Oct 062020
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Old Man Sitting 1631

 

‘Don’t Let It Dominate You. Don’t Be Afraid Of It’ – President Trump (JTN)
WHO: 760 Million May Have Been Infected With Novel Coronavirus (JTN)
CDC Acknowledges Coronavirus Spreads Through Airborne Transmission (CNBC)
Gina Haspel Banks On Trump Loss To Keep Russiagate Documents Hidden (Fed.)
Carter Page Wants McCabe Subpoenaed To Testify Before Senate (JTN)
Ginsburg’s Nightmare: The Democratic Plan To Destroy The Supreme Court (Turley)
Out of the Woods? (Jim Kunstler)
100,000 Ballot Requests Invalidated In Iowa (IC)
Debt Collectors Have Made a Fortune This Year. They’re Coming for More (PP)
Facebook Refuses To Appoint Turkey Representative, Faces Penalties (Ahval)
UK Court Decision on Venezuela Gold Deals Blow to Regime Change Efforts (MPN)
Former Reserve Bank Of Australia Boss: Low Rates Haven’t Done Any Good (AFR)
John McAfee Arrested In Spain On Tax Evasion & Crypto Fraud, Awaits Extradition To US (RT)
Trump Briefly Leaves Hospital To Wave To Supporters From F-22 Raptor (BBee)

 

 

Trump has long known that it makes no difference what he says or does, everything will be presented in a form that can be used against him anyway. If he says: don’t be afraid of it, the media will tell everyone to be very afraid.

There’s only one exception: if he would start a war. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall into that trap.

 

 

US national debt

 

 

 

 

Media reaction: be afraid! And: don’t let Trump dominate you! Bit late for that now.

‘Don’t Let It Dominate You. Don’t Be Afraid Of It’ – President Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Monday night released a new video message in which he urged Americans to be cautious but not fear the coronavirus or allow it to consume their lives. “I just left Walter Reed Medical Center and it’s really something very special, the doctors, the nurses, the first responders, and I learned so much about coronavirus,” the president said. “And one thing that’s for certain: Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re gonna beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines, all developed recently.” “I went, I didn’t feel so good. And two days ago, I could’ve left two days ago. Two days ago I felt great, like better than I have in a long time. I said just recently, better than 20 years ago,” Trump said.


“I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s ok. And now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful. We have the best medicines in the world and it all happened very shortly and they’re all getting approved. And the vaccines are coming momentarily,” the president said. President Trump on Monday evening departed Walter Reed Medical Center, where he had been staying since Friday evening, and returned to the White House.

Read more …

Based on what information?

WHO: 760 Million May Have Been Infected With Novel Coronavirus (JTN)

The World Health Organization estimated Monday that roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide have been infected by the novel coronavirus – more than 20 times the number of confirmed cases. The estimate was made by Dr. Michael Ryan, who leads the WHO’s emergencies division, during a session with the group’s 34-member executive board He said that the number was his “best estimates” and that “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.” He also said “many deaths have been averted and many more lives can be protected.” The new estimate from the WHO would indicate that 760 million people worldwide have been infected with the novel virus, a number far surpassing the currently reported 35 million confirmed cases. Ryan also said that the group is getting reports of a surge of cases in Asia and Europe. The doctor cautioned that the world may now be “heading into a difficult period. The disease continued to spread. It is on the rise in many parts of the world.”

Read more …

Are these people trying to clarify something, or just to confuse me? What of this didn’t we already know?

CDC Acknowledges Coronavirus Spreads Through Airborne Transmission (CNBC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its coronavirus guidance Monday, acknowledging that it can sometimes spread through airborne particles that can “linger in the air for minutes to hours” and among people who are more than 6 feet apart. The CDC cited published reports that demonstrated “limited, uncommon circumstances where people with COVID-19 infected others who were more than 6 feet away or shortly after the COVID-19-positive person left an area.” “In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise,” the CDC said in a statement. “Such environments and activities may contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles.”

The agency added that it is “much more common” for the virus to spread through larger respiratory droplets that are produced when somebody coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. People are infected through such droplets mostly when they are in close contact with an infected person, the CDC said. “CDC’s recommendations remain the same based on existing science and after a thorough technical review of the guidance,” the agency said. “People can protect themselves from the virus that causes COVID-19 by staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask that covers their nose and mouth, washing their hands frequently, cleaning touched surfaces often and staying home when sick.” To what degree the coronavirus can spread through airborne particles has been a contentious debate among scientists for months.

Some epidemiologists have charged that the World Health Organization as well as federal regulatory agencies in many countries have been slow to accept that the virus can spread by air. It’s a debate that could have implications for the importance of air filtration in reopening businesses and schools. Dr. Bill Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, said the new guidance is largely in line with what he says the science indicates about the coronavirus spreading through the air. He said in a phone interview after reviewing the new guidance that airborne transmission is something of a “side street” for spread. “Some cars do get through on the side street,” he said. “But the highways of transmission are close in, usually within enclosed spaces and for periods of time longer than 15 minutes with people standing within three to six feet of each other.”

[..] Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist and biodefense expert at the University of Arizona, said the new CDC guidance is “quite good.” She added that “the term airborne means so much to so many people,” and the guidance does a good job of emphasizing that the virus appears to only spread by air in certain environments, such as crowded indoor and poorly ventilated spaces. “We know that these events are occurring, but they’re not the primary driver,” she said in a phone interview. “This is a good reminder that there are environments that are higher risk for airborne transmission and we just need to communicate that.”

Read more …

Running out the clock. Trump picked the wrong people in many high positions.

Gina Haspel Banks On Trump Loss To Keep Russiagate Documents Hidden (Fed.)

CIA Director Gina Haspel is personally blocking the declassification and release of key Russiagate documents in the hopes that President Donald Trump will lose his re-election bid, multiple senior U.S. officials told The Federalist. The officials said Haspel, who served under former CIA Director John Brennan as the spy agency’s station chief in London in 2016 and 2017, is concerned that the declassification and release of documents detailing what the CIA was doing during the 2016 election and the 2017 transition could embarrass the CIA and potentially even implicate Haspel herself. “Haspel and [FBI Director Christopher] Wray both want Trump to lose, because it’s the only chance they have of keeping their jobs,” one senior intelligence official told The Federalist.

“They’re banking on Biden winning and keeping them where they are.” The Federalist first reported last week that Haspel had emerged as the primary roadblock to declassification of materials showing that the U.S. intelligence community knew prior to the 2016 election that the allegations that Trump colluded with Russia were themselves the products of Russian disinformation. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe released a declassified summary last week that disclosed that Russian intelligence officials were aware that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had planned to smear Trump as a treasonous Russian asset to distract from the Clinton’s e-mail scandal. As part of her operation, Clinton hired a foreign agent who was himself working for a sanctioned Russian oligarch to spread unverified smears against Trump.


One of the key sources of collusion allegations peddled by that foreign agent via the now-infamous Steele dossier was suspected by FBI authorities of being a Russian spy.“It’s far more important for Haspel to block any embarrassment of herself or her agency than to have full transparency and accountability,” another senior intelligence official told The Federalist. “She’s just hoping she can get past the election so the documents will never come out.” “This is not a source protection issue, it’s an embarrassment issue,” the intelligence official added. Officials also accused Haspel of repeatedly lying to the White House about the status of documents that are in the pipeline for declassification and release. These officials said that Haspel has consistently provided baseless excuses for her failure to produce certain documents, falsely claiming that she can’t physically locate documents, or that her agency doesn’t technically own them and therefore cannot release them.

Read more …

New: refusing to testify by video because of coronavirus.

Carter Page Wants McCabe Subpoenaed To Testify Before Senate (JTN)

Former Trump 2016 campaign adviser Carter Page says former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should be subpoenaed to testify Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, after backing out over coronavirus concerns. “Hopefully a subpoena is issued today,” Page told “Just the News AM” host Carrie Sheffield. “It’s now Monday morning, and I hope that is resolved so that he can show up and be held to account and answer for these terrible problems that were created.” McCabe was set to testify before the committee on the FBI’s now-discredited Trump-Russia probe.


However, the committee postponed the hearing over McCabe’s coronavirus concerns, after two GOP members, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), tested positive for the virus in recent days. McCabe’s attorney said the alternative, to testify remotely via video camera, would be too complex and contentious. “I think it’s another example of the complete double standards,” said Page. “So many Trump supporters including myself, were dragged in front of not only the U.S. Senate, which is what’s in question here, but the House.” Page, on whom the FBI illegally eavesdropped, also expressed frustration about being a target in special counsel Robert Mueller’s years-long collusion probe.

Read more …

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed it was wrong to demand assurances on how justices will vote. In her confirmation hearing in 1993, she refused to give the answer that Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Sanders, Clinton, and others now demand from her potential successor.”

Ginsburg’s Nightmare: The Democratic Plan To Destroy The Supreme Court (Turley)

[..] the call for a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees and the packing of the Supreme Court with up to six new members to secure a majority. Both ideas were expressly denounced by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Indeed, to achieve these objectives, the Democratic members will have to tear down the very rule established by Ginsburg in her confirmation hearing. The refusal of Vice President Joe Biden to answer repeated questions about his position on the packing of the Supreme Court is deeply troubling. This is a proposal raised not by the Republicans but his own running mate Kamala Harris and leading Democrats. It would destroy the Supreme Court and voters should know if Biden would consider such an irresponsible act, particularly when he previously denounced it.

The refusal to stand against the proposal is a fundamental failure of leadership. Rather than confront the most extreme elements of his party, Biden has chosen to remain silent on a major issue in this election. Frankly, that is not the Biden that many of us knew from his time in the Senate. He should take a stand against this pernicious idea and defend the institution, as he did in 2019 [..] Subtlety has been a stranger to our politics. This is the age of rage, and there is little room for nuance. That is evident in the intense debate over the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Democrats have dispensed with any pretense in their calls to block her and pack the bench with more justices. What they want is a Supreme Court with litmus test confirmations where Senate votes are conditioned on pledges.


Several Democrats have said they will ask Barrett about her view of any challenge to Roe versus Wade, and cases like the pending challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, she faced such demands from Richard Blumenthal and others for her confirmation as a federal appellate judge, and several Democrats voted against her since she did not promise to uphold Roe. In their campaigns last year, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders pledged to nominate only those who would uphold Roe. [..] Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed it was wrong to demand assurances on how justices will vote. In her confirmation hearing in 1993, she refused to give the answer that Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Sanders, Clinton, and others now demand from her potential successor. In calling to protect the legacy of Ginsburg, these politicians have to first tear down the Ginsburg rule.

Read more …

“..a keening wail of lamentation rings out across the land at Mr. Trump’s possible, dastardly recovery. How dare he! — to paraphrase Saint Greta Thunberg.”

Out of the Woods? (Jim Kunstler)

CNN had a whack attack. Brian Stelter was beside himself, hinting that sinister forces had punked the network, and all the other righteous Resistance cadres, and that Mr. Trump could be endangering every federal employee down to the enlisted men posted overseas by venturing from his sickroom. The New York Times went farther afield (of course), declaring that “the murky and shifting narrative of his illness was rewritten again with grim new details.” Nicely put by an outfit that has come to specialize in shifting narratives! And indeed, the new Resistance narrative demands to know just exactly when did the president start to feel ill? Did he, perhaps on-purpose, haul his ailing, hulking, scheming Golem ass into the Cleveland debate venue with the hope of infecting his rival, delicate Ol’ White Joe Biden?

Did he recklessly put at risk the White House staff, dignitaries and luminaries coming and going, their family members, associates, underlings, servants, children? Did he threaten the global order, world peace, the fate of humanity? So now, a keening wail of lamentation rings out across the land at Mr. Trump’s possible, dastardly recovery. How dare he! — to paraphrase Saint Greta Thunberg. 209,000 other Americans died, and not him! What vile and unholy devices got him out of a sure death sentence? No doubt Democratic Party astrologasters and consulting augurers will be searching for clues among the orbiting planets and the spilled organs of sacrificed chickens in the days to come. Perhaps Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) can snare a few of the president’s attending physicians into his House Intel Committee and rev up another impeachment for going against doctors’ orders.


Wouldn’t that be a delectable counter to the looming confirmation process for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement next door in the Senate this month? Over his dead body, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is hinting — a tantalizing prospect, with Covid-19 on the loose. It was Chuck who memorably told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in 2017 that the Deep State “has six ways from [sic] Sunday at getting back at you.” By my count, they’re well over their allotted six by now. Not only did they all fail, but the seditionists behind them are liable to wind up behind bars before this is all over, perhaps even a few of Senator Schumer’s colleagues.

Read more …

Many stories developing. A mess overall. Seemingly impossible to regulate on a federal level.

100,000 Ballot Requests Invalidated In Iowa (IC)

In 2018, Democrats won three of Iowa’s four congressional districts, picked up five seats in the state House, and lost the governor’s race by less than 3 points. The state has only trended more Democratic since, giving the party real hope that its six electoral votes could wind up in the camp of Joe Biden and that its Senate seat, now held by Republican Joni Ernst, could flip to Democrat Theresa Greenfield. It may all hinge, however, on an absentee ballot snafu affecting tens of thousands of voters that the party is scrambling to rectify. In July, the top elections officials in Linn and Johnson counties went ahead and began mailing out absentee-ballot request forms with some voter information already filled in, like names and dates of birth.

Crucially, voters need to know their voter ID number. Most don’t, and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller had the state’s vendor fill it in for them. Republicans protested, and courts sided with the GOP, saying that Miller’s decision to proceed with the mailing violated a “clear directive” from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. More than 100,000 absentee ballot requests have already been invalidated in several Iowa counties. In late August, judges ordered two Iowa counties to invalidate at least 64,000 ballot requests, siding with a challenge brought by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the GOP, which have been filing similar lawsuits nationwide.


About 50,000 voters in Linn County and at least 14,000 in Woodbury will be informed that their absentee-ballot requests won’t count and that anyone who still wants to vote by mail in November will have to send in a new form in order to receive their ballot. In a separate case in Johnson County, home to the University of Iowa, more than 92,000 ballot request forms were voided.

Read more …

The ultimate growth industry.

Debt Collectors Have Made a Fortune This Year. They’re Coming for More (PP)

Earlier this year, the pandemic swept across the country, killing 100,000 Americans by the spring, shuttering businesses and schools, and forcing people into their homes. It was a great time to be a debt collector. In August, Encore Capital, the largest debt buyer in the country, announced that it had doubled its previous record for earnings in a quarter. It primarily had the CARES Act to thank: The bill delivered hundreds of billions of dollars worth of stimulus checks and bulked-up unemployment benefits to Americans, while easing pressures on them by halting foreclosures, evictions and student loan payments. There was no ban on collections of old credit card bills, Encore’s specialty.

At the same time, the pandemic compelled households to cut spending. Finding themselves with enough money to settle old debts, people responded to collectors’ calls and letters. Debt-buying executives couldn’t help marveling at their good fortune. All this created “a perfect storm from a cash perspective,” the CEO of Portfolio Recovery Associates, Encore’s main competitor, told Wall Street analysts. After its record second quarter, analysts expect Encore to blow past $200 million in profit this year and reward stockholders with 40% earnings growth compared with last year. Portfolio Recovery is set for similar growth. The share prices of both have soared off their early April lows.


[..] In recent months, the only real bad news for debt buyers was that local courts across the country temporarily shut down. Debt collection lawsuits provide a key source of revenue for the companies, a way to extract payment from consumers, typically low-income, who don’t offer it up. But now even that hiccup is over. After a bit of a lull in the spring, Encore and other debt buyers are back at it, filing suits by the thousands every week, according to ProPublica’s analysis of state court filings. In August alone, Encore filed about 1,000 suits in Indiana and over 2,000 suits in the metro Atlanta area. Other debt buyers jumped back in as well. In Chicago, Portfolio Recovery filed over 3,000 suits in July, while LVNV, a major debt buyer privately owned by Sherman Financial Group, filed over 2,700 suits in Maryland in August.

Read more …

Might as well leave right now.

Facebook Refuses To Appoint Turkey Representative, Faces Penalties (Ahval)

Social media giant Facebook has decided against appointing a Turkey representative, defying a requirement placed on certain social media platforms by the Turkish government, cyber rights expert Yaman Akdeniz said on Monday. “Facebook has decided not to appoint a Turkey representative in line with (Turkey’s) newly-passed Social Media Law,’’ Akdeniz said on Twitter. In July, Turkish parliament ratified a bill introducing new powers to control social media. The bill was passed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), stipulates that social media companies with more than one million users must appoint a legal representative in Turkey to address the authorities’ concerns over content and includes deadlines for its removal.


Akdeniz said it remains to be seen what the government’s reaction would be, but underlined that the bill was passed by parliament in a period of 10 days without consultation and posed serious problems regarding basic rights and freedoms. Facebook’s refusal to comply with the law would mean they will be faced with “a tiered penalty system,’’ Akdeniz said. “They will be slapped with a penalty of 10 million lira ($1.28 million) in November, followed by 30 million lira in December,’’ he said. “There is a six-month period ahead that leads all the way to the reduction of Internet bandwidth.’’ According to the law, companies could face fines, blocked advertisements or have their bandwidth slashed by up to 90 percent.

Read more …

Did that coup fail or what?

UK Court Decision on Venezuela Gold Deals Blow to Regime Change Efforts (MPN)

United Kingdom court has handed the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro a major win today, overturning a previous ruling from a lower court that legitimized the British government’s decision to freeze Venezuelan government gold reserves held in the Bank of England. The English Court of Appeal ruled that the Conservative administration of Boris Johnson’s position that Juan Guaidó is the country’s legitimate ruler was far from equivocal, potentially paving the way for some $1.95 billion of the Central Bank of Venezuela’s gold to be accessed.

Following President Trump’s lead, in July, the U.K. government took the extraordinary step of derecognizing President Maduro in favor of the self-declared Guaidó, despite the fact that for nearly six months, he had not even been a member of his Popular Will party, let alone its leader. The move was labeled “highway robbery” by supporters of the Venezuelan government. A nearly unheard of politician before his ascension to the role of head of the Venezuelan National Assembly (a post given out on a yearly rotational basis among all parties in the institution) in January 2019, Guaidó shocked the country by using his appointment to unilaterally declare himself president of the country. He then led a series of coup attempts throughout 2019 and 2020, the last of which involved paying Trump-linked American mercenaries to shoot their way into the presidential palace.


However, the plan ended in complete disaster, with the Americans subsequently sentenced to 20 years of prison time. Guaidó based his claim to power on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which allows a president to be removed if he “abandons his position” or becomes “permanently unavailable to serve” for whatever reason. Maduro, however, had clearly not left his post. Regardless, if he had, Article 233 states that the vice-president would take charge until a new election by universal suffrage was held. Guaidó’s party was not even registered to stand in elections, having boycotted them the year previously under U.S. orders.

Read more …

They’ve done a lot of harm though.

“Once the majority do it, you really have no choice,” Mr Macfarlane said..”

Former Reserve Bank Of Australia Boss: Low Rates Haven’t Done Any Good (AFR)

Former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Ian Macfarlane says cutting interest rates to near zero has not done “any good” and warned ultra-loose monetary policy will have long-term costs for pensioners and insurance companies. In a very rare public critique of the RBA by a former governor, Mr Macfarlane said technology and globalisation were now more powerful forces than interest rates in affecting inflation, but central bankers were reluctant to admit their limitations. “I’ve been disappointed with the recent cuts in interest rates, all of them since about 2015,” Mr Macfarlane said. “The latest round of cutting interest rates and quantitative easing, I myself don’t think they’ve done any good.

“I thought, ‘wow, you didn’t need to do that’ but I don’t think there’s any way my successors could have stood there and said to the world ‘we’re not going to do that, we’re going to do it our way’.” The Australian dollar would have jumped “through the roof” if the RBA refused to follow other central banks cutting interest rates to near-zero, to buy government bonds and deploy other extraordinary monetary stimulus, he said. “Once the majority do it, you really have no choice,” Mr Macfarlane said in long interview on The Jolly Swagman podcast. Mr Macfarlane, RBA governor from 1996 to 2006, said there would be long-term economic costs of prolonged ultra-low interest rates.


“I think the jury is out on monetary policy for another decade or more because there are very big costs to having almost zero interest rates,” he said. “The whole retirement income industry – the pension funds, the superannuation funds, including insurance companies and businesses like that – don’t quite know how to operate with interest rates that are negligible because they’ve never had to do it before.” [..] “Monetary policy hasn’t lost its power, it’s used up all its power and there isn’t any more room.”

Read more …

Perhaps John should have seen a shrink.

John McAfee Arrested In Spain On Tax Evasion & Crypto Fraud (RT)

Former software guru and one-time presidential candidate John McAfee has been nabbed in Spain on tax evasion and cryptocurrency fraud, ending his year long stint as a globetrotting fugitive. He now faces extradition to the US. The US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission both announced charges for McAfee on Monday, hitting the security software founder with 10 counts linked to dodging the IRS and another series of charges for promoting investments in cryptocurrencies without disclosing that he was paid some $23 million to do so. “John McAfee earned millions in income from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary,” the DOJ said in a statement. “From 2014 to 2018, McAfee allegedly failed to file tax returns, despite receiving considerable income from these sources.”


McAfee was charged on five counts for willful failure to file a tax return, each of which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison, while the other five charges are linked to tax evasion itself, which could each result in up to five years behind bars. Originally filed in June, the newly unsealed indictment does not implicate McAfee’s former software company, which bears his name. The SEC also accused McAfee of promoting “multiple [initial coin offerings] on Twitter” while “pretending to be impartial and independent even though he was paid more than $23 million in digital assets for the promotions.” The complaint also alleges that McAfee and his bodyguard, Jimmy Watson Jr., engaged in a separate scheme to promote cryptocurrencies on Twitter and then sell them off as their price rose. The government did not name the particular currencies in its complaint.

Read more …

What could have been.

Trump Briefly Leaves Hospital To Wave To Supporters From F-22 Raptor (BBee)

A nurse working at Walter Reed Medical Center checked in on Trump but was shocked to discover his room was empty. She looked out the window, and sure enough, he had tied bedsheets together and escaped. Just then, the nurse noticed a cup of Diet Coke left by the bedside began to ripple and shake. “Oh, no,” she murmured. “Not again!” Looking out the window, she saw a speck on the horizon. A rapidly growing speck. It was Trump, gloriously flying by in an F-22 fighter jet. “Sorry, Pence — but it’s time to buzz the tower!” Trump radioed to his wingman, who flashed him a smile and a thumbs-up. He flew by the hospital and waved to his cheering supporters.


“America!” the president cried as he flew by the ecstatic crowd, though they couldn’t hear him over the roar of the fighter jet’s engines. “I feel the need — the need for speed!” Media condemned the move, saying Trump could very well have spread COVID to every person on the planet with his little stunt, though he was all alone in a tiny cockpit far above the ground.

