Oct 192020
 


Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1907

 

‘Unverified’ Is A (False) Excuse For Ignoring NYP’s Hunter Biden Scoops (NYP)
Steve Bannon Behind ‘Roll-Out Plan’ For Hunter Biden Emails (ZH)
Does This Explain Why Facebook Suppressed Hunter Biden Revelations? (AT)
Ukrainian Lawmaker: 2nd Laptop Related To Hunter Biden Seized By Law Enforcement (DM)
How Hysterical Punditry Failed America (Tracey)
China Says Its Economy Grew 4.9% In The Third Quarter (CNBC)
China’s Inflation Struggles To Perk Up Despite Broader Recovery (R.)
Sweden To Bring In Local Lockdowns As Covid Cases Rise (Sun)
Alberta’s Contact Tracing Raises Red Flags (CBC)
The Day The International Tax Authorities Came Knocking (Age)
Social Media Creators Admit It Dehumanizes People, Disrupts Social Fabric (RT)

 

 

Yaneer Europe

 

 

“It’s particularly rich that The New York Times has fixated on the “unverified” excuse, since it’s spent much of the Trump era offering supposed dirt from anonymous sources — which, by definition, makes the info unverifiable.”

‘Unverified’ Is A (False) Excuse For Ignoring NYP’s Hunter Biden Scoops (NYP)

Much of the push to ignore The Post’s drop of Hunter Biden’s e-mails centers on the charge that it’s all “unverified.” The claim is more excuse than truth. First, a host of media outlets have now interviewed the computer-repair guy who provided the data at the heart of these exposés — and he’s said exactly what we’ve reported from the start about how the laptop came into his possession. Second, neither Hunter nor Joe Biden has even questioned the fact that the drive is real — they merely dismiss the entire line of questioning, while charging that The Post has an agenda in presenting it to the world.

Third, we’ve published emails and pictures — most of which have nothing to do with Ukraine or China — that contain an extraordinary level of detail. Is that all fabricated? The Biden campaign’s response, notably, is not that an e-mail from a Burisma official thanking Hunter for an introduction to his father isn’t real, it’s that said meeting doesn’t show up on Joe’s “official” schedules. Pressed by Politico, the campaign acknowledged that they couldn’t say for certain if Joe Biden had met him casually. It’s particularly rich that The New York Times has fixated on the “unverified” excuse, since it’s spent much of the Trump era offering supposed dirt from anonymous sources — which, by definition, makes the info unverifiable.

A simple but striking case of that is The Atlantic’s “reporting” that President Trump spoke contemptuously and insultingly of US troops during his trip to France for war-memorial ceremonies. Its claims were based purely on anonymous sources — but contradicted by a number of on-the-record sources, including ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has absolutely no reason to lie to protect the man who fired him.

Biden drops out

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His recent arrest makes him seem even more compromised.

Steve Bannon Behind ‘Roll-Out Plan’ For Hunter Biden Emails (ZH)

As former Breitbart journalist Lee Stranahan – who’s not exactly Bannon’s biggest fan – puts it, “I can’t think of a single example of him saying he had the goods on the story that didn’t pan out,” adding “If he says a lot more is coming he’s not shooting blanks.” [..] Last week the NY Post took the political world by storm with its release of shocking material from Hunter Biden’s hard drive indicating corruption, sexual depravity, and more. The Post reported that a lawyer for former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani obtained the hard drive from a computer repairman and that former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon had alerted the Post to the existence of the hard drive in July.

“But before turning over the gear, the shop owner says, he made a copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello. Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told The Post about the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani provided The Post with a copy of it on Sunday”. [NY Post] Steve Bannon has since clarified to Revolver News that he was brought into the project based on familiarity with corruption in corporate America, on Wall Street, and within the Chinese Communist Party and America’s political class. Mr. Bannon revealed that he “worked up and executed the roll out plan” of the information contained in the Hunter hard drives. Given his close knowledge and familiarity with an issue of such explosive importance to the election, Revolver asked Mr. Bannon a few questions pertaining to the contents of Hunter’s hard drive and the political implications of their release.

Revolver: What is the most incriminating thing on the hard drive? Rudy has suggested illegal things, and as Revolver reported, the FBI person tasked with the hard drive is associated with the child pornography division. Could you give more insight into how bad it is we’re talking about? Mr. Bannon: Joe Biden is a liar, a fraud, and compromised by Chinese cash. In short, he is a national security crisis. The hard drive combines emails and text messages that show a massive involvement with companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Also, there are 25,000 images that show a drug-addled, depraved lifestyle — one that decent hardworking Americans will not want near the White House.

Revolver: The FBI has been holding onto the hard drive for almost a year? Any sense of why? Was there any indication that they were seriously interested in a criminal case, assuming that there is, in fact, illegal material on there? If not, why would the FBI simply hold onto information like that? Mr. Bannon: The President must confront the director of the FBI on why the information housed on this hard drive was not moved on immediately. If the content of the hard drive had been released when received in November 2019, there would have been no impeachment of Trump, and Bernie Sanders would be the Democratic Party nominee. This confrontation should take place this weekend in the Oval Office. If Wray doesn’t have a bulletproof reason he should be fired in the room.

Revolver: What are your best estimates on how many foreign entities may have obtained possession of the hard drive? Chinese intel? Mr. Bannon: It’s the actions represented on the hard drive that the American people must understand our enemies know about. The cash and equity given for access to Biden, the favors done for that cash, the drugs, the depravity. The CCP, Russian Intel, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Intel Services — they know the Bidens are for sale. [..] The Bidens are about to be hit with multiple stories from multiple media sources based off evidence beyond the hard drive. Fox and Peter Schweitzer have already started but bigger more mainstream companies are going to weigh in. We already have set in motion the various apparatuses that will release everything.

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If there’s one thing we’ve found out the past week it’s a whole new set of revolving doors exist.

Does This Explain Why Facebook Suppressed Hunter Biden Revelations? (AT)

The moment the New York Post reported on some of the sleazy, corrupt details contained on Hunter Biden’s hard drive, Twitter and Facebook, the social media giants most closely connected to the way Americans exchange political information, went into overdrive to suppress the information and protect Joe Biden. In the case of Facebook, though, perhaps one of those protectors was, in fact, protecting herself. The person currently in charge of Facebook’s election integrity program is Anna Makanju. That name probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, but it should mean a lot – and in a comforting way — to Joe Biden. Before ending up at Facebook, Makanju was a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council is an ostensibly non-partisan think tank that deals with international affairs. In fact, it’s a decidedly partisan organization.

In 2009, James L. Jones, the Atlantic Council’s chairman left the organization to be President Obama’s National Security Advisor. Susan Rice, Richard Holbrooke, Eric Shinseki, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Chuck Hagel, and Brent Scowcroft also were all affiliated with the Atlantic Council before they ended up in the Obama administration. The Atlantic Council has received massive amounts of foreign funding over the years. Here’s one that should interest everyone: Burisma Holdings donated $300,000 dollars to the Atlantic Council, over the course of three consecutive years, beginning in 2016. The information below may explain why it began paying that money to the Council. Not only was the Atlantic Council sending people into the Obama-Biden administration, but it was also serving as an outside advisor. And that gets us back to Anna Makanju, the person heading Facebook’s misleadingly titled “election integrity program.”

Makanju also worked at the Atlantic Council. The following is the relevant part of Makanju’s professional bio from her page at the Atlantic Council: “Anna Makanju is a nonresident senior fellow with the Transatlantic Security Initiative. She is a public policy and legal expert working at Facebook, where she leads efforts to ensure election integrity on the platform. Previously, she was the special policy adviser for Europe and Eurasia to former US Vice President Joe Biden, senior policy adviser to Ambassador Samantha Power at the United States Mission to the United Nations, director for Russia at the National Security Council, and the chief of staff for European and NATO Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She has also taught at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and worked as a consultant to a leading company focused on space technologies.”

[..] on the same day in February 2016 that then-Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced that Shokin had offered his resignation, Biden spoke to both Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The White House version is that Biden gave both men pep talks about reforming the government and fighting corruption. And that’s where Makanju comes in: “Anna Makanju, Biden’s senior policy adviser for Ukraine at the time, also listened to the calls and said release of the transcripts would only strengthen Biden’s case that he acted properly. She helped Biden prepare for the conversations and said they operated at a high level, with Biden using language such as Poroshenko’s government being “nation builders for a transformation of Ukraine.”

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Not sure if this enhances the story or kills it.

Ukrainian Lawmaker: 2nd Laptop Related To Hunter Biden Seized By Law Enforcement (DM)

A Ukrainian lawmaker has claimed a second laptop belonging to Hunter Biden’s business contacts in the country has been seized by law enforcement there. Andrii Derkach posted to Facebook on Friday to say there is a ‘second laptop’ involving evidence of corruption and connected to the Bidens, The Daily Beast reports. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, has said foreign sources did not provide the Hunter Biden emails first reported last week. He says a laptop containing the correspondence and intimate photos was simply abandoned in a Delaware repair shop and the shop owner reached out to Giuliani’s lawyer. Derkach is one of Giuliani’s principal contacts and was mentioned in an August intelligence assessment that described a concerted Russian effort to disparage Biden.

A Treasury Department sanction announcement from last month characterized Derkach as an ‘active Russian agent for over a decade.’ Now he claims to know of a second laptop, used by ‘two representatives for the interests of [Burisma founder Mykola] Zlochevsky.’ Hunter served on the board of directors at Ukrainian energy company Burisma. In the post Derkach says that laptop ‘was given to Ukrainian law enforcement’ and that Burisma representatives were now serving as ‘witnesses in criminal proceedings.’ The Ukrainian parliamentarian said: ‘The facts that confirm international corruption are stored on the second laptop. ‘This laptop was handed over to Ukrainian law enforcement officers, and the “workers” themselves are now witnesses in criminal proceedings.’

Derkach says the workers are ‘ready to tell’ about international corruption involving the Bidens. He warns: ‘But most importantly! These are not the last witnesses or the last laptop.’ Giuliani has not been shy about discussing his foreign contacts, including with Derkach. In December, Derkach posted on his Facebook page photos of him and Giuliani meeting in Kyiv.

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Panic sells.

How Hysterical Punditry Failed America (Tracey)

It seems like only yesterday that America’s leading organs of elite consensus were engulfed by a full-fledged panic that the country was on the cusp of all-out Civil War. The means by which this prophesied conflict would be instigated — much less fought — were never made exactly clear, but that wasn’t the point. After all, logistical or operational specifics are immaterial when it’s already been ordained that something unimaginably, harrowingly catastrophic is just around the corner. “This is not a drill. The Reichstag is burning,” blared a five-alarm-fire warning in the Washington Post by Dana Milbank, who may want to consider a title change from “columnist” to “in-house hysteric”. Not to be outdone, establishment weather-vane Thomas Friedman joined the fray in the New York Times with an equally shocking exhortation: “I can’t say this any more clearly,” he hyperventilated.

“Our democracy is in terrible danger — more danger than it has been since the Civil War, more danger than after Pearl Harbor, more danger than during the Cuban missile crisis […]”. If these fevered prognostications even bore the faintest resemblance to political conditions in the United States, it might seem a bit odd that the pundits in question have since moved on to other subjects. Or to put it this way: if they really believed their own fantastical rhetoric, shouldn’t they have spent the past few weeks taking action more tangible than rattling off a few throwaway columns and browsing Twitter? Not that any “resistance” brigade composed of pallid middle-aged journalists would be especially formidable on the battlefield, but the point is that their conduct doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the incredible alarmism of their words.

More destruction could be in store next month than was wrought in World War II, the most devastating global military conflict in human history? All of civilisation was nearly wiped out in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but we’re supposed to believe that whatever harm is brought about by the election aftermath will exceed that? If so, why aren’t these people stockpiling canned food and training for hand-to-hand combat? They’re not doing anything of the sort because this latest round of histrionics is just a continuation of a theme that has characterised the Trump era: political and cultural elites, whose psyches have been profoundly damaged, will churn out nonstop waves of hysteria rarely noting afterwards if their frenzied forecasts ever panned out.

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I basically see only people doubting these numbers.

China Says Its Economy Grew 4.9% In The Third Quarter (CNBC)

China’s economy recovered further from the coronavirus in the third quarter, according to data released Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics. The world’s second-largest economy reported third-quarter GDP growth on the low end of expectations, up 4.9% from a year ago. That brings growth for the first three quarters of the year to 0.7% from a year ago. Chinese economists expected GDP growth of 5.2% in the third quarter, according to an average of estimates compiled by Wind Information, a financial information database. Slower recovery in Chinese consumption remained a drag, while uncertainty persisted about the ability of other countries to control the coronavirus pandemic and return to economic growth.


“Generally speaking, the overall national economy continued the steady recovery and significant results have been delivered in coordinating epidemic prevention and development,” the bureau said in an English-language release. “However, we should also be aware that the international environment is still complicated and severe,” the release said, “with considerable instabilities and uncertainties, and that we are under great pressure of forestalling epidemic transmissions from abroad and its resurgence at home. The economy is still in the process of recovery and the foundation for sustained recovery needs to be consolidated.”

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This one is easy: China is overproducing once again, that makes the “recovery” look real. But consumption doesn’t follow production.

China’s Inflation Struggles To Perk Up Despite Broader Recovery (R.)

China’s factory gate prices fell at a faster-than-expected pace in September and consumer inflation slowed to its weakest in 19 months, underscoring the challenges still facing China as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The producer price index (PPI) fell for an eighth straight month on an annual basis while consumer prices grew more slowly than expected. The world’s second largest economy has seen a steady recovery after being hard hit by the coronavirus in the first quarter. But a sustained fall in producer prices, seen as a gauge of industrial demand, may rekindle worries about deflation and prompt authorities to provide more support, analysts said.


“The PPI has not rebounded strongly despite the improving trend, pointing to continued weakness in industrial demand. It is unlikely to return to positive territory this year,” said Wang Jun, chief economist at Zhongyuan Bank. “It is possible that the economic recovery in the fourth quarter may not be as strong as it has been in the third quarter.” The PPI fell 2.1% from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement. [..] China’s GDP grew 3.2% year-on-year in the second quarter, and recent data has pointed to a sustained rebound, underpinned by government stimulus and as the virus comes under control. China releases GDP data for the third quarter on Monday.

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“..the autumn surge in infections had changed they way they understood the virus..”

Sweden To Bring In Local Lockdowns As Covid Cases Rise (Sun)

SWEDEN is set to introduce local restrictions as coronavirus cases begin to rise across the country after it shunned lockdown. The nation has been championed by lockdown sceptics as a display of how governments could weather the pandemic storm without using draconian measures. Restaurants, bars and shops stayed open in the spring as many countries shut down their economy – but the now Stockholm appears to be changing its tactics. Dr Johan Nojd, who leads the infectious diseases department in Uppsala, told The Telegraph, said: “It’s more of a lockdown situation – but a local lockdown. He is due to meet with Sweden’s leading health officials on Monday to discussing implementing the new coronavirus measures.

Rules suggested being introduced include telling people to stop meeting the vulnerable and urged to avoid public transport. Dr Nojd also said that if contact tracing shows further links between activities and infections they will not hesitate to impose even tougher measures. He added: “Perhaps tomorrow we will have several talking about concerts or restaurants and then perhaps one could say, ‘in Uppsala now for two or three weeks it is the Public Health Agency’s advice not to sit in restaurants late at night’.” Sweden – which has a population of 10million, only slighter bigger than London – has seen coronavirus cases creeping up since the middle of September. A two week total of 85 cases per 100,000 people has been reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The organisation has marked Sweden with an “orange” alert as they called for coordinated action by European nations to stop a surge in cases.

[..] Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said on Thursday that the autumn surge in infections had changed they way they understood the virus. He said: “I think the obvious conclusion is that the level of immunity in those cities is not at all as high as we have, as maybe some people, have believed,” he said. “I think what we are seeing is very much a consequence of the very heterogeneous spread that this disease has, which means that even if you feel like there have been a lot of cases in some big cities, there are still huge pockets of people who have not been affected yet.”

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Does anyone know of a -truly- successful contact tracing scheme? Did it work in New Zealand? The problem is obvious here: people don’t remember what they did for the past 14 days.

Alberta’s Contact Tracing Raises Red Flags (CBC)

COVID-19 cases are rising in Alberta, and there are concerns that difficulties involved in contact tracing — both manual and digital — could hamper the province’s ability to slow the spread. Of the 1,812 new cases reported in Alberta last week, 772 (43 per cent) have an unknown source. There are currently 2,836 active cases in the province, 1,054 (37 per cent) from an unknown source. Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said she doesn’t like the look of those numbers. “This is actually one of the cornerstones of reducing spread. If we can’t, basically, kind of find the ring of exposed people and prevent them from spreading it outwards, we’re going to be looking at really, really bad numbers. So it’s a big deal,” she said.


Contact tracing is the process of identifying, notifying and tracking the spread of the virus from individual to individual. Alberta’s team of contact tracers speak to people who have tested positive in order to identify who they have been in close contact with during the previous 14 days. Those close contacts can then be instructed to self-isolate and get tested. Lori Henneigh, acting manager with an Alberta Health Services COVID-19 outbreak team in Red Deer, Alta., told CBC News last month that people often have difficulty remembering what they did 14 days ago. “If you think about it yourself, if you try to think about what you did in the last 14 days, you’ll realize that it’s not easy to recollect what you did two weeks prior,” she said. “We certainly can ask them to look at statements — bills, receipts and things they have at home — to help them remember their activities in the last 14 days.”

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Peter Schiff.

The Day The International Tax Authorities Came Knocking (Age)

On a sunny Friday in late January, investigators from the Australian Tax Office issued subpoenas and fired off letters as part of an unprecedented probe that reached around the world.It was a similar scene in Amsterdam, where investigators from the Dutch tax agency set about a similar task. So, too, did investigators in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. While none of the millionaire tax dodgers targeted on January 24, including about 100 Australians, knew each other, they shared a bond: they were customers of a little-known Caribbean bank. The Euro Pacific Bank in Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan was founded by American celebrity investor and business commentator Peter Schiff.

The silver-haired and pugnacious businessman is worth an estimated $100 million. On major television networks, popular podcasts and his own YouTube channel, he reminds his audience he predicted the Global Financial Crisis. He also likes to warn people about the upcoming economic apocalypse from which they can take financial refuge in his “privacy assured” bank. Schiff’s celebrity status is likely why some major Australian financial institutions, including Westpac and the Perth Mint, hopped into bed with the Euro Pacific Bank. They weren’t alone. The New York Federal Reserve and Canada’s Bank of Montreal both allowed their customers to transfer funds into the bank, cloaking it in an air of credibility it used to attract thousands of clients, including at least 400 from Australia (about 100 are considered “high risk”).

But on January 24, Euro Pacific became the target of Operation Atlantis, the world’s largest tax evasion probe. Australia’s deputy tax commissioner, Will Day, describes the inquiry as “unprecedented”. An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes in collaboration with The New York Times can reveal that Operation Atlantis is examining the financial transactions of Euro Pacific’s customers. Hundreds of account holders are now suspects in a tax evasion probe.

[..] It was January 2017, almost three years to the day before the ATO began knocking on doors, when Schiff and partner Mark Anderson filed into the Department de Estado – a pale-blue Spanish colonial-style building with two Puerto Rican flags adorning the front entrance — to sign documents registering their new venture. The bank’s new office is on the 10th floor of a blue-glass block that overlooks the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s in the expensive part of San Juan. But former employees speaking on the condition anonymity say the office was a bit like the bank itself. “An empty shell that has the appearance of luxury,” according to one Puerto Rican who worked there. “It was basically empty except for a few desks, chairs and the computers.”

When it opened in San Juan, Euro Pacific was one of 81 offshore banks on the island and it would become by far the biggest. Government records from the time of registration show the bank had 13,000 customer accounts and more than $232 million in deposits. Schiff himself lives there with all the trappings of colonial luxury.

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Probably a good movie.

Social Media Creators Admit It Dehumanizes People, Disrupts Social Fabric (RT)

An important new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, uses former Silicon Valley insiders to lay bare the existential threat Big Tech poses to civilization. It’s much more than a dilemma. The Social Dilemma is a remarkable documentary about social media platforms and their two billion users, and may well be the most important documentary made in America for decades. The documentary is a radical, insider-based critique of social media and the large tech companies that created it – and continue to profit handsomely from it (especially given that they are monopolies and pay little or no tax in many countries).

Directed by American filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, The Social Dilemma features interviews with a number of former tech giant executives who created the technologies and business model that underpin the social media empire. Social media has only been with us for just over ten years and most of the interviewees are in their thirties. Tristan Harris (a former Google design ethicist) and Jaron Lanier (a computer scientist) – two of the interviewees – both believe that social media and the tech leviathans have created an “existential threat” to those western societies in which they have been permitted to flourish unchecked. They believe that social media platforms dehumanize their customers, disrupt the social fabric and are destroying democracy.

The critique is all the more compelling because it is perhaps only social media and big tech insiders that have a comprehensive understanding of how the system was created and operates. Technological changes have always attracted criticism. Gustave Flaubert, the nineteenth century novelist, disliked railways because he took the view that they “permitted more people to move about, meet and be stupid together.” But this documentary is much more than a simple critique of one particular technological advance. Rather, Orlowski argues that the technology underpinning social media differs qualitatively from all earlier technological developments, and that this gives rise to serious social and political consequences.

Railways, for example, were a mere “tool” that enabled people to travel more widely – they did not dehumanize their customers; nor were they an existential threat to western society. This qualitative difference, the documentary argues, is a result of the unique technology and business model employed by the social media behemoths. According to Orlowski, the technology utilized by social media is inherently addictive and manipulative, and involves a wide-ranging surveillance of its customers of a kind previously unimaginable.

[..] Many users of social media are undoubtedly addicted to it – observe the compulsive way in which people use their phones in public. And, as the documentary points out, there are only two industries that describe their customers as “users,” the tech industry and the drug industry. Social media is clearly manipulative. Excessive use is encouraged by various “growth techniques” such as tagging photos and inviting friends. The tech giants are in constant contact with their users, bombarding them with information tailored to suit their prejudices, together with endless advertisements. Algorithms enable the extraordinarily precise targeting of users. And there is no doubt that social media engages in covert, wide-ranging and ongoing surveillance of users.

Every transaction, click and post of every user is monitored, and mountains of data are accumulated daily in underground computer vaults in Silicon Valley. Some years ago, author John Lanchester noted that “Facebook is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind….what Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads.” This brings us to the social media business model. By monitoring their users, the big tech companies accumulate vast amounts of data that enables them to attract advertisers – who are willing to pay large sums for the precise targeting that only the tech giants can provide. This is why advertisers have turned their backs on traditional media companies – who simply cannot offer them the same degree of precision targeting.

In effect, the tech behemoths sell the lives of their users to their advertisers – who are willing to pay billions of dollars for them. In just under 20 years, the tech giants have become the largest corporations in America, and they grow more prosperous by the day.

