party.
“She is going into an ever narrower cul-de-sac,” said one former minister. Speaking in Downing Street in a televised address, May said the three-month Brexit delay she had earlier in the day formally requested from EU27 leaders was “a matter of great personal regret for me” – and she would not countenance a longer extension of article 50. With just nine days to go before Britain is due to leave the EU, she laid the blame for the crisis squarely at the door of parliament.
MPs have called Theresa May “irresponsible”, “disgraceful” and “toxic” after she blamed them for for the UK’s impending failure to leave the EU on 29 March. Labour’s Wes Streeting accused the prime minister of putting MPs’ lives in danger with an “incendiary” address. Ms May used a Downing Street speech to criticise the very people she needs to get her Brexit deal through the Commons at the third time of asking, telling voters that she was “sure” that “you, the public, have had enough” of political games. She said: “You’re tired of the infighting, you’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns about our children’s schools, our National Health Service, knife crime. “You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is immediately banning sales of military style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines like the weapons used in last Friday’s attacks on two Christchurch mosques. Ardern announced the ban Thursday and said it would be followed by legislation to be introduced next month. She said the man arrested in the attacks had purchased his weapons legally and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines “done easily through a simple online purchase.” [..] The New Zealand government is asking all owners of assault weapons or now-banned attachments to report them to the government in the next two days before turning them in.
When the Great Depression followed the 1929 stock-market crash, almost everyone acknowledged that capitalism was unstable, unreliable, and prone to stagnation. In the decades that followed, however, that perception changed. Capitalism’s postwar revival, and especially the post-Cold War rush to financialized globalization, resurrected faith in markets’ self-regulating abilities. Today, a long decade after the 2008 global financial crisis, this touching faith once again lies in tatters as capitalism’s natural tendency toward stagnation reasserts itself. The rise of the racist right, the fragmentation of the political center, and mounting geopolitical tensions are mere symptoms of capitalism’s miasma.
A balanced capitalist economy requires a magic number, in the form of the prevailing real (inflation-adjusted) interest rate. It is magic because it must kill two very different birds, flying in two very different skies, with a single stone. First, it must balance employers’ demand for waged labor with the available labor supply. Second, it must equalize savings and investment. If the prevailing real interest rate fails to balance the labor market, we end up with unemployment, precariousness, wasted human potential, and poverty. If it fails to bring investment up to the level of savings, deflation sets in and feeds back into even lower investment.
It takes a heroic disposition to assume that this magic number exists or that, even if it does, our collective endeavors will result in an actual real interest rate close to it. How do free marketeers convince themselves that there exists a single real interest rate (say, 2%) that would inspire investors to funnel all existing savings into productive investments and spur employers to hire everyone who wishes to work at the prevailing wage?
When critics hear that a Green New Deal could potentially cost something like $97 trillion, or proposals for Medicare for all, free tuition, free child care or guaranteed basic income, they say, “That all sounds nice, but we just can’t afford it.” That’s their main argument — that no matter how desirable these programs might be in theory, we just can’t afford them. Most criticism of MMT falls along those lines. Even the Keynesians like those I mentioned earlier, who generally favor large amounts of government spending to stimulate the economy, have come out against MMT. Besides that claim that we can’t afford it, even the Keynesians say MMT would be highly inflationary. If you printed that much money and start handing it out to people, demand would outstrip the output capacity of the economy and you’d get high inflation.
But the MMT advocates have an answer to these objections. They’re not the least bit intimidated by critics who say we can’t afford it. They say, “Yes, we can, and Modern Monetary Theory proves it. Just print the money and monetize the debt. Japanese debt is 2.5 times the United States’ debt, and China’s is higher than ours.” They haven’t collapsed, so we can take on far more debt than we have today. Furthermore, QE did not create much inflation. In fact, the Fed would like to see more inflation than it has. It still can’t produce a sustained 2% inflation rate after all these years. You might think the argument is ridiculous. After all, do we really want to become Japan? But in important ways, the MMT crowd has the upper hand in the debate.
The property market upheaval brings billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s oft-quoted piece of wisdom to mind: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” We are witnessing more naked developers as half-finished projects dot the landscape of our major cities. As the year progresses, many more operators who’ve pushed the boundaries will join them. “Areas of oversupply will see a bit more chaos in the next six to twelve months,” Scott Gray-Spencer, local head of capital markets at the global real estate firm CBRE, told ABC’s The Business. Mr Gray-Spencer sees areas more than 10 kilometres from the city centres of Sydney and Melbourne, and parts of Queensland, as the most vulnerable.