Read more …

 

 

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May 242020
 


Walker Evans Street Scene, Vicksburg, Mississippi 1936

 

Trump: ‘I Have A Chance To Break The Deep State’ (Attkisson)
The Influential Evangelical Group Mobilizing To Reelect Trump (IC)
Over 4,300 Virus Patients Sent To NY Nursing Homes (AP)
Cuomo Tries To Deflect Blame Of Nursing Home COVID19 Deaths On To Trump (Fox)
Russia Reports 153 Coronavirus Deaths, Highest Daily Toll Yet (R.)
Dominic Cummings Must Quit Over Lockdown Drive – Tory MP (R.)
UK To Require Employers To Pay 20-30% Of Furloughed Wage Cost (R.)
Project Leader: Oxford’s COVID19 Vaccine Trial Has 50% Chance Of Success (R.)
Powell’s Problem? He Can’t Print Jobs – DDMB (TA)
Judge Lifts Stay On Sale Of Venezuela’s Us Refineries (AP)
Judge In Flynn Case Hires Lawyer To Defend His Decision Not To Drop It (JTN)
Personal #Coronavirus Update 03 May 23rd 2020 (Steve Keen)

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 101,325

New cases in:

• US + 21,475
• Russia + 8,599
• Brazil + 15,016
• India + 6,274
• Peru + 4,056

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,427,555 (+ 101,325 from yesterday’s 5,326,230)

Deaths 344,417 (+ 4,034 from yesterday’s 340,383)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Hope you won’t mind if we don’t hold our breath.

Trump: ‘I Have A Chance To Break The Deep State’ (Attkisson)

President Trump says he is making inroads in taming Washington’s permanent bureaucracy, which he likes to call the “deep state.” “What am I doing? I’m fighting the deep state,” Trump said in an exclusive interview with Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. “I’m fighting the swamp…If it keeps going the way it’s going, I have a chance to break the deep state. It’s a vicious group of people. It’s very bad for our country.” In the wide-ranging interview with Full Measure set to air Sunday, Trump also addressed the debate over whether religious services should remain closed. Calling them “essential services,” he says it’s time for them to open.


[..] Also addressed in the interview: the controversy over using the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus prevention or treatment. Trump says he just finished a two week course of of the drug for preventive purposes after two White House staffers were diagnosed with coronavirus. “I’m still here, to the best of my knowledge,” he says. The president also talked about the strengths and weaknesses of his political opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, his own Twitter practices, the new Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, and the scandal over FBI surveillance abuses. “That was the insurance policy,” Trump tells Attkisson, speaking of the FBI’s targeting of the Trump campaign in 2016 and the transition team in early 2017. “[They thought ‘Clinton is] going to win but just in case she doesn’t, we have an insurance policy.’ And now I beat them on the insurance policy. And now they’re being exposed.”

Read more …

Those who target old ladies in arcane churches are more tech-savvy than those who target more tech savvy people.

• United in Purpose is a group on the religious right that worked to grow evangelical support for Donald Trump in 2016.
• UIP’s 2020 strategy, as discussed on an April call, is to target religious Latino and African American voters.
• Ralph Reed boasted of “data partners” who had identified 26 million key voters in battleground states, about three-fourths of whom they could target via Facebook.

The Influential Evangelical Group Mobilizing To Reelect Trump (IC)

“The covid virus has been a gift from God,” began Ken Eldred. “The kingdom of God advances through a series of glorious victories, cleverly disguised as disasters.” In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Eldred noted, millions of Americans are turning to Christ, Walmart is selling out of Bibles, and online church broadcasts have hit record numbers. But while religiosity was growing, there have been setbacks from the disease outbreak. “Satan has been busy too,” Eldred, a major donor to evangelical and Republican causes, explained. “The virus has messed up many of our plans involving our in-person meetings with voters.” And the rise of mail-in ballots, Eldred added, would undercut voter identification laws, which have been a pillar of GOP election strategy.


“The children of the darkness put early voting into this CARES package,” he grumbled, a reference to the $400 million for election assistance programs to states included in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. Following a brief prayer led by Eldred, in which he declared that “we have now turned the corner on the virus” and asked God for an end to coronavirus deaths, the business of the call got started: How Christian voters can be a force to reelect Donald Trump. The call, held in mid-April, one in a series of meetings sponsored by United in Purpose, a low-key group that has quietly become a preeminent venue for leaders on the religious right to convene. UIP was crucial in connecting Trump to evangelical leaders in 2016, and it promises to be one of the most vital weapons in Trump’s reelection arsenal this year.

Read more …

Whose fault is it? Cuomo says it’s Trump. That at least doesn’t appear to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The CDC plays a role. And people now like saying it’s Trump’s CDC, but the influence of any single president on the CDC is of course limited. Which is, as those same people will say in other circumstances, exactly how it should be. That feels a little like having your cake and eating it to.

Over 4,300 Virus Patients Sent To NY Nursing Homes (AP)

More than 4,300 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York’s already vulnerable nursing homes under a controversial state directive that was ultimately scrapped amid criticisms it was accelerating the nation’s deadliest outbreaks, according to a count by The Associated Press. AP compiled its own tally to find out how many COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals to nursing homes under the March 25 directive after New York’s Health Department declined to release its internal survey conducted two weeks ago. It says it is still verifying data that was incomplete.

Whatever the full number, nursing home administrators, residents’ advocates and relatives say it has added up to a big and indefensible problem for facilities that even Gov. Andrew Cuomo — the main proponent of the policy — called “the optimum feeding ground for this virus.” “It was the single dumbest decision anyone could make if they wanted to kill people,” Daniel Arbeeny said of the directive, which prompted him to pull his 88-year-old father out of a Brooklyn nursing home where more than 50 people have died. His father later died of COVID-19 at home. “This isn’t rocket science,” Arbeeny said. “We knew the most vulnerable — the elderly and compromised — are in nursing homes and rehab centers.”

[..] Nationally, over 35,500 people have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, about a third of the overall death toll, according to the AP’s running tally. Cuomo has deflected criticism over the nursing home directive by saying it stemmed from Trump administration guidance. Still, few states went as far as New York and neighboring New Jersey, which has the second-most care home deaths, in discharging hospitalized coronavirus patients to nursing homes. California followed suit but loosened its requirement following intense criticism.

Some states went in the opposite direction. Louisiana barred hospitals for 30 days from sending coronavirus patients to nursing homes with some exceptions. And while Louisiana reported about 1,000 coronavirus-related nursing home deaths, far fewer than New York, that was 40% of Louisiana’s statewide death toll, a higher proportion than in New York.

Read more …

But okay, there are CDC guidelines that may have played a role in the nursing home disaster. Only, what are those guidelines? Are they:

“nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present.”

Or

“CDC guidelines require any newly admitted and readmitted resident with a COVID-19 case to be placed in a designated COVID-19 care unit, while those who have met the criteria to have recovered can return to a regular unit in the nursing home. [..] “a nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19… as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance.”

Cuomo Tries To Deflect Blame Of Nursing Home COVID19 Deaths On To Trump (Fox)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Saturday doubled down on his state’s now-scrapped nursing home policy that critics say contributed to thousands of coronavirus deaths and instead blamed the problem on President Trump and his administration. “New York followed the president’s agencies’ guidance,” Cuomo said Saturday at his press conference. “…. What New York did was follow what the Republican Administration said to do. That’s not my attempt to politicize it. It’s my attempt to depoliticize it. So don’t criticize the state for following the president’s policy.” The governor’s office said New York’s original nursing home policy was in line with a March 13 directive from the Trump Administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that went out to all states on how to control infections in nursing homes.

The guidance says “nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present.” “Not could. Should,” Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor and Cuomo’s top aide, said at the Saturday press conference. “That is President Trump’s CMS and CDC…There are over a dozen states that did the exact same thing.” Cuomo has been under scrutiny from GOP politicians who say the governor should have never allowed recovering coronavirus patients to leave hospitals and go back to their residential nursing homes to spread the contagious virus. Nursing care facilities, home to some of the most vulnerable citizens, have been coronavirus hotspots around the country.

New York leads the nation with the most reported coronavirus nursing home deaths at more than 5,000 — though the state changed how it counts deaths so the numbers of nursing home patient deaths could be even higher. Cuomo’s response Saturday echoed his past answers, that he was only following guidelines from the Trump administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [..] CDC guidelines require any newly admitted and readmitted resident with a COVID-19 case to be placed in a designated COVID-19 care unit, while those who have met the criteria to have recovered can return to a regular unit in the nursing home. The March 13 guidance that Cuomo’s office cited says “a nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19… as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance.”

New York – along with California and New Jersey – went further and turned the guidance into state directives and said at the time that nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus. After mounting criticism that the policy put the most vulnerable people at risk and contributed to a high number of fatalities, New York reversed course May 10. Now hospitals can only send patients who have tested negative for COVID-19 to nursing homes.

Read more …

Russia has very few deaths vs its cases. HCQ rules? Or are the death numbers about to increase rapidly?

Russia Reports 153 Coronavirus Deaths, Highest Daily Toll Yet (R.)

Russia on Sunday reported 153 coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours, the epidemic’s highest daily toll, raising total fatalities to 3,541, the country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said It also said 8,599 new cases had been documented, fewer than on the previous day, pushing the nationwide tally of infections to 344,481.

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The UK talks about one topic only this weekend. Dominic Cummings has violated his own rules by taking a number of long distance trips while everyone stayed home. As his wife had COVID19 and he probably did as well.

The best twist is the government saying he did this because “he cares”. Does that mean everyone who “cares” should have done the same, instead of watching their parents’ funerals on a lap top?

Oh well, at least no-one talks about all the other failures anymore.

Dominic Cummings Must Quit Over Lockdown Drive – Tory MP (R.)

A lawmaker from Britain’s ruling Conservative Party on Sunday called for the resignation of Dominic Cummings, the senior adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson who travelled 400 km (250 miles) from London to northern England during lockdown while his wife showed coronavirus symptoms. “It is intolerable that Boris’ government is losing so much political capital,” Steve Baker wrote on Twitter. “Dominic Cummings must go.” Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union during the Brexit referendum, travelled to Durham in late March, when measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus were already in place.

Johnson’s office said on Saturday he made the journey to ensure his 4-year-old son could be properly cared for as his wife was ill with COVID-19 and there was a “high likelihood” that Cummings would himself become unwell. The Daily Mirror later reported that the advisor made a second trip from London during the lockdown and was spotted near Durham on April 19, days after returning to London from his first trip. “We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers,” Johnson’s Downing Street office said on Saturday. Opposition politicians have called for Cummings, who wields huge influence on the government, to go, saying his actions were hypocritical at a time when millions of Britons were staying in their homes. Cummings has said he will not quit.

Read more …

From August. They sense how long and deep the misery will be, but they refuse to address it other than through this kind of nonsense. Every government does.

UK To Require Employers To Pay 20-30% Of Furloughed Wage Cost (R.)

The United Kingdom has drawn up plans to require employers to cover 20% to 30% of furloughed employees’ wages from August to reduce the vast burden of the coronavirus crisis on government finances, The Times newspaper reported. The United Kingdom extended its job retention scheme – the centrepiece of its attempts to cushion the coronavirus hit to the economy – by four months on May 12, but told employers they would have to help to meet its cost from August. “The Treasury has drawn up plans that would require employers to cover between 20 and 30 per cent of people’s wages,” The Times said.


“They would also be required to cover the cost of employer’s national insurance contributions, on average 5 per cent of wages.” A spokesman for finance minister Rishi Sunak declined to comment on the report. Sunak is expected to announce the changes next week, The Times said. Sunak said on Friday that Britain was facing a “very serious economic crisis” and jobs would be lost in the “days, weeks and months to come”.

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Why? “…low transmission of COVID-19 in the community..”

It’s so sad it’s almost not funny.

Project Leader: Oxford’s COVID19 Vaccine Trial Has 50% Chance Of Success (R.)

The University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine trial has only a 50% chance of success as the coronavirus seems to be fading rapidly in Britain, the professor co-leading the development of the vaccine told the Telegraph newspaper. Adrian Hill, director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, which has teamed up with drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to develop the vaccine, said that an upcoming trial, involving 10,000 volunteers, threatened to return “no result” due to low transmission of COVID-19 in the community. “It’s a race against the virus disappearing, and against time”, Hill told the British newspaper. “At the moment, there’s a 50% chance that we get no result at all.” The experimental vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is one of the front-runners in the global race to provide protection against the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hill’s team began early-stage human trials of the vaccine in April, making it one of only a handful to have reached that milestone.

Read more …

The businesses are gone. But the people are still there.

Powell’s Problem? He Can’t Print Jobs – DDMB (TA)

“The Federal Reserve is stuck in the middle,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and chief strategist of Quill Intelligence and a former advisor to the Federal Reserve. Speaking about Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on a Hedgeye webcast Thursday, she explained: “He wants to print more money, because he wants to put it into the hands of the lowest third of income earners.” Powell also “wants to keep his facilities open that violate the Federal Reserve Act and buy junk bonds, because he wants to keep Wall Street happy,” DiMartino Booth said. “So, he wants to keep the wealthiest happy, and he wants to print money to give to the lowest income earners in the economy. He cannot print jobs in the middle, and that is the problem,” she explained.

“He can’t print jobs. He can’t print cash flow. And he can’t print these small businesses back into business that the PPP failed,” the Fed critic said, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program. Powell “practically begged” for stimulus legislation to be passed by Congress during his appearance on the CBS show “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, she added. He “can’t get enough traction, because we’re getting closer and closer to Election Day,” and neither the Republicans nor Democrats want to give in to the other side when it comes to new stimulus dollars, DiMartinoBooth explained. Powell’s “naivete right now is very dangerous,” she said, pointing to his support for the expanded Main Street Lending Program.

The private equity firms that lobbied for it “were trying to make sure that the companies that pay them dividends didn’t have to go out of business,” the Fed expert said. “Powell thinks that he’s keeping those employees employed,” she explained. “But what he’s really doing is bailing out the big private equity guys, so that they can continue to pay themselves one-time dividends [and] load these companies up with debt and make them that much more dangerous.” When this situation deteriorates much further, “there is no Chapter 11 route,” DiMartino Booth said. “They’re just going to have to liquidate.”

Read more …

Criminal enterprise.

Judge Lifts Stay On Sale Of Venezuela’s US Refineries (AP)

A U.S. judge on Friday approved moving forward with the sale of Venezuela’s prized U.S.-based CITGO refineries, allowing a Canadian mining company to collect $1.4 billion it lost in a decade-old takeover in the South American nation by the late socialist President Hugo Chávez. The case is critical to Venezuela’s opposition led by Juan Guaidó, which was banking on profits from the Houston-based company to finance the crisis-torn nation’s recovery — if they were ever able to force President Nicolás Maduro from power. The order by Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark of U.S. District Court in Delaware follows a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday that upheld an earlier ruling by Stark authorizing CITGO’s liquidation.

Obstacles still remain before moving ahead with CITGO’s sale. The Canadian mining company Crystallex must first get a license from U.S. Treasury officials, which had temporarily shielded Venezuela’s opposition from losing CITGO. Crystallex and attorneys for Venezuela also have to agree on how it will sell CITGO, Stark’s latest ruling said. Chavez took over the gold mining firm’s Venezuela concession and the local operations of other international companies as part of his Bolivarian revolution that has left Venezuela spiraling into deepening economic and political turmoil.

Crystallex, which went bankrupt, sued Venezuela to recover its lost investment in Venezuela. The case is unique, because the court allowed Crystallex to attach assets of CITGO’s parent company, the Venezuelan state-run oil firm PDVSA, finding that Venezuela had erased the lines between the government and its oil firm. Venezuela has owned CITGO since the 1980s as part of PDVSA. It has three refineries in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois in addition to a network of pipelines crisscrossing 23 states. It provides between 5% and 10% of U.S. gasoline.

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The case gets crazier by the day. He’s hired a defense lawyer because he was asked to explain his decision. Bad conscience?

Judge In Flynn Case Hires Lawyer To Defend His Decision Not To Drop It (JTN)

Emmet Sullivan, the judge who has been directed to explain his conduct in overseeing Michael Flynn’s case—including his unwillingness to drop the case after the Justice Department requested it—has hired a lawyer to defend his conduct before the court. The judge was ordered by an appeals court this week to explain his unorthodox handling of Flynn’s ongoing case in district court. The Justice Department this month moved to drop its case against Flynn, but Sullivan declined to immediately do so, instead appointing a retired judge to argue against dismissing the case.


Sullivan has retained Beth Wilkinson, a high-profile attorney known for successfully arguing in favor of the execution of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh. She also assisted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 after he was accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford in the 1980s. Sullivan has been given until June 1 to respond to the appeals court’s order to explain his conduct. The judges at appeal will also hear arguments from Flynn’s team as to why they believe Sullivan should be dismissed from the case.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1259825319126749185

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Lovely from my good mate Steve in Thailand. Do read the whole piece.

Personal #Coronavirus Update 03 May 23rd 2020 (Steve Keen)

It has certainly been eliminated in the province we’re living in, Trang (in the capital city of the same name). There were 3 cases here when we arrived in Thailand, then 4, 6 and finally 7—all from one family so I’m told, of a 24-year-old who had been working in Phuket. Phuket is a major tourist destination, and has had a total of 224 cases out of a population of 420,000—or about 1 case per 2000 residents (that’s about half as bad as The Netherlands). The province of Trang has had 7 cases amongst it 700,000 residents—or 1 case per 100,000. The last new case was over a month ago. All the most recent cases have been in Bangkok, a sprawling city of 8 million that I was sure would be a viral hotspot. Instead, it has recorded just 1548 cases: about 19 cases per 100,000, versus 260 per hundred thousand in the Netherlands and close to 400 in the UK.

The personal impact of this is palpable. Even though people are still practicing personal caution here, the mood is relaxed: you’re no longer afraid of your fellow human being. I noticed this at a restaurant earlier this week, when the owner came up and clinked glasses with us over a meal. Even a month ago, that was unthinkable. Now, it feels like old times—as in, like six months ago. I wouldn’t even have noted such an event back then. Now, it’s significant. I feel like someone who almost drowned, noticing the air in a way that everyone else takes for granted. Thailand won’t let this relaxed mood lead to a resurgence of cases, however. It is still locking down provinces—you can’t travel from one to another without a health clearance, a good reason to travel (tourism doesn’t qualify!), and a clearance to travel from the provincial government; you have to scan a QR code when you enter and leave a shop, to enable case tracking; everyone everywhere wears a mask when they are in contact with people they don’t know

[..] So I find myself in part of the world that is virus-free, and watching a New World Order evolve that no-one anticipated—not even Huxley or Orwell. It’s a “fractured planet”, with two enormously disparate fractions: China, Southeast Asia and Oceania in the “virus free” segment, and the rest of the world in the “virus afflicted”. I’m glad to be in the virus-free part, but I do have some trepidation about the future politics of this block, in which China is by far the major power economically and militarily.


The “winners and losers” from EndCoronavirus.org at https://www.endcoronavirus.org/map-visualization

That worry aside, I’m relaxed and working well, though enormously behind on numerous projects thanks to the time I lost in the move. Initially, getting settled here took total precedence: finding a place to rent (we rapidly located an unfurnished 4 bedroom house in a gated community on the outskirts of Trang, for US$300 a month), furnishing it, buying the essentials for mobility in a region where the temperature never drops below 24°C and frequently hits 37°C (a car, motorbike, and bicycles for exercise before the sun rises too high). That took about six weeks all up. It came after spending two weeks visiting my family in Sydney for what I was sure would be the last time for at least a year, after working with Russell Standish on Minsky for two weeks in late February. All of March, all of April, and part of May was thus lost to the personal impact of the virus. I finally got down to solid work about two weeks ago.

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the interaction.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 202020
 


Russell Lee South Side market, Chicago 1941

 

Study Finds Recovered COVID Patients Who Test Positive Not Infectious (ZH)
Australian Study: COVID19 Spreads In Schools ‘Considerably Less’ Than Flu (JTN)
Why Australia Must SPEND Its Way Out Of The COVID19 Crisis (DM)
EU Exec To Propose €1 Trillion Euro Recovery Plan With Grants And Loans (R.)
The Great Opening-up (Jim Kunstler)
China Backs Investigation Of WHO And Coronavirus Pandemic (SCMP)
8 Countries to Import Iran-Made Coronavirus Test Kits (FARS)
Global Carbon Emissions Down Nearly 20% Since Lockdowns Began (JTN)
The Mystery Behind Worldometer (CNN)
Venezuela Files Claim To Force Bank Of England To Hand Over Gold (R.)
Senate GOP Compile Massive Subpoena List For FBI Abuse Probe (ZH)
Flynn Lawyers Appeal Requests Case Dismissal, Removal Of Judge Sullivan (JTN)
Phone Calls Between Biden And Ukraine’s Poroshenko Leaked (ZH)
Ukraine Judge Orders Joe Biden Listed As Alleged Perpetrator Of Crime (Solomon)

 

 

• Global cases top 5,000,000

• Russia +8,764 (down from 9,263 May 19 and 9709 May 18)

• US records over 21,000 new cases in past 24 hours

• US records 1,536 new deaths (vs 759 day before),

• Total US deaths 93,533, projected to be 113,000 by mid-June

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I wrote: Obesity means having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30. Morbid obesity means having a BMI of 40 or higher.

Well, “according to the results of his medical exam released last year, Trump, 73, had a listed height of 6 feet, 3 inches and a weight of 243 pounds. That would put his body mass index at 30.4, which narrowly qualifies him in the “obese” category of 30 or greater.”

And very far removed from morbidly obese. But Pelosi said it anyway, and then “quipped” that she didn’t know he’d be offended by it. Fine, if that’s the level of conversation you want….. But what do you think will happen if he pays her back in kind? Don’t you dare complain, Nancy.

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,006,675 (+ 94,955 from yesterday’s 4,911,720)

Deaths 325,320 (+ 4,866 from yesterday’s 320,454)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Tyler claims this is ground for reopening economies, but fear of reinfection has not been a major factor so far, it’s fear of first-time infection.

Study Finds Recovered COVID Patients Who Test Positive Not Infectious (ZH)

[..] a study from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that patients who test positive for COVID-19 after recovering from the illness appear to be shedding dead copies of the virus. That would suggest that these patients are not infectious, the scientists said, which helped dispel fears that some patients can remain infectious for months after being infected. While the study doesn’t answer every question about the virus’s longevity – such as patients who almost appear to have developed a “chronic” form of the illness because their symptoms have persisted for so long. But still, the finding was greeted as a major relief, and, if anything, should encourage economies to reopen more quickly, as a potential trigger for reinfection that had panicked some experts appears to be a non-issue.