Read more …

 

 

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Aug 212020
 


Elliott Erwitt New York City, USA 1955

 

Many People Unexposed To Coronavirus Have Immune Cells For COVID19 (SMH)
The Speech Joe Biden Has Been Preparing For His Entire Life (Taibbi)
Team Biden Now Signals Austerity, Despite Campaign Pledges (Sirota)
72% of Detroit’s Absentee Ballot Counts Were Off (DN)
Johnson, Grassley Blast Colleagues For ‘False Narratives’ About Ukraine (JTN)
“I Have A Right To Make Sure That My Home Is Secure” (ZH)
28 Million Americans on Unemployment Insurance, 17.5% of Labor Force (WS)
CEOs Get Big Pre-Bankruptcy Bonuses As Lenders and Employees Stiffed (NC)
Facebook Delenda Est (Ben Hunt)
Florida To Release 750 Million Genetically Modified Mosquitoes (BBC)
‘Bored’ Ravens Straying From Tower Of London Signal Monarchy May Fall (G.)

 

 

It’s not that long ago that it seemed impossible the US would do better than the world in new cases numbers. But here we are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author of this particular take on T-cells can’t seem to make up his mind if this is a good thing or not.

Many People Unexposed To Coronavirus Have Immune Cells For COVID19 (SMH)

Evidence is emerging worldwide showing between 20 and 50 per cent of people who have never been exposed to COVID-19 have immune cells that can recognise and react to the virus. The discovery of T cell cross-reactivity has excited immunologists, who hope it could explain some of the mysteries that surround the virus, such as why some people get so much sicker than others. But scientists caution that it is not yet clear what the discovery means for human health. Australian National University’s head of immunology and infectious diseases, Professor David Tscharke, said: “It’s the good, the bad and the ugly – it could help, it could do nothing, or it could make COVID-19 worse.” Professor Tscharke said the cross-reactive T cells might help to fight off the virus, or they might get in the way of the immune system, making the disease worse, a phenomenon known as “original antigenic sin”.


SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (yellow) emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in a US National Institutes of Health lab. CREDIT:AP

Typically, the human adaptive immune system relies on precision. Antibodies, for example, have to be exactly the right shape to stick to a particular virus and kill it. T cells hunt for tiny fragments of virus protein – as small as eight amino acids long, in a virus that could have thousands of them – that identify a virus has infected a cell. If two viruses share protein fragments, T cells will attack both. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, shares much of its genetic code, including many of its proteins, with four coronaviruses in frequent circulation among humans. Dr Corey Smith, head of the translational and human immunology laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said some sections of the genetic codes were virtually identical.


They cause the common cold and are extremely common – more than 90 per cent of people have been exposed to them. Scientists suspect some people who have been exposed to these viruses develop T cells that can also target SARS-CoV-2. Monash University’s head of microbiology, Professor Stephen Turner, said that in the best-case scenario, cross-reactive T cells do offer some protection. “That’s why we might be seeing so much asymptomatic infection. If there is a level of protection, due to previous exposure, you have less symptoms – because you’re limiting the amount of virus that can grow,” he said. During the 2009 influenza pandemic, scientists found people who had cross-reactive T cells to that virus were less likely to suffer severe symptoms. Professor Turner said T cells needed the right signals to be activated. It was possible SARS-CoV-2 did not trigger them, or they were in the wrong place to fight the infection.

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“Start your livers..”

The Speech Joe Biden Has Been Preparing For His Entire Life (Taibbi)

The DNC drinking game Monday night was so painful (and Tuesday was worse), that I’ve decided to shorten the game tonight to cover Joe Biden’s acceptance speech only. I watched Biden speak probably a half-dozen times during the primary campaign, and perhaps a half-dozen times before. He has definite tendencies, and his stump speech hits the same six or seven notes every time, but convention addresses are different. Every line, every word, will be scripted. There shouldn’t be ad-libs, freak-outs at hecklers, etc. Guessing what an unscripted Joe Biden will do at any given moment is pretty interesting. Here we’re basically trying to guess what Biden and his handlers have decided to put on a teleprompter. Biden will be speaking sometime after 9 p.m. I will be live-streaming with Katie Halper. Details to follow.


Drink EVERY TIME:
• Biden says, “Folks.”
• Biden says, “The United States of America.” Double-shots for any multiple-America construction, e.g. “The best America is an America where Americans believe in the American dream.”
• Biden says, “Middle-class.”
• Biden says, “Get up!” as in, “Folks, you’ve got to get up! This is the United States of America!”
• Biden says, “You guys.”
• Biden says, “Barack” or references the “Obama-Biden administration.”
• Biden says, “Soul of America.”
• Biden points out a surprising percentage of something, e.g. “Look, folks, seventy-four percent of venture capital goes to four cities.”
• Biden says, “My Mom used to say” or mentions one of his father’s relatable jobs, e.g. “He sold a hell of a lot of cars!”
• Biden makes a self-deprecating joke about his age or his tendency to say puzzling things.
• Biden finishes a section of his speech with a rhetorical flourish, and he sounds angry, and you can’t tell why, because he’s talking about something non-angering.
• Biden tells a story about a rewarding interaction with an ordinary person, as in, “I walk over to the guy up in the bucket. And there’s seven guys around him, all with hard hats on. I yelled up and said, ‘Hey, man, thanks!’”
• Biden references a job you’ve never heard of, as in “Why is a sandwich maker being forced to sign a non-compete clause?”
• Biden says “systemic.”
• Biden tells us there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

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If David Sirota keeps this up, they’ll ban him from the party.

Team Biden Now Signals Austerity, Despite Campaign Pledges (Sirota)

The Democratic convention has sucked up all the political oxygen in America — so much so, that most people missed Team Biden signaling that it may back off the entire agenda it is campaigning on. This monumental declaration went almost completely unnoticed for an entire day — which is a genuinely disturbing commentary on how the biggest of big political news gets routinely ignored. To review the situation: earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that Biden’s “campaign rolled out a $3.5 trillion economic program over the past month” — one that “promises to invest in clean energy and caregiving, buy more made-in-America goods, and start narrowing the country’s racial wealth gaps.” This, said the news service, was proof that Biden no longer adhered to an ideology of austerity and deficit hawkery — which would be good news.

But then on the eve of Biden’s convention speech, the Democratic nominee’s top aide suggested to Washington reporters that, in fact, that’s not true. Here’s the key excerpt: Former Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Biden confidant who succeeded him in the Senate, predicted during a Wall Street Journal Newsmakers Live interview Tuesday that a large increase in federal spending would be difficult to achieve in 2021. “When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” said Mr. Kaufman, who is leading Mr. Biden’s transition team. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit…forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” Economist Dean Baker goes over exactly how destructive and insane this ideology is.

As he says: “The idea that we would not address pressing needs, like climate change, child care, and health care because we are concerned about the debt burden is close to crazy. As long as the economy is not near its capacity, there is zero reason not to spend to address these priorities.” What I find particularly troubling is that Kaufman’s quote made it into the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The newspaper tweeted it out early in the morning. It sat out there for almost 24 hours — an eternity in the current news ecosystem. And yet, as far as I can tell, nobody noticed. Hell, the Journal’s tweet had all of 1 retweets on it as of this morning.

[..] This monumental declaration was in a major newspaper — it should have set off immediate alarm bells from all the think tanks, unions and advocacy groups in Washington whose job is to make sure that this kind of destructive austerity ideology does not once again take hold in the Democratic Party. There should have been press releases, and statements of outrage and congresspeople on TV talking about it. But for an entire day, there was nothing, until it was shamed into the conversation. This is not the first time there’s been silence on stuff like this — less than a month ago Biden explicitly promised his Wall Street donors that despite his public campaign promises, he will not be pushing new legislation to change corporate behavior.

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Hmmm: “..people shouldn’t “expect perfection or anything close” to it..”

72% of Detroit’s Absentee Ballot Counts Were Off (DN)

Recorded ballot counts in 72% of Detroit’s absentee voting precincts didn’t match the number of ballots cast, spurring officials in Michigan’s largest county to ask the state to investigate ahead of a pivotal presidential election. [..] In 46% of all Detroit’s precincts — absentee and Election Day — vote counts were out of balance, according to information presented Tuesday to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Specifically, the number of ballots tracked in precinct poll books did not match the number of ballots counted. The situation could amplify the spotlight on absentee ballots in Michigan ahead of an election for which record levels of mail-in voting are expected and President Donald Trump is already raising concerns about how votes will be handled. The election results for the primary weren’t incorrect, said Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and one of the canvassing board’s four members.


But, he said, something had gone wrong in the process of tracking ballots precinct by precinct. Having balanced precincts is particularly important in Michigan because precincts whose poll books don’t match with ballots can’t be recounted, according to state law. Instead, the original election results would stand. “It was a perfect storm,” Kinloch said. The “storm” involved a record number of absentee ballots being cast in Michigan’s primary and seasoned election workers not feeling it was safe to help with administering the election because of COVID-19, he added. The Wayne County board is asking Benson, a Detroit resident, to investigate “the training and processes used by the City of Detroit” in the primary election. The board also requested that the first-term Democrat appoint a state monitor to oversee the counting of absentee ballots in the general election.

Detroit had problems with precinct count mismatches in the November 2016 election. Election officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 59% of precincts in the city during a countywide canvass of vote results with most of the issues involving too many votes. Those votes couldn’t be recounted when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein demanded a statewide recount following Donald Trump’s initial 13,000-vote victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. A recount was started but stopped and nullified by the courts when Stein was ruled ineligible for a recount request because she had no chance at victory. The results eventually were certified as a 10,704-vote victory for Trump, the first Republican presidential nominee to win Michigan in 28 years. It was the Republican businessman’s smallest margin of victory in the nation.

The problems with the Detroit’s numbers in the Aug. 4 primary included ballots being put in the wrong tracking containers, said Monica Palmer, one of the Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. “It was so inaccurate that we can’t even attempt to make it right,” said Palmer, chairwoman of the board. Winfrey said the vast majority of the absentee voting precincts in the city were less than three ballots off, plus or minus. Being off by three or fewer is allowed, Winfrey said — but it’s unclear what policy she was referring to. [..] Winfrey also said Thursday that people shouldn’t “expect perfection or anything close” to it after elections staffers have worked more than 20 hours.

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Running out the clock.

Johnson, Grassley Blast Colleagues For ‘False Narratives’ About Ukraine (JTN)

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa sent letters to two of their Democratic colleagues, lambasting them for claiming that an investigation regarding U.S. policy in Ukraine during the Obama presidency is tainted by Russian disinformation—Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are the recipients of the August 20 letters. The investigation that the Democrats have said is poisoned by Russian disinformation pertains to possible conflicts of interest in America’s Ukraine policy when Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of Burisma.

A press release says that the two Democratic senators have “falsely claimed that Grassley and Johnson are relying on information from Andriy Derkach as part of their ongoing oversight, despite the chairmen’s clear denials of having any communication with Derkach.” The Republican Senators in their letters said that as far as they know the sole instance of disinformation injected into the investigation has come from Democrats. “Regarding reports that we have received ‘packages’ of information from certain Ukrainian nationals – that is false. Further, the only relevant disinformation that we are aware of are documents that Minority Leader Schumer, Senator Warner, Speaker Pelosi, and Chairman Schiff referenced in their recent letter that your Democratic colleagues have introduced into our investigation,” the senators wrote in the letters to their Democratic colleagues.

“For example, the Schumer letter references a document, created by a Ukrainian national that mentions our names along with other Republican senators and administration officials, to suggest falsely that we might have received information from this individual. Liberal media outlets have picked up that reference, clearly from a leak, even though we have not received any information from that person, including tapes, and we have publicly and privately stated as much. To repeat, the only document in our investigation that has been described as disinformation is a document that your Democratic colleagues, not us, introduced into the record. If you and your colleagues are so concerned about disinformation, why do you continue to promote it?” Johnson and Grassley asked.

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This is so nuts it can only mean she herself is certified nuts.

“I Have A Right To Make Sure That My Home Is Secure” (ZH)

[..] nothing compares to what just happened in Chicago whose Mayor Lori Lightfoot – best known for encouraging local BLM protests, going so far as saying that black lives are “more important that downtown corporations” after the unprecedented looting that took place last week – defended the Chicago Police Department’s ban on protesters being able to demonstrate on the block where she lives, telling reporters Thursday that she and her family at times require heightened security because of threats she receives daily. Yes, Mayor Lori is all about BLM protests… as long as they are literally not in her back yard. Lightfoot refused to elaborate on the specific threats according to the Chicago Tribune, but said she receives them daily against herself, her wife and her home.

Lightfoot also told reporters that comparisons to how the Police Department has protected previous mayors’ homes, such as Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood residence, are unfair because “this is a different time like no other.” “I think that residents of this city, understanding the nature of the threats that we are receiving on a daily basis, on a daily basis, understand I have a right to make sure that my home is secure,” Lightfoot said, failing to grasp the simplest truth that all citizens of “her” devastated city also have a right to make sure that their home is secure although unlike Lightfoot they don’t have the local police to protect them. Because when it comes to outrageous liberal hypocrisy, things get complicated.

Lightfoot and Chicago police Superintendent David Brown were asked at an unrelated news conference about a Tribune report noting police have banned protesters from demonstrating on her block in the Logan Square neighborhood, ordering officers to arrest anyone who refuses to leave. The directive surfaced in a July email from then-Shakespeare District Cmdr. Melvin Roman to officers under his command. It did not distinguish between the peaceful protesters Lightfoot regularly says she supports and those who might intend to be destructive, but ordered that after a warning is given to demonstrators, “It should be locked down.” Activists and police sources could not cite instances when the city repeatedly locked down her predecessor Emanuel’s block against protesters.

The Kenwood block where former President Barack Obama lived with his family when his primary residence was in Chicago was shut down for access only by residents after his election. But Lightfoot said such comparisons “don’t make any sense,” after Brown referenced the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – which she has repeatedly overriden as a concern when BLM protests are to be held – as well as civil unrest that have flared since the George Floyd killing at the hands of Minneapolis police. “I’m not going to make any excuses for the fact that, given the threats I have personally received, given the threats to my home and my family, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they’re protected,” Lightfoot said. “I make no apologies whatsoever for that.”

It wasn’t clear if Lightfoot would apologize to all those millions of Chicago residents who – just like her – are trying to avoid threats against their own families by angry, violent looters; looters whose despicable actions Lightfoot has repeatedly turned her eyes away from in hopes of peak virtue signaling.

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So what’s the plan, guys? Green jobs?

28 Million Americans on Unemployment Insurance, 17.5% of Labor Force (WS)

What happened in the latest reporting week for unemployment claims was disconcerting: “Initial” claims under state unemployment insurance programs by newly laid-off workers rose. And initial claims under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provided by the CARES Act that covers gig workers, also rose. This means that people lost their work at a faster rate than they did in the prior week. In terms of “continued” claims: The number of people on unemployment insurance (UI) under state programs (blue bars) declined, as some people returned to work. But the number of people on UI under federal and other programs (red bars) jumped. Combined, the number of people on UI under all programs ticked down by 199k to 28.06 million, the Labor Department reported this morning. It was the least catastrophic reading since mid-May, but still a horrendously huge number, representing about 17.5% of the labor force:

Blue columns: The number of people who continued claiming unemployment insurance under regular state programs fell by nearly 1 million to 14.27 million (not seasonally adjusted), continuing the fairly consistent downtrend that had started in May. Red columns: The number of people on UI under all federal programs and some other programs – after having fallen by 2.4 million last week – jumped by 737k to 13.79 million (not seasonally adjusted), driven by increases in federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims and in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claims.


Initial claims under state programs, filed by newly laid off workers, caused some head-scratching this morning, because they “unexpectedly” rose – and they rose both on a seasonally adjusted basis (by 135k to 1.11 million) and on a not seasonally adjusted basis (by 53k to 892k). So we can’t blame some seasonal adjustments gone awry. This was the first increase since the week ended July 11:

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Yves Smith.

CEOs Get Big Pre-Bankruptcy Bonuses As Lenders and Employees Stiffed (NC)

Nothing like paying for failure. The Financial Times describes how CEOs who ran their companies into the ground are nevertheless rewarded with “retention bonus” payouts shortly before the business declare bankruptcy, often mere days ahead. The absurd rationale is that it is necessary to keep a failed CEO on in order to reduce disruption. It appears instead that boards would rather pay a rich and unwarranted premium to keep a bad known quantity around, perhaps due to personal allegiances to the incumbent or because they might actually have to rouse themselves to oust the dud leader and select a replacement. Are we to believe that the stipends these boards approve has any relationship with the market value of these CEOs, even charitably assuming someone would hire them after their companies collapses underneath them?

Are we to believe there was no able lieutenant worth a battlefield promotion? No retired industry greybeard who could be engaged for an eighteen month to three year gig? No one in the ranks of turnaround expert or “temp for hire” CEOs who would do? Even worse, some of these payments are flat out looting: “Brad Holly, Whiting’s chief executive who joined the company in November 2017, received $6.4m at the end of March under a new compensation plan approved by the board of directors, which he also chairs, less than a week before the company filed for bankruptcy. Whiting, which expects to emerge from Chapter 11 next month, said last week that Mr Holly would step down as chief executive when that happens and would receive an additional $2.53m in severance. In total, Whiting paid out more than $14m to executives just a few days before declaring itself bust. In a regulatory filing on April 1 the company said its pay plan was designed “to align the interests of the Company and its employees”.

$6.4 million for Holly for at most five months of babysitting bankruptcy lawyers? Seriously? Another example: “Briggs & Stratton’s board approved more than $5m in retention payments on June 11, including more than $1m to chief executive Todd Teske, who has led the company for a decade. Four days later the company failed to make a $6.7m interest payment on a bond due later this year, and on July 20 it filed for bankruptcy. On July 19, the company’s board voted to terminate the health and life insurance benefits of the company’s retirees… The company’s 2020 bond is now trading at just a few cents on the dollar, reflecting slim hopes of recovery.

Why are these losers who almost assuredly have nowhere to go being paid in advance? Why aren’t they instead getting $1 per year and working for a contingent payout to be paid when the company emerged from bankruptcy, say tiered based upon results versus specified targets? This is the sort of deal that someone who cared about salvaging the company, as opposed to his personal bottom line, should accept.

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Facebook is the opposite of free speech.

Facebook Delenda Est (Ben Hunt)

I’m pretty close to being a free speech absolutist. Or at least I have an old-school small-l liberal John Stuart Mill-esque belief in free speech, with an extremely high bar for the “harm” that speech must directly inflict on other citizens before a rightfully constituted government, based on the consent of its citizens, has a legitimate duty to regulate that speech. And I believe that the US Supreme Court has been pretty much spot-on with its free speech decisions like Brandenburg v. Ohio and R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, where they said (roughly speaking) that even speech calling for violent protest against the government is protected speech and that hate speech isn’t a thing. Let me repeat that last one. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that hate speech is not a thing. I think this is exactly right.

To be clear, I also believe that a private organization has the right to apply hate speech standards (or any other speech standards) to its members, if those members have the ability to leave the private organization AND that organization does not enjoy unique government support. So, for example, if I choose to attend a private religious college, and they have rules against hateful/blasphemous speech, then it’s fine for them to kick me out when I start doing my hateful blasphemous speech thing. I’d never go to that college in the first place, and there are plenty of other schools I can attend. But if ALL colleges started imposing hate speech standards, or if the ONLY college started imposing hate speech standards, or if ANY public college started imposing hate speech standards … well, I’d have a real problem with any of these circumstances.

And I believe that a just government has a duty to intervene in these circumstances. Now I also believe that the US Supreme Court got it terribly, terribly wrong with Citizens United, where they decided (again, roughly speaking) that non-real life citizens – like corporations or other constructed legal entities – enjoy the same protections for political speech that real life citizens do. I’ll repeat that one, too. The US Supreme Court has held that constructed entities of pooled capital (corporations) or pooled labor (unions) or pooled political influence (parties) have the same protection for their political speech as unconstructed/unpooled you and unconstructed/unpooled me. I think this is nuts.

To be clear, I also believe that limitations on how much money or time real life citizens can spend on their political speech are similarly nuts. So, for example, I believe that really rich American citizens like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or George Soros or Charles Koch can spend as much money as they please – literally billions of dollars if they want – to proclaim whatever cockamamie political idea they want to proclaim. What is unacceptable in my view – but is exactly what Citizens United allows – is for really rich guys to spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech after they are dead, or (worse!) for corporations and unions and parties to spend unlimited amounts of other people’s money on political speech, with the same legal protections as real life citizens.

Government does not exist to protect the rights of a dead rich guy’s money. Government does not exist to protect the rights of corporations, unions and political parties. Government EXISTS to protect the unalienable rights of its citizens, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Because “we” are so much smrter than God.

Florida To Release 750 Million Genetically Modified Mosquitoes (BBC)

Local officials in Florida have approved the release of 750 million mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to reduce local populations. The aim is to reduce the number of mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue or the Zika virus. The green-lighting of a pilot project after years of debate drew a swift outcry from environmental groups, who warned of unintended consequences. One group condemned the plan as a public “Jurassic Park experiment”. Activists warn of possible damage to ecosystems, and the potential creation of hybrid, insecticide-resistant mosquitoes. But the company involved says there will be no adverse risk to humans or the environment, and points to a slate of government-backed studies.

The plan to release the mosquitoes in 2021 in the Florida Keys, a string of islands, comes months after the modified mosquitoes were approved by federal regulators. In May, the US Environmental Agency granted permission to the British-based, US-operated company Oxitec to produce the genetically engineered, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known as OX5034. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known to spread deadly diseases to humans such dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. Only female mosquitoes bite humans because they need blood to produce eggs. So the plan is to release the male, modified mosquitoes who will then hopefully breed with wild female mosquitoes.

However the males carry a protein that will kill off any female offspring before they reach mature biting age. Males, which only feed on nectar, will survive and pass on the genes. Over time, the aim is to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area and thereby reduce the spread of disease to humans.

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A -large- group of ravens is called an unkindness of ravens, or a conspiracy of ravens.

‘Bored’ Ravens Straying From Tower Of London Signal Monarchy May Fall (G.)

A lack of tourists is driving the ravens at the Tower of London to boredom and causing them to fly away. Legend has it the monarchy and the Tower of London will fall if its six resident ravens leave the fortress. The birds, known as the guardians of the tower, are shrouded in myth and live in lodgings on the South Lawn. There are seven in total – the required six, plus one spare. The tower closed on 20 March and reopened five weeks ago. However, few tourists have returned. Summer visitor numbers would usually exceed 15,000 but because of the coronavirus pandemic, they have fallen to fewer than 800 a day. As a result, the birds are restless for more company.

With a lack of regular tourists, the birds have been venturing away, according to those who work there. Christopher Skaife, a raven master, told the Sun: “If the ravens were to leave, the tower would crumble to dust. The tower is only the tower when the people are here. “The ravens have always been so important … because they’ve been surrounded by myths and legends. We really need people to come back to help the ravens.” The seven ravens are Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Merlina. They are free to roam the tower precincts in the day and preside over four territories within its walls.

Charles II is thought to have been the first to insist that the ravens of the Tower be protected after he was warned the crown and the tower would fall if they left. Skaife said during lockdown they got bored and lonely because there were no full bins to rummage or people bringing them food. He encouraged the Beefeaters who guard the building to throw them their leftovers. Skaife said: “It’s been tough because the ravens only saw me or one warden walking by during the lockdown. They depend on tourists. “Never in a raven’s history have we seen fewer people in the Tower of London. Even in world war two, there were still hundreds in and around.”