Property investors, who were major targets of the crackdown, accounted for almost 50 per cent of mortgages two to three years ago. They have largely left the market and political uncertainty may keep them on the sidelines for longer as they await the outcome of the looming federal election. Should Labor win, it’s likely investors will wait to see how its plans to curb the negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions pan out. Even though Labor’s proposed negative gearing changes will not affect new housing, investors may still be worried about price growth because the next buyer is unable to negatively gear. So it could be some time before developers see an important group of buyers return in force. If the banks don’t stop them, the less generous tax laws might.
A half-finished apartment block in Cronulla sits idle while it waits for a buyer. (ABC News: John Gunn)
After nearly three years and millions of tax dollars, the Trump-Russia collusion probe is about to be resolved. Emerging in its place is newly unearthed evidence suggesting another foreign effort to influence the 2016 election — this time, in favor of the Democrats. Ukraine’s top prosecutor divulged in an interview aired Wednesday on Hill.TV that he has opened an investigation into whether his country’s law enforcement apparatus intentionally leaked financial records during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.
The leak of the so-called “black ledger” files to U.S. media prompted Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign and gave rise to one of the key allegations in the Russia collusion probe that has dogged Trump for the last two and a half years. Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko’s probe was prompted by a Ukrainian parliamentarian’s release of a tape recording purporting to quote a top law enforcement official as saying his agency leaked the Manafort financial records to help Clinton’s campaign. The parliamentarian also secured a court ruling that the leak amounted to “an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” Lutsenko told me.
Lutsenko said the tape recording is a serious enough allegation to warrant opening a probe, and one of his concerns is that the Ukrainian law enforcement agency involved had frequent contact with the Obama administration’s U.S. embassy in Kiev at the time. “Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko told me.
A memorial service was held on Sunday in Washington for William Blum, a former State Department official whose disillusionment with the Vietnam War turned him into a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy. Blum educated a generation of Americans about the rapacious aims of the U.S. abroad, debunking the myth of Washington’s good intentions for the peoples of the world. Blum died on December 9, 2018.
Cold War Number One: 70 years of daily national stupidity. Cold War Number Two: Still in its youth, but just as stupid. “He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.” – President Trump re Russian President Vladimir Putin after their meeting in Vietnam. [Washington Post, Nov.e 12, 2017] Putin later added that he knew “absolutely nothing” about Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials. “They can do what they want, looking for some sensation. But there are no sensations.” Numerous U.S. intelligence agencies have said otherwise. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, responded to Trump’s remarks by declaring: “The president was given clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election.”
As we’ll see below, there isn’t too much of the “clear and indisputable” stuff. And this of course is the same James Clapper who made an admittedly false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Lies don’t usually come in any size larger than that. Virtually every member of Congress who has publicly stated a position on the issue has criticized Russia for interfering in the 2016 American presidential election. And it would be very difficult to find a member of the mainstream media who has questioned this thesis. What is the poor consumer of news to make of these gross contradictions?
Thanks to remarkable new technologies and the widespread use of social media, we are more “connected” than ever before. Yet as a nation, we are also more lonely. In fact, a recent study found that a staggering 47 percent of Americans often feel alone, left out and lacking meaningful connection with others. This is true for all ages, from teenagers to older adults. The number of people who perceive themselves to be alone, isolated or distant from others has reached epidemic levels both in the United States and in other parts of the world. Indeed, almost two decades ago, the book Bowling Alone pointed to the increasing isolation of Americans and our consequent loss of “social capital.” In Japan, for example, an estimated half million (known as hikikomori) shut themselves away for months on end.
In the United Kingdom, four in 10 citizens report feelings of chronic, profound loneliness, prompting the creation of a new cabinet-level position (the Minister for Loneliness) to combat the problem. While this “epidemic” of loneliness is increasingly recognized as a social issue, what’s less well recognized is the role loneliness plays as a critical determinant of health. Loneliness can be deadly: this according to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, among others, who has stressed the significant health threat. Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. A recent study revealed a surprising association between loneliness and cancer mortality risk, pointing to the role loneliness plays in cancer’s course, including responsiveness to treatments.