The research also undermines the reliability of ‘antibody’ tests like the ones NY Gov Andrew Cuomo insisted would be ‘critical’ for NY’s reopening. The results mean health authorities in South Korea will no longer consider people infectious after recovering from the illness. Research last month showed that so-called PCR tests for the coronavirus’s nucleic acid can’t distinguish between dead and viable virus particles, potentially giving the wrong impression that someone who tests positive for the virus remains infectious. The research may also aid in the debate over antibody tests, which look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. Experts believe antibodies probably convey some level of protection against the virus, but they don’t have any solid proof yet. Nor do they know how long any immunity may last.


[..] As a result of the findings in the South Korea study, authorities said that under revised protocols, people should no longer be required to test negative for the virus before returning to work or school after they have recovered from their illness and completed their period of isolation. “Under the new protocols, no additional tests are required for cases that have been discharged from isolation,” the Korean CDC said in a report. The agency said it will now refer to “re-positive” cases as “PCR re-detected after discharge from isolation.” Some coronavirus patients have tested positive again for the virus up to 82 days after becoming infected. Almost all of the cases for which blood tests were taken had antibodies against the virus. If nothing else, this study is just the latest reminder of how much we don’t know about the virus.

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One study says nothing. Are you going to send your kids to school BECAUSE one Australian study says this?

Australian Study: COVID19 Spreads In Schools ‘Considerably Less’ Than Flu (JTN)

A study out of Australia shows the spread of COVID-19 is not driven by children in educational environments, a finding expected to influence the ongoing debate about when to reopen schools in many Western countries. Authorities in the United States, the European countries and other nations around the world began shutting down schools in February and March under the assumption that schoolhouses – packed full of children and usually hotspots of community virus transmission – would contribute to major coronavirus outbreaks. Many public officials, particularly in the U.S., have vowed to keep schools closed until the fall and possibly beyond. Yet health authorities are beginning to question that approach to pandemic mitigation.

Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization, said last week that “children don’t seem to be getting severely ill from this infection,” that there “have not been big outbreaks in schools” where they have remained open, and that it sees “children are less capable of spreading” the virus. The study out of Australia, released last month by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, found that “SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children in schools appears considerably less than seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.” The study determined that, out of hundreds of “close contacts” that were in proximity to numerous positive COVID-19 patients in a school environment, only a scant number contracted the disease there.


“In contrast to influenza, data from both virus and antibody testing to date suggest that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community,” the researchers said. “This is consistent with data from international studies showing low rates of disease in children and suggesting limited spread among children and from children to adults,” they also said. The researchers do note that, in mid-March, the government advised parents to keep their children at home for online learning even as schools remained open. Following that advice, “face-to-face attendance in schools decreased significantly and this may have impacted the results of this investigation.” School holidays in early April may have also affected the results.

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Steve Keen: ‘Give $100,000 per person as a flat rate to everyone to eliminate the private debt..’

Why Australia Must SPEND Its Way Out Of The COVID19 Crisis (DM)

[Economist Martin North] said Australia just has to accept it’s been hit by a one-in-a-hundred-year storm and that the Budget will not be balanced for a long time. Australia’s government debt level is hovering around 30 per cent of GDP which is low compared to Japans which hit 238 per cent of GDP in 2018. ‘Interest rates have never been as low as now and from a debt servicing perspective we have the capacity to get more funds,’ he said. Mr North said now was the time to invest in solid nation-building infrastructure that would set the groundwork for the next 30 years of Australia’s future. However, Mr North said he feared the Government would be pressured to prop up old economic distortions such as the over-reliance on housing construction which fueled a house price bubble and unsustainable mass migration. ‘We can’t just go back to pre-covid days, it would be a major mistake,’ he said.

[..] Economist Leith Van Onselen, who worked for Treasury, Goldman Sachs and now writes for website Macrobusiness, said governments should take advantage of the low borrowing rates to build infrastructure now. ‘Not only would this help overcome Australia’s massive infrastructure deficit brought about by 15 years of mass immigration, but would also help stimulate the economy during a period of weak private demand and high unemployment,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. Mr Van Onselen said the nation-building benefits would be undone if the government reverted back to mass migration. ‘This would overload the new infrastructure and lift labour supply, thus being self defeating,’ he said. Wages had already stagnated due to an oversupply of labour before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

[..] Australia’s economy has also been distorted by runaway house prices in recent years. Professor Steve Keen of the University College of London said this had resulted in Australia’s private debt levels becoming the ‘biggest bubble in human history’ at 190 per cent of GDP, far greater than the government’s relatively modest debt to GDP ratio of 30 per cent. Professor Keen has advocated massive cash handouts to every Australian to get rid of the enormous levels of private debt so the economy can have a chance to recover. ‘Give $100,000 per person as a flat rate to everyone to eliminate the private debt,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.


The money would need to be distributed in such a way that it would go directly to paying down debt, Professor Keen said. But those without debt should still receive the payment so they are not penalised. The Australian economy may be unable to recover from the coronavirus shock unless the private debt burden is reduced, Professor Keen said. He said the solution was a debt jubilee, reducing private debt from 190 per cent of GDP to just 90 per cent of GDP.

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Guaranteed to fail spectacularly. The EU should stay out of this.

EU Exec To Propose €1 Trillion Euro Recovery Plan With Grants And Loans (R.)

The European Commission will present a pandemic recovery plan next week that will exceed 1 trillion euros in a mix of grants and loans, Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday. Dombrovskis, speaking after a meeting of EU finance ministers, welcomed a proposal by France and Germany for a 500 billion euro fund to disburse grants to worst-hit regions and sectors. But he said the Commission would be bolder. “Our ambition is not to increase the financing capacity in the range of hundreds of billions, but rather by a figure exceeding a trillion euros,” he said. “Of course in this case we are talking about both in loans and grants.”

Dombrovskis said the Commission, like France and Germany, would link access to the recovery money to sound economic policies and structural reforms. This could become a friction point with Italy and Spain, worst affected by the epidemic, who are wary of northern fiscal hawks dictating policies in exchange for grants. “We not only need additional money for the recovery, but we also need reforms, we need to ensure a business environment that is conducive to investment,” Dombrovskis said. “So, as part of our recovery instrument, we intend to propose… a Recovery and Resilience Facility, which will be concentrating on investments and structural reforms,” he said.


Dombrovskis also said the recovery money would have to follow the EU’s long-term priorities of making the bloc climate-neutral by 2050, digitalising the economy and investing in research and innovation. mEU governments are divided if the recovery money should be loans or transfers, with the highly indebted southerners like Italy, Greece or Spain calling for grants and less indebted and fiscally frugal countries in favour of loans. The commission’s proposal on May 27, linking the Recovery Fund with the EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027, will be the basis for discussions of all EU governments in June. Dombrovskis said the Commission was examining if some of the cash could be available in 2020, but said most was likely to be available in 2021.

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“Spooky as it’s been, the Covid-19 virus has also been a great cover-story for the natural collapse of a severely unbalanced, ecologically unsound, and dishonestly represented set of arrangements..”

The Great Opening-up (Jim Kunstler)

The current nostalgia for pre-Covid-19 business-as-usual is understandably intense. Gone especially from daily life are all the ceremonies of human togetherness, from gatherings of friends to the casual shoulder-rubbings of urban life to the crowded venues of the lively arts to the great moiling orgies of pro sports. The life of the perpetual jigsaw puzzle, YouTube, and Netflix has proved inadequate to human aspiration. Gone, too, are livelihoods, revenue streams, and rewarding roles in everyday existence. The itch to get out and do, get out and make, get out and be, is overwhelming. Behind those plain yearnings, though, looms the specter of a system that appeared to be already foundering before Covid-19 entered the scene.

There is, at least, considerable agreement that the disease catalyzed the disorders of finance and economy and accelerated the damage – just not among the people most responsible for engineering the fragilities that actually crashed things Jerome Powell, Pope of the Church of the Federal Reserve, went on the 60-Minutes show last night to reassure the nation that things will eventually get back to normal. “I think you’ll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year.” Yessir, if you say so. Were his fingers crossed? You couldn’t tell because the camera had him framed in a head-shot. Personally, I think the Fed Chairman was blowing smoke up the nation’s wazoo. Spooky as it’s been, the Covid-19 virus has also been a great cover-story for the natural collapse of a severely unbalanced, ecologically unsound, and dishonestly represented set of arrangements that are now unspooling at horrifying speed.


The car industry is dying. The airline industry is laying out its fleet of big birds in desert graveyards. The college racketeering operation went off a cliff, along with medical profiteering. Agribusiness no longer has a business model. Hundreds of kinds of services no longer have customers who can afford their offerings from acupuncture to zymurgy. None of that will be fixed by injections of miracle money borrowed from ourselves in quantities that would turn every US citizen into a millionaire – if it wasn’t just pounded down the rat-holes of the stock and bond markets. The big question about the Great Opening-up is when the recognition of all that turns to raw emotion. Covid-19 may still be with us then, but it will be the least of our problems. The masks will come off. The dance will commence.

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But not now. Try again in 5 years.

China Backs Investigation Of WHO And Coronavirus Pandemic (SCMP)

Member states of the World Health Organisation, including China, backed a call on Tuesday for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 318,000 people around the world. The resolution, which was drafted and promoted by the European Union but did not identify any country by name, called for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the pandemic, including the actions of the WHO. At a virtual meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, the United States, which has accused the WHO of being a “puppet of China”, did not block the adoption of the resolution.

The US said the resolution was the “first critical step” in ensuring the world health body could play its roles and there was an international system capable of “responding effectively” to the next pandemic. But it also “dissociated” itself from the resolution’s statement on rights for poor countries to waive intellectual property rules in obtaining medicine in emergencies, Reuters reported. Earlier on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump threatened to permanently freeze US funding to the WHO and reconsider his country’s membership if the United Nations agency did not commit to “major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.[..]

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the resolution was in line with Beijing’s positions that countries should support the WHO and that the evaluation should be carried out at “appropriate time”. “These are all consistent with China’s positions and also reflect the common wishes of the majority of countries in the world,” Zhao said. Zhao also hit out at Australia for pushing for an investigation into China’s handling of the outbreak. The two-day gathering did not include discussions of a proposal for Taiwan to regain its observer status. [..] Liu Weidong, a specialist in international affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that after weeks of posturing by countries such as the US and Australia, Beijing’s cooperative approach at the gathering had softened criticism of China.


“China’s performance at this assembly and its stance, were open and very selfless,” Liu said. “China’s actions do make it seem that it is selflessly contributing to building a global community of health for all.” He said US calls to trace the origins of Sars-CoV-2, the official name for the virus that causes Covid-19, were losing support. “Everybody will realise the [US] criticised China and found fault with China due to internal politics, which is a very calculating behaviour. Not many countries may end up following [the US] because it will affect their own soft power,” he said. “America’s international influence now compared to before Covid-19 definitely has fallen a lot.”

Read more …

A country of 83 million people that sees numbers rise again, should perhaps not export its tests.

8 Countries to Import Iran-Made Coronavirus Test Kits (FARS)

Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari said that Iranian knowledge-based firms have started manufacturing coronavirus test kits and eight countries have agreed to import such items from the country.
“Iran presently has a capacity of producing 1 million serology test kits per day and 1.5 million of C-Creative Protein (CPR) test kits per month,” Sattari said on Tuesday. “Part of the mentioned figure is used inside the country and the rest is exported,” he added. In relevant remarks on May 10, Deputy head of the Iranian presidency’s office for scientific affairs Mehdi Qalenoyee said that Iranian firms are going to export serological test kits to eight more countries after a first successful cargo was sent to Germany earlier in the week.

Qalenoyee said export of two types of coronavirus test kits to the Philippines and Pakistan was waiting for confirmation from the local officials after Iranian companies manufacturing the special tools sent sample kits to labs in those countries. He added that India, Nigeria and Armenia will receive the items once travel restrictions are eased. The official also said that Qatar, Georgia and Syria will soon be included in the list of export destination for the Iranian test kits. The announcement comes a few days after Iran sent a first cargo of serological test kits to Germany, where officials are trying to conduct the tests on a great scale to identify the immunity rate against COVID-19.


Exports of diagnostic devices and equipment from Iran to other countries is a sign of success for home-grown efforts to fight the coronavirus. Iran has been highly praised for its robust response to the disease as many governments and organizations keep castigating the US for its refusal to lift illegal sanctions to let the country access medical supplies and vital equipment needed to confront the virus.

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Half the global economy is on hold, and the reduction is still only 20% of what is called for.

Global Carbon Emissions Down Nearly 20% Since Lockdowns Began (JTN)

Carbon emissions worldwide are reportedly down by nearly 20% since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdowns, another highlighting the impact of ongoing shutdowns on human activity and the worldwide economy. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, titled “Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement,” states that the reduction in average global emissions peaked at 26% before settling at 17%, compared mean emission levels in 2019. The authors, who hail from the U.K., the U.S., Norway and other countries, say that the total level of emission reductions for the whole year could range anywhere from 4% to 7%, depending on the disease mitigation procedures that remain in place, and for how long.


“Government actions and economic incentives post-crisis will likely influence the global CO2emissions path for decades,” they write. “At present it is unclear how long and deep the [economic] crisis will be, and how the recovery path will look, and therefore how CO2 emissions will be affected.” Governments worldwide have enacted severe and open-ended lockdowns and shutdowns since the disease began spreading late last year, with presidents, governors and other executives around the world unilaterally closing down huge swaths of their economies in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

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CNN sets out to discredit Worldometer, mentions that Wikipedia editors find it makes errors. First, that would be a badge of honor for anyone not working at either CNN or Wikipedia, and second, it’s not possible to get every detail right when tracking multiple data from 200+ countries. If only because they themselves track data in different ways from each other.

The story falls apart when CNN finds that Johns Hopkins, which it thinks is much more reliable, cites Worldometer on a very regular basis.

The Mystery Behind Worldometer (CNN)

When Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez boasted of Spain’s high rankings, he didn’t pull his numbers out of thin air. On April 27, the OECD wrongly ranked Spain eighth in testing per capita. Initially, the OECD had used data from OWID to compile its statistics. But it sourced the Spanish numbers independently because OWID’s data was incomplete. [..] In its statement, the OECD said “we regret the confusion created on a sensitive issue by any debate on methodological issues” and stressed that increasing the availability of testing in general is more important than knowing where any particular country ranks. Sánchez’s later reference to a Johns Hopkins study, in which he said Spain ranked fifth for testing worldwide, appears to have been a case of mixed-up attribution by the prime minister.

JHU has not published international testing figures. Jill Rosen, a spokeswoman for the school, told CNN the university couldn’t identify a report that matched Sánchez’s description. At a press conference on May 9, Sánchez evaded a CNN question pressing him on the JHU study’s existence and listed the government’s numbers on testing totals instead. In comments made to a Spanish reporter the next day, health minister Salvador Illa continued to insist the testing data had been released by JHU, though he pointed to Worldometer as the underlying source. Since Johns Hopkins gets its data from Worldometer, he argued, it’s just as good. “It is data given by the John Hopkins University […] taken from as a fundamental source of information, the website Worldometer,” Illa said. “You can check it.”

[..] One Wikipedia editor, James Heilman, a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of British Columbia, said Wikipedia volunteers have noticed persistent errors with Worldometer, but also with “a more reputable name with a longer history of accuracy,” referring to Johns Hopkins. “We hope they also double check the numbers.” In an article published in February, JHU said it began manually tracking Covid-19 data for its dashboard in January. When that became unsustainable, the university began scraping data from primary sources and aggregation websites. Lauren Gardner, the associate engineering professor who runs the university’s Covid-19 dashboard, told CNN in a statement that the university uses a “two-stage anomaly detection system” to catch potential data problems.


“Moderate” changes are automatically added to the dashboard but flagged so staff can double-check them in real time. Changes beyond a certain threshold require “a human to manually check and approve the values before publication to the dashboard,” Gardner said. The university’s reliance on Worldometer has surprised some academics. Phil Beaver, a data scientist at the University of Denver, seemed at a loss for words when he was asked what he thought of JHU citing Worldometer. “I am not sure, that is a great question, I kind of got the impression that Worldometer was relying on [Johns] Hopkins,” he told CNN after a lengthy pause.

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Reuters labels it “foot-dragging”. Like we are clueless nitwits.

Venezuela Files Claim To Force Bank Of England To Hand Over Gold (R.)

Venezuela’s central bank has made a legal claim to try to force the Bank of England to hand over €930 million ($1.02 billion) of gold so President Nicolas Maduro’s government can fund its coronavirus response, according to the document submitted in a London court. The claim follows a request Venezuela made to the Bank of England in April to sell part of its gold reserves there and send the proceeds to the United Nations to help with the country’s coronavirus-fighting efforts. Since 2018, the Bank of England has delayed the transfer of 31 tonnes of Venezuelan gold stored there to Maduro, who Britain does not recognize as the country’s legitimate leader. The bank offers gold custodian services to many developing nations.


The claim, submitted in a commercial court and dated May 14, says the Venezuelan central bank “seeks an order requiring BoE to comply with the proposed instruction.” The funds, once transferred to the United Nations Development Programme, would be used to buy healthcare equipment, medicine, and food to address Venezuela’s “COVID-19 emergency,” the document seen by Reuters said. Selling off the country’s gold reserves has become one of the Maduro administration’s few options to raise funds due to U.S. sanctions. The collapse in global oil prices and a paralyzing coronavirus quarantine has further crippled Venezuela’s moribund economy. “The foot-dragging by the Bank of England is critically hampering Venezuela and the UN’s efforts to combat COVID-19 in the country,” Sarosh Zaiwalla, a London-based lawyer representing the central bank, said in a statement.

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Nice list.

Senate GOP Compile Massive Subpoena List For FBI Abuse Probe (ZH)

In the wake of bombshell evidence that shows the Obama DOJ inappropriately targeted the 2016 Trump campaign, Senate Republicans have compiled a list of 53 individuals they want to interview as part of their own comprehensive probe into the matter, separate of the Trump DOJ’s separate criminal investigation headed up by US Attorney John Durham. That said, as Fox News reports, the effort is being led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), so we expect weekly cable news appearances in which Graham wags his finger and issues the sternest of empty threats to investigate the swamp. Graham has previously come under fire for failing to follow through on promises to seek testimony from current and former DOJ and FBI officials – telling Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that he doesn’t want to interfere with Durham’s probe.

But – in the unlikely event Graham isn’t going to simply run cover for the swamp in a sham investigation designed to placate those who seek justice, here are the names of those on the subpoena list, via Fox News: The majors: [former FBI Director] James Comey, [former FBI Deputy Director] Andrew McCabe, [former Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, [former CIA Director] John Brennan, [former Deputy Attorney General] Sally Yates. We note that the names of both President Obama and his VP Joe Biden are conspicuously absent, despite the fact that both of them were in a January 5, 2017 meeting in which Obama gave Comey the nod to conceal information from the incoming Trump administration. Graham, in response, said that asking for testimony from a former president would set a ‘dangerous precedent.’


Everyone else: “Trisha Anderson, Brian Auten, James Baker, William Barr, Dana Boente, Jennifer Boone, Kevin Clinesmith [the FBI lawyer who allegedly falsified a CIA email to secure the Carter Page FISA warrant], Patrick Conlon, Michael Dempsey, Stuart Evans, Tashina Gauhar [a top DOJ deputy when classified details of Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador were illegally leaked to The Washington Post], Carl Ghattas, Curtis Heide, Kathleen Kavalec, David Laufman [who arranged a key meeting with a Steele dossier source], Stephen Laycock, Jacob Lew, Loretta Lynch, Mary McCord, Denis McDonough, Arthur McGlynn, Jonathan Moffa, Sally Moyer, Mike Neufield, Sean Newell, Victoria Nuland, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, Lisa Page, Joseph Pientka [who interviewed Flynn at the White House while also playing a key role in the Carter Page probe, and whom the FBI has hidden from scrutiny], John Podesta, Samantha Power, E.W. “Bill” Priestap [who authored the memo debating whether the bureau simply wanted Flynn “fired”], Sarah Raskin, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Rod Rosenstein, Gabriel Sanz-Rexach, Nathan Sheets, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Glenn Simpson, Steve Somma [an FBI case agent who apparently was involved in several key FISA omissions], Peter Strzok, Michael Sussman, Adam Szubin, Jonathan Winer, and Christopher Wray.”

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The more they resist, the harder Powell will come.

Flynn Lawyers Appeal Requests Case Dismissal, Removal Of Judge Sullivan (JTN)

Attorneys for former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to force a district court to dismiss the case, as the Justice Department has requested. The petition also asks that the judge, Emmet Sullivan, be removed from Flynn’s case and that his U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacate his order to appoint former federal judge John Gleeson to argue against the dismissal of Flynn’s case and discuss whether the retired lieutenant general deserves to face contempt for perjury. Flynn in 2017 plead guilty to lying to the FBI but later sought to withdraw his plea. Evidence has since emerged suggesting the FBI had no case against Flynn but set up an interview hoping it would catch him lying, his lawyers and Justice officials have said.

Sullivan last week announced his intention to allow the filing of amicus curiae briefs, which meant that Flynn’s case would not immediately conclude. These “friend of the court” briefs allow parties interested in but not involved in a case to present their views. Sullivan also announced last week the appointment of Gleeson. In the petition filed Tuesday, Flynn’s legal team, which includes attorney Sidney Powell, blasted Sullivan and requested that the case be reassigned to a different judge.


“The district judge’s latest actions – failing to grant the Government’s Motion to Dismiss, appointing a biased and highly-political amicus who has expressed hostility and disdain towards the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the prosecution, and the promise to set a briefing schedule for widespread amicus participation in further proceedings – bespeaks a judge who is not only biased against Petitioner, but also revels in the notoriety he has created by failing to take the simple step of granting a motion he has no authority to deny,” the petition says of Sullivan. “This is an umpire who has decided to steal public attention from the players and focus it on himself. He wants to pitch, bat, run bases, and play shortstop. In truth, he is way out in left field” the petition also states.

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Haven’t heard from Zelensky for a while.

Phone Calls Between Biden And Ukraine’s Poroshenko Leaked (ZH)

Leaked phone calls between Joe Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko explicitly detail the quid-pro-quo arrangement to fire former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin – who Poroshenko admits did nothing wrong – in exchange for $1 billion in US loan guarantees (which Biden openly bragged about in January, 2018). The calls were leaked by Ukrainian MP Andrii Derkach, who says the recordings of “voices similar to Poroshenko and Biden” were given to him by investigative journalists who claim Poroshenko made them. Shokin was notably investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired Biden’s son, Hunter, to sit on its board.

Shokin had opened a case against Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, who granted Burisma permits to drill for oil and gas in Ukraine while he was Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. In January, 2019, Shokin stated in a deposition that there were five criminal cases against Zlochevesky, including money laundering, corruption, illegal funds transfers, and profiteering through shell corporations while he was a sitting minister. The leaked calls begin on December 3, 2015, when former Secretary of State John Kerry starts laying out the case to fire Shokin – who he says “blocked the cleanup of the Prosecutor Generals’ Office,” and sated that Biden “is very concerned about it,” to which Poroshenko replies that the newly reorganized prosecutor general’s office (NABU) won’t be able to pursue corruption charges, and that it may be difficult to fire Shokin without cause.