Beefeaters and a resident raven. Photo: Lynn Fergusson/Reuters

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China building about 21.4 million vehicles annually; wide gap for next-largest producer, as Japan only makes 8.3 million each year (U.S. has gone from 2nd to 6th place over past 20 years).

 

 

If Japan were in the Atlantic, it would stretch the length of the American coastline.

 

 

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Jul 162020
 
 July 16, 2020  Posted by at 7:46 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Utagawa Yoshitoshi Ariko weeps as her boat drifts in the moonlight 1886

 

 

Sometimes I think I can only do this work properly if I’m angry all the time 24/7. But I don’t want to be angry all the time; what kind of life is that? Still, there are days when I just can’t help it. The British intelligence services (please let find another word for that, so as to not insult actually smart people) came out with a couple anti-Putin press releases today, and there we go again.

We can only guess at what they want this time, whether it to keep the UK’s own “RussiaRussia Putin is Hitler” flame alive, or are they seeking to help their US counterparts to rise from the ashes of their fully discredited years-long Orange Man Bad narratives, but boy, is this nauseating. What’s even worse is that people eat it up like candy.

Guys, this is your own highly paid snoops lying to you -along with your government(s)- like there’s no tomorrow, and you’re just sitting there worrying about wearing a face mask next time you go to a store. Know what that makes you? Sheep. I know y’all still know what those look like, and how they behave. So what’s the attraction?

Here’s BIGLY revelation no. 1 per the BBC. Do note the “almost certain” in both pieces, they need an easy way out if the story doesn’t stick. It also means that obviously they’re not at all certain, they’re just making it up.

Russian Hackers Target COVID19 Vaccine Research

Russian hackers are targeting organisations trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine, a group of national security services has warned. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said the hackers “almost certainly” operated as “part of Russian intelligence services”. It said the group used malware to try and steal information relating to Covid-19 vaccine development. NCSC director of operations Paul Chichester said it was “despicable”. The hackers are part of a group called APT29, also known as “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear”.

Some people will remember the name Cozy Bear from Robert Mueller’s failed $40 million “investigation”. Is that why the NCSC put it in? But to the point: Why would Russia hack the UK for vaccine info if and when the UK has no vaccine? Put it another way: what are the odds that UK “intelligence” is not at the same time trying to hack Russia for its own info? Think British scientists are smarter than Russian ones? How much money would you want to put on that?

Everyone is spying on everyone, always have, and today that may require some hacking skills. Big surprise. You leave your backdoor open, someone may try to have a look inside. Same for everyone. Not even the beginning of a newsworthy story; it happens all the time and everywhere. Next.

Next one is even flimsier. This one implies that since Jeremy Corbyn had some papers on the NHS in the last election, RussiaRussia gave them to him. And he’s an anti-semite too. So there. Can anyone explain why Russia would want to interfere in a UK election?

This seems to allege that Putin wanted to help Corbyn win. But is that for the same reason that he wanted to help Corbyn’s ideological twin Donald Trump win? Which we now know he didn’t? Or is it just that Putin the evil mastermind wants to confuse all parties? Given what I see and hear, he needn’t bother; they’re all already confused as can be.

 

UK Says Russia Sought To Interfere In 2019 Election

Dominic Raab’s statement is the first time ministers have admitted that the Kremlin has tried to distort the workings of British democracy – a practice the foreign secretary said was “completely unacceptable”. “On the basis of extensive analysis, the government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 general election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents,” Raab said in a written statement.

Next. Only days ago, there was this from Britain about a court case concerning the infamous novichok “attack” in Salisbury, in which first former Russian GRU agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and months later two other Brits, ostensibly came in contact with what was called the deadliest nerve agent in the world.

Neither Sergei Skripal nor his daughter Yulia have ever been seen again. There was a vague message from a niece, but that was it. But the story is alive and kicking. And can thus continue to be used. By the media-intelligence cartel.

 

Russian Agents May Have Deliberately Left Bottle Of Novichok In Salisbury

Russian agents may have deliberately discarded a bottle of the deadly nerve agent novichok, used in the assassination attempt of former spy Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury in a bid to undermine UK security, the High Court today heard. The claim was made during a legal challenge by the family of Dawn Sturgess, 44, who died in 2018 after coming into contact with novichok in a fake perfume bottle which her partner had found in a park. The family are embroiled in a High Court action in a bid to get ‘key questions’ asked at Ms Sturgess’ inquest.

[..] According to the Guardian, he also referenced then UK prime minister, Theresa May, in September 2018 in which she said: ‘This chemical weapons attack on our soil was part of a wider pattern of Russian behaviour that persistently seeks to undermine our security and that of our allies around the world.’

[..] ‘The use of novichok in Salisbury was the first aggressive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,’ said Mr Mansfield in a written case summary. ‘It put hundreds of members of the British public at risk and killed Ms Sturgess. ‘The issue of who was responsible for it is a matter of almost unparalleled public concern. ‘There is no realistic prospect that the two suspects will face a criminal trial in the UK or that the Russian state will carry out a comprehensive investigation, and no public inquiry into these events has been established.

This is the pattern: it’s nothing to do with UK security. The pattern is that both the US and UK use their lack of control over Russia as an excuse and reason to blame Russia for anything they feel like. As five-year old kids would. Robert Mueller, the liar and coward, having failed to produce one shred of evidence against Trump, left two things alive in his final report: empty accusations against Assange, who was muzzled, and against “13 Russians”, who he knew would never contest whatever he said.

And when he was challenged because Concord Management decided to show up with a lawyer, he lost that too. The official line was: “It is no longer in the best interests of justice or the country’s national security” to continue. What a bunch of losers.

And we’re not done. Assange smearer no. 1 and hidden intelligence agent Luke Harding, who invented more smear stories about Julian than anyone on the planet, had this three weeks ago. I kid you not, his point was that Russian intelligence is really really stupid. To prove it, he paints a shining portrait of … US/UK intelligence operation Bellingcat.

This is mainly about the Skripal case again, but of course we also remember their role in the never ever existing chemical attack in Syria by Assad on his own people. Yes, the one where they, the OPCW was involved too, planted the canisters and shot some grueling staged photographs.

 

A Chain Of Stupidity’: The Skripal Case And The Decline Of Russia’s Spy Agencies

Bellingcat revealed the identity of poisoner No 1 in a message on its website. Having unmasked one assassin, it seemed likely that Bellingcat would succeed in identifying Petrov, too. Sure enough, in late September I received an invitation to a press conference. It was to be held in an illustrious location: the Houses of Parliament, in an upstairs committee room, number nine. Its subject was Petrov’s real identity. By the time I arrived, the room was full. I spotted a reporter from the New York Times, Ellen Barry, together with leading representatives from the British and US media. It was hard to escape the conclusion that power in journalism was shifting.


It was moving away from established print titles and towards open-source innovators. The new hero of journalism was no longer a grizzled investigator burning shoe leather, à la All the President’s Men, but a pasty-looking kid in front of a MacBook Air. Higgins and Grozev were there, as well as a Conservative MP, Bob Seely. I found a spot on a bench and sat down. The mood was expectant. Seely set the scene. He described Bellingcat as a “truly remarkable group of digital detectives”. Their success was due to an explosion of digital technology and a rise in digital activism, he said.

Here’s Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett about Bellingcat:

Bellingcat & Atlantic Council Join To Award Exploited Syrian Child & American Mass Murderer

Is the Atlantic Council some benevolent organization handing out awards to do-gooding people? No. It’s a Washington DC-based think tank, which promulgates lies and propaganda to further imperialist wars and weapons sales, among other things. One of its Syria “experts” is none other than Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins, who recently took to social media to tell people to suck his “big balls,” making him more of a laughing stock than this backgrounder on the man with no qualifications to his title.


Some of the Atlantic Council’s funders include: the US State Department, oil and weapons manufacturing companies, banks, NATO, various nations’ ministries of defence, and the US Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy. Even just based on funding alone, and ignoring their pro-NATO policy papers, the Atlantic Council clearly exists to further the interests of those involved in weapons manufacturing, wars, and oil.

Of course the entire lying fanfare is a direct result of the west failing to capture Crimea from Russia. They lost that one too; they sure lose a lot when engaging with Russia, don’t they? All they end up with is stories. John McCain and Victoria Nuland thought they had it all in their hands, and then it slipped right through.

And from Maidan and Crimea it’s just a skip and a hop to MH17, plus more -and heavy- Bellingcat involvement. This made the news again a week ago.

 

MH17 Disaster: Dutch Take Russia To European Rights Court

Citizens of 10 different countries died on board the Boeing 777 airliner that was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. More than two-thirds of the victims were Dutch nationals. In March, a trial opened in the Netherlands of three Russian and one Ukrainian citizens – still at large – for the murder of 298 people on board the plane. They are all linked to the pro-Moscow separatists. The trial, in a court near Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, is expected to last for months.


In a statement, the Dutch foreign ministry said the government “decided to bring Russia before the European Court of Human Rights for its role in the downing of Flight MH17”. It said that “by taking this course of action the government is offering maximum support” to individual cases already brought against Russia by victims’ families. “Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the government’s highest priority,” said Mr Blok. “By taking this step today… we are moving closer to this goal,” he added.

Now, I have some interest in this, because I was born in Holland and still have the passport. But from what I can see, this is just yet another western intelligence story. I don’t know what happened with MH17, but I’m pretty sure the Dutch government doesn’t know either, or if they do they’re not telling. And my skepticism isn’t even based on pieces like this from Eric Zuesse two weeks ago (but do read it!).

 

Netherlands ‘Justice’ Is Totally Corrupt: MH17 Case as Example

[..] when Ukraine’s Government authorized Holland’s Government to investigate and rule on what caused the MH17 to be shot down, Holland’s Government signed onto a secret agreement with Ukraine’s Government that included a provision allowing Ukraine’s Government to block and prevent any finding from being issued that would implicate Ukraine’s Government in having shot it down. Holland’s Government violates its own Freedom of Information law by refusing to make public what that secret agreement says.


However, at the time when the existence of the agreement slipped through into mention by a Ukrainian news-site on 8 August 2014, that news-report said “As part of the four-party agreement signed on August 8 between Ukraine, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia [all of which nations are allies of the United States and are cooperating with its new Cold War against Russia], information on the investigation into the disaster Malaysian ‘Boeing-777’ will not be disclosed.”

My skepticism is kind of linked to this, but it’s much older. When the plane was brought down, I noted that then-US VP Joe Biden, as well as the Ukrainian government of newly (US-)installed president Poroshenko, and also Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, who got a plush job in Brussels out of it, all three declared within hours that Russia “was what did it”.

None could know at the time they made the statement. But it was a few months after the west lost Crimea, and thereby the chance to rid Russia of its only warm water port. And some people didn’t like that one bit. Some people were very unhappy about being outsmarted by Putin. Nuland must have been livid. And Hillary Clinton, and McCain.

Then when the investigation started, something odd happened. 2/3 of all victims -298 in total- were from the Netherlands. Yet the Dutch got to lead the inquest. As I wrote at the time: have you ever seen a crime series, or a murder one, or a movie, where the main victim (afflicted party) gets to lead the investigation into what happened? No, what we always see is someone taking the aggrieved detective aside saying: sorry, you’re too close to this.

And then on top of that, Ukraine, certainly one of the main suspects, since it happened in their territory, got to be part of the investigation. And not just part, as you can see in Zuesse’s piece, they could veto both what would be investigated and what could be communicated about the results. While they could well be the perpetrator!

If you go back to the murder series metaphor, a producer or writer would say: no can do, it lacks all credibility. But they did it. And it was then that I knew no matter what the report would say, it would be literally incredible. It’s 6 years later, and it’s going to take many more years, of posturing, name-calling, threats, accusations, you name it. And nothing will be proven, there will be only claims of proof. Just like in all the other cases I mentioned above. It’s how these things are done.

MH17 has become just another tool in the hands of “intelligence”.

 

 

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Mar 032020
 


Ben Shahn Quick lunch stand in Plain City, Ohio 1938

 

Italy Has Exported Cases Of Coronavirus To 24 Countries – WHO (TMZNaija)
China Manufacturing Collapse Confirmed By Private Sector Factory Survey (SCMP)
China Reports Surprising Rail Freight Growth In February (SCMP)
A Modern Jubilee As A Cure To Financial Ills Of Coronavirus (Steve Keen)
This Ain’t No Fooling’ Around (Kunstler)
Tucker Carlson On Dems’ Biden Push: ‘They’re Pushing A Defective Product’ (Fox)
What Could Divide The Democrats More Than Conspiring To Stop Bernie? (Tracey)
Ukraine Court Throws Wrench Into Joe Biden’s 2020 Election Plans (Solomon)
Hillary Clinton Ordered To Give Sworn Deposition On Email Server, Benghazi (ZH)
Erdogan’s Use Of Refugees To Pressure EU Is ‘Unacceptable’ – Merkel (RT)
Greece Seeks To Fortify Borders Amid Erdogan Threats (K.)
UN Says Greece Has No Right To Stop Accepting Asylum Requests (K.)
The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture (Craig Murray)

 

 

Is COVID19 topping out in China? It’s possible, but they want it too much, and they’ve played loose with the numbers a lot. Strangest thing is perhaps that despite a cavernous drop in manufacturing PMI, a rise in freight train cargo is reported for February.

Most interesting these days, I find, are Italy, South Korea, Iran, which are in their exponential rise phases, and other countries (US?) that may soon follow suit. As I said yesterday: “Italy: only 10 days ago, on Feb 22, when S. Korea cases jumped to 156(!) [now 5,186], Italy first became a thing with 30 cases and 2 deaths. 2,000 cases now, 52 deaths and a 2.5% death rate.”

That Italy has exported the virus to as many as 24 countries also gives me pause for thought. So for now I’ll keep the usual numbers and graphs coming.

But in the run-up to Stupid Tuesday I can also finally pay some attention to the Dems, now that the DNC power grab has become so blatantly obvious.

 

Cases 91,317 (+ 2,069 from yesterday’s 89,248, when gain was 1,616)

Deaths 3,120 (+ 62 from yesterday’s 3,058)

 

• Hubei 114 new cases, 31 new deaths – Total 67,217 cases, 2,834 deaths.
• South Korea 851 new cases, total 5,186, 34 deaths
• Italy 346 new cases, total 2,048, 52 deaths
• Iran 523 new cases, total 1,501, 66 deaths
• France 191 (from 130 yesterday), 3 deaths
• US 103 cases, 6 deaths

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

This article is a few days old, but I like the idea. Original title was “Italy Has Exported 24 Cases Of Coronavirus To 14 Countries”, but time won’t stand still.

A list I picked up on Twitter of countries linking infections to Italy: China, Holland, Denmark, Nigeria, US (GA, NH, MA), Iceland, UK, Croatia, Israel, Romania, Spain, Austria, Algeria, Brazil, Finland, Switzerland, Macedonia, Greece, Estonia, Sweden, France, Germany, Lithuania, San Marino.

Italy Has Exported Cases Of Coronavirus To 24 Countries – WHO (TMZNaija)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that Italy has exported 24 cases of coronavirus to 14 countries. The global health body also revealed that 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries. In his opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – on Friday, 28 February 2020, WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that in the past 24 hours, China reported 329 cases – the lowest in more than a month. Ghebreyesus who reeled out figures regarding the spread of the virus said that as of 6am Geneva time this morning, China reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2791 deaths. “Outside China, there are now 4351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths.

“Since yesterday, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, and Nigeria have all reported their first cases. All these cases have links to Italy,” Ghebreyesus told newsmen. The Director-General also said that the continued increase in the number of cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern. He, however, noted that WHO’s epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and have now increased its assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of the impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level.


“What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities. “As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts. “As I said yesterday, there are different scenarios in different countries and different scenarios within the same country,” Ghebreyesus said.. According to him, the key to containing this virus is to break the chains of transmission. Meanwhile, according to BBC, not less than 210 people has died from coronavirus disease in Iran.

Read more …

An index of smaller companies than the Beijing one covers.

China Manufacturing Collapse Confirmed By Private Sector Factory Survey (SCMP)

A collapse in China’s manufacturing sector in February was confirmed on Monday, with a new survey of privately-owned producers emphasising the economic damage caused by the coronavirus epidemic. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ Index (PMI), a gauge of sentiment among the country’s smaller factory operators, plunged to 40.3 in February from 51.1 in January. The weak data will reinforce expectations that China could report negative growth in the first quarter of 2020 for the first time since the Cultural Revolution in the late-1960s and early-1970s. It will also renew calls for Beijing to take more aggressive steps to support the economy.


The survey was well below market expectations for a drop to 46.0 and marks the lowest reading since the survey began in April 2004. It was weaker than 40.9 in November 2008 amid the global financial crisis. The Caixin index follows Saturday’s release of the official manufacturing PMI, which crashed to a record low of 35.7 in February, below the previous trough of 38.8 reached in November 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The survey for the official gauge covers more larger and state-owned firms, while the Caixin survey covers smaller firms. A reading below 50 means activity in the manufacturing sector is contracting. The further below 50 the index falls, the larger the contraction.

Read more …

Was this coordinated with Xi?

China Reports Surprising Rail Freight Growth In February (SCMP)

China’s official railway operator has said that rail freight rose in February, despite the coronavirus outbreak forcing large parts of the country into lockdown, and the official purchasing managers’ indices for manufacturing and services tumbling to all-time lows. China Railway, the state-owned railway operator, said in a statement on Sunday that total railway freight amounted to 310 million tonnes in February, a rise of 4.5 per cent from a year earlier, just a day after the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that China’s factory and service sector activity sunk into deep contraction.


The supplier delivery time sub-index in China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which measures logistics efficiency by railway, road and air for factories, dropped to 32.1 in February, a sign that raw material supplies to the manufacturing sector were at record lows last month, the NBS said. China Railway, meanwhile, said that China loaded 171,000 railway cars per day on average last month, a daily increase of 4,945 from a year earlier. Container freight on railways surged 39.5 per cent to 26.61 million tonnes, it added, in an surprisingly stable account of China’s rail freight network. In the January-February period, China’s freight cargo rose by 0.6 per cent to 670 million tonnes, an all-time high, according to China Railway.

Read more …

Steve’s elaborate write-up of things to do.

A Modern Jubilee As A Cure To Financial Ills Of Coronavirus (Steve Keen)

Extraordinary measures are needed now to stop the health effects of the Coronavirus triggering a financial crisis that could in turn make the Coronavirus worse. All of these actions can be undertaken by Central Banks and financial regulators, once they have been given permission by governments. Two of these measures are already being undertaken by some Central Banks:

• A per capita payment to all citizens so that renters can pay the rent, mortgagors can service their mortgages, and workers, whether unemployed or not, can buy food and other critical goods. This can be financed as Quantitative Easing was financed, without recourse to the Treasury, or taxation (Hong Kong has already done this);

• Normal bankruptcy rules for companies and especially banks should be suspended, to allow them to continue operating despite falling into negative equity if revenues fall sharply and share prices plunge; and

• Central Banks should buy shares directly to support share prices, rather than simply buying bonds under Quantitative Easing, to prevent a stock market collapse undermining both business and banks (Japan’s Central Bank is already doing this, though for other reasons).

Argument – There is no doubting now that the Coronavirus is a pandemic. This is the first one we have experienced since the “Spanish Flu”, which lasted from January 1918 till December 1920. Other recent serious diseases have had much lower levels of transmissibility. This is the first disease to compare to the Spanish Flu in terms of both transmissibility and virulence. Europe was embroiled in World War I at the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. Its health and population impacts were huge: estimates of the death toll vary between 40 and 100 million in a global population of 1.8 to 1.9 billion.

Here I want to focus on its financial effects. They were mild, because the great financial crisis of the 20th century, the Great Depression, lay ten years in the future. Disruptions to life were extreme, but disruptions to the economy were relatively small, and it was a war economy anyway for much of the world. This meant there was guaranteed employment and wages for military personnel, rationing for the general public, and other wartime measures. All these things limited the financial contagion from the medical contagion. Crucially, private debt was a mere 55% of US GDP when the flu outbreak began. The private sector was relatively robust.

Read more …

“Is there anything you can think of over at the Wal Mart or the Walgreens that isn’t made in China?”

This Ain’t No Fooling’ Around (Kunstler)

Is there anything you can think of over at the Wal Mart or the Walgreens that isn’t made in China? I mean, everything from a dustpan to a lint brush? I can’t say for sure, because I’m not over in China, but the place is apparently not open for business these days. One must surmise that a lot of activities in the USA may not be open for business much longer, either. The action in my local supermarket yesterday had an undercurrent of stealth desperation; no overt panic buying, no fighting in the aisles, but an edge of suspense. Personally, I cleaned out an entire product-line of cat food, loaded up on cooking oil, rice, dry beans, and evaporated milk — and I wasn’t the only one checking out with the sixteen-roll bindle of toilet paper.

Obviously, many products were still there on the shelves to get (minus that cat food). Is the time perhaps at hand when a lot of stuff won’t be? Just sayin’. The message is getting out — though not from US authorities yet — that everybody may soon be spending a lot of time home alone. That’s exactly what has happened in China and a region of northern Italy. France banned events with more than 5,000 people (why that number, exactly?). Japan has canceled school for the time being — duration unknown for now. So a USA lockdown is not merely hypothetical. These, then, are two fundamental conditions the world faces for a while: nobody moves and nothing gets produced.


Are we taking this thing too seriously (some might ask)? I don’t pretend to know the answer, except, again, to point to China and think that they can’t possibly just be fooling around with all those zombified cities and shuttered factories. The next question might be: will the global economy return at some point to “normal” operating conditions, that is, the fabulously complex network of supply lines, markets, and payment arrangements as they worked up until January 2020? I am for sure not sure about that. Once a gigantic and fantastically precise mechanism breaks, I doubt it comes back together neatly and quickly. In the physical universe, the power of emergence is like the cue ball on a billiard table, and it appears that all the rest of the colored balls will be bouncing off the bumpers and sinking into pockets for while… and eventually the global table will look a lot different.

Read more …

Stupid Tuesday.

Tucker Carlson On Democrats: ‘They’re Pushing A Defective Product’ (Fox)

Tucker Carlson mocked those pushing and supporting former Vice President Joe Biden Monday, in particular those who think he’s the candidate to stop the nomination of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “And tonight, they have found their war horse, a hero they imagine will carry them forth to victory against the wild-haired infidel from Vermont. It is this candidate whom you should know is literally now the youngest man in the Democratic race,” Carlson said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “This is the man they believe has the competence, the intensity, the intellect to repel the seething horde of Sanders-ites. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Joe Biden.” Carlson played a montage of clips showing Biden fumble on the campaign. The host then chastised those pushing Biden to continue running, calling it “cruel.”

“Running Joe Biden for president is like making your dog wear a dress,” Carlson deadpanned. “It may make for an amusing Instagram post, but it’s wrong. You can see the confusion in the dog’s eyes.” The host ripped former Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, among others, for endorsing Biden who he referred to as a “defective product.” “Today, both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar endorsed Biden. So did former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Beto O’Rourke,” Carlson said. “These are party people doing the bidding of their corporate masters. There’s nothing warm or sentimental about it. They’re pushing a defective product on consumers and they know it. They’re selling lawn darts.”