Often touted for being highly nutritious, kale has joined the list of 11 other fruits and vegetables known to be “dirty,” according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group. The watchdog group publishes its “Dirty Dozen” list annually, in which it ranks the 12 produce items that contain the highest amount of pesticide residues. The group analyzes data from the Department of Agriculture’s regular produce testing to determine the list. Ranked alongside kale on the list are strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes.
The last time kale was included in the USDA’s produce tests was 2009 and it ranked eighth on the Dirty Dozen list. “We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin in a release. More than 92 percent of kale had residue from at least two pesticides after washing and peeling the appropriate vegetables, according to the report. Some had up to 18. Almost 60 percent of the kale samples showed residual Dacthal, a pesticide that is known as a possible human carcinogen. The group releases its “Clean Fifteen” list as well, highlighting the 15 produce items with the least amount of pesticide residue detected. It includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honeydew melons.
Beijing has both actively and passively encouraged real estate sales. Now they move into “we warned you”, and shift the blame onto local government. Ominous, Xi tries to wash his hands from what he sees coming.
China’s regional economies need to reduce their reliance on the property market for growth and instead focus on sustainable longer-term development, the Communist Party’s People’s Daily wrote on Wednesday. Hundreds of cities across China have seen upswings in their local property markets in recent years under a long-term plan by Beijing to further urbanize the country. In the last few years, the process of building new homes and revamping old ones has accelerated, backed by local governments keen to boost land sales and meet red-hot property demand. The total sales of China’s top 100 real estate developers soared 35 percent last year, according to private research firm CIRC.
But Beijing is concerned that some cities, looking for rapid expansion, have grown their property markets too quickly and at the expense of new industry development, adding potential froth to real estate prices. “All areas should focus on their own urbanization processes, develop their own pillar industries according to population mobility and resources, and form new points of growth to avoid the old road of relying on real estate to drive the economy,” the commentary quoted a professor at the Capital University of Economics and Business as saying. [..] The article also comes as a number of Chinese city authorities seek to ease existing curbs on their property markets, despite broader directives from Beijing to keep prices in check. Last week, the city of Hengyang rescinded an order to lift restrictions on property prices, having just introduced the easing measure a day earlier.
Results of a private survey on China’s manufacturing for the month of December showed factory activity contracted for the first time in 19 months amid a trade dispute with the U.S. The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ index (PMI), a private survey, fell to 49.7 in December from 50.2 in November. Analysts’ in a Reuters poll predicted the PMI to come in at 50.1 in December. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below that level signals contraction. In December, two separate measures for new orders and new export orders showed contraction, the Caixin survey showed.
“That showed external demand remained subdued due to the trade frictions between China and the U.S., while domestic demand weakened more notably,” wrote Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group, a subsidiary of Caixin. “It is looking increasingly likely that the Chinese economy may come under greater downward pressure,” Zhong added in the press release. [..] The slide in China’s PMI is “worrying” as there will be broader fallout on Asian exporters, said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank.
Even though China’s manufacturing PMI typically slows ahead of Chinese New Year holidays — starting on February 5 in 2019 — this particular downturn in the sector “could be even sharper than headlines suggest,” Varathan wrote in a note on Wednesday. He added that the sustained downturn in manufacturing PMI in the second half of 2018 “with emphatic year-end slide” is “potentially symptomatic of far sharper underlying demand pullback. Especially as front-running US tariffs on China fade to reveal much softer demand conditions.”
China’s huge manufacturing sector has shrunk for the first time in 19 months, sending stock markets into a tailspin in an ominous start to 2019. The weak data released on Wednesday follows a slew of other disappointing figures from the world’s second largest economy and underline concerns that is heading for a tough 12 months. Stock markets in the region suffered. Hong Kong was down 2.7%, Shanghai off 1.2% and the ASX 200 benchmark closed down 1.6% in Sydney. In South Korea, figures showed that its crucial export industries finished the year on a poor note, sending the Kospi stock index down 1.7% at the end of trading.
Asia biggest market, Japan, was closed for a holiday. But the selling looks set to spread to Europe and the US with FTSE futures pointing to a 0.25% fall at the open and the E-Mini futures for Wall Street’s S&P 500 down 0.8%. The Australian dollar, which is seen as a proxy for the Chinese economy, lost 0.6% as it plunged as low as US70.05 cents. It was the currency’s lowest level since January 2016 and perilously close to dipping below the key trading benchmark of US70c that, once breached, could spur further falls. The Australian outlook was not helped by figures showing that house prices are now falling at their fastest rate for 10 years.