Later in the leaked audio on February 18, 2016 – less than three months after the Kerry conversation – Poroshenko delivers some “positive news.” “Yesterday I met with General Prosecutor Shokin,” says Poroshenko. And despite of the fact that we didn’t have any corruption charges, we don’t have any information about him doing something wrong, I specially asked him – no, it was day before yesterday – I specially asked him to resign. In, uh, as his, uh, position as a state person. And despite of the fact that he has a support in the power. And as a finish of my meeting with him, he promised to give me the statement on resignation. And one hour ago he bring me the written statement of his resignation. And this is my second step for keeping my promises.” To which Biden replied: “I agree.”


Four weeks later on March 22, 2016, Biden says “Tell me that there is a new government and a new Prosecutor General. I am prepared to do a public signing of the commitment for the billion dollars.” Poroshenko tells Biden that one of the leading candidates is the man who replaced Shokin, Yuriy Lutsenko who later said in a deposition that Hunter Biden and his business partners were receiving millions of dollars in compensation from Burisma. Then, on May 13, 2016, Biden congratulates Poroshenko on “getting the new Prosecutor General,” saying that it will be “critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage Shokin did.” “And I’m a man of my word,” Biden adds. “And now that the new Prosecutor General is in place, we’re ready to move forward to signing that one billion dollar loan guarantee.”

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Next nail. Same coffin.

Ukraine Judge Orders Joe Biden Listed As Alleged Perpetrator Of Crime (Solomon)

The infamous story of Joe Biden’s effort to force the firing of Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in 2016 has taken a new legal twist in Kiev, just as the former vice president is sewing up the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in America. In Kiev late last month, District Court Judge S. V. Vovk ordered the country’s law enforcement services to formally list the fired prosecutor, Victor Shokin, as the victim of an alleged crime by the former U.S. vice president, according to an official English translation of the ruling obtained by Just the News. The court had previously ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigations in February to investigate Shokin’s claim that he was fired in spring 2016 under pressure from Biden because he was investigating Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company where Biden’s son Hunter worked.


The court ruled then that there was adequate evidence to investigate Shokin’s claim that Biden’s pressure on then-President Petro Poroshenko, including a threat to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, amounted to unlawful interference in Shokin’s work as Ukraine’s chief prosecutor. But when law enforcement agencies opened the probe they refused to name Biden as the alleged perpetrator of the crime, instead listing the potential defendant as an unnamed American. Vovk ruled that anonymous listing was improper and ordered the law enforcement agencies to formally name Biden as the accused perpetrator.

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Taleb likes to say it’s not the state that shuts down an economy, it’s the people:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Mar 282020
 


Dorothea Lange White Angel Bread Line, San Francisco 1933

 

US Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000, Doubling In Three Days (CNBC)
The UK’s Coronavirus Policy May Sound Scientific. It Isn’t (Taleb, Bar-Yam)
Up To 40 Million Lives Could Be Saved If Countries Act Quickly (Ind.)
Dr. Fauci: Coronavirus Death Rate Like Very Bad Flu (WND)
China Closes Borders, Claims Wuhan ‘Basically Blocked’ Coronavirus (SAC)
Countries Worldwide Roll Out Draconian Measures To Fight Covid-19 (RT)
COVID-19 Has Exposed Just How Broken American Economy & Society Are (Ritter)
US May Be Headed For Highest Unemployment Ever (RT)
Yet Another Rant on Coronavirus & Trump (Brad DeLong)
Millions Will Struggle To Pay Rent In April, But Few In Congress Care (IC)
Panama Canal Blocks Cruise Ship With 138 Ill, 2 COVID-19 Cases On Board (BI)
Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You (Flores)
RT Loses Challenge Against Claims Of Bias In Novichok Reporting

 

 

US tops 100,000, world almost tops 100,00 new cases in 24 hours. Winning.

 

 

Cases 613,829 (+ 71,444 from yesterday’s 542,385)

Deaths (+ 3,861 from yesterday’s 24,368)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 17% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

I think we just missed the next 100,000 global cases within 24 hours.

US Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000, Doubling In Three Days (CNBC)

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 100,000 Friday, doubling in just three days as the pandemic accelerates and the U.S. rolls out broader testing measures. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the total number of coronavirus cases as 101,707 and the total number of deaths in the U.S. as 1,544. The virus emerged in Wuhan, China, in December. It has since spread to more than half a million people in almost every country around the world and continues to pick up speed, the World Health Organization warned earlier this week. “The pandemic is accelerating,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday at a press briefing from the organization’s Geneva headquarters.

“It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” Confirmed U.S. cases passed 50,000 on Tuesday, up from 5,000 last week. At the beginning of the month, there were roughly 100 confirmed cases in the U.S. On Thursday, confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassed that of both China and Italy, making it the country with the largest outbreak in the world. The number of confirmed cases likely underestimates the true number of infections across the country, officials have acknowledged. Testing in the U.S. has been hampered by delays and a restrictive diagnostic criteria that limits who can get tested. With 44,635 confirmed cases as of Friday morning, New York state accounts for almost half of all cases in the U.S., according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.


He said Thursday that the rapid growth of confirmed cases is partly due to a “backlog” of infections that had not been confirmed due to lack of testing. However, the virus appears to be spreading to multiple so-called hot spots around the country, including Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans and other cities around the country.

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I can quote myself here from last night:

Taleb is very correct in his assessment that the precautionary principle is the only viable approach. Which means you have to hedge for the worst, and only after that may there be other options.

What he doesn’t say clearly enough, I think, is that the ignorant politicians and their science advisers (who only know how to model), as well as the equally ignorant media, have been so late in reacting they should all be pink slipped. Imagine people would have paid attention to the Jan 25 piece he references, when it was published (it advised “moderate distancing”, immediately). [constrain mobility. Immediately]

A report last week said if China had acted 3 weeks earlier 95% of its cases could have been prevented. That is true everywhere.”

The UK’s Coronavirus Policy May Sound Scientific. It Isn’t (Taleb, Bar-Yam)

When, along with applied systems scientist Dr Joe Norman, we first reacted to coronavirus on 25 January with the publication of an academic note urging caution, the virus had reportedly infected fewer than 2,000 people worldwide and fewer than 60 people were dead. That number need not have been so high. At the time of writing, the numbers are 351,000 and 15,000 respectively. Our research did not use any complicated model with a vast number of variables, no more than someone watching an avalanche heading in their direction calls for complicated statistical models to see if they need to get out of the way.

We called for a simple exercise of the precautionary principle in a domain where it mattered: interconnected complex systems have some attributes that allow some things to cascade out of control, delivering extreme outcomes. Enact robust measures that would have been, at the time, of small cost: constrain mobility. Immediately. Later, we invoked a rapid investment in preparedness: tests, hospital capacity, means to treat patients. Just in case, you know. Things can happen. The error in the UK is on two levels. Modelling and policymaking.

First, at the modelling level, the government relied at all stages on epidemiological models that were designed to show us roughly what happens when a preselected set of actions are made, and not what we should make happen, and how. The modellers use hypotheses/assumptions, which they then feed into models, and use to draw conclusions and make policy recommendations. Critically, they do not produce an error rate. What if these assumptions are wrong? Have they been tested? The answer is often no. For academic papers, this is fine. Flawed theories can provoke discussion. Risk management – like wisdom – requires robustness in models. But if we base our pandemic response plans on flawed academic models, people die. And they will.

This was the case with the disastrous “herd immunity” thesis. The idea behind herd immunity was that the outbreak would stop if enough people got sick and gained immunity. Once a critical mass of young people gained immunity, so the epidemiological modellers told us, vulnerable populations (old and sick people) would be protected. Of course, this idea was nothing more than a dressed-up version of the “just do nothing” approach. Individuals and scientists around the world immediately pointed out the obvious flaws: there’s no way to ensure only young people get infected; you need 60-70% of the population to be infected and recover to have a shot at herd immunity, and there aren’t that many young and healthy people in the UK, or anywhere. Moreover, many young people have severe cases of the disease, overloading healthcare systems, and a not-so-small number of them die. It is not a free ride.

And Taleb’s best friend, Fat Tony has a message for many people out there:

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As the WaPo: contends “Disease Modelers Factor In New Public Health Risk: Accusations Their Work Is A Hoax”. What, accused by Taleb? Why is anyone still quoting the WaPo? Doesn’t their record speak for itself?

40 million is one of the highest numbers I’ve seen. Luckily, not every politician is Bolsonaro.

Up To 40 Million Lives Could Be Saved If Countries Act Quickly (Ind.)

If all countries implemented strict anti-coronavirus measures and did so rapidly, up to 40 million lives worldwide could be saved in theory this year, British scientists have calculated. Acting early can cut death numbers by up to 95 per cent but failing to curb the effects of Covid-19 could lead to huge loss of life, they found. Their study concludes that testing and isolation of suspected cases as well as wide social-distancing measures early on can have a dramatic impact. Scientists at Imperial College London studied the health impacts of the pandemic in 202 countries, to compare three scenarios: theoretical death rates without any interventions or distancing with two that could be achieved by policies to curb or suppress spread of the disease.

In all three cases, health systems in all countries would still be quickly overwhelmed without high-cost steps to prevent coronavirus, the report warns. If governments globally did nothing to combat the virus, the pandemic in all likelihood would have caused around 7 billion infections 40 million deaths this year, they concluded. But by taking strict measures as soon as possible, 95 per cent of deaths could be prevented, saving 38.7 million lives, based on an average of 0.2 deaths per 100,000 population per week. If these strict measures are delayed, 30.7 million people’s lives are saved, the research found. “Delays in implementing strategies to suppress transmission will lead to worse outcomes and fewer lives saved,” the academics report.

A midway scenario that involved shielding the elderly and slowing but not interrupting transmission – with a 40 per cent reduction in social contacts among the general population – only halved the number of lives lost. “How individual countries respond in the coming weeks will be critical in influencing the trajectory of national epidemics,” the report says. But lower-income countries are likely to face a much higher burden than wealthier nations, with 25 times more patients in poor nations needing critical care than beds available, while in high-income countries demand outstrips supply by seven times, the report says. Dr Patrick Walker, an author of the report, said: “We estimate that the world faces an unprecedented acute public-health emergency in the coming weeks and months.

“Our findings suggest that all countries face a choice between intensive and costly measures to suppress transmission or risk health systems becoming rapidly overwhelmed. However, our results highlight that rapid, decisive and collective action now will save millions of lives in the next year.”

https://twitter.com/noelhimself/status/1243196148787163136

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Weird turnarounds: Fausi goes from a 1.0% CFR to 0.1% in 2 weeks, Neil Ferguson takes just 10 days to move from 500,000 deaths to under 20,000. Oh, and Deborah Brix claims the US have “..enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground..” and, well, after all: “Models are [just] models”.

Now, she of course in fact merely has new models based on new data (so why diss models?), and it’s not nearly enough; re: testing. What Fauci and Ferguson hope to accomplish in risking their credibility with their sudden “moodswings” is unclear, but they’re not sufficiently supported by new data either. Not in that amount of time. Political pressure perhaps?

Dr. Fauci: Coronavirus Death Rate Like Very Bad Flu (WND)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, co-authored an article published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine predicting the fatality rate for the coronavirus will turn out to be like that of a “severe seasonal influenza.” In an exceptionally bad flu season, the case fatality rate is about one-tenth of 1 percent, the authors write. Regarding the current coronavirus pandemic, they said: “If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%.”

Taking into account the unreported cases, they conclude “that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.” Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His current assessment is a signicant downgrade from the figure he cited in testimony to the House of Representatives on March 11 in which he called for a cancellation of any large gatherings. Fauci estimated at the time – prior to the current shutdown – that the true mortality rate of the coronavirus outbreak, taking into account unreported cases, was “somewhere around 1%, which means it is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”

[..] the lead author of a dire coronavirus study cited by the White House, Downing Street and other governments in their decisions implement unprecendented “social distancing” measures has drastically revised the estimated death toll of the pandemic in the U.K. The study by Imperial College of London published March 16 estimated that 2.2 million Americans and 500,000 Britons could die. But lead author Neil Ferguson testified Wednesday to a parliamentary committee that the U.K. death toll is unlikely to exceed 20,000 and could be much lower. And more than half that number would have died anyway by the end of the year, because of their age and underlying illnesses, he told the panel.

[..] At the White House Coronavirus Task Force daily briefing Thursday, coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx mentioned Ferguson’s dramatic downgrade of his estimate. She said the predictions of models also “don’t match the reality on the ground in either China, South Korea or Italy.” “Models are models. There’s enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground, really, to make these predictions much more sound,” said Birx. “So when people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it’s very scary,” she said. “But we don’t have data that matches that.”

Ferguson issued a clarification Thursday via Twitter, arguing his evidence to Parliament “referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.” “Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand),” he wrote.

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China, from zero to hero. Nice story, but…

China Closes Borders, Claims Wuhan ‘Basically Blocked’ Coronavirus (SAC)

The Chinese government is reporting that the city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus began is no longer an area of “high risk” for the transmission of the coronavirus and hasn’t seen any new cases since March 18. The report comes as the country plans to close its borders to foreigners beginning Saturday, March 28 after limiting inbound and outbound international flights on Thursday. “The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under the special circumstances. The above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly.”


The city of Wuhan first shut down on January, 23. That date, however, was too late in stopping the spread of the virus as millions of people fled shortly before the quarantine was ordered. According to the city’s mayor, it was nearly 5 million people. Many of the millions who left travelled abroad for the Chinese Lunar New Year. Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began and claimed that the virus “has basically been curbed” in the city. He reportedly visited hospitals and quarantined citizens. The city is located in Hubei province, which claims to have had no cases for 22 consecutive days outside of Wuhan.

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Keyword: incompetence.

“..repeat offenders staring down the possibility of 3-18 months in prison..”

Countries Worldwide Roll Out Draconian Measures To Fight Covid-19 (RT)

New regulations in Singapore which threaten prison time for anyone found violating “social distancing” protocols exemplify the harsh rules being imposed around the world in the fight against coronavirus.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Health, Singaporeans who fail to maintain a distance of one meter from other people in “non-transient” public interactions can be fined up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,985) and even risk a six-month jail sentence. The strict measures come as nations around the world adopt similarly extreme provisions to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Jordan introduced some of the most radical anti-coronavirus policies to date. The country initially imposed an around-the-clock lockdown, with officials promising to deliver bread and water to all citizens. Those who violated the strict quarantine were threatened with a year in prison. At least 800 were arrested over a span of several days, the Guardian reported. The measures were later eased, with the government permitting people to take walks and visit shops and pharmacies.

Authorities have begun to ratchet up efforts to stop quarantine violators in Italy. The country deployed more than 100 soldiers tasked with enforcing lockdown measures in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region in Europe. More than 90,000 Italians have been slapped with fines which can potentially reach €3,000 ($3,300). Italians can also end up behind bars for three months for flouting the stay-in-place protocols.

Spain might have the most stringent rules in Europe. Since announcing a countrywide lockdown in mid-March, residents have only been allowed outside for essentials such as grocery shopping or medical needs. The provisions, originally scheduled to be lifted after fifteen days, have been extended until April 11. Those found in violation of the rules face astronomical fines, with repeat offenders staring down the possibility of 3-18 months in prison. More than 30,000 fines have been issued and 900 arrests made for disobedience, according to reports.

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Just like Trump has, I would add.

COVID-19 Has Exposed Just How Broken American Economy & Society Are (Ritter)

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed some uncomfortable truths about the state of America today. First and foremost is the fragility of the American economy. After years of outsourcing manufacturing, the United States has constructed an economy where services industries comprise some 55 percent of overall economic activity. In the age of globalization, with interconnectivity functioning seamlessly, this model has been able to generate the appearance of prosperity, with a booming stock market and increased GDP. The reality, however, is that the American economy lacks resilience in time of crisis. The ongoing trade war with China, combined with a depressed global oil market, were in the process of exposing this reality before the coronavirus pandemic.

The national lockdown, and resulting economic stoppage, only accelerated what was a gradual economic recession in progress. Even if the US economy could be taken off stimulus-driven life support, the conditions that preceded the shutdown still exist and, if anything, have only been exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic on global economic health. American corporations have been shown to have little capacity to plan for “rainy day” contingencies, instead focusing all their economic resources on the generation of short-term profit. And the American working class has been likewise exposed as living on the edge of catastrophe, with few Americans able to fall back on savings that would enable them to ride out a period of sustained economic inactivity or, worse, to pay for emergency health care.

The other uncomfortable truth about America that has been exposed by the crisis is the overall fragility of American society. The medical emergency brought about by the need to treat this virus has shown that what passes for a national healthcare system is, in fact, a fragile construct of for-profit institutions susceptible to being rapidly overburdened and unable to function once the cash-stream of overpriced healthcare has been cut off. The coronavirus crisis has revealed the reality of the US healthcare system today – most Americans don’t have the wherewithal to get quality healthcare when needed – the cost of such care is prohibitive, as are the insurance premiums one must pay to cover it.

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“The peak unemployment rate in the US was 24 percent in the depth of the Great Depression..”

US May Be Headed For Highest Unemployment Ever (RT)

The coronavirus pandemic will push the US jobless rate even higher than it was during the Great Depression if all the gloomy forecasts are true, Roger Farmer, an economist at the University of Warwick, believes. Earlier this week, a US Federal Reserve official predicted that the outbreak will leave 30 percent of Americans jobless while the country’s GDP will fall by 50 percent. According to James Bullard, president of the St. Louis branch of the US Federal Reserve Bank, that could happen quite soon – in the second quarter of this year. “If that turns out to be correct it will be the highest ever recorded. The peak unemployment rate in the US was 24 percent in the depth of the Great Depression,” Professor Farmer told RT.


The economist noted that the decline may be short-term as the situation will start to improve as soon as social isolation ends. Much will depend on the right stimulus, such as direct wage subsidies that can help the economy to rebound. “If job losses become permanent and employment relationships are destroyed, the recovery will take longer,” the analyst said. Another forecast released by the developers of the US Private Sector Job Quality Index (JQI) warned that some 37 million workers across the US are vulnerable to layoffs due to the shutdowns triggered by the health crisis.

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Economist DeLong says: test test test. Which is the one thing everyone says they do, but nobody does, other than in token numbers.

Yet Another Rant on Coronavirus & Trump (Brad DeLong)

Could “reopening America for business” on Easter backfire? Oh, yes it could. Oh, it definitely could backfire: BIGTIME. The experience so far is that, in a society not undertaking social distancing, coronavirus cases double in a little less than five days—grow 100-fold in a month. If, say, the virus has been largely suppressed and only 10000 in the U.S. have it Easter week, then after the u.S. is opened up 1 million will have it on May 15, and then 100 million on June 15, at which point the epidemic will have pretty much run its course. But from May 1 to June 15 hospitals will have been overwhelmed. The likely death rate will have been not 1% but 6%. 5 million additional Americans will have died. In return we will have produced an extra $1 trillion of stuff. That’s a tradeoff of $200K per life, which is not a good tradeoff to aim at making.

And, while it could be better, it could be much worse… The right way to do it is to lockdown while we test, test, test, test, test: • Test a random-sample panel of 10000 Americans weekly to get a handle on the progress of the disease. • Test everyone for antibodies. • Let those who have had the disease and so are no immune go back to work—after testing to make sure that they are immune. • Indeed, draft those who have recovered to be hospital orderlies and nurses. • Make decisions based on knowledge of where the epidemic is in the community, and tune quarantine, social distancing, and shutdown measures to those appropriate given where the epidemic is. But we do not know where the epidemic is.

And because we are not testing on a sufficient scale, we will not know when and if the virus is truly on the run until a month after the peak, when deaths start dropping. And even then we will not know how much the virus is on the run. And removing social distancing before the virus is thoroughly on the run means that the virus comes roaring back. Once the virus is thoroughly on the run, then normal public health measures can handle it:

• Test, test, test. • Test patients presenting with symptoms. • Trace and test their contacts. Do what Japan and Singapore did—close to the epicenter in Wuhan, yet still with true caseloads lower than one in ten thousand. • Test those crossing borders, symptomatic or not. • Test those moving from city to city via air. •Test a random sample on the interstates, to see how much virus is leaking from place to place that way. • Test a random sample of the population to see whether and how much the disease was established, and then test another one.

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“..Pelosi and Democratic leadership still have their eyes on protecting corporations and not the people,” said one House Democratic staffer.”

Millions Will Struggle To Pay Rent In April, But Few In Congress Care (IC)

On Wednesday, April 1, rent payments will be due for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic — yet even with unemployment at a record high, major bill payments have barely factored into U.S. politicians’ response to the crisis. On Friday, the House passed an emergency multi-trillion dollar relief package, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday night and will now head to President Donald Trump’s desk. It’s about five times bigger than Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus and represents a massive upward transfer of wealth. Though it includes a significant expansion of unemployment benefits and a onetime check of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, it’ll take up to three weeks for people to begin receiving those relief checks, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

That will be too late for the nearly 3.3 million people who filed for unemployment benefits last week, and others who have become underemployed as a result of the pandemic. While some states — namely New York — have taken steps to temporarily block evictions, congressional Democrats, with the exception of a handful of progressive lawmakers, have shown almost no interest in addressing the bills due in less than a week, one of the most pressing financial concerns ordinary people currently face. “It shows that Pelosi and Democratic leadership still have their eyes on protecting corporations and not the people,” said one House Democratic staffer.

[..] For the most part, demands to cancel rent have been coming from the political left, tenants’ rights groups and other progressive activist circles. They have made modest and incremental gains in a handful of cities and states, but as of yet no change has been enacted that meets the size of the crisis. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order leaving the decision to pause evictions up to local jurisdictions, which has prompted a confusing patchwork of temporary measures in cities like San Francisco and San Bernardino. States like Washington and Pennsylvania, meanwhile, have adopted more widespread measures.

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Left on March 7. And we still can’t say: leave them alone?!

Panama Canal Blocks Cruise Ship With 138 Ill, 2 COVID-19 Cases On Board (BI)

The Panama Canal Authority will block the MS Zaandam, a Holland America cruise ship with two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board, from entering the canal. “Following protocol of Panama’s Ministry of Health, if a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the Canal,” the Panama Canal Authority said in a statement sent to Business Insider on March 27. The Holland America previously considered having the ship sail through the Panama Canal in order to head back to Fort Lauderdale for a March 30 arrival.


The Zaandam has been stranded off the coast of South America and Central America after different ports began closing to cruise ships due to coronavirus concerns. A bout of respiratory disease then broke out on the ship, prompting 138 sick passengers and crew members to report to the vessel’s medical center. Holland America confirmed that four passengers have died on board, and two individuals have tested positive for COVID-19. The cruise on the Zaandam was scheduled to last 14 days, embarking from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7. For some passengers, the cruise would end after 14 days in San Antonio, Chile. For others, it was due to April 7 in Fort Lauderdale.