Carlson believes the threat from Sanders is about “institutional control.” “The Biden campaign isn’t about ideas, much less ideals. The Democratic establishment’s only concern is institutional control,” Carlson said. “That’s where all of their power comes from. From holding together and running things. If the Democratic coalition breaks down, they are by definition powerless.” “They have nothing. And the real threat of Bernie Sanders is the threat he poses to the party. He could split it in half and break it forever,” Carlson added. “That cannot happen. Joe Biden is their last chance. That’s why they’re backing him.”

Read more …

If they fail to stop his candidacy, what other tricks are up their sleeves?

What Could Divide The Democrats More Than Conspiring To Stop Bernie? (Tracey)

Perhaps the intense wave of establishment Democratic party consolidation around Joe Biden over the past 48 hours isn’t a concerted conspiracy — no smoke-filled rooms, no corrupt deals, no villainous blackmail schemes. But the Democratic party establishment (which we’re often told does not exist) is clearly making every effort to give the appearance of something conspiratorial going on. Take yesterday, for instance. Pete Buttigieg meets for breakfast with 95-year-old Jimmy Carter (?), ensures the visit is well-publicized, then heads home to South Bend and pulls the rug out from under his campaign. Wait, what? Is this the same Pete Buttigieg whose aides just a few days earlier released an elaborate memo detailing his surefire path to a formidable delegate acquisition?


Yet suddenly his Super Tuesday plans are scrapped, and the thousands of early votes already cast for him in California and elsewhere are effectively nullified. We’re all supposed to pretend this is normal behavior? Because it seems a bit sociopathic. I personally would never have voted for Pete. Nor would I have voted for Amy Klobuchar, who pulled the same 11th-hour dropout stunt today. But part of me still finds it disgraceful that these candidates would gut-punch their staff, volunteers, supporters, and voters in such a manner — hours before a major national election they’d been working toward for a full year — after both candidates gave every indication that they were going to actively contest. Instead of patting themselves on the back, shouldn’t Amy and Pete be begging for forgiveness, especially from those who already voted for them in Super Tuesday states — as it turns out, on false pretenses?

Beto 9 months ago:

Read more …

John Solomon is back again.

Ukraine Court Throws Wrench Into Joe Biden’s 2020 Election Plans (Solomon)

A Ukrainian court has ordered an investigation into whether Joe Biden violated any laws when he forced the March 2016 firing of the country’s chief prosecutor. The ruling could revive scrutiny of Hunter Biden’s lucrative relationship with an energy firm in that corruption-plagued country just as the former vice president’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is surging after a lackluster start. Former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who has long alleged he was fired because he would not stop investigating the Burisma Holdings firm that employed Hunter Biden, secured the ruling last month. Ukrainian officials confirmed the State Bureau of Investigation has since complied and initiated the probe.

The Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv ruled last month that Shokin’s lawyers had provided sufficient evidence to warrant a probe and “obliged the authorized officials of the State Bureau of Investigation” to accept the ex-prosecutor’s complaint and “start pre-trial investigation of the reported data,” according to an official English translation of the ruling provided by Shokin’s attorney. The ruling does not mention Biden by name, but court filings by Shokin’s lawyers that led to the decision show that the former prosecutor had alleged “the commission of a criminal offense against him by Joseph Biden, a citizen of the United States of America, in Ukraine and abroad: interference in the activities of a law enforcement officer.”


[..] Joe Biden and his defenders have denied any wrongdoing, saying the vice president sought Shokin’s firing because the prosecutor was ineffective in fighting corruption. His supporters have also claimed that the Burisma investigation was dormant at the time Shokin was fired and therefore not a high priority. But evidence has emerged in recent weeks that the probe into Burisma, in fact, was heating up when Shokin was fired in spring 2016. The prosecutor’s office had secured a ruling re-seizing assets of Burisma’s owner in early February 2016, and the Latvian government acknowledges it sent a warning to Ukraine officials that same month flagging several Burisma transactions, including payments to Hunter Biden, as “suspicious.”

Read more …

“..the Justice Department inexplicably still takes the position that the court should close discovery and rule on dispositive motions. The Court is especially troubled by this.”

Hillary Clinton Ordered To Give Sworn Deposition On Email Server, Benghazi (ZH)

Hillary Clinton has been ordered to give a sworn deposition to Judicial Watch regarding her emails and documents related to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya while she was Secretary of State. The ruling is in response to the conservative legal group’s lawsuit, “Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State” – specifically regarding “talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack.” “Judicial Watch famously uncovered in 2014 that the “talking points” that provided the basis for Susan Rice’s false statements were created by the Obama White House. This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.” -Judicial Watch

Discovery in the case began in December, 2018, when Judge Royce C. Lamberth allowed Judicial Watch to explore whether Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). JW also sought to determine: “whether the State Department’s intent to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and whether the State Department has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request.” “The court also authorized discovery into whether the Benghazi controversy motivated the cover-up of Clinton’s email. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.” The State and Justice Departments continued to defend Clinton’s and the agency’s email conduct.” -Judicial Watch

On Monday, Judge Lamberth overruled Clinton and the State Department’s objections to limited additional discovery, writing “Discovery up until this point has brought to light a noteworthy amount of relevant information, but Judicial Watch requests an additional round of discovery, and understandably so. With each passing round of discovery, the Court is left with more questions than answers.” Lamberth also said that he is troubled by the fact that both Clinton and the State Department want discovery to end.

“[T]here is still more to learn. Even though many important questions remain unanswered, the Justice Department inexplicably still takes the position that the court should close discovery and rule on dispositive motions. The Court is especially troubled by this. To argue that the Court now has enough information to determine whether State conducted an adequate search is preposterous, especially when considering State’s deficient representations regarding the existence of additional Clinton emails. Instead, the Court will authorize a new round of discovery “-Judge Lamberth

Read more …

Erdogan told Bulgarian PM he doesn’t want to talk to Greek PM, and won’t send any refugees to Bulgaria (a few km away from Greek-Turkish border)

Erdogan’s Use Of Refugees To Pressure EU Is ‘Unacceptable’ – Merkel (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called Turkey’s decision to release thousands of migrants toward the EU “unacceptable,” and accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of pressuring the EU “on the back of the refugees.”Turkey allowed thousands of migrants to leave its territory over the weekend, accusing EU leaders of failing to back its plans for a Turkish-controlled ‘safe zone’ inside Syrian territory. With Turkish forces engaged in open warfare with the Syrian government in Idlib, Erdogan opened the floodgates to Europe, in a move seemingly designed to put pressure on his NATO allies to back his Syrian offensive.

“I understand that Turkey is facing a very big challenge regarding Idlib,” Merkel told reporters on Tuesday. “Still, for me it’s unacceptable that he – President Erdogan and his government – are not expressing this dissatisfaction in a dialogue with us as the European Union, but rather on the back of the refugees. For me, that’s not the way to go forward.”


Already, Greek authorities have struggled to hold back the human wave that has crashed upon its border with Turkey. “This is an invasion,” Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Skai TV on Monday, as police fired tear gas at migrants attempting to storm the border fence, and as the Greek coast guard tried to stop dinghies full of refugees from landing on the country’s southern islands. Though criticized for her “open door” migration policy during the 2015 migrant crisis, Merkel has since attempted to reduce the influx. However, despite promising Erdogan additional aid in January in exchange for holding more than 3 million migrants on Turkish soil, Merkel refused to support her Turkish counterpart’s military operation in northern Syria, prompting Erdogan to follow through last weekend on his long-standing threat to release the migrants into Europe.

Read more …

Stories about Greek guards killing refugee(s) are fake news, says Athens, spread by Erdogan.

Greece Seeks To Fortify Borders Amid Erdogan Threats (K.)

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday that soon the number of refugees crossing into Europe “will reach millions” unless the European Union takes responsibility for the crisis, Greece continued efforts to fortify its borders and diplomatic initiatives to tackle what it calls an “asymmetrical threat.” On the diplomatic front, the government’s initiatives have led to a planned visit on Tuesday to the Greek-Turkish border in Evros by the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament – Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and David Sassoli – accompanied by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Even though Athens believes the visits send a powerful message, it is expecting practical support from its partners, stressing that Greece’s borders with Turkey are also European.


On Sunday, Greece announced emergency measures to tackle the crisis, including a further tightening of border controls to the maximum level, a temporary one-month suspension of asylum applications and the immediate return of undocumented migrants to their country of origin. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of refugees and migrants at the Greek border is estimated at around 13,000 people and tensions are rising as they try to push through. Tensions were also running high on the islands following the arrival over the weekend of around 1,000 refugees and migrants, with locals trying to prevent one smuggling boat from docking. A child died when one vessel capsized.

Read more …

Yeah, you’re really helping.

UN Says Greece Has No Right To Stop Accepting Asylum Requests (K.)

The United Nation’s refugee agency said on Monday that Greece had no right to stop accepting asylum applications as Athens struggled with a sudden increase of arrivals at its border of Middle East refugees and migrants from Turkey. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday his country would not be accepting any new asylum requests for a month after two days of clashes between border police and thousands of people seeking to enter the EU from Turkey. “It is important that the authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people,” UNHCR said in a statement.


“All states have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner.” The UN agency said neither international nor EU law provided “any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications.” Its statement came as the EU scrambled to help Greece police the frontier and sought to put pressure on Turkey to go back to preventing refugees and migrants stranded on its territory from seeking to reach Europe.

Read more …

“I am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture (Craig Murray)

The defence was impeded by their inability to communicate confidentially with their client during proceedings. In the next stage of trial, where witnesses were being examined, timely communication was essential. Furthermore they could only talk with him through the slit in the glass within the hearing of the private company security officers who were guarding him (it was clarified they were Serco, not Group 4 as Baraitser had said the previous day), and in the presence of microphones. Baraitser became ill-tempered at this point and spoke with a real edge to her voice. “Who are those people behind you in the back row?” she asked Summers sarcastically – a question to which she very well knew the answer. Summers replied that they were part of the defence legal team.


Baraitser said that Assange could contact them if he had a point to pass on. Summers replied that there was an aisle and a low wall between the glass box and their position, and all Assange could see over the wall was the top of the back of their heads. Baraitser said she had seen Assange call out. Summers said yelling across the courtroom was neither confidential nor satisfactory. This is the photo taken illegally (not by me) of Assange in the court. If you look carefully, you can see there is a passageway and a low wooden wall between him and the back row of lawyers. You can see one of the two Serco prison officers guarding him inside the box. Baraitser said Assange could pass notes, and she had witnessed notes being passed by him. Summers replied that the court officers had now banned the passing of notes.

Baraitser said they could take this up with Serco, it was a matter for the prison authorities. Summers asserted that, contrary to Baraitser’s statement the previous day, she did indeed have jurisdiction on the matter of releasing Assange from the dock. Baraitser intervened to say that she now accepted that. Summers then said that he had produced a number of authorities to show that Baraitser had also been wrong to say that to be in custody could only mean to be in the dock. You could be in custody anywhere within the precincts of the court, or indeed outside. Baraitser became very annoyed by this and stated she had only said that delivery to the custody of the court must equal delivery to the dock. To which Summers replied memorably, now very cross “Well, that’s wrong too, and has been wrong these last eight years.”


I have been wondering why it is so essential to the British government to keep Assange in that box, unable to hear proceedings or instruct his lawyers in reaction to evidence, even when counsel for the US Government stated they had no objection to Assange sitting in the well of the court. The answer lies in the psychiatric assessment of Assange given to the court by the extremely distinguished Professor Michael Kopelman [..] : “Mr Assange shows virtually all the risk factors which researchers from Oxford have described in prisoners who either suicide or make lethal attempts. … I am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

Read more …

 

Automatic Earth commenter/contributor Dr. John Day telling Tulsi Gabbard yesterday at a townhall in Austin, Texas that the US needs to purchase 6 billion doses of chloroquine phosphate to treat everybody (assuming a high infection rate, eventually).

 

 

 

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Jan 302020
 


Ben Shahn “Just one more bolt of cloth”, county fair, central Ohio 1938

 

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)
New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)
WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)
Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)
The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)
GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)
White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)
‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)
Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)
Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)
Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)
US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)
France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)
Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

 

 

It’s no time to put the 2019-nCoV coronavirus on the backburner. The numbers out today are shocking.

• Deaths +29% (from 132 to 170)
• Confirmed cases +29% (6062 to 7814)
• Suspected cases +32% (from: 9239 to 12167)
• Severe cases +10% (from 1239 to 1370)
• Discharged from hospitals in mainland China: 124

 

A new sequence popped up -not sure from where- to accompany our familiar Fibonacci sequence. This new one is less “extreme”, but still says 1 million deaths 3 weeks from now:

 

 


Fibonacci

 

And there is ever more talk of infection and fatalities numbers being hidden and/or lowered:

[..] as research published in the Lancet claims the true mortality rate is actually close to 11% (the official rate is 2%-3%). That is a big one!

 

I like this map:

 

 

 

Given that we have known forever and a day that the next pandemic would come, see my article yesterday, 2019-nCoV, all these reactions and measures should come out of a playbook. They do not, it’s improv theater.

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)

China reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as countries struggled to evacuate citizens still trapped in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began. The death toll rose to 170 on Thursday – up from 132 reported on Wednesday, a rise of 29%. The number of confirmed cases in China now stands at 7,711, up from 5,974 a day earlier. It is understood that 162 of the deaths – or 95% – are in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province and one in the south-western province of Sichuan.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which initially downplayed the severity of the disease, has warned all governments to be “on alert”, with the UN agency’s emergency committee due to meet later on Thursday to decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency. The WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr Michael Ryan, said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China – in Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam – were of “great concern”. The US and Japan have started evacuating citizens, and other countries are poised to send chartered flights to the city, amid reports that some evacuations had been held up by delays in obtaining permission from the Chinese authorities.

A British flight to bring about 200 nationals back to the UK was unable to take off as planned on Thursday. The Foreign Office said it was “working urgently” to organise a flight to the UK “as soon as possible”. Australia is yet to gain permission from the Chinese government to evacuate hundreds of its citizens, and New Zealand has launched a separate rescue mission from its neighbour, though a timeline is still unclear. France, South Korea and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so. About 250 French citizens and 100 other Europeans will be flown out of Wuhan on board two French planes this week.

Businesses are beginning to feel the impact of the outbreak. Several airlines, including British Airways, have suspended services to China, while Toyota, Ikea, Foxconn, Starbucks, Tesla and McDonald’s were among major companies to temporarily freeze production or close large numbers of outlets in China. [..] Almost 200 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Wednesday are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

Read more …

2019-nCoV moves slower than Spanish flu, giving it more time to infect more people.

New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)

Chinese scientists racing to keep up with the spread of a novel coronavirus have declared the widespread outbreak an epidemic, revealing that in its early days at least, the disease’s reach doubled every week. By plotting the curve of that exponential growth and running it in reverse, researchers reckoned that the microbe sickening people across the globe has probably been passing from person to person since mid-December 2019. Scientists in China are also closing in on the source of the aggressive new germ — bats. The furry flying mammals may have been the original host of the coronavirus now crisscrossing the world, says one of three scientific studies released on Wednesday. But it may be another wild animal sold in Wuhan City’s Huanan Seafood Market that served up the virus to humans, who quickly began passing it to others through close contact.

[..] All three of the new studies — two published by the British journal Lancet and a third in the New England Journal of Medicine — were conducted by scientists working in China. And all focused on some of the first patients seen with a pneumonia caused by 2019-nCoV. One of the studies published in Lancet probed the genetic connections among viral samples drawn from nine infected patients, eight of whom had visited the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. The second study in Lancet culled data on the disease progression and outcomes of 99 infected patients who were admitted to Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan with symptoms of pneumonia.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, performed by researchers at China’s leading public health agency, mapped the early spread of pneumonia cases caused by the virus and used the results to create a transmission timeline. That accounting offered the most authoritative gauge to date of the emerging epidemic’s rate of growth. The new findings underscore the fact that it may take stern domestic measures to bring the fast-moving virus under control in China. One of the research teams calculated that in its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days. That measure, called the epidemic’s “serial interval,” reflects the average span of time that elapses from the appearance of symptoms in one infected person to the appearance of symptoms in the people he will go on to infect.

In the early stages of the outbreak, each infected person who became ill is estimated to have infected 2.2 others, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. That makes the new coronavirus roughly as communicable as was the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million and became the deadliest pandemic in recorded history. The new epidemic, however, is moving more slowly than the Spanish flu. That’s because 2019-nCoV takes longer to induce coughing, fever and breathing difficulties in a newly infected victim. “It’s concerning that case reports are increasing, and increasing in a way that’s consistent with pretty efficient human-to-human transmission,” said Derek Cummings, a University of Florida expert in the spread of infectious diseases.

Read more …

WHO also too slow.

WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)

The spread of a fast-moving virus outside of China is of “grave concern” and has prompted the World Health Organization to reconvene an emergency meeting this week to decide whether it’s become a global health emergency, WHO officials said Wednesday. The coronavirus has spread to a handful of people through human-to-human contact outside of China, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a news conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters Wednesday. “These developments in terms of the evolution of the outbreak and further development of transmission, these are of grave concern and has spurred countries into action,” Ryan said, adding that he just returned from China on Wednesday.


“What we know at this stage, this is still obviously a very active outbreak and information is being updated and changing by the hour.” The coronavirus outbreak has killed 132 people in China and sickened more than 6,150 across more than a dozen countries across the globe. Ryan said there are currently 71 cases outside of China in 15 other countries. The WHO declined at two emergency meetings last week to declare the virus a global health emergency. Since the first patient was identified in Wuhan on Dec. 31, the number of coronavirus cases has mushroomed to 6,061 in mainland China as of Wednesday morning, exceeding the total number of SARS cases in that country during the 2003 epidemic.

Read more …

“Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan [..] during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province..”

People need a new mask every 4 hours. Most workers in mask -making factories are on holiday.

Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)

There’s currently a severe shortage of medical supplies, not just in Wuhan but in surrounding cities as well, the governor of Hubei Province, Wang Xiaodong said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The first thing I want to do when I wake up every morning is to figure out how to get disposable protective clothing,” people in a hospital procurement department in Huanggang, a city lying 76 kilometers away from Wuhan and where over 1,000 suspected cases of the new coronavirus, told Yicai. “Medical supplies in our hospital can only support one day work, we cannot receive patients without masks and protective clothing,” he added, “It’s almost out of stock, and we have nowhere to buy.”

Some of our medical staff wear raincoats and disposable garbage bags as shoes covers to protect themselves. In the isolation ward of a county-level hospital in Huanggang City, doctors said they usually stay there for hours without coming out, because they have to save supplies. Wang stressed at the press conference the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Huanggang City, and vowed to prevent it from becoming the second Wuhan. Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province, during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province, according to migration data released by Baidu Map. Huanggang city and Xiaogan city, both about two-hour drive from the Wuhan city, are the top two infected areas.

[..] On Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) responded to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – the anti-graft body of the Communist Party of China – about the mask shortage, as well as the supply and production concerns. For now, the mask shortage has become a country-wide problem since the new coronavirus outbreak spread domestically. Everyone who goes outside is suggested to wear mask. But the problem is it’s hard to get one. Besides experts suggested the use of normal surgical masks, people have to replace it every four hours. Facing such a huge demand, the whole country is expected to have a supply shortage at least in the short term, especially in the period when the majority of workers are on holiday during the Spring Festival.

Read more …

Solomon is methodical as usual.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.


Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal.

Read more …

One of the questions yesterday in the Senate (paraphrased): who decided, and when, that the Hunter and Joe Biden thing was a debunked ‘Conspiracy Theory’?

Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)

Former top prosecutor of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, has filed a criminal complaint with the state authorities, claiming former US Vice President Joe Biden strong-armed Kiev into firing him in order to stop the Burisma investigation. In the complaint Shokin sent to the Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) on Tuesday, the former prosecutor requests that Biden be charged with “interference with the activities of a law enforcement officer.” The document was obtained by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. Shokin urged the SBI to kick-start a pre-trial investigation into the alleged crime committed by Biden, who he claims was illegally pressuring Ukrainian officials into ousting him from office while using a $1 billion loan guarantee as a leverage.

Noting that Biden, in his official capacity as the second-in-command in the US political hierarchy, repeatedly visited Ukraine in late 2015 and early 2016 to persuade high-ranking officials to remove him, Shokin argued that “as a result, he curtailed an objective investigation criminal proceedings on the facts of unlawful activities of persons associated with the company Burisma Holdings Limited (Cyprus), including the son of the specified high-ranking official [Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019].” Shokin specifically refers to the recently released documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts,’ by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, which challenges the Western media claims that the corruption investigation into Burisma was “dormant” at the time Biden was lobbying for Shokin’s dismissal.

Berruyer, founder of the popular anti-corruption blog Les Crises, said that he collected documents that show that the investigation into the gas company was in full swing at the time. Shokin’s own words to that effect have receive only a passing mention, or no mention at all in the mainstream US media outlets, however. In a recent interview with ABC News, Shokin said that his office was handling six investigation into Burisma at the time of his resignation.

Read more …

“One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.”

The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)

While I disagreed with Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz on this theory of impeachment, I recently praised his presentation in the Senate as a cogent and well-constructed case for the defense. Clearly, his colleague Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe does not share my view. He denounced Dershowitz’s argument as “remarkably absurd and extreme and dangerous.” In this presentation, Dershowitz defended his own switch on the issue of the prerequisite of criminality for impeachment by noting that Tribe had also switched his view. Tribe went further to declare that the choice was now between witnesses and “dictatorship.” Even as someone who favors witnesses, I fail to see the imminent danger of dictatorship on the issue. Indeed, I understand the reluctance over witnesses aside from any desire to protect Trump.

I believe senators have a legitimate interest in not creating precedent allowing the House to impeachment on such a slipshod and incomplete record. That is why I proposed an alternative solution. On MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” Tribe that, if the President succeeds in blocking witnesses, “You will harm not only the country today but you will leave a lesson for future presidents that will be terrible to the Republic. It will not be a constitutional democracy but it will be a dictatorship.” The use of O’Donnell’s show to warn of authoritarianism was curious since the host recently declared that his show would not invite Trump defenders because they are all “liars.”

Tribe however had particularly caustic remarks for Dershowitz as advancing an “absurd” argument that “it doesn’t matter if a president uses the vast powers of his office to shake down an ally and help an adversary in order to get dirt on an enemy and corrupt an election.” He spoke directly to Senators and added “So I implore you, if you are inclined to vote to acquit this president, don’t do it on the ridiculous basis that abuse of power, because it’s not a statutory crime and is rather open-ended, is not a basis to remove.” One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.” I have previously discussed my disagreement with Dershowitz’s theory, including what I believe is a misreading of the trial of Andrew Johnson and defense of Justice Benjamin Curtis. This however is a good-faith academic dispute and I felt that Dershowitz raised some interesting point. While I was not persuaded, it is unfair to characterize them as “absurd.”

Read more …

However this turns, more ugliness is ensured.

GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)

Hours after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Hunter Biden would be a “relevant witness” in President Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate Republicans seem to think there aren’t enough votes to call witnesses following a morning meeting between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) which lasted approximately 30 minutes. According to The Hill, the meeting “was seen as a sign by several senators that Democrats will fail to convince four Republicans to join them in calling for witnesses. Without a vote to hear from witnesses, the trial could end as soon as Friday.” Murkowski, one of a handful of Senate Republicans thought to be leaning towards witnesses, appears to have changed her mind.


“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) following a Senate GOP lunch meeting on Wednesday which was held after McConnell and Murkowski spoke. “I think I can say the mood is good,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), adding “If I had to guess, no witnesses.” “We’ll be in a place where I think everyone is going to have their mind made up and I believe that we’ll be able to move to a verdict and the witness question will be clear at that point,” Braun added. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) – who has forcefully advocated for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton after a leaked manuscript from his upcoming book claims President Trump directly tied Ukraine aid to investigations into the Bidens – said nothing after the lunch, which Murkowski did not attend.

Read more …

Letter sent 3 days before NYT article. So when Bolton was told the info was secret, he decided to leak it?!

White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)

The White House told former national security adviser John Bolton that his tell-all book contains “significant amounts of classified information,” including some which is “TOP SECRET” and could harm national security. “Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed, as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter continues. Notably, the letter, sent from the National Security Counsel to Bolton’s attorneys, was sent three days before the manuscript mysteriously leaked to the New York Times on the eve of the Senate impeachment proceedings – sparking a debate over calling Bolton as a witness in the trial.


As we noted on Tuesday, the identical twin brother of Democratic impeachment witness Alexander Vindman, Yevgeny Vindman, is reportedly in charge of reviewing all publications by current and former officials at the National Security Council (NSC), according to Breitbart News – which would ostensibly include Bolton’s manuscript. Meanwhile, House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff insisted on Wednesday that Trump’s impeachment trial won’t be fair unless Bolton testifies. Where have we seen this before?

Read more …

Not looking good. “..but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke..”

‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)

A string of newly resurfaced video clips of former national security adviser John Bolton spurred President Trump and his supporters Wednesday to highlight what they described as serious credibility questions – raised by both Democrats and Republicans — amid the Senate impeachment trial, as the president tweeted, “GAME OVER!” In his tweet, Trump linked to an interview of Bolton in August 2019 where he discusses Ukraine policy. In the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interview clip, Bolton made no mention of any illicit quid pro quo, and acknowledged, as Republicans have claimed, that combating “corruption” in Ukraine was a “high priority” for the Trump administration.

Bolton also called Trump’s communications with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “warm and cordial,” without mentioning any misconduct. It seemingly contradicted reported assertions in Bolton’s forthcoming book that Trump explicitly told him he wanted to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. (Zelensky has said his communications with Trump involved no pressure for any investigation.) Separately, Fox News has identified clips of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., now the lead House impeachment manager, in which he says Bolton had a distinct “lack of credibility” and was prone to “conspiracy theories.” This week, Schiff said Bolton needed to testify in the impeachment trial as an important and believable witness.


“This is someone who’s likely to exaggerate the dangerous impulses of the president toward belligerence, his proclivity to act without thinking, and his love of conspiracy theories,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on March 22, 2018, when Trump named Bolton national security adviser. “And I’ll, you know, just add one data point to what you were talking about earlier, John Bolton once suggested on Fox News that the Russian hack of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] was a false flag operation that had been conducted by the Obama administration,” he said. “So, you add that kind of thinking to [former U.S. attorney] Joe diGenova and you have another big dose of unreality in the White House.”

[..] speaking to CNN on Monday, Schiff took a different approach – calling Bolton essential to the “search for truth.” “I think for the senators, and I’m just not talking about the four that have been so much the focus of attention, for every senator, Democrat and Republican, I don’t know how you can explain that you wanted a search for the truth in this trial and say you don’t want to hear from a witness who had a direct conversation about the central allegation in the articles of impeachment,” Schiff said on CNN’s “New Day.” Seemingly responding to charges of hypocrisy, Schiff remarked on the Senate floor late Wednesday: “I’m no fan of John Bolton, but I like him a little more now than I used to.”


[..] “Democrats are currently begging Mitt Romney to agree with them that John Bolton should swoop to the impeachment trial and save the day, but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke,” mused journalist Michael Tracey.

Read more …

The legacy of Obama, Hillary, John McCain and Victoria Nuland. Who’s in court for this?

Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)

Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau has opened a probe against former president, Petro Poroshenko, who is suspected of abuse of power, embezzlement “on a grand scale” and allegedly stealing US aid funds. The case against the ex-president was opened following a complaint by a group of Ukrainian MPs and the nation’s High Anti-Corruption Court demanding the authorities investigate embezzlement and misappropriation of the foreign financial aid at the time of Poroshenko’s term in office, a Ukrainian MP Renat Kuzmin said in a Facebook post.

Kuzmin, a member of the Opposition Platform – For Live party, also published the anti-corruption bureau’s documents, confirming that the case against Poroshenko had been launched. The papers state that the former president and some “unknown people” from his administration are suspected of embezzling “on a grand scale,” subsequent legalization of criminally obtained funds, and abuse of power. The MP himself said that the investigation would look into the misappropriation of funds provided to Ukraine in the form of international aid, including by the administration of the former US President Barack Obama.

Poroshenko did not react directly to the accusations against him. Instead, his lawyer told the media that the ex-president plans to file as many as 14 lawsuits seeking moral compensation from Ukraine’s National Bureau of Investigations, the anti-corruption bureau and the police. His lawyer also denounced the investigation against his client as political persecution instigated by the administration of the current president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The news comes just months after Poroshenko’s ally, Kiev mayor and three-time world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was also accused of embezzlement and even treason by the anti-corruption bureau.

Read more …

At what point will Sidney Powell subpoena Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Laufman et al?

Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn filed a supplemental motion to withdraw his guilty plea Wednesday citing failure by his previous counsel to advise him of the firm’s ‘conflict of interest in his case’ regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act form it filed on his behalf, and by doing so “betrayed Mr. Flynn,” stated Sidney Powell, in a defense motion to the court. Flynn’s case is now in its final phase and his sentencing date, which was scheduled for Jan. 28, in a D.C. federal court before Judge Emmet Sullivan was changed to Feb. 27. The change came after Powell filed the motion to withdraw his plea just days after the prosecutors made a major reversal asking for up to six months jail time.

The best case scenario for Flynn, is that Judge Sullivan allows him to withdraw his guilty plea, the sentencing date is thrown-out and then his case would more than likely would head to trial. Powell alleged in a motion in December, 2019 that Flynn was strong-armed by the prosecution into pleading guilty to one count of lying to FBI investigators regarding his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Others, close to Flynn, have corroborated the accounts suggesting prosecutors threatened to drag Flynn’s son into the investigation, who also worked with his father at Flynn Intel Group, a security company established by Flynn.

In the recent motion Flynn denounced his admission of guilt in a declaration, “I am innocent of this crime, and I request to withdraw my guilty plea. After I signed the plea, the attorneys returned to the room and confirmed that the [special counsel’s office] would no longer be pursuing my son.” He denied that he lied to the FBI during the White House meeting with then FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka. The meeting was set up by now fired FBI Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was also fired for lying to Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigators. Strzok was fired by the FBI for his actions during the Russia investigation.

[..] Powell noted in Wednesday’s motion that Flynn’s former defense team at Covington & Burling, a well known Washington D.C. law firm, failed to inform Flynn that their lawyers had made “some initial errors or statements that were misunderstood in the FARA registration process and filings.” She also reaffirmed her position in the motion that government prosecutors are continuing to withhold exculpatory information that would benefit Flynn.

Read more …

High time for someone to investigate what being in the European Banking Union will cost banks from other countries in order to save Deutsche.

Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)

Deutsche Bank posted a 1.6 billion euro loss in the fourth quarter of 2019, bringing the total loss for the year to 5.7 billion euros as the bank undergoes a costly overhaul, the lender said on Thursday. It was the third consecutive quarterly loss and fifth annual loss in a row for Germany’s top bank. The results were worse than expected. Analysts on average forecast Deutsche would lose 1 billion euros in the quarter and 5 billion euros for the full year. The figures conclude a turbulent decade for Deutsche, which lost a cumulative 15 billion euros over the last five years, more than wiping out the 9 billion euros in profit during the previous five years. The share price fell 82% during the course of the decade.

Read more …

Call Putin.

US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)

Less than a week after millions of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the U.S. military leave for good, the United States announced that is planning to build three new military bases in Iraq, according to military news service Breaking Defense. The three sites chosen – Erbin, Sulimania and Halabja – are all extremely close to Iran, with Halabja (the site of the 1988 chemical weapons attack) just eight miles from the border. The news will come as a shock to the Iraqi parliament, who earlier this month voted overwhelmingly (with some abstentions) to expel American forces from the country.

But the U.S. government has flatly refused to leave. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, adding, “We strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries… We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together.” Earlier this month the U.S. decided to send an extra 3,000 troops to the region.

President Trump responded by threatening sweeping mass punishments against the Iraqi people. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it…If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” he said. U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s are thought to have killed over one million people, including over half a million young children. Successive U.N. diplomats in charge of Iraq during the sanctions denounced them as genocide against its people. Trump said his sanctions would make the ones on Iran look tame by comparison.

Read more …

Time for Trump to nip this in the bud. There is no other choice.

France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)

Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has welcomed a decision by France to dispatch war frigates to the eastern Mediterranean as a standoff with Turkey over regional energy reserves intensifies. With tensions between Athens and Ankara causing growing international alarm, Mitsotakis described the vessels as “guarantors of peace”. “The only way to end differences in the eastern Mediterranean is through international justice,” he told reporters after holding talks in Paris with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. “Greece and France are pursuing a new framework of strategic defence.”

Mitsotakis was in the French capital on a visit aimed at rallying EU support at a time when hostile relations with Turkey have eclipsed all other issues on the agenda of his near seven-month-old government. Macron pledged France would step up its strategic bond with Greece, accusing Turkey of not only exacerbating regional tensions but failing to stick to its promised course of action in war-torn Libya. “I want to express my concerns with regard to the behaviour of Turkey at the moment … we have seen during these last days Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed [at last week’s peace conference] in Berlin. It’s a broken promise.”

[..] Greece’s defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, recently went as far as to warn that armed forces were “examining all scenarios, even that of military engagement” in the face of heightened aggression from Ankara. Rejecting Turkish demands that Greece demilitarise 16 Aegean islands, he accused Turkey of displaying unusually provocative behaviour. The demand, made by his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, follows a dramatic surge in recent months in the number of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets. “Greece does not provoke, does not violate the sovereign rights of others, but it doesn’t like to see its own rights violated,” said Panagiotopoulos.

Read more …

When will we see the studies reporting on the effects of phones on people’s lives? If not now, it’ll likely be too late for many.

Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

More than half of children say they sleep with their mobile phone beside their bed, according to an annual survey of young people’s use of media. The Childwise report found children getting mobiles at an earlier age, with most now having their own phone by the age of seven. The average time spent on mobiles by seven to 16-year-olds is three hours and 20 minutes per day. Researcher Simon Leggett says mobiles can “dominate children’s lives”. When phones are always so close at hand, as a “private and personal technology”, Mr Leggett says it can be tough for parents to put limits on how children use them.

The survey, based on interviews with 2,200 children in the UK aged five to 16, shows the pivotal place of the mobile phone in young lives. There are 57% who always have the phone beside their bed and 44% who feel “uncomfortable” if they are ever without a phone signal. There are 42% who say they keep their phone on them at all times and never turn it off. Even though the average age of owning a phone is becoming younger, the step up to secondary school at the age of 11 is still the point at which many children get a phone and ownership becomes “almost universal”.

[..] YouTube, a veteran by online standards, remains dominant, used by 61% of children every day, mostly on mobile phones. It is the favourite app and website of this age group, used as the most typical starting point for videos, particularly “funny” clips, listening to music, “how to” tutorials or watching programmes. This is followed by Snapchat, Instagram and this year’s fast-riser, Tik Tok, with WhatsApp also among the most regularly used. Showing the speed of change, Facebook is not even in the top 10 of favourites.

Read more …

 

2020 so far…

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 222020
 


Jack Delano Repair and overhauling in Chicago & North Western Railroad locomotive shops, Chicago 1942

 

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)
Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)
Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)
Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)
Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)
Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)
Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)
You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)
General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)
US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)
People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

 

 

A pretty good description. of the virus. There are 11 million people living in Wuhan. Officials now suggest no-one should leave or enter the city. Cases in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, US.

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)

The coronavirus discovered in Wuhan may share the same bat-related ancestor as Sars, according to the latest study by Chinese scientists, which said the strain was weaker than the devastating 2002-03 Sars outbreak but was still “highly infectious”. The new virus shares a common ancestor with severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), in HKU9-1, a virus found in fruit bats, they found. The connection with wild animals was confirmed on Wednesday by Gao Fu, director general of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Gao, the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 400 people across the country and led to nine deaths, originated from wild animals sold at a seafood market in Wuhan.

Gao warned that a major challenge was that the new strain was adapting and mutating. The scientists’ findings, published on Tuesday, suggested that the danger posed by the pneumonia-like virus may have been underestimated by the research community, and came a day after the Chinese government’s announcement of emergency measures to contain its spread. A joint research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai estimated how the viral strain would interact with cells in the human respiratory system using computer simulation based on released data. “The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats … but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate,” the researchers said in a statement released with the paper.

Previously, most scientists believed the new virus could not cause an epidemic as serious as that of Sars because its genes were quite different. According to their calculations, the binding-free energy between the virus and the protein would be minus 50.6 kcal per mol, five times what was “usually considered significant”. “Although comparably weaker [than Sars], the Wuhan CoV S-protein is regarded to have strong binding affinity to human ACE2,” they wrote in a paper published on China Science Bulletin. What surprised the scientists most, however, was that the virus could maintain the strong binding ability despite its significant structural differences from Sars. Of the virus’ five amino acids that play important roles in the binding process, four are different from those of Sars.

Further examination of the virus’ structure showed that overall its binding protein had a high resemblance to that of Sars. The researchers also traced the evolution of the new virus in a government coronavirus database. On the evolutionary tree, the new virus belonged to Betacoronavirus, on a close but different branch to Sars. The two shared about 70 to 80 per cent of genes, less than the similarity between pigs and humans. Meanwhile, a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was not involved in the new study, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that the new strain was an RNA virus, meaning that its mutation speed was 100 times faster than that of a DNA virus such as smallpox. RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules are simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules.

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Always happy to see my view of Putin shared by others, and certainly when it’s Dmitry. Any major country on the planet could only wish they had Putin to lead it, and serve the best interests of its citizens. Of course we can’t get any real picture of this in the western press, who treat him as the bogey man, along with their governments.

Can you even imagine where the US would be if Putin had been its leader for the past 20 years? Try this stateside: “Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions

Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)

[..] we need to draw a distinction between Putin the man and the system of governance he has built over the past 20 years. There is always plenty to complain about, but overall it has been quite effective. During Putin’s period in power, Russia has solved the problems of separatism and domestic terrorism, reigned in the predatory oligarchy, paid off virtually all of its foreign debts including ones it inherited from the USSR, grew its economy by a factor of six (vs. China’s five and USA’s one), regained Crimea (which had been part of Russia since 1783), rebuilt its armed forces to a point where international security is no longer a major concern, and achieved an overall level of societal well-being that is unparalleled in all of Russian history.

The system of governance he has built has worked well with him as the head of government, but it will require some adjustments in order to work well under future presidents, who may not be equally gifted. Recognizing this fact, on Wednesday Putin has launched a limited overhaul of the Russian Constitution. In addition to an entire raft of minor tweaks that will limit the powers of the President and give more powers to the Parliament, to provide for better checks and balances and a more democratically responsive system, there are a few proposed changes that stand out.

[..] Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions. There are also proposed legislative changes to what’s called “maternal capital” to make having more than two children financially attractive. The demographic situation in Russia is not as dire as it was in the 1990s, and certainly a lot less dire than in Western Europe whose native populations are rapidly going extinct, but the fact remains that to achieve its stated goals Russia is going to need a lot more Russians. The Russian government has the money to spend on these initiatives, and getting the job done is largely a matter of lighting a fire under the federal and regional bureaucracies.

Spelling out the social guarantees right in the Constitution is a good way to make that happen. Putin proposed that the constitutional changes be voted for in a referendum. Beyond the procedural nicety and the legitimizing effect of this exercise, it is sure to stimulate a lot more public interest and civic participation, making it more likely that the ever foot-dragging Russian bureaucrats (in the more remote regions especially) will be prevailed upon to act swiftly to enact the changes.

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And this is just the beginning. God help us. More Adam Schiff show.

Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)

Democratic hopes that a moderate bloc of Senate Republicans would join their demand for witnesses and testimony at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were temporarily disappointed, if not dashed, as arguments on the first proper day of the trial extended past midnight into Wednesday morning. In seven consecutive votes split precisely along party lines, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals to subpoena testimony from four potential witnesses and documents from multiple government agencies. An eighth vote defeated a proposal to prevent the selective admission of evidence. “I know it’s late, but it doesn’t have to be late,” Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment “manager”, or prosecutor in the case, said as the proceedings entered their 12th hour. “We don’t control the schedule. There is a reason why we are still here at five minutes till midnight, and that’s because they don’t want the American people to see what’s going on here.”


Democrats fruitlessly called for testimony and documents from the former national security adviser John Bolton; the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s aide Robert Blair; the budget official Michael Duffey; the White House; the state department; the defense department; and the budget office relevant to an alleged scheme by Trump to twist the powers of the presidency to extract personal political favors from Ukraine. Each of the proposed subpoenas was defeated by a 53-47 vote. Democrats accused Republicans of failing to commit to a fair impeachment trial and of engaging in a “cover-up” of misconduct by the president. “The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” said Representative Val Demings of Florida, one of the impeachment managers .

https://twitter.com/i/status/1219661000556847107

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A bit sensational, but still you want to ask: Why?

Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)

A bombshell new report is derailing the Democrats’ momentum against President Trump on Day One of the Senate impeachment trial. The article — in the left-leaning Politico of all places — on Tuesday night alleges that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff appears to have “mischaracterized” evidence that was used in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation. But Republicans are ridiculing the report as an attempt to “soft-pedal” his actions, insisting that Schiff “fabricated evidence” in a naked attempt to “frame” Trump. Either way, the shocking late-night report has thrown the Democrats’ Senate plan into complete chaos.

The stunning report focuses on a letter that Schiff sent to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) last week that summarizes “a trove of evidence from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani,” Politico reported. “In one section of the letter, Schiff claims that Parnas ‘continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky,’ citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: ‘trying to get us mr Z.’ The remainder of the exchange — which was attached to Schiff’s letter — was redacted.”

Politico added, “But an unredacted version of the exchange shows that several days later, Parnas sent Giuliani a word document that appears to show notes from an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: ‘mr Z answers my brother.’ That suggests Parnas was referring to Zlochevsky not Zelensky.” Democrat officials did not dispute the suggestion that Schiff’s claim was false. [..] one senior GOP aide told Politico: “[..] given the selective redactions and contextual clues, it seems as though Chairman Schiff sought to deliberately portray an innocuous meeting with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky as an insidious one with the President of Ukraine simply because both of their surnames start with the letter Z.”

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As I said yesterday: “This week, Bernie is sexist. Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll find he’s racist too. If his numbers still don’t plummet then, he’ll be an anti-semitic Jew.”

Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)

Nothing the Clintons do is accidental. And so when the news broke less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses that in a forthcoming Hulu documentary, Hillary Clinton badmouths her 2016 rival Bernie Sanders as a “career politician” whom “nobody likes,” it didn’t just call attention to the ill feeling still lingering from that year’s bitter primary campaign. It also signaled that Clinton has thrown her weight behind the nascent “Stop Sanders” movement gaining steam among Democratic power brokers. The question now is whether Democratic voters will follow her lead — and whether Barack Obama himself might come out of semiretirement to join the cause. Asked by the Hollywood Reporter whether she would endorse and campaign for Sanders if he were to win the nomination, Clinton refused to commit. “I’m not going to go there yet,” she said.

Clinton immediately added, however, that her beef is “not only” with Sanders but with “the culture around him” — a culture she considers sexist. “It’s his leadership team,” Clinton said. “It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren].”

Then Clinton twisted the knife: “I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.” Clinton’s timing is conspicuous. Since the start of the 2016 primary, pundits and mainstream Democrats have refused to consider Sanders a serious threat for the nomination. That’s changed in recent weeks as Sanders has surged to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, cementing his status as the nearest competitor to frontrunner Joe Biden while also out-fundraising the entire field. Meanwhile, the headlines about Clinton’s remarks come on the heels of Sanders’s clash with Warren over the same subject: his (and his campaign’s) alleged sexism. In other words, this isn’t coming out of nowhere: Clinton is piggybacking on a fresh controversy at a pivotal moment.

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But of course. It must be perennial.

Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Unlike a typical trial, the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump won’t establish facts or put an end to investigations about the Ukraine scheme at the heart of this case. Given that new allegations and evidence continue to emerge, a new investigation will be necessary. Although we still don’t know exactly what the trial will look like, public statements by senators suggest that we won’t hear from many witnesses—and could hear from none at all. That’s exactly what Trump’s legal team is asking for, which comes as no surprise because lawyers rarely want to prolong trials if they think they’ve already got the jury on their side. As it stands now, there is little doubt that Republicans are prepared to vote against removing Trump from office—which is why Democrats want to shake things up with witnesses they haven’t had the opportunity to interview, like former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

But the fact that months of Congressional inquiry into Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine is almost certain to end in acquittal does not mean that Congress’s work is done. So much of the story of the Ukraine scheme at the heart of Trump’s impeachment still is not public that Congress is obligated to resume its inquiry regardless of the outcome in the Senate. There can be no serious question that Trump held up military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help him politically, but many details of the scheme are still not known. How little we know about the Ukraine scheme headlined by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was underscored by public interviews given last week by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who currently faces a federal indictment in the Southern District of New York.

Parnas made sweeping claims, such as his assertion that Trump was “aware of all of my movements” and that Attorney General Bill Barr was “basically on the team.” These are provocative and damning assertions. But how exactly does Parnas claim to know all of this? [..] Parnas presented evidence that former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance. The American people—and Yovanovitch—deserve to know whether that allegation is true and exactly why Trump’s associates were surveilling our own ambassador. After all, it is possible this scheme constituted a federal crime, such as a conspiracy to threaten or assault a federal official.

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We knew that already. But Biden is sending around a memo denying it.

Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)

The Ukrainian prosecutor who Joe Biden pushed to oust had six cases against Burisma but they fizzled out after he left, a new documentary shows challenging the narrative by the former vice president that the media failed to check. When Joe Biden lobbied Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to replace Viktor Shokin with Yuriy Lutsenko in 2015, his entourage claimed that Shokin had failed to thoroughly investigate corruption, and by pushing for his replacement “saint” Biden even acted against his family’s interests. But the second episode of the documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts’ produced by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, shows information that undermines this narrative.