…The view widely held in the 1980s that Japan would be “number one” turned out to be badly mistaken. In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev, then first secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, told the west that “We will bury you!” He proved utterly wrong…. Mistakes: extrapolating… assuming… rapid economic growth will be indefinitely sustained; and exaggerating the benefits of centralised direction… [which] in the long run… is likely to become rigid and so brittle….
China’s investment rate, at 44 per cent of GDP in 2017, is unsustainably high…. Not surprisingly, returns on investment have collapsed…. China has also hit the buffers on export-driven growth, at a lower level of income per head than other high-growth east Asian economies…. Future demand will depend on the emergence of a mass-consumer market, while growth of supply will require an upsurge in growth of “total factor productivity”…
For one and a half decades, China has benefited from the reforms introduced by Zhu Rongji, premier from 1998 to 2003. No comparable reforms have happened since his time. Today, credit is still being preferentially allocated to state businesses, while state influence over large private businesses is growing. All this is likely to distort the allocation of resources and slow the rate of innovation and economic progress…. China may well fail to replicate the success of other east Asian high-growth economies… because the distortions in its economy are so large and the global environment is going to be so much more hostile….
The most interesting other economy is not Europe, which seems destined for a slow relative decline, but India… far poorer than China … has great potential for fast catch-up growth…. The triumph of despotism is still far from inevitable. Autocracies can fail, just as democracies can thrive. China confronts huge economic challenges. Meanwhile, democracies must learn from their mistakes and focus on renewing their politics and policies…
Australian home prices skidded nearly 5% in 2018, marking their worst year since 2008, led by tighter credit conditions and waning investor interest, and analysts expect the weakness to persist this year. Property values across the country fell for the 15th consecutive month in December, with the rate of decline in Sydney and Melbourne – the two largest markets – worsening over the year, according to property consultant CoreLogic. Its index of home prices nationally dropped 1.8% in December from November, and tumbled 2.3% for the quarter – the worst quarterly decline in eight years. Values in the combined capital cities fell 1.3% in the month and 6.1% for the year.
Sydney was the worst performing capital city with prices down 1.8% in December. Regional centers fared better with prices outside the cities staying almost flat. “Access to credit has been the most significant factor weighing down housing market conditions over the year,” said Tim Lawless, head of research at CoreLogic. Since 2015, regulators have clamped down on risky lending by banks, particularly for interest-only loans, while a raft of scandals amid a high-level government-mandated inquiry has added to an air of caution. Earlier this year, Australia’s prudential regulator did ease some of its lending restrictions, but Lawless said access to finance was likely to remain “the most significant barrier” to an improvement in housing market conditions in 2019.
“Lenders are understandably risk-averse against a backdrop of falling dwelling values, high household debt, rising supply and heightened regulatory focus following the banking royal commission inquiry,” he said. The slowdown has been greatest in Sydney where home prices stumbled nearly 9% on the year, though Melbourne was catching up with an annual drop of 7%. Sydney and Melbourne comprise about 60% of Australia’s housing market by value and 40% by number.
2019 promises to be even uglier than 2018. US politics becomes an oxymoron, the entire system, and all the blame is shifted to just one man.
Me, I’m getting tired of trying to provide some balance in the face of these things. The Democrats refuse to understand that not being Trump is not an identity, because it’s the only claim they have left at an identity.
Democrats are now defined by Trump the way that antimatter is defined by matter, with each particle of matter corresponding to an antiparticle. Take the secrecy. Democrats once were the party that fought against the misuse of secret classification laws by the FBI and other agencies. They demanded greater transparency from the executive branch, which is a position that I have readily supported. Yet, when oversight committees sought documents related to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation of Trump associates, Democrats denounced the very thought that Republicans would question the judgment of the FBI that any such disclosures would be tantamount to jeopardizing national security.
Democratic Party leaders including Pelosi declared that the oversight committees had moved beyond “dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security” and “disregarded the warnings of the Justice Department and the FBI.” Likewise, House Intelligence Committee ranking minority member Adam Schiff expressed shock that the FBI was not given deference in withholding the information in the surveillance investigation.