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Sanctions made Russia stronger, and Venezuela too.

Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You (Flores)

Within a few hours of being launched, over 800 Venezuelans in the U.S. registered for an emergency flight from Miami to Caracas through a website run by the Venezuelan government. This flight, offered at no cost, was proposed by President Nicolás Maduro when he learned that 200 Venezuelans were stuck in the United States following his government’s decision to stop commercial flights as a preventative coronavirus measure. The promise of one flight expanded to two or more flights, as it became clear that many Venezuelans in the U.S. wanted to go back to Venezuela, yet the situation remains unresolved due to the U.S. ban on flights to and from the country. Those who rely solely on the mainstream media might wonder who in their right mind would want to leave the United States for Venezuela.

[..] These media outlets painted a picture of a coronavirus disaster, of government incompetence and of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. The reality of Venezuela’s coronavirus response is not covered by the mainstream media at all. [Their articles shortchange] the damage caused by the Trump administration’s sanctions, which devastated the economy and healthcare system long before the coronavirus pandemic. These sanctions have impoverished millions of Venezuelans and negatively impact vital infrastructure, such as electricity generation. Venezuela is impeded from importing spare parts for its power plants and the resulting blackouts interrupt water services that rely on electric pumps. These, along with dozens of other implications from the hybrid war on Venezuela, have caused a decline in health indicators across the board, leading to 100,000 deaths as a consequence of the sanctions.

[..] First, international solidarity has played a priceless role in enabling the government to rise to the challenge. China sent coronavirus diagnostic kits that will allow 320,000 Venezuelans to be tested, in addition to a team of experts and tons of supplies. Cuba sent 130 doctors and 10,000 doses of interferon alfa-2b, a drug with an established record of helping COVID-19 patients recover. Russia has sent the first of several shipments of medical equipment and kits. These three countries, routinely characterized by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as evil, offer solidarity and material support. The United States offers more sanctions and the IMF, widely known to be under U.S. control, denied a Venezuelan request for $5 billion in emergency funding that even the European Union supports.

Second, the government quickly carried out a plan to contain the spread of the disease. On March 12, a day before the first confirmed cases, President Maduro decreed a health emergency, prohibited crowds from gathering, and cancelled flights from Europe and Colombia. On March 13, Day 1, two Venezuelans tested positive; the government cancelled classes, began requiring facemasks on subways and on the border, closed theaters, bars and nightclubs, and limited restaurants to take-out or delivery. It bears repeating that this was on Day 1 of having a confirmed case; many U.S. states have yet to take these steps. By Day 4, a national quarantine was put into effect (equivalent to shelter-in-place orders) and an online portal called the Homeland System (Sistema Patria) was repurposed to survey potential COVID-19 cases.

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If I were a Briton, I’d be very worried about the state of my judicial system by now.

RT Loses Challenge Against Claims Of Bias In Novichok Reporting

The Kremlin-backed news channel RT has lost a high court challenge to overturn a ruling by the UK media regulator that it broadcast biased programmes relating to the novichok poisoning in Salisbury and the war in Syria. Ofcom fined RT £200,000 after determining that seven programmes, including two presented by the former MP George Galloway, were in breach of UK broadcasting rules relating to due impartiality regarding matters of political controversy. The programmes fronted by Galloway, a regular presenter on the 24-hour news channel, covered the poisoning of the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury two years ago. While the poisoning was blamed on Russia, Galloway cast doubt on the assertion.

Ofcom also found that four news and current affairs broadcasts addressing the US’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and a news programme concerning the Ukrainian government’s position on Nazism and the treatment of Roma people, breached impartiality rules. RT contended that Ofcom had not taken into account the fact that the “dominant media narrative” at the time of the poisonings – that Russia was to blame – meant it could leave that view out of its own programming. The broadcaster also said the requirement to be impartial interfered with its right to freedom of expression. Lord Justice Dingemans, who delivered the high court judgment remotely on Friday, said the requirement for media to be balanced was paramount in the era of fake news.

“At present, the broadcast media maintains a reach and immediacy that remains unrivalled by other media,” he said. “Indeed, there is reason to consider that the need [for due impartiality] is at least as great, if not greater than ever before, given current concerns about the effect on the democratic process of news manipulation and of fake news.” He saud RT was not restricted from broadcasting its point of view on the Salisbury poisonings, the war on Syria or events in Ukraine. “The only requirement was that, in the programme as broadcast, RT provided balance to ensure that there was ‘due impartiality’,” he said.

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It must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past few days. The rest of you: don’t be strangers.

 

 


Be like Mr Lego. Don’t forget to wash your hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To prevent the Black Death spreading in the 14th century, all ships thought to be infected were isolated for 40 days to prevent the spread of the disease. In fact, the word quarantine comes from the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning “40 days”.

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

May 072019
 


Robert Rauschenberg Collection 1954-55

 

Chelsea Manning Declares She will Never Cooperate with Grand Jury (SM)
Major Mueller Report Omissions Suggest Incompetence Or A Coverup (ZH)
Mnuchin Refuses To Release Trump’s Tax Returns To Congress (R.)
A Nuclear War? Over Venezuela? (Ron Paul)
Going South (Jim Kunstler)
Fed Flags High US Business Debt, Asset Prices In Financial Report (R.)
Vancouver Housing Bust Steepens, Bank of Canada Likes “Froth” Coming Off (WS)
Why Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization: They Were Never Meant To (F.)
Silent Spring’s Encore (CP)
Human Society Under Urgent Threat From Loss Of Earth’s Natural Life (G.)
Humanity Must Save Insects To Save Ourselves (G.)
Humans ‘Threaten 1 Million Species With Extinction’ (BBC)

 

 

Our best, bravest and brightest. Our conscience. Look what we do to them.

Chelsea Manning Declares She will Never Cooperate with Grand Jury (SM)

Today, attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen filed a Motion for Chelsea Manning to be released on the basis that, as she will never be convinced to cooperate with the grand jury, further confinement serves no lawful purpose and must be terminated. According to Moira Meltzer-Cohen, attorney to Chelsea Manning: “A witness who refuses to cooperate with a grand jury subpoena may be held in contempt of court, and fined or incarcerated. The only permissible purpose for confinement under the civil contempt statute is to attempt to coerce a witness to comply with the subpoena, or “purge” their contempt. If it is no longer possible to purge the contempt, either because the grand jury is no longer in existence, or because the witness is un-coercible, then confinement has been transformed from coercive into punitive, in violation of the law.

“The key issue before Judge Hilton is whether continued incarceration could persuade Chelsea to testify. Many judges have complained of the “perversity” of this law: that a witness may win their freedom by persisting in their contempt of court. However, should he agree that Chelsea will never agree to testify, he will be compelled by the law to order her release. “Since Ms. Manning is not going to agree to give testimony before the grand jury, she argues, her confinement has exceeded its permissible scope, and she must be released.

“Letters of support were submitted to the Court by Ms. Manning’s friends, family, and colleagues, including from representatives of civil liberties organizations including the ACLU, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Fight for the Future. These letters reiterate that Chelsea is a person of great moral courage, who will not be swayed into betraying her principles, even in the face of great hardship. “That her confinement has already been so arduous gives credence to her claim that she will endure great hardship rather than agree to cooperate.”

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There are more oversights than this article mentions.

Major Mueller Report Omissions Suggest Incompetence Or A Coverup (ZH)

First, according to The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland (a former law clerk of nearly 25 years and instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame) – the Mueller report fails to consider whether the dossier authored by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele was Russian disinformation, and Steele was not charged with lying to the FBI. The Steele dossier, which consisted of a series of memorandum authored by the former MI6 spy, detailed intel purportedly provided by a variety of Vladimir Putin-connected sources. For instance, Steele identified Source A as “a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure” who “confided that the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

Other supposed sources identified in the dossier included: Source B, identified as “a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin”; Source C, a “Senior Russian Financial Officer”; and Source G, “a Senior Kremlin Official.” -The Federalist As Cleveland posits: “Given Mueller’s conclusion that no one connected to the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the election, one of those two scenarios must be true—either Russia fed Steele disinformation or Steele lied to the FBI about his Russian sources.”

Mueller’s second major oversight is the special counsel’s portrayal of Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud was a Russian agent – when available evidence suggests he may have been a Western agent. Weeks after returning from Moscow, Mifsud – a self-described Clinton Foundation member – ‘seeded’ the rumor that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016, according to the Mueller report. As Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) noted on Fox News on Sunday, “how is it that we spend 30-plus-million dollars on this, as taxpayers and they can’t even tell us who Joseph Mifsud is?” “…this is important, because, in the Mueller dossier, they use a fake news story to describe Mifsud. In one of those stories, they cherry- pick it,” Nunes added.

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“.. it lacks “a legitimate legislative purpose.” I do wonder what the purpose is. If it has to do with Russia collusion, the ground is very slippery post-Mueller.

Mnuchin Refuses To Release Trump’s Tax Returns To Congress (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday denied a leading House Democrat’s request for President Donald Trump’s tax returns, setting the stage for a lengthy court battle between lawmakers and the Trump administration. In a May 6 letter, Mnuchin told House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal that he would not comply with the Democrat’s April 3 request, saying it lacks “a legitimate legislative purpose.”

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Ron Paul has endorsed Tulsi Gabbard. Good.

A Nuclear War? Over Venezuela? (Ron Paul)

Is President Trump about to invade Venezuela? His advisors keep telling us in ever-stronger terms that “all options are on the table” and that US military intervention to restore Venezuela’s constitution “may be necessary.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the Sunday news programs to claim that President Trump could launch a military attack against Venezuela without Congress’s approval. Pompeo said that, “[t]he president has his full range of Article II authorities and I’m very confident that any action we took in Venezuela would be lawful.” The man who bragged recently about his lying, cheating, and stealing, is giving plenty of evidence to back his claim.

The president has no Constitutional authority to start a war with Venezuela or any other country that has not attacked or credibly threatened the United States without Congressional approval. It is that simple. How ironic that Pompeo and the rest of the neocons in the Trump Administration are ready to attack Venezuela to “restore their constitution” but they could not care less about our own Constitution! While Washington has been paralyzed for two years over disproven claims that the Russians meddled in our elections to elect Trump, how hypocritical that Washington does not even hesitate to endorse the actual overturning of elections overseas!

Without Congressional authority, US military action of any kind against Venezuela would be an illegal and likely an impeachable offense. Of course those Democrats who talk endlessly of impeaching Trump would never dream of impeaching of him over starting an illegal war. Democrats and Republicans both love illegal US wars.

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” The outcome of that was two Americas: the hipsterocracy of the coastal elites and the suicidal deplorables of Flyoverland. ”

Going South (Jim Kunstler)

Buying all those cheap toaster-ovens, patio loungers, sneakers, sheet-rock screws, alarm clocks, croquet mallets… well, you name it, naturally made it uneconomical for America to make the same stuff, with all our silly-ass sentimental attachment to union wages, eight-hour workdays, and pollution regs, so we just steadily let the lights go out and the roofs fall in, and ramped up the “financialized” economy, with Wall Street parlaying Federal Reserve largess into an alternative universe of Three-Card-Monte scams using multilayered derivatives of promises to repay loans (that have poor prospects of ever being paid back). The outcome of that was two Americas: the hipsterocracy of the coastal elites and the suicidal deplorables of Flyoverland.

The hipsterocracy sustains itself on the manufactured hallucinations of the holographic economy — that is, on the production of images, TV psychodramas, news media narratives, status competitions, public relations campaigns, law firm machinations, awards ceremonies, and other signaling systems to maintain the illusion that the financialized economy has everything under control as we transform into a nirvana of ultra high tech pleasure-seeking and endless leisure. Meanwhile, out in Flyoverland, the holograms aren’t selling so well anymore. Nobody has the scratch to pay for them, not even those indentured to the neo-feudal empires of WalMart and Amazon. The children keep coming, though it’s nearly impossible for a man to support them, and increasingly the fathers just take themselves out of the picture.

The women ferment in single-parent hopelessness. The children turn more feral by each generation. All remaining economic opportunity is diverted back into the leveraged buy-out mills of the Coastal Elsewhere. Even growing food out of the land was long ago converted into an Agri-Biz hustle based on practices with no future. And now the spring weather is drowning out that hustle and driving the corporatized farms into bankruptcy. The two Americas have turned a formerly workable political system into a divorce court and for the past three years nothing of value has come out of that negotiation except more mutual grievance and animus.

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First create them, than issue a warning. End the Fed.

Fed Flags High US Business Debt, Asset Prices In Financial Report (R.)

U.S. stock prices are “elevated” and business debt is at historic levels, but the financial system overall “appears resilient” with low levels of leverage and less of a destabilizing run in key markets, the Federal Reserve said in its latest report on financial stability. “Investor appetite for risk appears elevated by several measures, and the debt loads of businesses are historically high,” the Fed said on Monday in a report that noted the 20 percent growth in leveraged loans between the start of last year and this year, and other aspects of corporate debt.

The ratio of debt to assets among publicly traded, nonfinancial firms is near a 20-year high, the Fed noted, and the share of new loans going to the most indebted companies is near peaks reached in 2014 and just before the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis. While the Fed sees the system overall as healthy, the levels of corporate debt stand out, said Fed Governor Lael Brainard. “With financial volatility easing since the end of last year, the Federal Reserve Board’s Financial Stability Report suggests stretched asset valuations and risky corporate debt merit continued vigilance against a backdrop of low-to- moderate vulnerabilities in the household and banking sectors,” Brainard said in an emailed statement.

[..] As in the last edition of its now twice-yearly report on the financial sector, the Fed cited the rapid growth of business debt and leveraged lending to corporations as a source of possible concern, noting that it could leave weaker companies stressed if the economy softens. Business debt has grown faster than the overall economy for a decade, the Fed noted, and “the elevated level of debt could leave the business sector vulnerable to a downturn in economic activity or a tightening in financial conditions.”

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Wait till that “froth” turns out to be 30-40-50%.

Vancouver Housing Bust Steepens, Bank of Canada Likes “Froth” Coming Off (WS)

Across Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, sales of all types of homes so far this year through April plunged to 6,212 homes, the lowest count since 1986, as the market is freezing up. In the city of Vancouver, condo sales – the largest segment of the market – plunged 30% in April from April last year, to merely 348 condos, the lowest since 2001, even as inventory for sale jumped by 75% to 2,191 condos. At the current rate of sales, supply soared by 168% year-over-year to 6.4 months. And prices are descending at speeding-ticket velocities: • Average price: -19% year-over-year to C$786,981 • Median price: -17% year-over-year to C$651,000 • Average price per square foot: -14% yoy to $940.


“Buyers have become increasingly hesitant, particularly for unbuilt product such as pre-sale condo assignments and new unfinished development in general, says Steve Saretsky, a Vancouver Realtor and author behind Vancity Condo Guide, in his April report. “This is prompting condo developers to increase bonuses and incentives as unsold inventory begins to pile up at presale centers across the lower mainland.” The average price per square foot – historically “a very consistent and reliable price metric with much less volatility,” Saretsky says – has now dropped 16% from the peak in January 2018:

Sales of detached houses in the city of Vancouver dropped to 130 houses, the worst April in decades, down 69% from 2015. The chart below shows the number of sales for each April going back to the 1990s – a sign the market has frozen up, that buyers are unwilling to get anywhere near sellers’ aspirational asking prices, and deals are not happening:

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See my article yesterday.

Why Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization: They Were Never Meant To (F.)

Now comes a major article in the country’s largest newsweekly magazine, Der Spiegel, titled, “A Botched Job in Germany” (“Murks in Germany”). The magazine’s cover shows broken wind turbines and incomplete electrical transmission towers against a dark silhouette of Berlin. “The Energiewende — the biggest political project since reunification — threatens to fail,” write Der Spiegel’s Frank Dohmen, Alexander Jung, Stefan Schultz, Gerald Traufetter in their a 5,700-word investigative story (the article can be read in English here). Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion) annually, and opposition to renewables is growing in the German countryside.

“The politicians fear citizen resistance” Der Spiegel reports. “There is hardly a wind energy project that is not fought.” In response, politicians sometimes order “electrical lines be buried underground but that is many times more expensive and takes years longer.” As a result, the deployment of renewables and related transmission lines is slowing rapidly. Less than half as many wind turbines (743) were installed in 2018 as were installed in 2017, and just 30 kilometers of new transmission were added in 2017. Solar and wind advocates say cheaper solar panels and wind turbines will make the future growth in renewables cheaper than past growth but there are reasons to believe the opposite will be the case.

Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2025, to increase solar and wind three to five-hold by 2050. Between 2000 and 2018, Germany grew renewables from 7% to 39% of its electricity. And as much of Germany’s renewable electricity comes from biomass, which scientists view as polluting and environmentally degrading, as from solar. Of the 7,700 new kilometers of transmission lines needed, only 8% has been built, while large-scale electricity storage remains inefficient and expensive. “A large part of the energy used is lost,” the reporters note of a much-hyped hydrogen gas project, “and the efficiency is below 40%… No viable business model can be developed from this.”

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Almost 60 years ago. We’re blind deaf and dumb.

Silent Spring’s Encore (CP)

Rachel Carson’s famous and brilliant book Silent Spring (1962), which single-handedly ignited the environmental movement, has never been more relevant than it is today. A mimeo of Silent Spring is scheduled for publication by the UN, as the most comprehensive study of life on the planet ever undertaken, an 1,800-page study by the world’s leading scientists that spells out in detail the results of a massive study of the world’s ecosystems. The conclusion: Nature is in “steep decline.” According to Mike Barrett, WWF’s executive director of conservation and science: “All of our ecosystems are in trouble. This is the most comprehensive report on the state of the environment. It irrefutably confirms that nature is in steep decline.”


Interestingly enough, in days of yore, Silent Spring’s opening chapter, “A Fable for Tomorrow,” described a fictional flourishing town in the heartland of America with its splendid natural beauty; however, within only a few pages, that alluring picturesque community degenerates: “A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed….” Thereafter, Silent Spring turns non-fictional as it informs its reading public, i.e., the radicalized Sixties, that 500 new chemicals “… annually find their way into actual use in the U.S. alone to which the bodies of men and animals are required somehow to adapt each year, chemicals totally outside the limits of biologic experience.”

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A few pieces on the UN report.

“The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction..”

Human Society Under Urgent Threat From Loss Of Earth’s Natural Life (G.)

Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, the world’s leading scientists have warned, as they announced the results of the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken. From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report. The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction – all largely as a result of human actions, said the study, compiled over three years by more than 450 scientists and diplomats.

Two in five amphibian species are at risk of extinction, as are one-third of reef-forming corals, and close to one-third of other marine species. The picture for insects – which are crucial to plant pollination – is less clear, but conservative estimates suggest at least one in 10 are threatened with extinction and, in some regions, populations have crashed. In economic terms, the losses are jaw-dropping. Pollinator loss has put up to $577bn (£440bn) of crop output at risk, while land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of global land. The knock-on impacts on humankind, including freshwater shortages and climate instability, are already “ominous” and will worsen without drastic remedial action, the authors said.

“The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” said Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ibpes). “We have lost time. We must act now.”

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Save insects? You want to have Monsanto lose its business?

“While we humans have doubled our population in the past 40 years, the number of insects has been reduced by almost half..”

“The rate of insect extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. ”

Humanity Must Save Insects To Save Ourselves (G.)

Humanity must save insects, if not for their sake, then for ourselves, a leading entomologist has warned. “Insects are the glue in nature and there is no doubt that both the [numbers] and diversity of insects are declining,” said Prof Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. “At some stage the whole fabric unravels and then we will really see the consequences.” On Monday, the largest ever assessment of the health of nature was published and warned starkly that the annihilation of wildlife is eroding the foundations of human civilisation. The IPBES report said: “Insect abundance has declined very rapidly in some places … but the global extent of such declines is not known.”


A Notch-horned Cleg, a type of horsefly. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/Alamy

It said the available evidence supports a “tentative” estimate that 10% of the 5.5m species of insect thought to exist are threatened with extinction. The food and water humanity relies upon are underpinned by insects but Sverdrup-Thygeson’s new book, Extraordinary Insects, spends many of its pages on how wonderful and weird insects are. “The first stage is to get people to appreciate these little creatures,” said Sverdrup-Thygeson. Many appear to defy the normal rules of life. Some fruit flies can be beheaded and live normally for several days more, thanks to mini-brains in each joint. Then there are the carpet beetles that can effectively reverse time, by reverting to younger stages of development when food is scarce.


Others are bizarrely constructed. Some butterflies have ears in their mouths, one has an eye on its penis, while houseflies taste with their feet. Insect reproduction is also exotic. The southern green shield bug can maintain sex for 10 days, while another type of fruit fly produces sperm that are 20 times longer than its own body.

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Lip service will be paid.

Humans ‘Threaten 1 Million Species With Extinction’ (BBC)

Three years in the making, this global assessment of nature draws on 15,000 reference materials, and has been compiled by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It runs to 1,800 pages. The brief, 40-page “summary for policymakers”, published today at a meeting in Paris, is perhaps the most powerful indictment of how humans have treated their only home. It says that while the Earth has always suffered from the actions of humans through history, over the past 50 years, these scratches have become deep scars. The world’s population has doubled since 1970, the global economy has grown four-fold, while international trade has increased 10 times over.


Getty Images

To feed, clothe and give energy to this burgeoning world, forests have been cleared at astonishing rates, especially in tropical areas. Between 1980 and 2000, 100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost, mainly from cattle ranching in South America and palm oil plantations in South East Asia. Faring worse than forests are wetlands, with only 13% of those present in 1700 still in existence in the year 2000. Our cities have expanded rapidly, with urban areas doubling since 1992. All this human activity is killing species in greater numbers than ever before. According to the global assessment, an average of around 25% of animals and plants are now threatened. Global trends in insect populations are not known but rapid declines in some locations have also been well documented.


All this suggests around a million species now face extinction within decades, a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. “When we laid it all out together I was just shocked to see how extreme the declines are in terms of species and in terms of the contributions that nature is providing to people.” The assessment also finds that soils are being degraded as never before. This has reduced the productivity of 23% of the land surface of the Earth. Our insatiable appetites are producing a mountain of waste. Plastic pollution has increased ten-fold since 1980. Every year we dump 300-400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes into the waters of the world.

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Money doesn’t talk, it swears
– Bob Dylan

 

 

 

 

May 012019
 


Gustave Courbet The desperate man (self portrait) 1852

 

Maduro Claims Victory Over ‘Deranged’ Coup Attempt (G.)
Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela (FAIR)
About That Letter That Mueller Wrote To Barr… (ZH)
The Real ‘Bombshells’ Are About to Hit Their Targets (Kelly)
Why Are Clapper and Brennan Not in Jail?
Wall Street Puts Nearly $2 Billion in American Politics in 2016-18 Cycle
iPhone Sales Fall 17% In First Quarter (G.)
Australia House Prices Continue To Fall, Clearing Way For Rate Cut (SMH)
Tesla Filing Shows Results Were Goosed By A Surge In Credits (LAT)
Julian Assange’s Confinement And Arrest Are A Scandal (Maurizi)
Extradition of Julian Assange Threatens Us All (VIPS)
Canadian Threat Level At America Raised From “Miffed” To “Peeved” (Exp.)
Climate Crisis Facing Australian Rainforests Likened To Coral Bleaching (SMH)

 

 

The things we do for oil.