The American media reported that Shokin’s case against Ukrainian energy company Burisma had gone “dormant,” and that by pressing for Lutsenko’s appointment, Biden was quashing corruption, even if that meant subjecting his own son to investigation in the process. Hunter Biden was on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019. However, documents collected by Berruyer show that Shokin’s Burisma probe was far from “dormant.” Shokin himself even told ABC News that his office had six investigations into Burisma open at the time of his resignation. Lutsenko, he said, “stopped all those cases.”

ABC didn’t air this part of the interview, and the American media – including the Washington Post and the New York Times – continue to label Shokin’s investigation “dormant,” despite a number of publicly available documents showing otherwise and presented in the documentary.

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John Solomon is back.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.

Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal. Here are the facts, with links to public evidence, so you can decide for yourself.

Fact: Joe Biden admitted to forcing Shokin’s firing in March 2016.

Fact: Shokin’s prosecutors were actively investigating Burisma when he was fired.

Fact: Burisma’s lawyers in 2016 were pressing U.S. and Ukrainian authorities to end the corruption investigations.

Fact: There is substantial evidence Joe Biden and his office knew about the Burisma probe and his son’s role as a board member.

Fact: Federal Ethics rules requires government officials to avoid taking policy actions affecting close relatives.

Fact: Multiple State Department officials testified the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Fact: Hunter Biden acknowleged he may have gotten his Burisma job solely because of his last name.

Fact: Ukraine law enforcement reopened the Burisma investigation in early 2019, well before President Trump mentioned the matter to Ukraine’s new president Vlodymyr Zelensky.

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Accused of “..hacking the cellphones of Brazilian prosecutors and public officials..”

Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)

Prosecutors in Brazil charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes on Tuesday for his role in spreading embarrassing text messages that exposed corruption within the Brazilian judicial system, according to the New York Times. In a 91-page criminal complaint made public on Tuesday, Greenwald is accused of participating in a “criminal organization” that spread text messages which called into question the “integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures.” Greenwald – who moved to Brazil in 2005 with his husband David Miranda – now a congressman, went beyond simply receiving the texts and publishing newsworthy information according to prosecutors.

“Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks. Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app”. -New York Times. Greenwald – an attorney, rose to international prominence in 2013 for his role in the release of classified documents revealing America’s extensive NSA surveillance apparatus, after National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to Greenwald, who worked for The Guardian at the time.

In 2016, Greenwald launched The Intercept Brasil, which began publishing articles based on the leaked text exchanges last June. “The articles raised questions about the integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures. Among the revelations in the articles, for instance, were chats in which Sérgio Moro, a former federal judge who handled the prosecution of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2017, provided strategic guidance to prosecutors, in violation of legal and ethical norms. Mr. Moro is now Brazil’s justice minister. -New York Times.

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Someone lend them the $10 billion.

Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)

The Boeing 737 Max is officially on hold. The assembly line in Renton, Washington, has stopped building Boeing’s bestselling plane, the company confirmed late Monday. Boeing announced plans to temporarily halt production for an undetermined period in December, but it had not previously announced a precise day for the shutdown. Boeing will not furlough or lay off workers because of the shutdown, but pain will ripple through its supply chain and could hurt America’s economic growth. The shutdown will make restarting production and recovering from the crisis more difficult for Boeing once it finally gets permission for the plane to fly again. The 737 Max has been grounded since March..

Although Boeing couldn’t deliver the 737 Max planes to customers, the company continued to build the jets, albeit at a slightly reduced pace of 42 a month. It now has about 400 completed jets parked in Washington and Texas, waiting to be delivered to airlines around the world. But Boeing doesn’t get most of its money from the sale of the jets until they are delivered, and it could not indefinitely continue to incur the costs of building them without being able to deliver them. The company hoped that the plane would fly again before the end of 2019. But in December Stephen Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, announced approval would not come until some time in 2020. Shutdown plans were announced a week later.

Boeing would not release a headcount for people who had been working on the plane. The company said the employees will be reassigned to other duties during the shutdown, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, under federal labor law, Boeing would have to pay them for 60 days following a layoff notice. Since Boeing is still hoping to resume work on the plane soon, it probably would have limited cost savings to go through the process of laying off the workers. And with unemployment in the Seattle metropolitan area at 2.9% – lower than the national unemployment rate that’s at a 50-year low – Boeing can’t risk losing the workers it needs once production resumes.

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All pilots in the US must now do simulator training. The exact issue that made Boeing screw around with the plane to make it appear like it was the same as with the much smaller engine, so no training was needed. Very dumb. When this thing started, there were lerss than a handful simulators available. Have they built a lot more since? I’d like to know. These things don’t come cheap.

You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)

No one knows when the Boeing 737 Max will return to service. But it won’t be any time soon. Boeing eagerly awaits the US FAA’s approval to allow the grounded plane to fly again. But the FAA refuses to provide a specific timeframe, saying only that it will make a decision sometime this year. “We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators to review the proposed changes to the aircraft,” said the FAA’s most recent statement on the plane, issued on January 9. “Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed.” The plane has been grounded since March. Boeing had initially hoped a fix for the safety system, known as MCAS, could be approved in a matter of weeks after the second crash.

But it has missed target date after target date for completion of the process. Aerospace analysts believe regulatory approval could come in the spring. Cai von Rumohr of Cowen now forecasts March. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says he’s thinking April or perhaps May. But they both say that is only their best guess at this point. [..] It’s also unclear whether aviation regulators around the world will follow the FAA’s lead and approve the plane to fly when it is cleared to fly in the United States. More than 80% of the planes are in foreign countries. One of the reasons the FAA has emphasized its work with other regulators is the agency hopes they will quickly follow its lead. But the process of getting that consensus is also causing delays, according to industry experts.

After the 737 Max is approved to return to service, it will be at least weeks, if not months, before any of them are carrying paying passengers once again. Boeing and the FAA have agreed that as part of the return to service 737 Max pilots will first complete simulator training. Pilots were previously permitted to fly the 737 Max without learning the specifics of the aircraft on a simulator. The new trainings won’t start until the certification process is complete. That will slow the time it will take to have the teams of pilots necessary to handle the flights. [..] Southwest and American Airlines have both announced they have canceled flights until early June, at the start of the summer travel season.

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The EU has done it. It’s turned the Greeks against immigrants.

General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)

The Greek government is under growing strain over immigration amid ongoing protests against plans to create at least 10 closed pre-departure centers across the country coupled with a delay in the disbursement of European Union funds for that purpose. Meanwhile tension at existing hotspots is brewing. A 17-year-old Afghan girl was hospitalized in serious condition on Monday after being stabbed by a 20-year-old fellow Afghan at Lesvos’ Moria camp. The attacker was arrested. On Sunday, newly installed Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis was heckled by locals during visits to Lesvos and Samos.

During his trip, Mitarakis stressed that reducing immigration flows is a top priority of the government. However, a general strike is planned on the Aegean islands on Wednesday in response to its perceived failure to do so. Meanwhile, a survey by the diaNEOsis nonprofit think tank shows that most Greeks believe migrants and refugees have a negative impact on the country. The survey found that 85.2 percent of respondents said that the number of immigrants in Greece is “very or too high.” Just 12.1 percent said that the number is “normal.” At the same time, 79 percent disagreed with the statement that migrants are a solution to the country’s demographic problem.

Meanwhile, 56 percent said they believe that migrants have a negative impact on the economy, while 58 percent said that their presence is a “threat to our national identity.” However, 30 percent recognized the cultural enrichment brought by migrants. Asked about crime, 53 percent said they believe that migrants are responsible for soaring crime rates while 44 percent said that Greeks and non-Greeks were as likely to engage in criminal behavior.

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Oh well, overpopulation and things…

US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)

The contamination of U.S. drinking water with man-made “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, said a report on Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group. The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems. The findings here by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.

“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks. Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700 foot (215 m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.

In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals,” Andrews said. In 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS, contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies. The EPA has known since at least 2001 about the problem of PFAS in drinking water but has so far failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit. The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.

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Stop drinking the poison.

People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

Coca-Cola will not ditch single-use plastic bottles because consumers still want them, the firm’s head of sustainability has told the BBC. Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight, said Bea Perez. The firm, which is one of the biggest producers of plastic waste, has pledged to recycle as many plastic bottles as it uses by 2030. But environmental campaigners argue many Coke bottles would still go uncollected and end up in landfill. The drinks giant produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute. In 2019, it was found to be the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste by the charity Break Free from Plastic.


But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ms Perez said the firm recognised it now had to be “part of the solution”. Coke has pledged to use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030. It is also partnering with NGOs around the world to help improve collection. However, Ms Perez said the firm could not ditch plastic outright, as some campaigners wanted, saying this could alienate customers and hit sales. She also said using only aluminium and glass packaging could push up the firm’s carbon footprint. “Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers,” she said. “So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us.”

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I know, it’s corny

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 122020
 


Dorothea Lange Crossroads grocery store and filling station, Yakima, Washington, Sumac Park 1939

 

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)
Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)
Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)
Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)
Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)
Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)
Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)
Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)
Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)
Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)
‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

 

 

No discussion of the Iran situation is worth a grain of salt if it doesn’t include Putin. He called for a conference on Lybia yesterday; Iran is (one of the) next. But yeah, of course China wants to add its two bits as well.

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)

China’s top foreign policy officials scolded President Trump’s January 3 hit on Iranian general Kassam Soleimani over the weekend, vowing to do what they could to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told the local press on Monday that Iran was basically “forced” to end its commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after the death of Soleimani by drone strike outside of a Baghdad airport last week. Geng said that by doing so, however, they would be in violation of their non-proliferation obligations. The South China Morning Post reported Geng saying that, “China will continue to maintain close communication and coordination with all related parties, and will take relentless efforts” to save the nuclear deal and avoid greater conflict in the Gulf.

The Iran nuclear deal was signed under then-president Barack Obama in the summer of 2015. But the deal has had its critics ever since, with some saying the U.S. was basically bribing Iran not to enrich uranium for nuclear weaponry. Iran has been fighting a proxy war with the United States and its allies since the fall of the Washington-backed Shah of Iran. Soleimani was a lead soldier in that fight, and has since climbed the ranks to lead the elite Quds Force. He was blamed by Washington for leading a militia attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on December 31. Brent crude oil prices rose to $70 in intraday trading on Monday morning, but have since fallen below $70. Texas crude is still pricing in the low $60s, up half a percent following a rash of pro-Iran militia attacks against U.S. facilities this weekend.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly held telephone conversations on Saturday with the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and France, reiterating that China would not back U.S. military strikes on Iran. China, France and Russia are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. That body has a weapons ban on Iran in place since 2010, set to expire in October of this year. “China will continue to uphold an objective and just position,” Wang said, adding that China will help safeguard “peace and security in the (Persian) Gulf.” On Friday, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and urged the U.S. not to start a regional war in the Middle East.

Last week, Russia’s Vedomosti business daily sourced an unnamed diplomat who surmised that Iran would retaliate by blocking free shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that roughly 35% of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20% of oil traded worldwide, goes through that Strait. The Strait curves through the coasts of Oman and Iran and is a key transit route for Saudi Arabian oil into China. China’s imports of Saudi oil have hit a record high of late due to sanctions on Iran and dwindling resources in Venezuela, making that body of water very important to Chinese oil supply. China imported 8.21 million tons of crude oil from Saudi Arabia in November, pushing the total volume for 11 months to a record 76.33 million tons. That’s up 53% from the same period in 2018, based on numbers crunched by Caixin Global..

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Don’t worry, the thought police has your back.

Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)

Instagram and its parent company Facebook are removing posts that voice support for slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani to comply with US sanctions, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business Friday. The Iranian government has called for nationwide legal action against Instagram in protest, even creating a portal on a government website for the app’s users to submit examples of posts the company removed, Iranian state media reported. Instagram is one of the few western social media platforms that is not blocked in Iran. Facebook and Twitter are blocked but some Iranians access those sites using VPNs.


In a tweet, Iran’s government spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, called Instagram’s actions “undemocratic.” Instagram shut down Soleimani’s own account on the platform last April after the US government designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. Soleimani was an IRGC commander. “We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. Iranian soccer player Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has a verified Instagram account, posted a photo of Soleimani after his death. Jahanbakhsh said Instagram had removed that post.

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Would almost like to see them try, but don’t think they will. Too many risks. Can’t just wave around the petrodollar; it’s not made of steel; we know because it’s getting rusty.

Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)

The Trump administration this week warned Iraq that it could lose access to its central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York if Baghdad expels American troops from the region, Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal. The State Department’s warning follows the U.S. airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander and the face of the Islamic Republic’s interventions across the Middle East. The strike led to Iraq’s parliament voting to force out American troops — a move some officials argued would hurt Iraq — and a counterstrike by Iran on two bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq last week. Shutting down Iraq’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York could be detrimental to its financial system.


The country puts its revenue from oil sales there, and takes out that money to pay government salaries and contracts. The Fed held almost $3 billion in overnight deposits at the close of 2018, according to the most recent financial statement from the Central Bank of Iraq. President Trump threatened to place economic sanctions on Iraq after parliament voted to request that Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi oust about 5,300 American troops. Those sanctions would also extend to Iran. The White House could also end waivers that allow Iraq to buy Iranian gas to fuel generators that supply a large portion of the country’s power, placing another pressure on the prime minister over addressing U.S. troops without enduring economic and financial loss. Mahdi has argued that forcing out American troops is the only way to avoid conflict in Iraq.

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Brought to you courtesy of John McCain and Victoria Nuland. This is America.

Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel has told Jerusalem to butt out of the debate about honoring of Nazi collaborators. Thursday’s intervention by Hennadii Nadolenko, head of Ukraine’s diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv, reflects an escalation in the disagreement between Israel and Ukraine over the issue. The subject is related to “internal issues of Ukrainian politics” and Israel’s protests about it are “counterproductive,” Nadolenko told Israeli diplomats, according to the news site Jewish.ru. Last week, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, and his Polish counterpart Bartosz Cichocki wrote officials an open letter condemning the government-sponsored honoring of Stepan Bandera and Andryi Melnyk, two collaborators with the Third Reich.


The two have written on the subject before. In 2018, Lion wrote that he was shocked at an earlier act of veneration for Bandera, saying: “I cannot understand how the glorification of those directly involved in horrible anti-Semitic crimes helps fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” Ukrainian diplomats had previously refrained from commenting publicly about Lion’s protests. The veneration of Nazi collaborators, including killers of Jews, is a growing phenomenon in Eastern Europe, where many consider such individuals as heroes because they fought against Russian domination. But few of Lion’s counterparts in those countries have spoken out as forcefully and publicly on this issue.

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For Trump, it’s an easy campaign. Bernie is a socialist, Biden is a sleepy flip flop who blackmailed Ukraine, Warren is Pocahontas squared and a socialist, Buttigieg has a closet full of things he hasn’t yet outed, and nobody likes Bloomberg.

Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)

Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager is warning that Democrats would struggle in a general election against Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders is the nominee. In an interview with POLITICO, Jim Messina predicted that Trump would exploit Sanders’ stamp of socialism in battleground states needed to defeat Trump, keep control of the House and have a shot at winning the Senate. “If I were a campaign manager for Donald Trump and I look at the field, I would very much want to run against Bernie Sanders,” Messina said. “I think the contrast is the best. He can say, ‘I’m a business guy, the economy’s good and this guy’s a socialist.’ I think that contrast for Trump is likely one that he’d be excited about in a way that he wouldn’t be as excited about Biden or potentially Mayor Pete or some of the more Midwestern moderate candidates.”

This is not the first time Messina has questioned Sanders’ viability as a general election candidate. His latest remarks come amid Sanders’ first-place showing in the marquee Iowa Poll and as the Vermont senator‘s messaging has increasingly focused on his electability. Messina said he is not endorsing in the 2020 race. He recently attended a fundraiser for Biden in Irvine, Calif., he said, because his wife is a supporter of the former vice president. “From a general election perspective, socialism is not going to be what Democrats are going to want to defend,” Messina added.“If you’re the Democratic nominee for the Montana Senate race, you don’t want to spend the election talking about socialism.”

Messina is the latest Democrat to raise concerns about Sanders at the top of the ticket. Endangered House Democrats are coalescing around Biden because of concerns that Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could threaten their reelection hopes, POLITICO reported Saturday. [..] Sanders surged starting in late October after recovering from a heart attack and receiving a pivotal endorsement from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For more than a week, Sanders has more directly attacked Joe Biden, the national top polling candidate, arguing the former vice president has too much “baggage” to win a general election. Sanders has argued the excitement behind his campaign and his steady dominance in grass-roots fundraising makes him the more electable candidate.

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From the Sanders campaign: “Jim Messina’s corporate clients include Google, Uber, AirBNB, a major private equity firm, a major airline that has been fighting its workers’ efforts to form a union, and Third Way, the Wall Street front group whose mission is to destroy the progressive movement.”

The campaign had set January 1st as the starting date for attacking rivals long ago.

Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)

Bernie Sanders’s campaign ratcheted up its attacks on Joe Biden’s claim that he did not support the Iraq War nearly as soon as it started. “It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Saturday. “Unlike 23 of his Senate colleagues who got it right, Biden made explicitly clear that he was voting for war, and even after the war started, he boasted that he didn’t regret it.” Biden voted for the Iraq War in 2002 while he was a Delaware senator, but he has claimed several times on the campaign trail that he opposed the effort “from the moment” the March 2003 invasion started.

The then-senator expressed support for the war, saying in July 2003 that he still thought the job was “doable.” In a Senate floor speech, Biden said, “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again.” He later changed his position. As vice president, Biden oversaw the withdrawal of nearly 150,000 troops from Iraq in 2011, which many argue fueled the rise of the Islamic State. “Bernie Sanders saw the same information and had the judgment to vote against the Iraq War,” Weaver said. “That’s the kind of commander in chief we need — someone with the toughness and judgment to get those calls right, not someone who undermined Democratic opposition, enthusiastically supported a disastrous war, refuses to admit mistakes, and then tries to rewrite history.”

Foreign policy shot to prominence in the Democratic presidential field after President Trump ordered a strike that killed of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2, changing the landscape of Middle East policy. Sanders argued that the move puts the United States on the path to another war. Despite flaunting in Iowa last week that his supporters “have not heard me disparage any of the candidates,” Sanders has been increasing his attacks on the former vice president as the the Feb. 3 first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses loom. “You know, Joe Biden has been on the floor of the Senate, talking about the need to cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid,” Sanders said in an interview on Monday. “Joe Biden pushed a bankruptcy bill, which has caused enormous financial problems for working families.”

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The worst of this relates to Clapper and Brennan’s Russiagate comments.

Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)

David Petraeus, Van Hipp, Jeh Johnson, John Negroponte (and these are just the ones featured in Fang’s piece)—all have ties to the Big 5 contracting companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (whose stocks are soaring in response to recent events) and/or work for venture capital firms that invest in these companies. In fact, General Jack Keane, who is reportedly at the elbow of the president, advising him directly, while alternately appearing on FOX News to congratulate him after launching kinetic attacks like killing Gen. Soleimani, currently serves as a partner for such a firm (SCP Partners) and has worked for General Dynamics and Blackwater. [..] key here, according to Fang is this: “Many of the pundits who appeared on national television or were quoted in major publications to praise the president’s actions have undisclosed ties to the defense industry — the only domestic industry that stands to gain from increased violence.”


Whether they are not disclosing their ties to producers or the hosts don’t bother to mention it on air doesn’t matter. It’s called ethics and journalistic integrity. Due diligence. Honesty. None if it seems to be in evidence here. “It is imperative that viewers are aware when their news commentary is coming from someone with a financial incentive tied to the topic they’re coming on, especially when so many lives hang in the balance,” Gin Armstrong, who’s with the Public Accountability Initiative, told Fang. Quite right. This seems so simple, yet this practice of deception—and it is a deception—has been going on for decades. But that doesn’t mean we have to swallow it passively.

Think of all the damage that was done in the run-up to the Iraq War and after the invasion, when former military generals were cultivated by the Pentagon and delivered to the networks and cable shows as commentators for years, helping to sell the war and pacify public opinion when conditions on the ground went sour. The “Afghanistan Papers” revealed last month that hundreds of government officials and military officers knew for years that the war was lost and that the American people were being sold a bill of goods throughout the entire 18-year campaign. By their silence and complicity they served as enablers. How many of them have cycled through the revolving door to the private sector and have served as “experts” in any media capacity (authors, speechmakers, pundits) to promote those lies back to the American people? If they hadn’t, might there be more public pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home (14,000 still there) today?

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Tree-planting anyone?

Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)

The wildfires raging along Australia’s eastern coast have already pumped around 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further fueling the climate change that’s already intensifying the nation’s fires. That’s more than the total combined annual emissions of the 116 lowest-emitting countries, and nine times the amount produced during California’s record-setting 2018 fire season. It also adds up to about three-quarters of Australia’s otherwise flattening greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019. And yet, 400 million tons isn’t an unprecedented amount nationwide at this point of the year in Australia, where summer bush fires are common, the fire season has been growing longer, and the number of days of “very high fire danger” is increasing.

Wildfires emissions topped 600 million tons from September through early January during the brutal fire seasons of 2011 and 2012, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. But emissions are way beyond typical levels in New South Wales, where this year’s fires are concentrated. More than 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) have burned across the southeastern state since July 1, according to a statement from the NSW Rural Fire Service. Climate change doesn’t spark wildfires. But rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall dries out trees, plants, and soil, converting them into fuel that can amplify fires when they do break out.

A 2018 report by Australia’s national science agency and the Bureau of Meteorology concludes climate change has contributed to the nation’s worsening fire conditions, noting that average temperatures have risen more than 1˚C. In turn, these huge fires are fueling climate change. As trees and plants burn, they release the carbon stored in their trunks, leaves, branches, and roots. That creates a vicious feedback loop, as the very impacts of climate change further exacerbate it, complicating our ability to get ahead of the problem.


Wildfire emissions from September through early January, nationwide and in New South Wales. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service

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But to be replaced with what? I still haven’t seen an answer to that which makes any sense.

Stay out of Davos, Greta, you’re being bought.

Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)

Greta Thunberg and fellow youth climate campaigners are demanding that global leaders immediately end the “madness” of huge ongoing investments in fossil fuel exploration and enormous subsidies for coal, oil and gas use. The 21 young activists are also calling on the political and business leaders who will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos to ensure investment funds dump their holdings in fossil fuel companies. “Anything less would be a betrayal against life itself,” said Thunberg and colleagues in an article in the Guardian. “Today’s business as usual is turning into a crime against humanity. We demand that you play your part in putting an end to this madness.”

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of the climate emergency. Scientists predict catastrophic impacts unless deep cuts in emissions are made rapidly, but global emissions are still rising. “Young people are being let down by older generations and those in power,” the climate strikers said. “To some it may seem like we are asking for a lot. But this is just the very minimum effort needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.” Much of the world’s existing coal, oil and gas reserves must be kept in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of global heating. But investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction remains high.

Since the Paris climate agreement in 2015, the world’s largest investment banks have provided more than $700bn to fossil fuel companies to develop new projects, with the total investment estimated to be trillions of dollars. Fossil fuel companies argue that their products will be used for many years to come and that they have a pivotal role in shifting the energy system to zero emissions. But their investments in green energy are tiny compared with those in fossil fuels. Subsidies for fossil fuels also remain high despite a G20 pledge in 2009 to eliminate them. The IMF estimates such subsidies run at $10m a minute, or $5.2tn a year. “The fact that [ending investment and subsidies] hasn’t been done already is, quite frankly, a disgrace,” said Thunberg and colleagues.