Yet, when the information was finally forced out of the FBI, including the disclosure of previously redacted material, it was clear that the FBI had engaged in overclassification to shield not national security but to shield the bureau itself from criticism. It included discussion of the roles of high ranking FBI officials and their reliance on such sources as the Christopher Steele dossier, which were already publicly known. Democratic House members like Schiff presumably knew what was in the redactions and, nevertheless, wanted deference to the classification decisions of the FBI.
[..] John McCain accused him on the Senate floor of “working for Vladimir Putin.” This quote got a lot of play in the political press, who love that sort of thing, but the consensus seemed to be that McCain was using hyperbolic language to make his point. But what if this was a bad take? Few members of Congress were more antagonistic toward Putin than John McCain. Perhaps when he called Rand Paul a Russian asset, on the floor of the US Senate, he actually meant it. Since the day John McCain called him out, Rand Paul has been a veritable lobbyist for the Kremlin.
On matters large and small, Paul has supported Moscow’s positions. He’s pushed for open and active dialogue with the nation that engaged in cyberwarfare against us. He’s argued for the lifting of sanctions on Russian individuals close to Putin. He was one of few politicians who defended Trump after his disastrous showing in Helsinki, when Trump more or less kissed the ring of the Russian dictator. He joined Trump in seeking the revocation of a security clearance on John O. Brennan, after the former CIA director denounced the Helsinki summit as “nothing short of treasonous.” In recent weeks, Paul has held with the Kremlin’s position on Syria.
Russia’s response documented beyond any question, at all, that this airliner was shot down by the Ukrainian Government, and that Western (i.e., US-allied) ‘news’media have been and are covering-up this crucial historical fact and The West’s still-ongoing lies about the downing of MH17. Those lies are the basis of US and EU anti-Russia sanctions, which remain in effect despite the basis for those sanctions having been exposed unequivocally, on September 17th, to be based on lies. Thus, continuing to hide those lies is crucial to the liars. This is the reason why Russia’s blazingly detailed presentation on September 17th has been virtually ignored — to protect the actually guilty.
The evidence here proves that those sanctions, themselves, are nothing but frauds against the public, and crimes against Russia — ongoing additional crimes, which have been, and remain, effectively hidden till now. The reader can see and consider here all of the conclusive evidence in the MH17 case — it can be reached via the present article’s links. Unlike the ‘news’-reports in The West’s ‘news’-media, the presentation here is not presuming readers’ trust, but is instead providing to all readers access to the actual evidence — evidence that is accepted by both sides. That’s what the links here are for: examination by any skeptics.
[..] 2019 may indeed be a breakthrough year. Public opinion is mobilising around the world and politicians and businesses are paying attention. There will be a series of high-profile events that will engage the public and governments and may provide a better way forward than was managed last year. Chief among them is the promise of António Guterres, the UN secretary general, to hold a summit for world leaders that will require them to face up to the dangers of climate change head on. Guterres is uncompromising, warning in Poland that it would be “immoral and suicidal” not to take firm and urgent action commensurate with the scale of the problem.
Leaders will be put on the spot, and will come under very public pressure as coalitions of civil society groups seek to put their case around the summit and in the lead-up to it. The role of women, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change, will be highlighted, and the role of young people, who will have to live with the consequences of their elders’ mistakes in a warming world. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is also holding a One World Summit, planned for the summer, at which the focus will be on persuading businesses to take a leading role, investing in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and changing the way they use energy.
There are clear signs of hope on climate change also in the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy technology, which is now competitive with fossil fuels. And the keep it in the ground campaign has succeeded in encouraging many investors to move their money out of fossil fuel stocks.
Major U.S. markets will be closed on Wednesday in honor of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will both close on Wednesday in observance of the National Day of Mourning after Bush’s death Saturday at the age of 94. Both the NYSE and Nasdaq will also observe a moment of silence at 9:20 a.m. ET on Monday. U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday out of respect for Bush. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to testify on Wednesday on the economic outlook before the congressional Joint Economic Committee. A spokesman for the committee did not immediately respond to questions on Saturday about whether the hearing would be rescheduled.
US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to suspend any new tariffs in the escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies, even if huge existing duties will remain in place. Following more than two hours of dinner talks between the two leaders, the White House said an increase of tariffs from 10 to 25 percent due to kick in on January 1 would now be put on hold, providing room for intense negotiations. The agreement, hashed out over steak in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, lowers the temperature in a conflict that has spooked world markets. The two leaders, who were in Buenos Aires for a summit of the G20 countries, called it “a highly successful meeting,” the White House said.