“‘Maduro had a plane on the tarmac and was ready to leave this morning’, claims @SecPompeo without offering evidence. But as Pompeo admitted just last week, telling lies was (and some may say still is) one of his key job requirements”.

Maduro Claims Victory Over ‘Deranged’ Coup Attempt (G.)

Nicolás Maduro claimed his troops have thwarted a botched attempt to topple him masterminded by Venezuela’s “coup-mongering far right” and Donald Trump’s deranged imperialist “gang”. In an hour-long address to the nation on Tuesday night – his first since the pre-dawn uprising began – Maduro accused opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his political mentor Leopoldo López of seeking to spark an armed confrontation that might be used as a pretext for a foreign military intervention. However, “loyal and obedient” members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian armed forces had put down the mutiny within hours of it starting shortly after 4am, Maduro claimed, in direct contradiction to Guaidó’s earlier remark that the president no longer had military backing.

By noon there only remained a small group of plotters who had chosen “the path of betrayal … [and] handed their souls over to the coup-mongering far right”. “They failed in their plan. They failed in their call, because the people of Venezuela want peace,” Maduro said, surrounded by Venezuela’s military and political elite. “We will continue to emerge victorious … in the months and years ahead. I have no doubt about it.” Maduro said the plotters would “not go unpunished” and said they would face criminal prosecutions “for the serious crimes that have been committed against the constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace”.


[..] Maduro called Tuesday’s “coup-mongering adventure” part of a US-backed plot to destroy the Bolivarian revolution he inherited after Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013. “I truly believe … that the United States of America has never had a government as deranged as this one,” he said, calling Guaidó and his team “useful idiots” of the empire. He also scotched claims from the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, that he had been preparing to flee Venezuela for Cuba on Tuesday morning, until he was told to stay put by his Russian backers. “Señor Pompeo, please,” Maduro said.

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Propaganda works.

Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela (FAIR)

A FAIR survey of US opinion journalism on Venezuela found no voices in elite corporate media that opposed regime change in that country. Over a three-month period (1/15/19–4/15/19), zero opinion pieces in the New York Times and Washington Post took an anti–regime change or pro-Maduro/Chavista position. Not a single commentator on the big three Sunday morning talkshows or PBS NewsHour came out against President Nicolás Maduro stepping down from the Venezuelan government. Of the 76 total articles, opinion videos or TV commentator segments that centered on or gave more than passing attention to Venezuela, 54 (72 percent) expressed explicit support for the Maduro administration’s ouster.

Eleven (14 percent) were ambiguous, but were only classified as such for lack of explicit language. Reading between the lines, most of these were clearly also pro–regime change. Another 11 (14 percent) took no position, but many similarly offered ideological ammo for those in support. The Times published 22 pro–regime change commentaries, three ambiguous and five without a position. The Post also spared no space for the pro-Chavista camp: 22 of its articles expressed support for the end to Maduro’s administration, eight were ambiguous and four took no position. Of the 12 TV opinions surveyed, 10 were pro-regime change and two took no position.


[..] This comes despite the existence of millions of Venezuelans who support Maduro—who was democratically elected twice by the same electoral system that won Juan Guaidó his seat in the National Assembly—and oppose US/foreign intervention. FAIR (2/20/19) has pointed out corporate media’s willful erasure of vast improvements to Venezuelan life under Chavismo, particularly for the oppressed poor, black, indigenous and mestizo populations. FAIR has also noted the lack of discussion of US-imposed sanctions, which have killed at least 40,000 Venezuelans between 2017–18 alone, and continue to devastate the Venezuelan economy.

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Mueller worried about media coverage.

“House Democrats, who have expressed distrust in the attorney general, are set to vote on Wednesday to allow House Judiciary Committee lawyers to question Barr at Thursday’s hearing.”

About That Letter That Mueller Wrote To Barr… (ZH)

In what the WaPo breathlessly reports late on Tuesday was a rebuke and “complaint” to Attorney General William Barr, special counsel Robert Mueller sent a letter to the AG in late March, just days after Barr sent out his summary to Congress, in which Mueller stated that Barr’s 4-page summary to Congress on the sweeping Russia investigation failed to “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work and conclusions, citing a copy of the letter it had obtained using its trusted deep intel sources. Pouring more fuel on the fire, the always pithy Axios adds that “this revelation about Mueller’s dissatisfaction with the characterization of his report will likely escalate the growing rift over Barr’s handling of the special counsel’s investigation.

[..] Or maybe not, and perhaps the WaPo/NYT report is not “so bad” if one actually reads it, because once the breathless WaPo finally does come up for air, we get to paragraph 13 – a point by which most readers have turned out – to read the following real punchline in the WaPo report: “When Barr pressed Mueller on whether he thought Barr’s memo to Congress was inaccurate, Mueller said he did not…” So, Mueller felt there was confusion… but he did not think the memo was inaccurate. Wait, what’s going on here and how is this even a story? Well, if we read the rest of the above sentence, we find the true object of Mueller’s “complaint”: “[Mueller] felt that the media coverage of it was misinterpreting the investigation, officials said.”

Which means that, as the WaPo itself reports, what Mueller was really angry with was the coverage of his report by media such as… the WaPo and the NYT?? The irony, it burns. [..] throughout a subsequent 15 minutes telephone conversation between the special counsel and the attorney general, Mueller’s main worry was “that the public was not getting an accurate understanding of the obstruction investigation.” This goes back to what Mueller’s letter requested: “that Barr release the 448-page report’s introductions and executive summaries, and made some initial suggested redactions for doing so, according to Justice Department officials,” the WaPo writes. What happened then? A few weeks later Barr did just that..

[..] tomorrow Barr is scheduled to testify on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the investigation, and the entire article is meant to focus on the headlines of the WaPo (and NYT) article, and certainly not on paragraph 13 which, not only refutes the prevailing tone that Barr did something wrong, but in fact exonerates him. But that won’t have any impact on tomorrow’s hearing which is now assured to be a complete kangaroo court.

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FISAgate. Get ready.

The Real ‘Bombshells’ Are About to Hit Their Targets (Kelly)

In the next several weeks, Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to issue his summation of the potential abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by top officials in the Obama Administration and holdovers in the early Trump Administration who were overseeing the investigation of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And the perpetrators of the so-called FISAgate scandal now are scrambling for cover as the bad news looms. Horowitz announced last March that his office would examine the Justice Department’s conduct “in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person.” That U.S. person is Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

In October 2016, just two weeks before the presidential election, the Justice Department submitted an application to the FISC seeking authorization to wiretap Page. The court filing accused Page, a Naval Academy graduate and unpaid campaign advisor, of being an agent of Russia. The application cited the infamous Steele dossier—unsubstantiated political propaganda that had been funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee—as its primary source of evidence. But the specific political origin of the dossier intentionally was omitted in the court filing. (Robert Mueller similarly tap danced around the role of Fusion GPS, the political consulting firm that hired Christopher Steele to create the dossier. Mueller never mentioned the name “Fusion GPS” in the 448-page document, referring to it only vaguely as “the firm that produced the Steele reporting.”)


Former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates signed the original FISA application. It was renewed three times; subsequent signers included former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. If there’s one document that represents the malevolence, chicanery and arrogance of the original Trump-Russia collusion fraudsters, it’s the Page FISA application. But—to borrow a favorite term of the collusion truthers—the “walls are closing in” on the FISA abusers.

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Senator Rand Paul: “Subpoena Clapper & Brennan! Demand they answer whether they leaked classified information to the Washington Post. Examine their call records and lock them up if evidence proves them to be the leakers.”

Why Are Clapper and Brennan Not in Jail?

The clearest of all the laws concerning U.S. intelligence is Section 798, 18 U.S. Code—widely known in the Intelligence Community as “the Comint Statute,” or “the 10 and 10.” Unlike other laws, this is a “simple liability” law. Motivation, context, identity, matter not at all. You violate it, you are guilty and are punished accordingly.

Here it is: (a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, . . . any classified information— (1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or (2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States …or (3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or (4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence . . . Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.


On December 9 and 10, 2016, the New York Times and the Washington Post independently reported that anonymous senior intelligence officials had told them that, based on intercepted communications, the intelligence agencies agreed that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee to help Donald Trump win the election. Their evidence was the fact of their access to U.S communications intelligence. A flood of subsequent stories also cited allegations by “senior intelligence officials” that “intercepted communications” and “intercepted calls” showed that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” Incontrovertibly, the officials who gave these stories to the Times and Post violated the Comint Statute, and are subject to the “10 and 10” for each count.

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$2.5 million every single day for two years. That’s $1.9 billion.

Wall Street Puts Nearly $2 Billion in American Politics in 2016-18 Cycle

Wall Street poured at least $1.9 billion into the political process, the largest-ever amount for a non-presidential year, according to a new report by Americans for Financial Reform. This sum outstrips the total of $1.4 billion, in the 2013-14 election cycle, by 36 percent. The figure, which includes contributions to campaign committees and leadership PACs ($922 million) and lobbying expenditures ($957 million), reflects a massive rush of pro-industry nominees and legislation over the last two years, at a time when the biggest banks made $100 billion in profits for the first time. Industry subsequently spent heavily to influence what became one of the hardest-fought mid-term campaigns in decades.


“The last election cycle demonstrated yet again that Wall Street political spending produces policies that will do lasting financial damage to most Americans, including massive tax cuts for big banks, fewer consumer and investor protections, and other policies that that drive inequality and economic vulnerability,” said Lisa Donner, executive director, Americans for Financial Reform. “Year after year, big money in politics helps Wall Street rig the system in its own favor, and against the rest of us, and insulate itself from accountability, even though voters across party lines oppose so many of the policies it seeks.”

The 63-page report, “Wall Street Money in Washington,” draws on a special data set compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics for AFR in order to provide a more precise look at financial services industry spending. The set excludes spending by health insurers, who work to influence a different group of issues than, for example, banks. As the data does not include “dark money” that goes mostly unreported, the actual sums of Wall Street spending are surely much higher.

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So Apple buys back another $75 billion and shares rise 5%. But of course.

iPhone Sales Fall 17% In First Quarter (G.)

Apple’s iPhone sales fell 17% in the first three months of the year as the company’s flagship product continued to struggle. The tech company reported revenues of $31.05bn in iPhone revenues for the quarter, the majority of the $58.bn in revenues Apple brought in over the three months. The news was less gloomy than expected and Apple’s shares spiked 5% in after hours trading as Apple announced it was buying back another $75bn of its shares. The company made a profit of $11.6bn – ahead of expectations. But this quarter marked another quarterly decline in profit and revenue as the company struggled to move beyond the iPhone. In January Apple reported its first decline in revenues and profits in over a decade as slowing sales of iPhones and an economic slowdown in China took their toll.


Those results came after chief executive Tim Cook shocked investors by issuing Apple’s first profits warning since 2002 citing “the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in greater China.” The company has stopped reporting unit sales of iPhones – leaving analysts searching other sources of data for their estimates. Most don’t expect a recovery in sales until the next generation of phones, using the super-fast 5G network, are launched, likely to be in 2020. In the meantime Apple is repositioning itself as a services and software company as well as the manufacturer of hardware. “Investors are slowly shifting their focus away from the iPhone cycle and valuing the company more based on the ecosystem of hardware, software, and services, but it will take several years for this to become consensus,” Gene Munster, managing partner of Loup Ventures, wrote in a blog post this week.

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Why? Maybe prices are far too high. Why would you want to keep them that way?

Australia House Prices Continue To Fall, Clearing Way For Rate Cut (SMH)

The national property market is enduring its biggest fall in values since the global financial crisis, being led down by double-digit drops in Sydney and Melbourne. New analysis by CoreLogic shows house values in Sydney dropped 0.8 per cent in April to be down by 11.8 per cent over the past 12 months. The situation is worse in Melbourne where values fell by 0.7 per cent last month to be down 12.6 per cent over the past year. Overall dwelling values in Sydney dropped by 0.7 per cent to be 10.9 per cent lower over the year. Since their peak in September 2017, Sydney dwelling values have fallen by 14.5 per cent.


In Melbourne, dwelling values dropped by 2.6 per cent to be 10 per cent down over the past 12 months. They have fallen by 10.9 per cent since their peak. National dwelling values were down by 0.5 per cent in the month to be down by 7.2 per cent on an annual basis, the largest drop since the 12 months to February 2009. Every capital city except Canberra suffered a fall in house prices last month with Hobart, which had been the nation’s strongest market, seeing a 1.2 per cent drop in April. Canberra, where values lifted last month, and Hobart are the only two capitals where prices are still growing above the inflation rate on an annual basis.

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Subsidies “R” Us.

Tesla Filing Shows Results Were Goosed By A Surge In Credits (LAT)

Tesla’s financial results released last week didn’t mention that the automaker’s revenue included $200 million collected from regulatory credits. When Chief Executive Elon Musk answered questions from analysts, he didn’t point that out, either. The number was buried in the official government filing known as Form 10-Q that Tesla filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Without the revenue spike – which is unlikely to be repeated, analysts say – the company’s first-quarter loss would have been much deeper than the $702 million that Tesla reported. Gross margins on Tesla’s cars, a key measure of manufacturing profitability and efficiency, would have taken a significant hit. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi’s reaction? “Egad,” he said in a note to investors.


Tesla’s shares fell 1.2% to $238.69 on Tuesday. The $235.14 closing price Friday was its lowest in more than two years. The new data add to Tesla’s already bleak financial picture. The $702-million loss followed a $139-million profit in the previous quarter. Sales fell sharply. Automotive revenue plunged 41%, to $3.7 billion from $6.3 billion in the previous quarter, as vehicle deliveries dropped to 63,000 from 90,700 the previous quarter. Operating cash flow turned negative — a net $640 million going out the door over the three months compared to a positive $1.23 billion in the previous period. Cash on hand dropped from $3.69 billion at the end of last quarter to $2.2 billion, including $920 million to pay off convertible bonds.

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“.. they replied to me and my lawyers that they had destroyed the emails, even though the case is still ongoing, very high-profile and controversial.”

Julian Assange’s Confinement And Arrest Are A Scandal (Maurizi)

In the summer of 2015, when Julian Assange had already spent three years inside the embassy, I decided it was important to access the full documentation on his case to try to reconstruct it using factual information. It was at that point that I filed my comprehensive FOIA request on the Julian Assange and WikiLeaks case in four jurisdictions. I ran up against a real rubber wall, one so persistent that have been forced to sue the Swedish and British authorities. The documents I have managed to obtain after a lengthy FOIA litigation, which is still ongoing, provide indisputable evidence of the UK’s role in helping to create the legal and diplomatic quagmire which has kept Julian Assange arbitrarily detained since 2010, as established by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD.)

It was the UK Crown Prosecution Service which advised the Swedish prosecutors against the only judicial strategy that could have brought the Swedish rape investigation to a quick closure: questioning Assange in London, rather than trying to extradite him to Stockholm. It was the Crown Prosecution Service which tried to dissuade the Swedish prosecutors from dropping the case in 2013. Why did the Crown Prosecution Service act this way? And why did the Crown Prosecution Service write to their Swedish counterpart: “Please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request”?


When I tried to dig into these facts, I discovered crucial gaps in the Crown Prosecution Service’s documents and asked the Service to provide an explanation for them. Their answer was rather incredible: they replied to me and my lawyers that they had destroyed the emails, even though the case is still ongoing, very high-profile and controversial. The Crown Prosecution Service which destroyed the records is the very same agency in charge of handling the extradition request from the United States, as well as from Sweden, if the Swedish prosecutors reopen the case before the statute of limitations on the rape allegations expires. Will anyone demand transparency and accountability from the Crown Prosecution Service in their handling of the Assange case from the very beginning?

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“It takes two to speak the truth–one to speak and one to hear.”

Extradition of Julian Assange Threatens Us All (VIPS)

Retaliation against Julian Assange over the past decade plus replicates a pattern of ruthless political retaliationagainst whistleblowers, in particular those who reveal truths hidden by illegal secrecy. U.S. law prohibits classifying information “in order to conceal inefficiency, violations of law, or administrative error; to prevent embarrassmentto a person, organization, or agency.” Whether U.S. authorities successfully prosecute Assange, accept a desperate plea deal or keep him tied up with endless litigation, they will succeed in sending the same chilling message to all journalists that they send to potential whistleblowers: Do not embarrass us or we’ll punish you—somehow, someday, however long it takes.

In that respect, one could say damage to journalism already has been done but the battle is not over. This extension of a whistleblower reprisal regime onto a publisher of disclosures poses an existential threat to all journalists and to the right of all people to speak and hear important truths. The U.S. indictment of Julian Assange tests our ability to perceive a direct threat to free speech, and tests our will to oppose that threat.Without freedom of press and the right and willingness to publish, whistleblowers even disclosing issues of grave, life and death public safety, will be like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear.


The great American writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It takes two to speak the truth–one to speak and one to hear.” Today, it takes three to speak the truth–one to speak, one to hear, and one to defend the first two in court. If the U.S. Government has its way, there will be no defense, no truth.

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Real title: “Canada FURY after The Simpsons MOCKS Justin Trudeau amid scandal – ‘COMPLETE disrespect’”

I don’t know what to think of this. You decide. Onion? It’s actually the Express in the UK.

Canadian Threat Level At America Raised From “Miffed” To “Peeved” (Exp.)

Viewers were left disgusted after the word “Newfie” was used in the episode titled ‘D’Oh Canada’. The term is decades old and is considered an offensive, derogatory term for people in Newfoundland and Labrador. According to CTV News, it is commonly used to imply someone is stupid or foolish. The country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also appeared in the episode. During the episode, which aired on Sunday night, the Simpsons family travel to Niagara Falls. Somehow Lisa Simpson ends up falling over the famous waterfall, which separates the US and Canada. In the controversial scene, Lisa stands next to some Canadian youngsters and says: “I’m sure you treat all people equally.”


One says: “Except the Québécois,” before others add, “and the Newfies. “Stupid Newfies.” The scene then cuts to Springfield youngster Ralph Wiggum who says “I’m a Newfie” before clubbing the head of a stuffed baby seal. Twitter erupted with fury following the show’s airing. One said: “I can take a joke. “When, however, it is complete disrespect disguised as a joke, I take exception.” Some also criticised the show for targeting seal hunters. The Simpsons has a long and often contentious past. Most recently the show was condemned for its portrayal of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who many now see as racist stereotyping.

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On and on we go.

Climate Crisis Facing Australian Rainforests Likened To Coral Bleaching (SMH)

Animals in Australia’s globally renowned wet tropics are on the brink of extinction after the hottest summer on record, according to official advice that equates the scale of the crisis to coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. The extraordinary warning relates to the lush green coastal fringe spanning Townsville, Cairns and Cooktown in Queensland’s north – the Earth’s oldest rainforest and a World Heritage-listed tourist drawcard. A statement from the board of the Wet Tropics Management Authority on Tuesday said more than half of animal species endemic to the area may be extinct within decades. It called for strong global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the ancient area for future generations.


The climate change policies of the major parties are under the microscope during the federal election campaign, as Labor and the Coalition pledge starkly different action to address the crisis. The Queensland government authority says “concerning new evidence has shown an accelerating decline” in the wet tropics’ unique rainforest animals. “Following the hottest summer ever recorded, some of the key species for which the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area was listed are at imminent risk of extinction,” the statement said. [..] Modelling has previously predicted that more than half of the area’s endemic species may be extinct by the end of this century. However the latest findings by James Cook University biodiversity professor Steve Williams suggested “these extinctions are happening even sooner”, the statement said.

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Mar 282019
 
 March 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1907

 

UK MPs Vote Down All Alternative Brexit Options (G.)
Speaker Issues Fresh Warning Over Third Vote On May’s Brexit Deal (G.)
May Vows To Resign Before Next Phase Of Brexit If Deal Is Passed (G.)
DUP Vows To Block May’s Brexit Deal After She Offers To Resign (Ind.)
Turkey Is Unraveling Fast (Colombo)
Erdogan’s Big Turkish Ambitions Could Come Tumbling Down (BBC)
MEPs Approved Controversial ‘Meme Ban’ EU Copyright Law By Accident (Ind.)
Rachel Maddow Sheds 500,000 Viewers In Post-Mueller Slump (RT)
Deutsche Bank Seeking a “Guarantee of Existence” with Monster-Merger? (WS)
‘Why Not Give Israel North & South Carolina?’ Syrian Envoy Asks US At UN (RT)
‘Leave Syria First’: Moscow Reacts To Trump’s Demand To Leave Venezuela (RT)
Monsanto Ordered To Pay $80 Million In Damages To Cancer Victim (G.)
‘Doomsday Vault’ Town Warming Quicker Than Any Other On Earth (Ind.)

 

 

They can’t agree on anything. But they will keep trying, until they find something that can be accepted, by a narrow margin. And that narrow margin will be used to push through Brexit, which was voted for by narrow margin. A recipe for disaster. This can only end well if they put it off and talk first.

UK MPs Vote Down All Alternative Brexit Options (G.)

A first attempt by MPs to find a consensus route forward for Brexit has ended in deadlock and confusion after the Commons rejected every option put forward, albeit with a near-even split on the idea of joining a customs union. Oliver Letwin, the veteran Conservative MP who led the process which allowed backbenchers to seize control of the order paper to hold a series of indicative votes, said the results were “disappointing” but he hoped a new round of votes would be held on Monday. The Speaker, John Bercow, said he would allow this to take place, prompting shouts of protests from many MPs. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, said the results strengthened the government’s view that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was the best and only way forward.


On the lack of a majority for any of the eight alternatives put to the vote on Wednesday, he said: “It demonstrates that there is not easy option here, that there is no easy way forward.” Groups of MPs had suggested 15 ideas, of which eight were selected by Bercow for votes. The closest result was a commitment for the government to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” in any Brexit deal. Put forward by the pro-EU Tory veteran Ken Clarke and others, it was voted down by 272 votes to 264. The only other relatively close vote was on a plan drawn up by the Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, and tabled by the former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, to require a referendum to confirm any Brexit deal. This was lost by 268 votes to 295.

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But everything hangs on that vote.