Investors managing funds totalling $12tn have already divested from coal, oil and gas, but the climate activists demand that “all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels”. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said in December that the financial sector was not cutting investments in oil and gas companies rapidly enough and warned that assets in the sector could end up “worthless”. He said in October that companies and industries not moving towards zero-carbon emissions would be punished by investors and go bankrupt.

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UK 2020. Laughing stock.

Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)

Extinction Rebellion is threatening legal action against counter-terrorism police for what it said was the illegal listing of the group as an extremist ideology in a guide designed to help stop terrorist violence. The Guardian revealed on Friday that counter-terrorism police had placed the non-violent protest group on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-radicalisation programme. Police now say that was an error. Amnesty International condemned the decision on Saturday as criticism grew and questions remained about how Extinction Rebellion (XR) came to be included in the guide alongside neo-Nazi and terrorist groups.

The climate emergency campaign group was included in a 12-page document produced by Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) titled “Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism”. XR has instructed lawyers. Jules Carey, who acted for XR when it successfully struck down police protest bans in the courts last year, told the Guardian that the latest guidance was unlawful. “It is extraordinary that Counter Terrorism Policing South East have added Extinction Rebellion to the list of terrorist groups and extremist organisations that the Prevent strategy was set up to deal with.

“The guidance issued by the CTPSE is clearly unlawful. It constitutes an unlawful interference with human rights including free speech, right to assemble and enjoyment of a private life. “The guidance is clearly designed to harm Extinction Rebellion and cast those who support the movement as domestic extremists. It is a glaring example of the sort of overzealous policing we have come to expect around protests. Being referred to Prevent could have long-lasting and life-changing consequences for a young school activist.”

[..] Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director, said the police guidance added to longstanding concerns about Prevent. “It’s deeply shocking that the police ever seriously considered classifying peaceful climate crisis protesters as extremists. To see that schoolchildren were effectively going to be profiled under these proposed measures, just deepens our shock. “Given that children are potentially those who will be most affected by the climate emergency, it’s vital that they are able to speak out on these issues without this heavy-handed and entirely disproportionate police attention. This episode only adds to our existing concerns about Prevent, which is a highly dubious scheme sorely in need of a proper, independent and impartial review.”

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“Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture..”

Might as well register them as cartoon characters. Same difference. We really don’t have any connection to anything alive anymore, do we?

‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

A recent survey of commercial beekeepers showed that 50 billion bees – more than seven times the world’s human population – were wiped out in a few months during winter 2018-19. This is more than one-third of commercial US bee colonies, the highest number since the annual survey started in the mid-2000s. Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss. However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America’s reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes.

Environmental advocates argue that the huge, commercially driven proliferation of the European honeybees used on almond farms is itself undermining the ecosystem for all bees. Honeybees out-compete diverse native bee species for forage, and threaten the endangered species that are already struggling to survive climate change. Environmentalists argue a better solution is to transform the way large-scale agriculture is carried out in the US. Like all bees, honeybees thrive in a biodiverse landscape. But California’s almond industry places them in a monoculture where growers expect the bees to be predictably productive year after year.

Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture because of the creature’s vital role in food production. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that commercial honeybees face. More bees die every year in the US than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined. “The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers,” says Nate Donley, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”

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The state of -rich western- mankind in a few words.

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 112020
 
 January 11, 2020  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Milton Greene “Actress Marilyn Monroe in bed” 1955

 

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)
US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)
Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)
The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)
Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)
How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)
Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)
Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)
FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)
Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)
Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

 

 

Cue mass demonstrations. Here’s where the US empire is drawing to a close. See the video for those who resist that close.

US Rejects Iraq Request To Discuss Troop Withdrawal (R.)

The United States rebuffed an Iraqi request on Friday to prepare to pull out its troops, amid heightened US-Iranian tensions following the US killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Seeking to tighten pressure on its rival, the US, meanwhile, imposed more sanctions on Iran, responding to an attack on US troops in Iraq launched by Tehran in retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani. Iraq looks set to bear the brunt of any further violence between neighbouring Iran and the US. Its leaders are caught in a bind as Washington and Tehran are also the Iraqi government’s main allies and vie for influence there.

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, made his request in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on Thursday in line with a vote by Iraq’s parliament last week, his office said in a statement. Abdul Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to put in place the tools to carry out the Parliament’s decision,” it said, adding without elaborating, that the forces used in the killing had entered Iraq or used its airspace without permission. However, the US State Department said any US delegation would not discuss the withdrawal of US troops as their presence in Iraq was “appropriate”. “There does, however, need to be a conversation between the US and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

The latest flare-up in the long shadow-war between Iran and the US started with the killing of Soleimani in a US drone attack on January 3. Iran responded on Wednesday by firing missiles at US forces in Iraq. In the aftermath, both sides backed off from intensifying the conflict but the region remains tense, with Iranian commanders threatening more attacks. [..] Iraq’s top Shia leader on Friday condemned the US-Iranian confrontation taking place on Iraqi soil, saying it risked plunging an already war-ravaged country and the wider Middle East into deeper conflict. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said it was Iraqis who stood to suffer most from the US-Iranian conflict.

In a message delivered through a representative at Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, al-Sistani said no foreign powers should be allowed to decide Iraq’s fate. “The latest dangerous aggressive acts, which are repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, are a part of the deteriorating situation” in the region, al-Sistani said. Al-Sistani, who wields huge influence over public opinion in Iraq, only weighs in on politics during times of crisis and is seen as a voice of moderation. “The people have suffered enough from wars … Iraq must govern itself and there must be no role for outsiders in its decision-making,” Sistani said.

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As Russiagate showed with great clarity, presidents must be able to talk to each other. Safety requires it.

US, Iran Used An Encrypted Swiss Fax Machine To Defuse Crisis (ZH)

Even as Trump was rage-tweeting on Jan 4, two days after the killing of Iran’s top military leader Qassem Soleimani, that he would hit 52 targets including Iranian heritage sites for potential retaliation if America suffered losses following an Iranian attack, warning that “those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD”, the US president was busy, secretly using an encrypted back-channel to bring the world back from the brink of war. As the WSJ reports, just hours after the U.S. strike which killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Trump administration sent an urgent back channel message to Tehran: “Don’t escalate.”

The encrypted fax message was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Iran, one of the few means of direct, confidential communication between the two sides, U.S. officials told the WSJ. Then, in frantic attempts to de-escalate even as top US and Iranian leaders were stirring patriotic sentiment and nationalistic fervor, the White House and Iranian leaders exchanged further messages in the days that followed, which officials in both countries described as far more measured than the fiery rhetoric traded publicly by politicians.

It worked: a week later, and after a retaliatory, if highly theatrical, Iranian missile attack on two military bases hosting American troops that purposefully inflicted no casualties, Washington and Tehran have stepped back from the brink of open hostilities (for now). “We don’t communicate with the Iranians that much, but when we do the Swiss have played a critical role to convey messages and avoid miscalculation,” a senior U.S. official said. While a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the exchanges, he said “we appreciate [the Swiss] for any efforts they make to provide an efficient channel to exchange letters when and if necessary.” Another Iranian official said the back channel provided a welcome bridge, when all others had been burned: “In the desert, even a drop of water matters.”

[..] The first American fax was sent immediately after Washington confirmed the death of Soleimani, the most important figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.S. officials said. It arrived on a special encrypted fax machine in a sealed room of the Swiss mission – the most enduring, and secret, method since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – for the White House to exchange messages with Iran’s top leadership, especially when the two nations are concurrently parading in public media in their bellicose propaganda to earn political brownie points. The equipment operates on a secure Swiss government network linking its Tehran embassy to the Foreign Ministry in Bern and its embassy in Washington, say Swiss diplomats. Only the most senior officials have the key cards needed to use the equipment.

Former Swiss ambassadors say the diplomatic channel is effective because the U.S. and Iran can trust a message will remain confidential, be delivered quickly, and will reach only its intended recipients.

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Allegedly, Khameini personally intervened. There are too many voices speaking for Tehran.

Iran Admits It Shot Down Ukrainian Plane (AlJ)

Iran has announced that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 on board. The statement on Saturday morning blames “human error” for the incident, adding that the military mistook Flight 752 for a “hostile target”. Press TV also quoted Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces as saying that the plane had flown close to a “sensitive military site”. The military said it was at its “highest level of readiness” amid the heightened tensions with the United States. “In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military said. It apologised and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.

In a statement posted on social media, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote that the country “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake”. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,” he said, adding that “investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake”. Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft. But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft. On Friday, Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s civil aviation authority, said it was impossible due to close coordination between Iran’s air defence and the civil aviation department. “What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Abedzadeh told reporters in Tehran.

[..] Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said questions were now being raised as to why Iranian authorities kept the country’s air space open during a military operation. “There’s a lot of explaining to do by Iranian authorities. People want to know why and how it happened.” In a social media post, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to the disaster”. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims and to other affected nations.”

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PDF file from Brown University. The changes in US war financing, from war bonds and direct taxation until the Korean War, to limitless borrowing – and interest payments- ever since.

The Cost of Debt-Financed War (Peltier)

Throughout the 18 years the U.S. has been engaged in the “Global War on Terror,” mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government has financed this war by borrowing funds rather than through alternative means such as raising taxes or issuing war bonds. Thus, the costs of the post-9/11 wars include not only the expenses incurred for operations, equipment, and personnel, but also the interest costs on this debt. Since 2001 these interest payments have been growing, resulting in more and more taxpayer dollars being wasted on interest payments rather than being channeled to more productive uses. This paper calculates that the debt incurred for $2 trillion in direct war-related spending by the Department of Defense and State Department has already resulted in cumulative interest payments of $925 billion.

Even if military interventions ceased immediately, interest payments would continue to rise, and will grow further as the U.S. continues its current military operations. War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money. The expense of war is not restricted to the annual budgetary costs of the war spending itself, but also depends upon the way in which war is financed. When war is financed through debt, the costs are much greater than when it is financed through taxation or other revenues, since interest payments must be made as long as the debt is outstanding. In fact, interest payments can sometimes grow to beyond the level of the debt itself, as will likely be the case with the post-9/11 wars.

If war spending ceased immediately, interest payments on the $2 trillion of existing war debt would rise to over $2 trillion by 2030 and to $6.5 trillion by 2050. These interest payments will grow larger as the U.S. continues its post-9/11 military interventions and continues amassing debt to pay for the costs of war. This level of borrowing to pay for the post-9/11 wars has been unique. Since the country’s founding, U.S. wars have been funded at least partly through revenues raised specifically for that purpose, including war bonds and direct taxes levied for war. As noted by Boston University political scientist Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, “Taxation as a percent of war finance was significant during the World Wars, meeting 30 percent of the cost of World War I and almost 50 percent of the cost of World War II, and peaked as a method of war finance during the Korean War, which was fully financed by taxes. Starting with the Civil War and ending with the Korean War, the government made a systematic effort to pay for its wars via direct taxation

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Looks like Pelosi was losing her own people.

Trump Impeachment Charges May Go To Senate As Early As Next Week (R.)

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives will send formal impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate as early as next week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday, setting the stage for his long-awaited trial. Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, has been engaged in a three-week cat-and-mouse game with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the rules for Trump’s trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats have demanded it include new witness testimony and evidence about the Republican president’s pressuring of Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democrat running for the right to face Trump in the November election.


McConnell slammed the door on that idea this week, saying he had enough Republican votes to start the trial without a commitment to hear from additional witnesses, including former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Democrats are trying to convince a few moderate Republican senators to allow witnesses. One moderate, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, told reporters in her home state that she and a “fairly small group” of her fellow Republican senators are working to ensure witnesses can be called. The Senate is expected to acquit Trump before the 2020 presidential election campaign heats up, as no Republicans have voiced support for ousting him, a step that would require a two-thirds majority.

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Whose side is the Trojan horse on?

Also, if Pelosi makes Adam Schiff a “manager”, can the GOP still call him to testify?

How’s This Working Nancy? (Kunstler)

The case for House members to get access to all that backstage Mueller material could go up to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Impeachment’s second act is about to get underway whether Mrs. Pelosi likes the terms or not. It’s the Senate’s prerogative to decide. These terms appear to be exactly the same as the ones used by the Senate for Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial — which means that each side chooses a team of “managers” to present its case, and then the managers are subject to grilling by senators. The House Democrats are insisting on calling witnesses solely to maintain their court claim for testimony from the White House counsel, with which the aforesaid Mueller material is associated in the case.

If the rules eschew witnesses, that case is moot, and the Democrats lose access to a trove of political oppo research obtained for them under false pretenses by their own operatives in the Department of Justice. Secondarily, the impeachment was designed to get senators in swing states on the record voting to acquit the president in the hopes that it will somehow taint their re-election prospects and possibly flip control of the Senate to the Democrats. That outcome would above all insure that Mr. Trump could not get another Supreme Court nominee confirmed in his second term, nor continue the wholesale appointment of lesser federal district judges. Plus, of course, it would obstruct any other legislative initiative his party brought for four years.

Personally, I would miss the chance to hear from the so-called “whistleblower” who instigated the impeachment phase of the long-running coup against Mr. Trump. Contrary to the disinformation put out by The New York Times and other coup co-conspirators, the “whistleblower” enjoys no right to anonymity. It would also be satisfying to hear how his enabler, Intel Community IG Michael Atkinson, might account for the process that steered the “whistleblower” to Rep. Adam Schiff and his staff — for instance, back-dating the official documents that green-lighted the “whistleblower’s” case. Mr. Atkinson is deeply implicated himself as a player in the earlier 2017 RussiaGate FISA court mischief, since his previous job was agency counsel to DOJ National Security chief John Carlin, who signed off on fraudulent FISA warrants. Mr. Atkinson must have counseled Mr. Carlin to do that.

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Where the main economic damage continues to emanate from.

Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession (F.)

The world’s top central bank officials are rightly concerned that politicians in rich economies missed one key lesson of the last recession: Interest rate cuts can help to moderate a downturn, but aggressive fiscal policy is key to a healthy recovery. It was a pro-austerity stance both in the United States, and even more saliently in the euro zone, that arguably prolonged the period of high unemployment and low wage growth that plagued most of the decade-long recovery from the 2007-2009 U.S. Great Recession. Outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told the Financial Times this week that central banks are running low on fuel. “If there were to be a deeper downturn, [that requires] more stimulus than a conventional recession, then it’s not clear that monetary policy would have sufficient space,” he said.


“It’s generally true that there’s much less ammunition for all the major central banks than they previously had and I’m of the opinion that this situation will persist for some time.” That echoed the sentiment of Christine Lagarde, who recently took over the ECB. She’s telling budget-shy European politicians (especially in Germany) to get to work. Now, a new paper from Fed board economist Michael Kiley points to similar alarm among U.S. central bankers about their ability to fight future slumps. Drawing up two basic assumptions of what a downturn might look like, Kiley finds that “a recession may result in near-zero interest rates at long maturities, bringing U.S. experience closer to that seen in Europe and Japan.” This, says Kiley, “could imply limits on the ability of monetary policy to support a recovery.”

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“This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.”

No, Elizabeth, this is legal. Corruption is not. Look it up.

Boeing’s Ousted CEO Departs With $62 Million, Even Without Severance Pay (R.)

Boeing Co’s ousted chief executive officer, Dennis Muilenburg, is leaving the company with $62 million in compensation and pension benefits but will receive no severance pay in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis. Muilenburg was fired from the job in December as Boeing failed to contain the fallout from a pair of fatal crashes that halted output of the company’s bestselling 737 MAX jetliner and tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators. The compensation figures were disclosed in a regulatory filing late on Friday during a difficult week for Boeing when it also released hundreds of internal messages — two major issues hanging over the company before new CEO David Calhoun starts on Monday.


The messages contained harshly critical comments about the development of the 737 MAX, including one that said the plane was “designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.” The 737 MAX has been grounded since March following the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people within a span of five months. “It is incredibly heart wrenching to see the man at the heart of our loss walk away with a reward,” said Zipporah Kuria, whose 55-year-old father from Kenya died in the second crash. Lawmakers also blasted Boeing. “346 people died. And yet, Dennis Muilenburg pressured regulators and put profits ahead of the safety of passengers, pilots, and flight attendants. He’ll walk away with an additional $62.2 million. This is corruption, plain and simple,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

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As CEO, Muilenburg was responsible for the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX. His golden handshake is worth about 12 times the FAA’s fine for that. And he doesn’t even have to pay it.

FAA Seeks To Fine Boeing $5.4 Million For Defective Parts On 737 MAX (R.)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it was seeking to fine Boeing $5.4 million, alleging it failed to prevent the installation of defective parts on 737 MAX airplanes. The FAA alleged Boeing “failed to adequately oversee its suppliers to ensure they complied with the company’s quality assurance system, … Boeing knowingly submitted aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test.” The FAA proposed a $3.9 million civil penalty against Boeing for the same issue in December involving 133 737 NG airplanes, which is the prior generation of the 737.


The 737 MAX has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. Boeing’s safety record on a number of issues have come under scrutiny from lawmakers and the FAA. The parts issue is completely unrelated to the crashes, Boeing said. The FAA disclosed in June that about 300 NG and 737 MAX airplanes could contain improperly manufactured parts and said it would require these parts to be quickly replaced. The parts at issue are tracks on the leading edge of the wings used to guide the movement of slats that provide additional lift during takeoff and landing, the FAA said. The issue could result in a slat striking an airplane, potentially resulting in injury to passengers or preventing a safe landing.

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More Muilenburg fallout.

Key Boeing 737 MAX Supplier Spirit Aerosystems To Cut 2,800 Jobs (CNBC)

A key Boeing 737 Max supplier said Friday that it is planning to cut about 2,800 jobs as the planes remain grounded far longer than expected and the financial impact ripples through the aerospace company’s supply chain. Wichita, Kansas-based Spirit Aerosystems, which produces fuselages for the beleaguered planes, said it made the decision due to uncertainty around the Max’s return to service. The company’s shares fell after its announcement, trading down 2.7%. Boeing was off nearly 1.5%. The 737 Max accounts for half of Spirit’s revenue. The planes have been grounded since mid-March [..] Regulators haven’t said when they would allow the planes to fly again.


“This is not the news I wanted to share, and I know it’s not the news you wanted to hear,” CEO Tom Gentile told employees on Friday. “But the continued grounding of the Max fleet and the suspension of production has created a challenging situation for us.” In addition to fuselages, Spirit makes thrust reversers, engine pylons and wing parts. Spirit, which issued what’s known as a WARN notice that requires companies to give employees 60 days notice of mass layoffs, said more job cuts are possible, a sign of how Boeing’s 737 Max crisis continues to hurt suppliers and the communities where they’re based. The laid-off employees, while they will have to depart in the coming weeks, will be paid for the entire 60-day notice period, Spirit said.

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Going through all the amounts spent, how can you not despair? What is fair about this sytem?

Joe Biden Gets $Millions In TV Ads In Iowa From Undisclosed Donors (IC)

Heading into the Iowa caucus, a Super PAC backing Joe Biden is spending big on TV ads in the state, giving him a boost over his fellow Democratic presidential frontrunners. Unite the Country PAC, which was launched in October by longtime advisers to the former vice president and allies of former President Barack Obama, has spent $2.3 million on TV ads in support of Biden in Iowa, according to recent disclosures. In recent years, political campaigns have devoted more of their resources to digital advertising and email distribution, but they continue to spend big on TV ads. For candidates like Biden, whose campaign had been struggling with fundraising in the fall, Super PACs can play a key role in helping reach people on the airwaves.

Biden had disavowed the support of Super PACs early in his campaign, but walked that position back just before Unite the Country launched in October. The timing of the launch comes with an additional benefit: The PAC will be able to keep its donors under wraps until just three days before the February 3 Iowa caucus. Under Federal Election Commission rules, the Super PAC’s first disclosure is due on January 31. The schedule gives Biden more of a chance to escape scrutiny of who exactly is bundling for the PAC — a list likely to include more major industry players, far and away from the working-class voters for whom Biden has cast himself as a hero. Asked about the date the group was required to file its next disclosure, a spokesperson for the PAC said it followed the FEC’s reporting schedule.

As Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign continues to flounder, his Super PAC, United We Win, has spent $250,000 on TV advertising on his behalf. Other campaigns have made massive investments in TV ads in Iowa. Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have spent around $3.9 million on TV ads in the state so far. Andrew Yang has spent $2.5 million, Biden has spent $1.8 million, and Elizabeth Warren has spent $1.6 million. Billionaire Tom Steyer has spent $9 million in Iowa and $116.5 million overall, and it’s paying off: According to a Fox News poll released this week, Steyer is polling ahead of Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg in South Carolina, where he’s spent $8.3 million on TV ads, and ahead of Warren in Nevada, where he’s spent $8.7 million. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, has spent $153.1 million on TV ads so far.

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This aged remarkably well.

 

 

 

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

 

Dec 102019
 
 December 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


John Vachon Hull-Rust-Mahoning pit, largest open pit iron mine in the world, Hibbing, Minnesota Aug 1941

 

FBI’s Trump-Russia Inquiry Wasn’t Biased Against President – IG (G.)
Barr: FBI Launched An Intrusive Investigation’ Of A Presidential Campaign (SAC)
IG Report Lays Out Compelling Evidence FBI Misled FISA Court (Solomon)
The War of the Narratives (Kunstler)
The Great American Shakedown (Chris Hedges)
Why Tulsi Gabbard Should Not Skip The Next Debate (Mercier)
Bannon: Hillary Will Run In 2020 To ‘Save Dems From Michael Bloomberg’ (ZH)
Ex-Boeing Employee Who Warned About 737 Problems To Testify At Hearing (R.)
Ukraine, Russia Agree On Full Ceasefire In East Ukraine Before 2019-End (R.)
Ghislaine Maxwell Planning TV Tell-All About Epstein Scandal (NYPost)

 

 

It has become inevitable in America that completely different conclusions are drawn based on the same facts. Here’s the Guardian for the “left”…

FBI’s Trump-Russia Inquiry Wasn’t Biased Against President – IG (G.)

An FBI investigation into the Donald Trump election campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia was justified and not motivated by political bias against him, a government watchdog has concluded. A report by the justice department’s inspector general demolished three years of claims by the president that he was the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy and that the investigation was based on a dossier compiled by an ex-British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele. “The report issued today by the inspector general debunks the conspiracy theories about the Mueller report and the Russia investigation that President Trump and Republicans in Congress have pushed for years,” Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the House judiciary committee, and Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House oversight committee, said in a joint statement.

“Those discredited conspiracy theories were attempts to deflect from the president’s serious and ongoing misconduct, first urging Russia and now extorting Ukraine into interfering with our elections to benefit himself personally and politically.” But the inspector general Michael Horowitz’s report did pinpoint “serious performance failures” in the monitoring of a Trump aide, which the president’s allies seized on in an attempt to claim vindication. Horowitz identified 17 “significant inaccuracies or omissions” in applications for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance or Fisa court to monitor the communications of the former Trump adviser Carter Page and subsequent warrant renewals.