“The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries and has opened up new space for win-win cooperation,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Under the agreement, Trump is shelving a plan to raise existing tariffs of 10 percent to 25 percent from the start of next year. However, the truce is only partial. Some $50 billion worth of Chinese imports already face 25 percent tariffs while the 10 percent tariffs, which target a massive $200 billion in goods, will also remain in effect. Meanwhile, China has targeted $110 billion worth of US imports for tariffs. If there is any further retaliation, Trump has warned, he will slap punitive duties on the remaining $267 billion in Chinese goods coming to the United States.
And Saturday’s truce also contained an ultimatum. The White House made clear that the 10 percent tariffs would still leap up to 25 percent if China doesn’t meet US demands in 90 days. These include China stopping a host of trade barriers, intellectual property theft and other actions that Washington say make fair trade impossible. Tough negotiations lie ahead, but Trump was upbeat. “This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi,” he said in a statement.
From Twitter: “Martial Law prohibits the diffusion of military movements in #Ukraine therefore won’t post the Armed Forces movements but I can safely say that #Odessa is being heavily prepared for war.”
Look, “sailors and ships?” They were armed navy vessels with soldiers, not fishing boats with civilians.
Vladimir Putin has said it is “too early” to return Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels seized by Russia in the Sea of Azov, accusing the Ukrainian government of provoking an incident as a distraction from domestic problems. Putin was speaking to reporters after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, where Donald Trump cancelled a meeting with the Russian leader because of Moscow’s refusal to release the 24 Ukrainians. The Russian president said it was necessary to detain the captives while a legal case was put together to demonstrate that the three Ukrainian naval vessels violated Russia’s territorial waters. He said the ships’ logs would show that their attempt to cross the Kerch strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov – enclosed by Russia, the Crimean peninsula and mainland Ukraine – was a deliberate provocation.
Asked if he might consider exchanging the captive sailors for Russians in Ukrainian detention, Putin said: “We are not considering a swap and Ukraine did not raise this issue, and it’s too early to talk about that. They are still being investigated. “We need to establish the fact that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government and we need to put all these things on paper,” he added, arguing that the incident was part of a wider pattern of Ukrainian provocation. “The current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this at all,” Putin said. “As long as they stay in power, war will continue. Why? Because when you have provocations, such hostilities like what just happened in the Black Sea … you can always use war to justify your economic failures.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday he briefed his US counterpart Donald Trump on the Ukraine crisis as he came under pressure over Moscow’s robust foreign policy at the G20 summit in Argentina. Putin said he explained Moscow’s position to Trump when the leaders met briefly at a summit dinner Friday. “We spoke standing up. I replied to his questions about the incident in the Black Sea,” Putin told reporters at the end of the summit. Putin strode into the summit under a cloud, having drawn outrage from Europe over last week’s incident in which his navy detained three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors – causing Trump to abruptly cancel their scheduled meeting. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko kept up the pressure from Kiev, saying Putin had refused to take his calls since the crisis started.
[..] Away from the summit, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Moscow had shown “brazen contempt” for a deal “that allowed both Russian and Ukrainian ships free passage.” Putin – who has praised his navy for defending Russian territory – “provided exhaustive explanations on this incident in the Black Sea, explaining everything in detail, in exactly the same manner as yesterday during his meeting with the French president,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax. Far from offering comforting words, Putin said at a post-summit press conference he saw no end in sight to the four-year conflict in eastern Ukraine “as long as the current Ukrainian authorities remain in power.” “The current Ukrainian authorities have no interest in resolving the conflict, especially by peaceful means,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday that Russia tried to meddle in the US midterm elections last month – just as it did in the 2016 vote that brought President Donald Trump to power. The already strained ties between Washington and Moscow have “no doubt” worsened over Russian’s continued attempts to interfere in the US voting process, Mattis said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California. Russian President Vladimir Putin “tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines,” the Pentagon chief said. Putin has “continued efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended,” Mattis said, stressing he was unsure whether there were growing threats from Russia.
“We’ll do whatever is necessary to defend them.” Mattis spoke as President Donald Trump suddenly scrapped a planned meeting with Putin at the G20 summit of world leaders in Buenos Aires, Argentina, citing a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Ahead of last month’s vote, Twitter and Facebook shut down thousands of Russian-controlled accounts, while 14 people from Russia’s notorious troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, were indicted. And US law enforcement agencies warned that “Americans should be aware that foreign actors – and Russia in particular – continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord.”
Robert Mueller was the director of the FBI between 2001 and 2013, spanning both Bush and Obama administrations. He was appointed as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 United States general election on May 17, 2017. Since his appointment, Mueller has been promoted as a champion of justice and a pursuer of truth by the mainstream press. He has been hailed as incorruptible by some and “America’s straightest arrow” by others. However, history shows us that Mueller investigating anything may, inherently, come with disadvantages when it comes to the pursuit of truth. According to whistleblowers, under Mueller’s leadership, crimes and scandals involving both government officials and the private-sector were ignored or covered-up by the FBI, and there are questions about further cover-ups before he became the agency director.
In July 2017, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley wrote an article titled “No, Robert Mueller And James Comey Aren’t Heroes” in which the author details the not-so-perfect history of both Mueller and Comey, suggesting that those lionizing the pair may be suffering from amnesia. Rowley explains that Mueller and Comey presided over post-9/11 cover-ups, secret abuses against the Constitution, enabled Bush/Cheney fabrications used as the pretext for waging war and demonstrated incompetence. The article also references Mueller’s attempts to mislead everyone following 9/11 and Rowley’s efforts to challenge Mueller on his silence about what he knew.
Going further, Rowley covers Mueller’s bungled Amerithrax investigation that targeted an innocent man, violations of privacy, infiltration of non-violent anti-war groups and also references Mueller’s history before being director of the FBI: “Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI operated) Bulger gang.”
Earlier this year, Republican congressman Louie Gohmert also highlighted various issues in a report titled “Robert Mueller Unmasked” that opened with a bold assertion: “Robert Mueller has a long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence. He lacks the judgment and credibility to lead the prosecution of anyone.”
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will give formal notice to the U.S. Congress in the near future to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), giving six months for lawmakers to approve a new trade deal signed on Friday. “I will be formally terminating NAFTA shortly,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on his way home from Argentina. “Just so you understand, when I do that – if for any reason we’re unable to make a deal because of Congress then Congress will have a choice” of the new deal or returning to trade rules from before 1994 when NAFTA took effect, he said. Trump told reporters the trade rules before NAFTA “work very well.” NAFTA allows any country to formally withdraw with six months notice.
Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a new trade agreement on Friday known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trump’s decision to set in motion a possible end to largely free trade in North America comes amid some skepticism from Democrats about the new trade deal. The U.S. landscape will shift significantly in January when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, after winning mid-term elections in November. Presumptive incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described the deal as a “work in progress” that lacks worker and environment protections.
“This is not something where we have a piece of paper we can say yes or no to,” she said at a news conference on Friday, noting that Mexico had yet to pass a law on wages and working conditions. Other Democrats, backed by unions that oppose the pact, have called for stronger enforcement provisions for new labor and environmental standards, arguing that USMCA’s state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism is too weak. A 2016 congressional research report said there is a debate over whether a president can withdraw from a trade deal without the consent of Congress, and there is no historical precedent for the unilateral withdrawal from an free trade deal by a president that had been approved by Congress. The issue could ultimately be decided by the U.S. courts.
Property investors wanting to expand their holdings are finding doors slamming in their faces as new lending restrictions bite hard. Harsher income tests, tighter rules for interest-only loans, tax changes and tougher assessments of rents and repayments have put the brakes on, and lending specialists believe more squeezing is likely. Almost one-third of the nation’s 2.1 million residential real estate investors own more than one property, according to Australian Taxation Office data, and many see it as their ticket to retirement wealth instead of the struggling share market. However, expanding beyond one investment property has become much tougher this year amid factors including:
• Investors’ ability to repay is now being based on interest rates between 7.25 and 8 per cent, rather than the 4 per cent many are currently charged. • Lenders only count 70 per cent of a property’s rental income. • Interest-only loans, popular among investors, are harder to come by and harder to continue, resulting is higher repayments when they switch to principal-and-interest. The result is that potential investment loans are assessed as unaffordable even if the investor has no problems paying it back.