The errors resulted in “applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case”, the report said, although the FBI had a legal “authorized purpose” to ask for court approval. The attorney general, William Barr, rejected Horowitz’s conclusion that there was sufficient evidence to open the investigation. “The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a US presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said.

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…and Sara Carter for the right:

Barr: FBI Launched An Intrusive Investigation’ Of A Presidential Campaign (SAC)

Department of Justice Attorney General William Barr responded Monday to the release of the DOJ Inspector General’s report stating that the FBI ‘launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” Barr blasted the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team that led the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and the evidence uncovered by Inspector General Michael Horowitz that the bureau agents withheld exculpatory information from the secret court, failed to adequately vet the information supplied by former British spy Christopher Steele and moved forward to spy on the Trump campaign knowing they misled the FISA court.

“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” said Barr. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.” “In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source,” Barr said.

“The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory. While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.”

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And then there’s John Solomon:

IG Report Lays Out Compelling Evidence FBI Misled FISA Court (Solomon)

The Justice Department inspector general’s report into the Russia collusion investigation lays out incontrovertible evidence that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court through false information and omissions, according to sources familiar with its findings. The evidence that the judges were misled is so sweeping that it could provide grounds, if Attorney General William Barr chooses, to withdraw the FBI’s application for the surveillance warrants that began in October 2016 to target ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the sources added. Such a move, while mostly legally symbolic since the probe is long since closed, would still amount to a resounding rebuke to an FBI probe that the bureau, Democrats and their media allies relentlessly defended.

[..] “The evidence of false statements, false information, deception through omission is going to raise an important debate about FISA,” one source told me. The report is expected to conclude the FBI’s decision to open a counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia in 2016 was adequately predicated but that its subsequent reliance on the so-called Steele dossier and execution of FISA warrants to assist the probe were problematic. That reliance became even more troubling in early 2017 when the FBI conducted an interview with one of Christopher Steele’s sources that raised further concerns about the reliability of a dossier that was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

One question, the sources said, is whether FBI officials with access to the facts failed to adequately divulge issues in the case to those officials who signed the warrant, which was approved Oct 21, 2016 and renewed three times in 2017. Inspector General Michael Horowitz is slated to release the report midday Monday after briefing certain congressional oversight committees.

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“The New York Times is the Resistance’s obverse measuring device for divining reality..”

The War of the Narratives (Kunstler)

Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Stzrok, Lisa Page, Michael Atkinson — all either discharged or moved onto other thickets in the reeking wetland of Washington DC. Anyway, the coup ranged far beyond the bounds of Mr. Horowitz’s scope on FISA abuse. Among those many others, the IG was not authorized to interrogate former CIA chief John Brennan, the Lone Ranger of RussiaGate, or James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Brennan’s faithful Tonto in the scam. Mr. Horowitz’s report will be necessarily incomplete. At most, it might provide a preview of the comprehensive legal review being carried out by the attorney general, Mr. Barr, and his deputy, the Connecticut federal prosecutor, John Durham.

I suspect that Mr. Barr has instructed Mr. Horowitz to be careful with his conclusions, since any further attempts to obfuscate the facts and excuse official misconduct on squishy grounds such as intent will tend to worsen the already gross institutional damage done to federal law enforcement. One character who has not been heard from lo these many months is former deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, who was not fired, but transferred to some harmless backwater of the Justice Department to answer agency parking violations, or something equally harmless. I suspect Mr. Ohr may have played a decisive role in the IG inquiry, and possibly flipped on his colleagues, since Mr. Ohr was in the uniquely uncomfortable position of having a wife, Nellie Ohr, in the direct employ of Fusion GPS, Hillary Clinton’s oppo research contractor. Mr. Ohr additionally consorted with Fusion’s front man, Mr. Steele, after Steele was officially fired as a paid FBI source. Mr. Ohr will surely play a role on the Durham side of things.

[..] The New York Times is the Resistance’s obverse measuring device for divining reality — whatever they report is likely to be the opposite of the facts. So, naturally, the Monday morning edition is playing-up the supposedly nefarious doings of Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine. In fact, Mr. Giuliani has managed to depose (and record on video) two Ukrainian chief prosecutors, Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko who are deeply familiar with the machinations around the inquiries into Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company that put coke-head Hunter Biden on its board of directors while dad Joe Biden was directing on-the-ground US policy there — and bribed the Ukraine government to back off its investigations.

The essence of this colossal radioactive hairball of an historic scandal pulsates in the malicious prosecution of General Michael Flynn. Weeks ago, his new attorney, Sidney Powell, filed requests for DOJ documents containing exculpatory information in the case. The prosecutors, put in by Robert Mueller, stalled on the request, so Ms. Powell asked for an official pause until the Horowitz report is issued, possibly containing information pertinent to the general’s case. Be alert to developments on that front.

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Chris Hedges sums up how “The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership [..] have squandered their credibility”.

The Great American Shakedown (Chris Hedges)

The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership have failed, even after their defeat in the 2016 presidential election, to understand that they, along with the traditional Republican elites, have squandered their credibility. No one believes them. And no one should. They squandered their credibility by promising that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would, as claimed by President Bill Clinton, create 200,000 new, well-paying jobs per year; instead, several million jobs were lost. They squandered it by allowing corporations to move production overseas and hire foreign workers at daily wages that did not equal what a U.S. unionized worker made in an hour, a situation that obliterated the bargaining power of the American working class.

They squandered it by allowing corporations to use the threat of “offshoring” production to destroy unions, suppress wages, extract draconian concessions and push millions of workers into the temp and gig economies, where there are no benefits or job security and pay is 60% or less of what a full-time employee in the regular economy receives. They squandered it by forcing working men and women to take two or three jobs to support a family, jacking up household debt to $13.95 trillion. They squandered it by redirecting wealth upward, so that during the Clinton administration alone 45 percent of all income growth went to the wealthiest 1%. They squandered it by wiping out small farmers in Mexico, driving some 3 million of them off their lands and forcing many to migrate in desperation to the United States, a human tide that saw the U.S. right wing and President Trump direct mounting rage toward immigrants.

They squandered it by turning our great cities into urban wastelands. They squandered it by slashing welfare and social service programs. They squandered it by supporting endless, futile wars that have an overall price tag of between $5 trillion and $7 trillion. They squandered it by setting up a surveillance system to spy on every American and then lying about it. They squandered it by catering to the big banks and gutting financial regulations, precipitating the 2008 economic meltdown. They squandered it by looting the U.S. Treasury to bail out banks and financial firms guilty of massive financial crimes, ordering the Federal Reserve to hand over an estimated $29 trillion to the global financiers responsible for the crash.


Mr. Fish / Truthdig

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Tulsi has not explained why she won’t be in the debate.

Why Tulsi Gabbard Should Not Skip The Next Debate (Mercier)

On the morning of December 9th, Americans woke up to devastating and shocking news that was the Afghanistan papers. Generals and leaders from the highest echelons of the American military apparatus — the Blob — admitting confusion, defeat, and carelessness in an effort that cost the American people trillions of dollars and countless lives. That night, the only candidate running for President to end these wars and bring our troops home, Tulsi Gabbard, announced that she would not be attending the December democratic debate, whether or not she met the threshold, and provided no explanation (other than the fact that she would instead spend that time in New Hampshire and South Carolina).

Congresswoman Gabbard is only one qualifying poll away from making the important debate and has crossed the 200,000 donor threshold as well. Just last week, the once self-proclaimed “top-tier” candidate Kamala Harris dropped out after a sharp decline in polling and fundraising that started with Tulsi’s blistering public attack of her record during the July debate. Since then, Tulsi has seen her poll numbers remain fairly steady around 2–4%, but has seen some strong polling performances in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. Another presidential debate is arguably one of the best ways to reach a large number of people and to generate media coverage. She should not sit on the sidelines.


Tulsi Gabbard is not Joe Biden now or Trump in 2016. Stepping away to protest unfair rules or bias against her would not make an impact at her polling level. She should utilize every chance in these critical days before the Iowa caucuses to put her ideas in front of the American people. While much of the attacks come to her from the Democratic party, she is, in fact, one of the most progressive candidates on the stage. She should’ve made it a mission to expand her base by talking about her landmark ‘single-payer-plus’ healthcare plan, climate change, education, and other issues of importance at the next debate. Two months before the first votes are cast, she is still virtually unknown by most Americans and has not been able to prove her policy chops on issues outside that of foreign policy.

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It appears very likely Hillary will jump in. But not because of Bloomberg.

Bannon: Hillary Will Run In 2020 To ‘Save Dems From Michael Bloomberg’ (ZH)

Steve Bannon thinks that Hillary Clinton is waiting for just the right moment to enter the 2020 race and “save the Democratic Party” from billionaire Michael Bloomberg. According to Bannon, Clinton’s recent interview with Howard Stern – under the guise of promoting her book – signals that she’s absolutely running. “Hillary Clinton is waiting for her shot to come in and say, ‘I’m going to save the Democratic Party,’ that Michael Bloomberg is a liberal or moderate Republican. He’s not a Democrat,” Bannon told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” The former Trump strategist added that he doesn’t think any of the current Democratic candidates are strong enough to beat Trump, and that Clinton is “waiting in the wings” to take him on again. That said, if Hillary is going to run, she better do so quickly as filing deadlines to be included on Super Tuesday primary ballots in several key states are rapidly approaching or have passed.

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Along with FAA staff who met his warnings -4 months before the first crash -“with indifference”.

Ex-Boeing Employee Who Warned About 737 Problems To Testify At Hearing (R.)

A former Boeing employee who warned of problems with 737 production will testify on Wednesday at a U.S. House hearing on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review of the grounded 737 MAX. The aircraft has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Federal officials say the FAA is not expected to authorize the plane to fly until January at the earliest. Former Boeing employee Edward Pierson, who had worked as a senior operations manager in the flight test and evaluation unit, will testify before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Pierson’s concerns were referenced at an Oct. 30 hearing – though he had not been named previously.

“All my internal warning bells are going off and for the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing airplane,” Pierson wrote to Boeing management before the first crash, according to an email obtained by the committee. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Monday that “although Mr. Pierson did not provide specific information or detail about any particular defect or quality issue, Boeing took his concerns about 737 production disruption seriously.” He added that after Pierson retired and raised the issue again “those concerns received renewed scrutiny at the highest levels of the company.”

Johndroe added “the suggestion by Mr. Pierson of a link between his concerns and the recent MAX accidents is completely unfounded.” Eric Havian, a lawyer for Pierson, said in a statement that Boeing refused to act on his client’s warnings, which came four months before the first crash, and that Pierson was speaking out “to ensure that Boeing can no longer place profits above safety.” He also said Pierson raised concerns with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board and was met with “indifference.”

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Zelensky is under a lot of pressure from the Ukraine right. But he did it. Next up, Putin wants him to change the Ukraine constitution to give the Donbass special status.

Ukraine, Russia Agree On Full Ceasefire In East Ukraine Before 2019-End (R.)

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine agreed on Tuesday to exchange all remaining prisoners from the conflict in east Ukraine by the end of the year, but left thorny questions about the region’s status for future talks. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in their first face-to-face meeting, took part in nine hours of talks in Paris, brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The conflict in eastern Ukraine that broke out in 2014 has killed more than 13,000 people, left a large swathe of Ukraine de facto controlled by Moscow-backed separatists and aggravated the deepest east-west rift since the Cold War.

The body language between Putin and Zelenskiy, a comedian-turned-politician elected earlier this year on a promise to resolve the conflict, was chilly. There was no public handshake, and they avoided eye contact. But the talks did deliver specific commitments. A final communique set out the prisoner exchange and a renewed commitment to implement an existing ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region that has never fully taken hold as well as enhanced powers for international ceasefire monitors.

The sides also said they had agreed, over the next four months, to work toward local elections in Donbass, a major stumbling block up to now. There were no details though on how the votes would be conducted, and Macron acknowledged there were still disagreements on the subject. “We have made progress on disengagement, prisoner exchanges, ceasefire and a political evolution,” Macron said at a news conference at which Zelenskiy and Putin sat separated by Merkel and Macron.

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No idea if this is true.

Ghislaine Maxwell Planning TV Tell-All About Epstein Scandal (NYPost)

Accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell is the latest in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal planning a major TV interview — in part to defend her disgraced pal Prince Andrew, according to a report Monday. The British media heiress, who has been repeatedly accused of procuring young girls for her pedophile ex, may already be in talks with a major US network, according to The Sun. A TV special would follow the Duke of York’s own disastrous BBC sit-down about his close ties to Epstein, as well as the tearful accusations key accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre made in an hourlong special for the same UK broadcaster.


“Ghislaine is in hiding and knows the only way to stop being hunted is to speak on her own terms,” a source told the paper. “She will do a sit-down interview with a big US network and defend the duke. Apparently, she’ll say Virginia Giuffre is lying and Andrew never had sex with her,” the source told the UK paper. Maxwell, 57, is understood to be at the heart of the FBI’s ongoing probe into Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring since his death in August. She has not been seen in public since he was arrested on federal charges in July.

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Dec 082019
 
 December 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:04 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Saul Leiter 463 1956

 

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev first met in Geneva in 1985, in a summit specifically designed to allow them to discuss diplomatic relations and the -nuclear- arms race. At the time, the Soviet Union had started to crumble, but it was still very much the Soviet Union. They met again in 1986 in Reykjavik, in a summit set up to continue these talks. There, they came close to an agreement to dismantle both countries’ nuclear arsenals.

They met once again in Washington in 1987. That was the year Reagan made his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech about the Berlin wall. Then they held a next summit in 1988 in Moscow, where they finalized the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) after the US Senate’s ratification of the treaty in May 1988.

Reagan’s successor George H.W. Bush met with Gorbachev first in December 1989 in Malta, and then the two met three times in 1990, among others in Washington where the Chemical Weapons Accord was signed, and in Paris where they signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. They met three more times in 1991, with one of their meetings, in Moscow, resulting in the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I).

One of the most interesting things agreed on during the Bush-Gorbachev meetings was that Russia would allow Germany to re-unite after the wall came down, in exchange for the promise that NATO would not try to expand eastward.

 

I’ve been re-researching this a bit because it feels like it’s high time that people should realize what US foreign policy was like not that long ago. Even as it involved Reagan and Bush sr., not exactly the peace-mongers of their times. The one thing that was clear to all parties involved is that it was crucial to keep meeting and talking. And talk they did. But look at us now. When was the last summit of a US president with Vladimir Putin?

This came to mind again when I read Elizabeth Warren’s piece in the Guardian today, which made me wonder if she’s for real, if she is really as ignorant as she appears to be when it comes to foreign policy, to Russia, to Trump and to NATO. It would seem that she is, and that makes her a hazard. Not that I see her as a serious candidate, mind you, but then again, I do not see any other one either.

In her article, which reads more than anything like some nostalgic longing for the good old times when she was young, just watch her get all warm and fuzzy over the success of NATO:

 

Donald Trump Has Destroyed American Leadership – I’ll Restore It

For seven decades, America’s strength, security and prosperity have been underpinned by our unmatched network of treaty alliances, cemented in shared democratic values and a recognition of our common security. But after three years of Donald Trump’s insults and antics, our alliances are under enormous strain. The damage done by the president’s hostility toward our closest partners was on full display at this week’s gathering of NATO leaders in London, which should have been an unequivocal celebration of the 70th anniversary of the most successful alliance in history.

The success of NATO was not inevitable, easy or obvious. It is a remarkable and hard-won accomplishment, and one based on a recognition that the United States does not become stronger by weakening our allies. But that is just what Trump has done, repeatedly and deliberately. He treats our partners as burdens while embracing autocrats from Moscow to Pyongyang. He has cast doubt on the US commitment to NATO at a moment when a resurgent Russia threatens our institutions and freedoms. He has blindsided our partners on the ground in Syria by ordering a precipitate and uncoordinated withdrawal.

[..] he has wrecked US credibility by unilaterally tearing up our international agreements on arms control, non-proliferation and climate change. This reckless disregard for the benefits of our alliances comes at a perilous moment, when we face common threats from powerful adversaries probing the weaknesses of our institutions and resolve. Longstanding allies in Asia are doubting our reliability and hedging their bets. Russia’s land grab in Ukraine has upended the post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace”. The chaotic Brexit process has consumed our closest partners, while sluggish growth and rising xenophobia fuel extremist politics and threaten to fracture the European Union.

 

To start with that last point, no. That “post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace” was destroyed by NATO’s eastward expansion, executed in spite of US, EU and NATO promises that it wouldn’t. Moreover, you can talk about a resurgent Russia, but the country has hardly recovered economically from the 1980’s and 90’s today, and it has no designs on countries to its west.

Just look at the military budgets of the respective countries, where Russia has maybe 10% of the expenditure of the US, let alone the rest of NATO, and you get the picture. Is Russia getting more bang for its buck, because it doesn’t have to maintain a long running Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon link? Yes, it does. But a 10 to 1 difference is still way out there. It’s not as if they spend half of what the US does, they spend just 10%.

This is because not only Russia doesn’t have to satisfy the desires and needs of Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon, it’s also because they have no desire to conquer any territory that is not at present Russian.

Russia “annexed” Crimea through fair elections, and it knew that “we” knew that it would never let go of its only warm water port, Sevastopol. When “We” tried to take it away regardless, it did the only thing it could do. And it did it very intelligently. As for Eastern Ukraine, everyone there is Russian, whether by blood or by passport. And there are a lot of strong ties between them and Russians in Russia proper.

If Putin would have volunteered to let these Donbass Russians be shot to bits by the Ukraine neo-nazis that helped the US and EU in the Maidan coup, he would have had either a civil war in Russia, or an all-out war in the Donbass, with perhaps millions of casualties. Putin did what he could to prevent both. Back to Warren:

 

A mounting list of global challenges demand US leadership and collective action. As president, I will recommit to our alliances – diplomatically, militarily and economically. I will take immediate action to rebuild our partnerships and renew American strategic and moral leadership, including by rejoining the Paris climate accord, the United Nations compact on migration, and reaffirming our rock-solid commitment to NATO’s Article 5 provisions.


But we must do more than repair what Trump has broken. Instead we need to update our alliances and our international efforts to tackle the great challenges of our age, from climate change and resurgent authoritarianism to dark money flows, a weakening international arms control regime and the worst human displacement crisis in modern history.

 

Wait, what exactly has Trump broken in the foreign policy field? There have been dozens at the very least who have called for NATO to be disbanded, Ron Paul et al, because its sole purpose was to counter the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. In fact, when Emmanuel Macron labeled NATO “brain-dead” last week, it was Trump who defended the alliance.

And sorry, Elizabeth, but to hold Trump responsible for “the worst human displacement crisis in modern history” is just not right. That started way before he arrived at the scene. Obama and Hillary carry the burden and blame for that, along with Bush jr. and Dick Cheney. They shot the crap out of Iraq, Lybia etc. Trump only dumped a few bombs in a desert. He didn’t invade any country, he didn’t go “We Came, We Saw, He Died”. That was not Trump.

And before we forget, the military aid for Ukraine Trump allegedly held back for a few weeks had been refused by Obama for years. I’ve been wondering for ages now why the Democrats are so eager to make things up while ignoring simple facts, but I think at least it’s time to start pointing out these issues.

This is not to make Trump look better in any sense, but to try and make people understand that he did not start this thing. Though yeah, I know, it’s like talking to a wall by now. The political divide has turned into such a broad and yawning one, you can’t not wonder how it could ever be broached.

But, you know, it might help if people like Elizabeth Warren don’t ONLY talk about Trump like he’s the antichrist, or a Putin tool, if they engage with him in conversation. But sadly, it feels like we’re past that point. Like if she would even try, and I don’t know if she would want to, her party would spit her out just for trying to build a single bridge. Like Tulsi Gabbard seems to have tried; and look at how the DNC treats her.

 

This means revitalizing our state department and charging our diplomats to develop creative solutions for ever more urgent challenges. It means working with like-minded partners to promote our shared interest in sustained, inclusive global economic growth and an international trade system that protects workers and the environment, not just corporate profits. And it means reducing wasteful defense spending and refocusing on the areas most critical to our security in years to come.

 

Well, apart from the fact that we’ve seen some of those diplomats in the Schiff hearings, and they seemed like the least likely people to develop anything “creative” -other than their opinions-, and the boondoggle of “sustained, inclusive global economic growth”, it’s probably best to forget about that entire paragraph. It’s nicer to Warren too.

 

Alliances are not charities, and it’s fair to ask our partners to do their share. I will build on what President Obama started by insisting on increased contributions to NATO operations and common investments in collective military capabilities. But I will also recognize the varied and significant ways that European states contribute to global security – deploying troops to shared missions, receiving refugees, and providing development assistance at some of the highest per capita rates in the world.

 

The problem appears to be that the partners don’t increase their contributions. Just this March, Germany refused to do just that. And if Berlin refuses, why would other countries spend more?

 

The next president must tackle our common problems using the lessons of common defense. Together, we can counter terrorism and proliferation. We can make common cause in constructing new norms and rules to govern cyberspace. We can dismantle the corruption, monopolies and inequality that limit opportunity around the world and take on the increasingly grave threats to our environment. We can and will protect ourselves and each other – our countries, our citizens and our democracies.

 

Now we’re getting into entirely nonsensical territory, with words and sentences designed only to make people feel good about things that have no substance whatsoever. Anyone can go there, anyone can do that.

In the meantime, the neverending investigations into Trump, Russia, Ukraine, taxes, have had one major effect: he hasn’t had a chance to have a summit with Putin. And that, to go back to how I started out this essay, is the worst idea out there. If Reagan and Bush sr. did those summits all the time, then why do we now think such summits are the work of the devil?

And yeah, we get it, we got it again last week from alleged law expert Pamela Karlan in the House, who let ‘er rip on the dangers Putin poses to all of humanity, and of course she would never trust Trump to hold any such summit because he’s Putin’s puppet.

What Pamela, and all the MSM, and the Dems, and the FBI/CIA, appear to refuse to see, though, is that Trump was democratically elected by the American people to be the only one who can have any such conversation. Karlan again talked about how Russia would attempt to attack American soil unless “we” keep them from doing that.

Now I can say that is absolute bollocks, and it is, but how many -potential- Democratic voters will recognize that at this point? They’ve been trained to believe it. That Russia wants one US presidential candidate over another, or one UK one, or fill in your country, and therefore they want to invade the US, UK, etc. In reality, Russia has plenty problems of its own, and it’s slowly trying to solve them.

The two countries need to start talking to each other again, and the sooner the better. That it will happen under Elizabeth Warren, however, is very unlikely. First because she has her mind made up about Russia, and second because the likelihood of her becoming president is very low. What do you think, is that a good thing?

If for some reason -who can tell- she would end up winning 11 months from now, do you think she’s likely to establish a peace treaty with Russia? You know, given what she wrote here? And if not, why would you vote for her? Don’t you want peace? Do you think antagonizing Putin forever is a good idea? While Russia continues to outperform America in arms development, and in just about any field? While Russia only wants peace?

Good questions, ain’t they, as we move into 2020?!

 

 

 

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