From the 1980s onwards, it was clear there was a price to be paid for western societies adapting to a new economic model and that price was sacrificing the European and American working class. No one thought the fallout would hit the bedrock of the lower-middle class, too. It’s obvious now, however, that the new model not only weakened the fringes of the proletariat but society as a whole. The paradox is this is not a result of the failure of the globalised economic model but of its success. In recent decades, the French economy, like the European and US economies, has continued to create wealth. We are thus, on average, richer. The problem is at the same time unemployment, insecurity and poverty have also increased.
The central question, therefore, is not whether a globalised economy is efficient, but what to do with this model when it fails to create and nurture a coherent society? In France, as in all western countries, we have gone in a few decades from a system that economically, politically and culturally integrates the majority into an unequal society that, by creating ever more wealth, benefits only the already wealthy. The change is not down to a conspiracy, a wish to cast aside the poor, but to a model where employment is increasingly polarised. This comes with a new social geography: employment and wealth have become more and more concentrated in the big cities. The deindustrialised regions, rural areas, small and medium-size towns are less and less dynamic.
But it is in these places – in “peripheral France” (one could also talk of peripheral America or peripheral Britain) – that many working-class people live. Thus, for the first time, “workers” no longer live in areas where employment is created, giving rise to a social and cultural shock. It is in this France périphérique that the gilets jaunes movement was born. It is also in these peripheral regions that the western populist wave has its source. Peripheral America brought Trump to the White House. Peripheral Italy – mezzogiorno, rural areas and small northern industrial towns – is the source of its populist wave. This protest is carried out by the classes who, in days gone by, were once the key reference point for a political and intellectual world that has forgotten them.
Opposition parties plan to join forces in a bid to force the government to publish the full legal advice it received ahead of the Brexit agreement. “All parties” would press for contempt of Parliament proceedings if MPs are not shown the advice, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer has said. Theresa May has promised MPs only a summary of the legal position. Some MPs believe the advice given suggests the Northern Ireland “backstop” would continue indefinitely. [..] on Monday Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who wrote the advice, will offer only a limited summary of the legal advice given to government, during a statement to Parliament.
Ministers insist it is a long-standing convention that legal advice to the cabinet is kept confidential, and that government would otherwise be unable to function. The prime minister’s refusal to release the full advice prompted Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – which has propped up Mrs May’s government since the general election in 2017 – to accuse her of having “something to hide”. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “If the full legal advice is not forthcoming, we will have no alternative but to start proceedings for contempt of Parliament – and we will work with all parties to take this forward. “The full legal implications of this deal clearly need to be known and debated in full by our Parliament.”
During the country’s deep and prolonged crash, which began in late 2009 and worsened in 2011 and beyond, an already-low birthrate ticked down further, as happened throughout the troubled economies of Southern Europe. Greece was also hit by a second factor, with half a million people fleeing the country, many of them young potential parents. Although Greece has been on the front lines of the migrant wave from the Middle East and North Africa, the majority of new arrivals have moved on to other parts of Europe, and the newcomers don’t make up for the losses. As a result, the country’s recession has helped produce postwar Greece’s smallest generation — a group of young children who are now reaching elementary age, some arriving at schools wearing secondhand shoes and backpacks, and who are only at the earliest stages of grasping the daunting era they’ve been born into.
“The kids don’t know we used to be better off,” said Sotiria Papigioti, the mother of a first- and a second-grader at Kalpaki. “But when they ask for things, I tell them, ‘We’re not in the position to afford this.’ ” Greece’s fertility rate, of about 1.35 births per woman, is among the lowest in Europe, and well below the rate of 2.1 needed for a stable population, not accounting for immigration. The fertility rate in Greece had been on the upswing before the crisis, hitting 1.5 births per woman in 2008. That progress has since been erased, and the birthrate has plummeted back toward the depths seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Some countries, in the aftermath of economic crises, have seen a quick recovery in their fertility rates. But that is unlikely to happen in Greece, said Byron Kotzamanis, a demographer at the University of Thessaly, because even before the crisis the average woman in Greece wasn’t having children until age 31. Some women who postponed pregnancy during the recession have lost out on their chance entirely. As a result, Kotzamanis said, the recession has permanently reduced the size of the newest Greek generation — and has reduced the pool of parents in years to come. “We’ll have fewer and fewer births in Greece over the next decades,” Kotzamanis said.