Speaker Issues Fresh Warning Over Third Vote On May’s Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May’s hopes of putting her Brexit deal to a third meaningful vote have hit another obstacle after John Bercow said parliamentary procedures could not be used to present it unchanged, even as more senior Eurosceptics seem to be getting behind the agreement. Amid speculation the prime minister is making a private pact to set a date to stand down when the deal goes through, more than 20 Conservative Eurosceptics have publicly suggested they will change their minds because they do not want a softer Brexit. Even if this many MPs in the European Research Group (ERG) switched, the vote would be extremely tight, but there was mounting speculation the government could table it on Thursday or Friday. This plan, however, could be scuppered after the Speaker told ministers he stood by his ruling that the twice-defeated motion could not be put to MPs again without significant change.


Bercow said he had instructed officials to block any attempts to put forward the same or similar plan using procedural rule changes, for example, by using a vote by MPs to instruct the Commons to overlook the rule behind his block. “I understand that the government may be thinking of bringing meaningful vote three before the house either tomorrow or even on Friday, if the house opts to sit that day,” Bercow told the Commons before the start of a debate on indicative votes on Brexit. “Therefore, in order that there should be no misunderstanding, I wish to make clear that I do expect the government to meet the test of change. They should not seek to circumvent my ruling by means of tabling either a notwithstanding motion or a tabling motion.

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Is it too late to say she’s too late?

May Vows To Resign Before Next Phase Of Brexit If Deal Is Passed (G.)

Theresa May has played her final desperate card to tame the Brexit rebels in her warring party, by promising to sacrifice her premiership if they back her twice-rejected Brexit deal. The beleaguered prime minister, whose authority has been shattered by the double rejection of her deal and the humiliation of a delay to Brexit day, made the offer to Tory backbenchers at a packed meeting in parliament. It came as MPs held backbench-led “indicative votes” on eight alternative Brexit options, including no deal, a referendum, a customs union and a Norway-style deal – none of which secured a majority.


May told her party’s backbench 1922 Committee: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that.” She added: “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.” [..] The prime minister had hoped to remain in No 10 after exit day, and build a legacy that extended beyond the humiliations of the Brexit talks to domestic policy. But if the withdrawal agreement is passed and Britain leaves the EU in eight weeks’ time, she could now be gone before the summer – after just three years in the top job.

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The fringe group she needed after her terrible election outcome now keeps her from pushing through her deal. Poetic justice?

DUP Vows To Block May’s Brexit Deal After She Offers To Resign (Ind.)

Theresa May’s plan to secure Tory MPs’ backing for her Brexit deal by promising to resign has been blown apart after her DUP partners in government vowed to block it in a new vote. Ms May announced she will resign within weeks if Tory rebels desperate to see the back of her, allow the Brexit deal she struck with Brussels to pass through the House of Commons. The move did see Boris Johnson and other rebels finally fall into line, but within hours the boost was wiped out when DUP leader Arlene Foster branded the prime minister’s Brexit plan an “unacceptable threat” to the UK’s integrity.


With the success of Ms May’s final gambit now heavily in doubt, MPs held a series of votes to determine if any compromise can be found to break the parliamentary deadlock – but none of the eight options tested gained a majority. Earlier in the day cabinet ministers went on the airwaves to show support after Ms May’s pledge and to urge MPs to get behind her Brexit deal, but several will now ramp up preparations for a leadership contest with the PM looking fatally weakened. Several Conservatives told The Independent that with her Brexit plan on its last legs and parliament having so far failed to find an alternative, a new election now appears a very real possibility.

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Erdogan is in full scale war with financial markets, even going up against JP Morgan. The classic failure of fighting against the shorts, which is like fighting windmills. But he thinks he has a right to be god in his own country.

Turkey Is Unraveling Fast (Colombo)

This week, Turkey further roiled markets by preventing foreign banks from accessing the liras they need to close out their swap positions. That’s made it almost impossible for bankers to short the lira or exit carry trades, and forced the overnight lira rate up to about 1,000 percent from 23 percent.

Turkey’s shocking intervention this week – which sought to punish speculators who were betting against the lira – is more confirmation that the country’s financial and economic situation is spiraling out of control. The primary reason for this turmoil is the bursting of Turkey’s 15 year old credit bubble. To summarize, a credit bubble formed in Turkey starting in the early-2000s, which led to an artificial economic boom. Private sector credit grew from roughly 15% of GDP in 2003 to 70% of GDP in 2016. Surging interest rates are now bursting the credit bubble and putting an end to the artificial economic boom.


Unfortunately, Turkey’s situation is only going to get worse – a 15 year-old credit bubble doesn’t resolve in a mere six months. This week’s currency intervention will only serve to scare away foreign investors, which will contribute to the downward spiral. Turkey is just one of many emerging economies that have experienced credit bubbles in the past decade due to the stimulative actions of global central banks. Bubbles – including the one in Turkey – have caused global debt to explode by $150 trillion in 15 years and $70 trillion in 10 years. Even if you do not invest directly in Turkey, you are still likely exposed to contagion risk – welcome to the downside of globalization.

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Yup. Biggest airport in the world.

Erdogan’s Big Turkish Ambitions Could Come Tumbling Down (BBC)

The crater is the size of a football pitch, dug 50 metres (165ft) deep into the earth. Mounds of rock line the surface. The only life here is the seagulls drinking from pools of stagnant water. It was supposed to be the site of Istanbul’s gleaming new development: a grandiose mix of apartments, malls and spas in the district of Fikirtepe. The promotional video from 2010 showed a symbol of Turkey’s newfound wealth. The houses of at least 15,000 people were demolished to make way for it. Many paid deposits to buy into the project. But as financial problems hit, investors pulled out – and most of the planned buildings never materialised. All that’s left is a gaping hole of bankrupt companies and broken promises.

It is symptomatic of a wider economic slump that poses the gravest threat to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 16 years in power. Polls before this weekend’s local elections suggest his governing AK Party could lose control of the capital, Ankara – and perhaps even Istanbul. Over the past 16 years, Mr Erdogan has championed construction as the engine of Turkey’s growth. His so-called “mega projects” – from airports to bridges to tunnels – have transformed the country’s infrastructure. And high-rise housing developments have changed city skylines, often to the horror of architects. Construction moguls close to the president have won state tenders through political support. The industry is mired in claims of corruption and cronyism.

But with inflation now at 20% and the Turkish lira having plunged by around a third, the cost of importing raw materials and servicing foreign loans has soared – and construction companies are failing. Pana Yapi, the conglomerate running the Fikirtepe project, told the BBC “the whole country is going through an economic crisis”, arguing that it too is a victim. Cranes suspended in mid-air and half-built skyscrapers that now dot Istanbul are a sign of that crisis. Turkey entered recession last year, shrinking 3% in the final quarter. Many fear there is worse to come. “Turkey is heavily dependent on foreign-denominated debt and when that’s harder to service, that’s when you see the problems we’re in”, said Can Selcuki, general manager at Istanbul Economics Research.

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The EU will split itself off the global internet because representatives didn’t understand procedures, and can’t correct their mistakes.

MEPs Approved Controversial ‘Meme Ban’ EU Copyright Law By Accident (Ind.)

The most controversial “meme ban” part of new EU copyright law was voted through by MEPs by mistake, it has emerged. This week, the European Parliament voted to pass the new copyright regulations, which critics claim could fundamentally alter how the internet works. And one vote on those specifics of those rules appears to have been decided on the basis of MEPs who approved them by accident. During deliberations on the new regulations, MEPs were offered the chance to specifically debate the two most controversial pieces of the law: Article 11, which would stop search engines from showing snippets of text from other websites, and the renamed Article 13, which requires that tech companies ensure their users are not violating copyright and has been accused of leading to a “meme ban”.

The MEPs turned down an amendment that would have allowed them to specifically reject those parts of the law, by a very thin margin, in advance of the main vote. But now some of those politicians say they mistakenly voted the wrong way – and enough of them that it would have swung the vote. That amendment was rejected by just five votes. But at least ten MEPs said they had accidentally cast their vote the wrong way, and if they had voted it would have fallen the other way. Video taken during the vote shows the confusion among the politicians as they attempt to quickly vote on the amendments, which could have fundamentally changed the regulations that were eventually passed.

The voting records have now been fixed to show that a number of MEPs had cast the wrong votes, and registers the names of those who had intended to approve the amendment. But despte the fact that the voting records now show the corrected results, the original ones will still stand. There is no way for those MEPs to change the official vote, even though the records can be corrected.

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How is it possible she was ever the no. 1 show?

Rachel Maddow Sheds 500,000 Viewers In Post-Mueller Slump (RT)

After putting all its eggs in the Russiagate conspiracy-theory ‘basket’ only to be let down by the contents (or lack thereof) of the Mueller report, MSNBC – and its top attraction, Rachel Maddow – are hemorrhaging viewers.
Russian-collusion high priestess Rachel Maddow’s nightly news show has slipped from number one in cable news to number six since Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned in his report on Friday, hemorrhaging half a million viewers in the space of a week. An MSNBC insider spilled the beans to the Daily Beast, assuring them that no one at the network was panicking.

“It was obviously a big couple of nights for Fox,” they said. MSNBC’s second-top-rated program, ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,’ was also down half a million pairs of eyes. #Resistance media reactions to Mueller’s “no more indictments” recommendation have varied wildly, from desperate pleas to “wait and see” what’s in the full report to claims that Mueller himself was compromised, or asking the wrong questions, all along. Maddow herself seems to have chosen the “denial” route:

“Can we expect President Trump and the Trump White House to finally accept the underlying factual record that Russia did in fact attack us?” she asked on Monday, interpreting the report summary of Attorney General William Barr, which found no evidence to suggest Russian collusion, as proof that the Russian menace was even more menacing than previously believed.

Maddow’s privileged status as Queen of the Russiagaters has largely insulated her from the standard journalistic responsibilities of telling the truth, fact-checking, and otherwise maintaining a reality-based narrative, but the Beast cited “many producers” at MSNBC who had noticeably backed away from other fiery preachers of the Russiagate gospel, like Malcolm “Russia has been plotting to invade the US for 20 years! Also memes are cruise missiles” Nance.

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It’s the German government trying to create a situation in which the EU/ECB catches Deutsche’s fall.

Deutsche Bank Seeking a “Guarantee of Existence” with Monster-Merger? (WS)

The chief executive of eternally troubled Too-Big-To-Fail Deutsche Bank, Christian Sewing, believes the time is ripe for a merger with its national rival, Commerzbank, combing Germany’s two biggest, most dangerous lenders. So, too does his counterpart at Commerzbank, as does US private equity firm Cerberus, which owns 3% of Deutsche Bank and 5% of Commerzbank. Germany’s Finance Minister and card-carrying social democrat Olaf Scholz is also firmly on board. Indeed, many say that he’s the one leading the charge despite the tens of thousands of job losses a merger between the two banks is guaranteed to produce. Scholz’s deputy, Joerg Kukies, has courted controversy for his previous role as co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs, which is reportedly advising Commerzbank on the proposed $28 billion tie-up.

But Kukies insists there are no conflicts of interest, which is a relief. For some time now, the German government has been exploring ways to lever a merger between the top two banks to add scale and slash expenses. As things currently stand, Deutsche Bank shows little sign of halting, let alone reversing, the “vicious cycle of declining revenues, sticky expenses, lowered ratings and rising funding costs” that the group’s CFO James von Motke says has been plaguing it. Whether lumping it together with a bank that has already been bailed out once in “a merger of weakquals,” as London-based brokerage Olivetree calls it, will help right the ship is highly debatable.

But right now, the big concern is that time is fast running out for one of Europe’s biggest and most hyper-connected lenders. Unless something drastic is done soon, the next downturn could prove fatal for an already gravely weakened Deutsche Bank whose stock has been in a death-spiral since 2007, having lost over 90% of its value, and whose price-to-book ratio — the equation often used to reflect the value that market participants attach to a company’s equity — is currently below 0.25%. Normally, when a company’s P/B ratio falls below 1, it means the market is either undervaluing it and thus it could be good value, or the company is in trouble. When the ratio slumps as low as 0.22%, as is the case with Deutsche Bank, it’s far more likely to be the latter than the former.

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The Arab world can’t let this go.

‘Why Not Give Israel North & South Carolina?’ Syrian Envoy Asks US At UN (RT)

Syria’s UN ambassador has suggested the US hand “a couple” of its own states over to Israel instead of flaunting international law and selling others’ land for favors with the Israeli lobby, like it did with the Golan Heights.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari offered a stark rebuke to the US-backed Israeli claim to the occupied Golan Heights at the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday. Jaafari said the Trump administration does the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN to curry favor with the powerful Israeli lobby in the US. In a remark that elicited a chuckle and a head-shake from his Israeli counterpart, Jaafari suggested that Washington bargain away land that is actually its to give.


Trump’s decision to back the Israeli claim to the Golan Heights comes just ahead of the Israeli general elections on April, 6 and has been widely considered as an electoral boost for Netanyahu, who is facing charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust at home. “Don’t be misguided by thinking that one day this land will be yours due to hypocrisy or due to being a pawn in the electoral game where you bring each other support, so the Israeli can succeed in their elections and the Americans can also get support from Israeli lobbying groups in the US,” Jaafari said. The Golan Heights, seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day war and formally annexed in 1981, will ultimately “come back” to Syria, the Syrian diplomat said.

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“Trump upped the ante by warning Russia that “all options are open..”

‘Leave Syria First’: Moscow Reacts To Trump’s Demand To Leave Venezuela (RT)

The Trump administration should make good on its own promise to pull troops out of Syria before telling others where they should or shouldn’t be, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in reply to Washington’s threat over Venezuela. “Before they have their say in the lawful interests of other nations, I would advise the US administration to fulfill the promises that it had given to the international community,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, referring to US President Donald Trump’s pledge to get American troops out of Syria. The US is behaving like a “cowboy in the Louvre,” undermining international order with its “chaotic moves and unpredictable behavior,” Zakharova said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that two of its military planes arrived in Venezuela as part of a 2001 military cooperation deal that does not require further approval by the Venezuelan National Assembly, which has been taken over by the opposition and the self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido. The planes carrying up to 100 Russian military specialists and cargo landed outside Caracas on Saturday, prompting wild guesses in the media. Washington was incensed over the arrival of the Russian troops and denounced it as “unnecessary provocation.” Trump upped the ante by warning Russia that “all options are open” when it comes to kicking Russia out.

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They’ll just keep on appealing.

Monsanto Ordered To Pay $80 Million In Damages To Cancer Victim (G.)

A federal jury ruled that Monsanto was liable for a California man’s cancer and ordered the Roundup manufacturer to pay $80m in damages. The ruling on Wednesday, which holds the company responsible for the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, is the first of its kind in US federal court and a major blow to Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer. A spokesperson said Bayer would appeal. In a verdict during an earlier phase of the trial, the jury in San Francisco unanimously ruled that the herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing the cancer of Edwin Hardeman. Hardeman, a 70-year-old Santa Rosa man, was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s herbicide in a federal trial, alleging that his exposure to the glyphosate weedkiller caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system.


The case has attracted international attention and raised new questions about the potential health hazards of Roundup. It also challenged the conduct of Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. The corporation is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits across the US that allege Roundup has caused cancer. The jury ruled that Roundup’s design was “defective”, that the product lacked sufficient cancer warnings, and that Monsanto was negligent in its failure to warn Hardeman of the NHL risk. The jurors ordered the company to pay Hardeman $75m in punitive damages, $200,000 for past economic losses and $5.6m in non-economic losses.

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Another win for Monsanto.

‘Doomsday Vault’ Town Warming Quicker Than Any Other On Earth (Ind.)

The world’s northernmost settlement and home to what is known as the “Doomsday vault” – the subterranean Svalbard global seed vault which stores specimens of almost all the world’s seeds – is now believed to be the fastest-warming location on Earth, according to a new report. Longyearbyen, on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, had an average temperature in Svalbard was -7.8C in 1900 but since then, it has risen by 3.7C – more than three times the global average rise of about 1°C. Not only has it become significantly warmer, but wetter too, spelling trouble for the Doomsday vault as the seeds’ preservation depends on stable temperatures and bone-dry conditions.


“Svalbard is the ultimate failsafe for biodiversity of crops,” Marie Haga, the executive director of the Crop Trust told CNN. The vault was opened in 2008. Its construction was funded by the Norwegian government and built in partnership with the country’s Crop Trust and is now a secure storage unit for around a million seed samples, representing over 13,000 years of agricultural history. [..] Set deep within a mountain in a geologically inert area, there is a very low risk of earthquakes or volcanoes and similarly, Norway’s political system is also “very stable”, Ms Haga said. The seeds are stored at -18C. But the increasing likelihood of wet weather has already seen major upheaval at the site. Following heavy rainfall in October 2016, the entrance to the seed vault became half-flooded and ended up freezing into huge blocks of ice.

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Mar 042019
 


Robert Frank London 1951-52

 

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)
Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)
Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)
Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)
May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)
Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)
Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)
Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)
America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)
Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)
US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)
Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)
Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)
Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

 

 

Can’t wait to see the details

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)

The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could seal a formal trade deal at a summit around March 27 given progress in talks between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. In an eight-month trade war, the United States has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports from China, while Beijing has hit back with tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and other commodities.

The actions have roiled financial markets, disrupted manufacturing supply chains and reduced U.S. farm exports. Trump administration officials have said they expect the two presidents to “close” a deal at a summit in coming weeks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The source briefed on the talks said that no dates for a summit had been determined, but that Beijing had reserved a 10-day window from around March 20 for a possible summit. Many details still needed to be worked out, including the terms of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on pledges to make changes to policies to better protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced technology transfers and curb industrial subsidies.

Another source familiar with the talks said that Washington and Beijing were close to agreement on non-enforcement issues, including China’s pledges to increase purchases of farm, energy and manufactured products, as well as six agreements on structural policy changes.

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Xiang Songzuo is the same economist who is December said Chinese GDP growth was just 1.67%. But openly saying that Xi is selling his soul to the shadows is quite the statement again. How’s that linked to the tariffs deal?

Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)

After tamping down on shadow banking in the last few years, China will now likely encourage such lending to boost economic growth, a Chinese economist told CNBC on Monday ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session. “The top agenda of (the) NPC this year is to design policies to prevent further decline (of growth rate),” said Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, referring to the National People’s Congress, which kicks off on Tuesday. “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector,” said Xiang, who was previously a deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China.

Shadow banking refers to activities performed by financial firms outside the formal banking sector, and therefore subject to lower levels of regulatory oversight and higher risks. According to Xiang, Chinese officials have moved from talking about cutting debt to stabilizing the economy. China’s GDP target last year was around 6.5%. Sources have told Reuters that Beijing will likely set a growth target of between 6.0 to 6.5% in 2019. Shadow banking is “coming back,” Xiang said. In addition to spending more on infrastructure, Beijing will also need to stimulate the economy through lending, particularly to the private sector, he added. [..] Beijing will need to tread a tightrope as it faces the dilemma of what increased shadow lending could bring, said Xiang. “On the one hand, they need shadow banking to finance investment; but on the other hand, they (need to) try to control the potential risks,” he added.

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Orwell lives!

Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)

China’s largest political event of the year, a meeting of legislative delegates and political advisers known as the “two sessions”, gets under way this week and comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces one of the most challenging periods since coming to power. Thousands of delegates will descend on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing while authorities go into overdrive to prevent any semblance of dissent during the two weeks of meetings of the 3,000-strong National People’s Congress (NPC) , and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Xi faces public scrutiny against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy, a bruising trade war with the US, heightened international concern over Chinese tech firm Huawei, and growing global criticism over Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

[..] Debate among delegates, scholars, and political observers will be even more constrained this year. Notices ahead of the meeting instruct party members on the “right way to build the party” banning over-the-top praise of the party as well as criticism. “People can’t talk normally, and now even this kind of expression is forbidden. It shows this is a very sensitive period,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian based in Beijing who follows elite Chinese politics. “I’m afraid party committees have taken many preventive measures, to prevent any sensitive speech that can lead to a chaos during the meeting.” He believes discussion of economic issues and the trade war are inevitable. “I think there will still be some ways of talking about the political system, not in direct ways, but using the economy,” he said.

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This will hurt Canada much more than the US.

Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force over her high-profile detention. Meng claims they detained, searched and interrogated her before telling her she was under arrest. Lawyers for Meng said on Sunday they had filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia supreme court. Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the US on 1 December at Vancouver airport. US prosecutors will accuse her of misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, authorities interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information”.

The suit also claims Canada Border Service Agency agents seized her electronic devices, obtained passwords and unlawfully viewed the contents and intentionally failed to adviser her of the true reasons for her detention. The suit said only after three hours was she told she was under arrest and had right to counsel. “This case concerns a deliberate and pre-meditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” the claim says. Meng has been released on bail and is living in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.

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25 days. Desperation creeps in. May is bribing Labour MPs.

May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)

The government has been accused of “bribing” MPs to back Theresa May‘s Brexit deal after announcing a new £1.6bn fund to help deprived towns. The “Stronger Towns Fund“ will offer investment to places that have not benefited from economic growth as much as other parts of the country, ministers said. The government said the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment, but critics said it was an attempt to convince Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back Ms May’s withdrawal agreement, and was not enough to offset the impact of Brexit. £1bn of the funding will be allocated to areas across the country, with more than half going to towns in the north of England. The other £600m will be available for local authorities to bid for.

Of the money being directly allocated by the government, the north west will receive the most, with £281m, followed by the west Midlands (£212m) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£197m). Announcing the fund, Ms May said: ”For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. “Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. “These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”

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Doubt that Bolton is interested.

Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)

Russia is ready to take part in bilateral talks with the United States over the issue of Venezuela, Russia’s foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart late on Saturday. The situation in Venezuela was the main topic in a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that took place on March 2, Russia’s foreign ministry said on its website. “In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the ministry said in a statement.

It was “vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future,” the statement said. Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself the interim head of state, over President Nicholas Maduro. In the phone call, initiated by the United States, Lavrov condemned the threats that Washington made towards “the country’s lawful leadership,” the ministry said, referring to Maduro.

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You can’t put Stone under quasi house arrest and expect him to be quiet. He’ll end up doing crazy stuff.

Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)

Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it. Stone’s post was put online less than 48 hours after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered lawyers for the admitted Republican “dirty trickster” to explain why they did not tell her earlier about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him.

Stone announced on Instagram in January that he was coming out with the book, “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from “making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.

Stone’s new post is comprised of a rotating series of images that ask for money to support Stone’s defense to charges that he lied to Congress and tampered with a witness. One says, “I am committed to proving my innocence. But I need your help.” Another photo, which shows a young Stone standing behind Trump years ago, says, “I’ve always had Trump’s back. Will you have mine?” Two other images tout a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” t-shirt and “Stone Cold Truth” sweatshirt.

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Nadler, Schiff, Mark Warner, they’re on a publicity tour to keep collusion alive just as it’s dying.

Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)

The US House Judiciary Committee will launch a probe into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Donald Trump. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the committee, told ABC that the panel wanted to obtain documents from more than 60 people and entities as part of the investigation. Documents from Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, are among those wanted by the panel. “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he said. But the congressman added that it was too soon to consider the possibility of impeachment.

“Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said. The politician said the committee would release the full list of people and organisations it would be seeking information from on Monday. He said that the president’s firing of James Comey, who at the time was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, was evidence of Mr Trump’s obstruction. The congressman also cited what he described as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses involved in the probe. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” Donald Trump said on Twitter, in response to the announcement. “Despite this, great success!”

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Gee, how can it be?

America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)

Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress. The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.” Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.

In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives. We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence. Sandmann and his fellow students became the target of false accusations of racism during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The mainstream media, as well as many politicians and celebrities, pushed the story that the young student, a Trump supporter, had taunted an elderly Native American Indian near the Lincoln Memorial. The story quickly fell apart, however, after video of the encounter and eyewitness accounts destroyed the media version of events. Attorneys for the boy claim that the Bezos-owned newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.” Todd McMurtry, one of the attorneys for the Catholic student, called the Washington Post “a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation.”

[..] When asked how much confidence they had in the media, almost 70 percent of Republican respondents answered “hardly any confidence at all,” while just 25 percent of Democrats held a similar opinion.

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Well, not entirely; he merely named it as a factor.

Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)

US president Donald Trump has blamed that the Democrats’ decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong-un for the fact that the North Korea summit ended with no deal. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his decision to walk away from what he previously said was a bad deal with Kim. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Last week in Hanoi, Trump and Kim met for the second time to try to negotiate a deal that would surrender some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal in return for sanctions relief. After talks fell apart over the issue of sanctions, Trump told a media conference “sometimes you have to walk”.

At the same time in Washington, Trump’s former aide Cohen was testifying before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee, accusing Trump of ordering his personal attorney to make threats for him about 500 times over the past 10 years. He also called the president a liar, racist and conman. When asked about Cohen’s testimony at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi after Trump had abruptly decided to end the summit with Kim early, the president called the allegations “incorrect” and criticised the decision to have the hearing while he was away. “I tried to watch as much as I could,” Trump said. “I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”

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It doesn’t get more obvious.

US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)

[..] in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said “someone over 75” would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his “political revolution”, 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn’t.

“We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey. Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities. And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year. “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race,” McInturff said.

[..] only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%. [..] Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.

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I’m all for ending teh scourge that cars have become. But why do we need a bunch of US investors for that? And do these people realize that we won’t pay for the upkeep of the roads once we ditch our cars? It’s going to be public transport, not Lyft cars.

Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)

The founders of the ride-sharing app Lyft filed their IPO papers last week, and their vision for the company is dramatic. Lyft (which works a bit like Uber) is not just about getting you from A to B, they say. Rather, founders Logan Green and John Zimmer believe that car ownership is in permanent decline and they want to help it die, they write in their S-1 filing. “We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors.

“Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.” Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”

• Car sales in Britain declined 18.2% in January. It was the eighth successive month of decline. • Sales in Turkey declined 60%. •Europe-wide, sales are down around 6%. • In the US, total car registrations have declined by about 10% • Tire sales – a proxy for vehicle production – are down in China, too.

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The power of Bayer and Monsanto will make us commit collective suicide.

Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)

Dr Mason had been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission for an 18-month period, challenging them about ECHA’s positive assessment of glyphosate. Many people around the world had struggled to understand how and why the US EPA and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, came to the opposite conclusion. The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

In fact, 95 of the 151 genotoxicity assays cited in the EPA’s evaluation were from industry studies (63%), while IARC cited 100% public literature sources. Another important difference is that the EPA focused its analysis on glyphosate in its pure chemical form, or ‘glyphosate technical’. The problem with that is that almost no one is exposed to glyphosate alone. Applicators and the public are exposed to complete herbicide formulations consisting of glyphosate plus added ingredients (adjuvants). The formulations have repeatedly been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. The European Ombudsman has now rejected Rosemary Mason’s complaint who has in turn written a 25-page response documenting the wide-ranging impacts of glyphosate-based Roundup and other agrochemicals on human health and the environment.

She also outlines the various levels of duplicity that have allowed many of these chemicals to remain on the commercial market. Mason is led to conclude that, due to the rejection of her complaint (as with others lodged by her to the Ombudsman), the European Ombudsman Office is also part of the problem and is essentially colluding with European pesticide regulatory authorities. Mason has addressed this concern directly to Emily O’Reilly, who currently holds the post of European Ombudsman: “In your rejection of all my complaints over the last few years, it is clear that The Ombudsman’s Office is protecting the European pesticides regulatory authorities, who are in turn being controlled by the European Glyphosate Task Force…. You have turned a blind eye to the authorisation of many of the toxic pesticides that are on the market today because industry is being allowed to self-regulate.”

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The things that must be turned around. We’ve gone much too far.

“The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain..”

Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

Scientists are suing the Mauritian government for “driving endangered fruit bats towards extinction”, after mass culls killed at least half their population. More than 50,000 of the animals are thought to have been killed in three culls since 2015, in an attempt to protect fruit in orchards. The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain, animal experts warned. Fruit bats are vital for biodiversity as they pollinate flowers and scatter seeds, enabling trees and plants to grow and spread, according to conservationists. But populations of the flying foxes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in four years, said Vincent Florens, an ecologist at the University of Mauritius. Some believe fewer than 30,000 now remain.

Tigga Kingston, a biologist and bat specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the fewer animals remain, the more vulnerable they will be to natural disasters, disease and habitat loss, leading to extinction. Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust has pleaded for the culls to end, citing research that found they accounted for only 10 per cent of fruit plant damage. The first cull, in 2015, killed 30,000, and in a second cull, the following year, 7,380 were targeted. The IUCN then raised the bats’ status from vulnerable to endangered. But the latest cull involved 13,000. Prof Florens said he believed the number killed is much higher than the 50,300 government figure. “The culls took place late in the year, when many mothers were pregnant or had babies,” he told National Geographic. “You shoot one bat and basically kill two.” Others were likely to have been injured and died later, he said.


At least 50,000 fruit bats have been culled in Mauritius since they have been forced to survive on orchard fruits because of deforestation (iStock )

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Mar 032019
 


Pablo Picasso The artist and his model 1926

 

US is Cleanest Dirty Shirt Among Manufacturing Giants (WS)
Trump Just Might Have Won the 2020 Election Today (Reason)
Massive Cuts Are Coming To Social Security (MW)
Balance Sheet “Error” Hits UK’s Fastest Growing, Most Popular Bank (DQ)
Brexit Supporters Give May Three Tests For EU Deal (R.)
Will Brexit Be UK’s Constitutional Moment? (IT)
Guaido To Return To Venezuela After Touring Neighbor Countries (R.)
Europe’s Leaders Are Aiding Italy’s Populists (Varoufakis)
France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ March Largely Without Violence As Tensions Ease (R.)
Chelsea Manning Ordered To Testify Before Grand Jury In Assange Probe (WaPo)
Chelsea Manning Shows Federal Grand Juries Are Tools of Repression (IC)

 

 

Great set of graphs from Wolf Richter. Makes one wonder what will happen once this becomes clear outside of graphs.

US is Cleanest Dirty Shirt Among Manufacturing Giants (WS)

The global slowdown in manufacturing progressed another notch in February. Among the top four manufacturing giants in the world, the US is the cleanest dirty shirt. Together, they produced 58% of the world’s “value added in manufacturing” in 2016: • China: $3.08 trillion (26% of global total) • US: $2.18 trillion (18% of global total) • Japan: $979 billion (8% of global total • Germany: $718 billion (6% of global total) In February, [China] manufacturing output declined for the third month in a row, and at the steepest rate since March 2016, according to the official Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. For these PMI measures, a value below 50 means “contraction,” and a value above 50 means “expansion”:

Small-sized manufacturers in China got hit the worst, with their PMI falling to 45.3, while the index for mid-sized manufacturers dropped to 46.9. Large manufacturers showed growth, at 51.5.[..] The Nikkei Japan Manufacturing PMI fell to a 32-month low of 48.9 in February. New orders declined at a quickened pace as new export orders continued to fall “amid lower sales to China.” “Deteriorating demand conditions were signaled in the February PMI survey,” according to IHS Markit, which compiles the survey. New orders for Japanese manufacturers “dropped at the fastest rate in over two-and-a-half years.” And the decline in orders was “broad-based across both domestic and foreign markets, with falling new export sales also recorded.”

The IHS Markit/BME Germany Manufacturing PMI in February dropped below 50 for the second month in a row, and at 47.6 to the lowest level – the fastest contraction – since December 2012, “showing a deepening downturn in new orders and the first drop in output in almost six years”. All sub-indices except employment were in contraction mode. Hardest hit were the intermediate and capital goods sectors. Only manufacturers of consumer goods recorded an increase in output. IHS Market added that the downturn in new orders is “gathering pace, led by a sharp and accelerated decline in export sales. The level of new business from abroad fell the most since October 2012.”

But it’s not just in Germany… The IHS Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI fell to 49.3. Germany led the decline. The index for Spain (49.9) entered contraction mode for the first time since November 2013. The index for Italy (47.7) was in contraction mode for the fifth month in a row, and at the lowest level since May 2013. The chart below is on the same scale as the chart for Germany above; so you can see that the peak, and the decline from the peak, have been less pronounced than in Germany alone, with the manufacturing sectors in several Eurozone countries still in expansion mode – including in France, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, and Greece:

Operating conditions in the US manufacturing sector in February showed “softer, but still solid improvement … amid slower expansions in output and new orders,” according to the IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI. Backlogs were still increasing, as was employment. The index, at 53.0, shows the slowest expansion in 18 months, “with firms reporting a marked easing in production growth in February, linked to a similar slowdown in order book growth.

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Others say the CPAC speech was just rambling. Fact remains there’s no-one anywhere close to running against him, none have a chance. And that’s pretty scary when you think about it: the Democrats haven’t advanced a single inch from 2016. The only thing they can think of, after seeing Russigate die, is to dig for more smear.

But if you can’t let go of oyour echo chamber hate of Trump, how are you ever going to understand him, a prerequisite for beating him?!

Trump Just Might Have Won the 2020 Election Today (Reason)

It’s way too early to be thinking this, much less saying it, but what the hell: If Donald Trump is able to deliver the sort of performance he gave today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual meeting of right-wingers held near Washington, D.C., his reelection is a foregone conclusion. There is simply no potential candidate in the Democratic Party who wouldn’t be absolutely blown off the stage by him. I say this as someone who is neither a Trump fanboy nor a Never Trumper. But he was not simply good, he was Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great, deftly flinging juvenile taunts at everyone who has ever crossed him, tossing red meat to the Republican faithful, and going sotto voce serious to talk about justice being done for working-class Americans screwed over by global corporations.

In a heavily improvised speech that lasted over two hours, the 72-year-old former (future?) reality TV star hit every greatest hit in his repertoire (“Crooked Hillary,” “build the wall,” “America is winning again,” and more all made appearances) while riffing on everything from the Green New Deal to his own advanced age and weird hair to the wisdom of soldiers over generals. At times, it was like listening to Robin Williams’ genie in the Disney movie Aladdin, Howard Stern in his peak years as a radio shock jock, or Don Rickles as an insult comic. When he started making asides, Trump observed, “This is how I got elected, by going off script.” Two years into his presidency and he’s just getting warmed up.

First and foremost, Trump was frequently funny and outre in the casually mean way that New Yorkers exude like nobody else in America. “You put the wrong people in a couple of positions,” he said, lamenting the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor, “and all of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit.” He voiced Jeff Sessions in a mock-Southern accent, recusing “muhself” and asked the adoring crowd why the former attorney generally hadn’t told him he was going to do that before he was appointed.

Democrats backing the Green New Deal (GND) “are talking about trains to Hawaii,” he said. “They haven’t figured out how to get to Europe yet.” He begged the Democrats not to abandon the GND because he recognizes that the more its details and costs are discussed, the more absurd it will become. “When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your energy,” he said at one point. “Did the wind stop blowing, I’d like to watch television today, guys?” “We’ll go back to boats,” he said, drawing huge laughs when he added, “I don’t want to talk [the Democrats] out of [the GND], I just want to be the Republican who runs against it.”

He railed against Never-Trump Republicans: “They’re on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” he said, adding “they’re basically dishonest people” that no one cares about. He joked about being in the White House all alone on New Year’s because of the government shutdown. “I was in the White House and I was lonely, so I went to Iraq,” he said, recounting that when his plane was approaching the U.S. airstrip in Iraq, all lights had to be extinguished for landing. “We spend trillions of dollars in the Middle East and we can’t land planes [in Iraq] with the lights on,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “We gotta get out.”

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Every western country, and even China, should think about this.

Massive Cuts Are Coming To Social Security (MW)

The mother of all political battles is coming, and it’s about a wall. No, not that one. It’s another, much bigger wall. One that fewer people are talking about — so far. It’s the wall that Social Security is due to run into in just 15 years. That’s when, say Social Security’s trustees, the program’s trust fund is scheduled to run out of money. If nothing else is done, they say, after 2034 Social Security’s annual income will only be enough to pay “about three-quarters of scheduled benefits.” We’re talking about a 25% cut in payments. How big a deal will this be? As it happens, the Federal Reserve just put out a report that tackles this.

According to Fed data, at most one quarter of people currently nearing retirement are going to be able to shrug off any cuts at all in Social Security. Actually, it’s probably considerably less than one quarter. And everyone else will be in serious trouble. Half of those nearing retirement will end up in dire straits. That’s because most of them have little or nothing in private retirement plans. The country’s 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts? The old-fashioned company pension plans? Most of these assets are owned by the wealthiest 25% of the country, the Fed calculates. Between 83% and 85% of the total balance is in the hands of the highest-earning one-fourth.

For everyone else? It’s down to Social Security or bust. And that’s especially so for the bottom half of the income distribution. “Social Security is the key to understanding retirement resources for most families,” says the Fed. For example, the Fed looked at the balance sheets of those currently in their 50s who are nearing retirement. For the middle two quartiles by income — in other words, the middle 50% — Social Security accounts for somewhere between 47% and 64% of their total retirement wealth. For those in the bottom 25% it’s nearly all of it. They hold, on average, just $28,000 in private retirement plans.

[..] In 10 years’ time, when this issue becomes urgent, people in or near retirement will make up more than half the voting age population. They’ll make up and even bigger share of the actual likely voters. And those people, as we’ve just seen, can’t do without Social Security — no way, and no how. According to the U.S. Census, by 2030 those over age 65 will account for 26% of the voting age population, and those aged 45 to 59 and nearing retirement another 29%. And according to the U.S. Elections Project, in the last presidential elections just 43% of those in their 20s bothered to vote. The figure for the over 60 was 71%. Put those two things together, and by 2030 around 60% of likely voters will be over 45 — and half of those — will already be over 60. Good luck passing a 25% Social Security cut.

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“In the last five weeks the lender has lost 60% of its market cap..”

Balance Sheet “Error” Hits UK’s Fastest Growing, Most Popular Bank (DQ)

Shares of the UK’s fastest growing high street lender, Metro Bank, are in free fall. They tumbled 16% on Tuesday, 25% on Wednesday and 6.86% on Thursday, to come to rest at a price of 889 pence, the lowest since the London-based bank went public in 2016. In the last five weeks the lender has lost 60% of its market cap and is now worth just £866 million, down from £4 billion a year ago. The crisis began in earnest on January 22 when Metro’s shares crashed almost 40% — the worst one-day fall suffered by any British lender since the financial crisis — following an announcement by the bank’s management that it had incorrectly classified a huge chunk of commercial property loans and loans to commercial buy-to-rent operators that should have been among its “risk-weighted assets”.

The “error” left a gaping £900 million hole on Metro’s balance sheet. On Tuesday this week, things got even worse when the bank revealed that the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), the institution that had first flagged up Metro Bank’s accountancy error, and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are investigating the circumstances behind the error. The bank also announced plans for a £350 million rights issue, after raising £303 million from investors last July. But investors — led perhaps by well-connected investors — have been smelling a rat since March 2018. By the time the initial disclosure whacked the shares on January 22, 2019, they’d already dropped 45%. Now they’re down 77% from March 2018:

Metro’s tribulations are a timely reminder of how important a force trust can be in the financial markets, particularly when it comes to banks. To gauge how much of a credit risk a bank could pose to market participants, including the bank’s bondholders and counterparties, investors rely on the bank’s capital ratio, which itself depends on the amount of risk assigned to each portfolio. By assigning a lower risk weight to its mortgage lending portfolio, whether by accident or intentionally, Metro left investors thinking it was safer than it actually is.

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Not going to happen. Why give the Brexiteers what they want, and thereby leave the rest of the people alone?

Brexit Supporters Give May Three Tests For EU Deal (R.)

Brexit-supporting lawmakers who voted down British Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union withdrawal deal in January have outlined demands for a revised treaty to ensure their support, the Sunday Times newspaper said. Lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected May’s deal in January. Many were unhappy with the “Irish backstop”, insurance to prevent return of hard border controls between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland. Critics said it could leave the country tied to EU rules indefinitely. Britain, due to exit the bloc on March 29, is attempting to amend the deal to provide assurances that the backstop would not be indefinite.

The Sunday Times said hardline Brexit supporters from May’s Conservative Party had drawn up a document outlining three tests the deal must pass to gain their support. These are a “clearly worded, legally binding, treaty-level clause which unambiguously overrides” the text of the withdrawal agreement, with language that goes beyond emphasizing the temporary nature of the backstop and a clear means to exit the backstop if subsequent trade talks fail. [..] In a further sign that former opponents of May’s deal might now back a revised version, Graham Brady, a senior Conservative lawmaker, said he would support it with legally binding assurances on the backstop.

“Once we have that, my colleagues in parliament need to recognize the strength of feeling,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “The whole country is tired of vacillation and delay. When the right compromise is offered, we should pull together behind the Prime Minister and help her to deliver our exit from the European Union on March 29.”

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No haveng a written constitution leaves you open to havening more people insisting their multiple interpretations are the only correct one.

Will Brexit Be UK’s Constitutional Moment? (IT)

Does Brexit pose a constitutional crisis for the United Kingdom? Can its constitution be remade after Brexit or is it too late for that to happen? What are the consequences for Ireland and Northern Ireland? Constitutions are the set of fundamental rules governing a political system, usually defined as a nation. Typically they are written, short and legally entrenched, making them difficult to amend. Highly untypically, the UK’s constitution is unwritten and largely uncodified, sprawling over its common law and informal political conventions – even though the word was coined when the deposed King James II was accused in 1688 of having violated the “fundamental constitution of the kingdom”.

That continuing ideology was perfectly caught when the novelist AS Byatt last year told a disbelieving German writer, Matthias Matussek, in London: “You know, we British don’t need a constitution. We are the oldest democracy in the world.” She paused briefly before continuing: “For young countries like you Germans, constitutions could very well be useful.” The unwritten rules are now precariously balanced between the doctrine of absolute parliamentary sovereignty subject in principle to the monarch, and the shift to entrenchment represented by the 2016 Scotland Act which declared its self-government permanent, only to be abolished by a popular referendum.

At a conference last week in Mansfield College Oxford on remaking the UK constitution, the political theorist Stuart White said there is a real tension between these two conceptions of parliamentary and popular sovereignty. The Brexit maxim to “take back control” draws on both the notion of reversible treaty commitments and the 2016 referendum decision to leave the European Union. They are especially difficult to reconcile in a multinational polity like the UK where there is no longer a single people or demos.

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Can he be resuscitated? Or will he be arrested?

Guaido To Return To Venezuela After Touring Neighbor Countries (R.)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Saturday he would return home after a visit to Ecuador and called for new protests next week against President Nicolas Maduro, whose government had banned him from traveling abroad. Guaido has spent the past few days touring between Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to form a transition government and oust Maduro, whom he denounces as an illegitimate usurper. He had visited Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay after leaving Venezuela last week for Colombia to coordinate efforts there to send humanitarian aid into his country, though troops loyal to Maduro blocked a convoy of aid trucks and turned them back.

“As for the next steps for Venezuelans, I announce my return home from Ecuador,” Guaido told a news conference in the coastal town of Salinas alongside Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno. Guaido did not say when exactly or how he would return to Venezuela. He is expected to leave Ecuador at 9.30 a.m. local time on Sunday, according to the Ecuadorean government’s schedule for his visit. His return opens the possibility that Venezuelan authorities will try to arrest him. The Supreme Court had imposed a travel ban on him after he invoked the country’s constitution on Jan 23 to assume an interim presidency, which most Western nations now recognize as legitimate.

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“The fact that Italy’s public debt has a lower credit rating than private debt is a reflection not of public debt’s intrinsic inferiority but of a political choice made by European leaders. And, by bolstering an authoritarian politician, that choice is now blowing back on them.”

Europe’s Leaders Are Aiding Italy’s Populists (Varoufakis)

Italy is now the frontline in the battle of the euro. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is being propelled by a political tailwind that may, after the European Parliament elections in May, enhance his capacity to inflict serious damage on the European Union. What is both fascinating and disconcerting is that the xenophobia underpinning Salvini’s ever-increasing authority is being generated by the eurozone’s faulty architecture and the ensuing political blame game. In its recent report on the economic imbalances afflicting each EU member state, the European Commission blames the Italian government for its failure to rein in debt, which, it says, results in tepid income growth.

According to the Commission, the government’s reluctance to cut its budget deficit has spooked the bond markets, pushed interest rates up, and thus shrunk investment. Salvini could not be more pleased. The report presents a splendid opportunity to blame the Commission itself for Italy’s travails, by arguing that it was actually the EU’s fiscal austerity policies which constricted growth, pushed the economy to the brink of a new recession, and led to the election of the populist government now dominated by Salvini. And, as if that were not enough, it was the Commission’s threats of penalizing Italy unless it imposed even greater austerity that unnerved bond traders and pushed interest rates up.

Italy’s tragedy is that the Commission and Salvini are both right – and also both wrong. It is correct that Salvini’s announcement that the government would rescind its promise to impose pre-agreed levels of austerity alarmed investors, made Italian debt less viable, and caused capital flight. But it is also correct that the Commission’s fiscal rules, were they to be implemented fully, would have caused a recession that would have made Italian debt less viable anyway.

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BS headline. In France the protesters’ numbers are treated much as unemployment numbers are: whenever people ain’t looking, you push them down. And Reuters complies. Various videos tell a different story.

France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ March Largely Without Violence As Tensions Ease (R.)

Turnout for a 16th round of “yellow vest” protests in France on Saturday was below last week’s levels and marches were largely peaceful, in a relief for President Emmanuel Macron who has struggled to find a response to the movement. While turnout figures at midday were only half of last week, by nightfall the Interior Ministry counted a total of 39,300 protesters nationwide, of which 4,000 were in Paris. Last Saturday there had been 46,600 marchers, including 5,800 in Paris, compared with 41,000 the week before and 51,400 the week before that – well down on the more than 300,000 who marched at the start of the movement in November in a protest which degenerated into clashes with police in subsequent weeks.

Protesters marched largely peacefully on Saturday from the Arc de Triomphe to Place Denfert-Rochereau on the residential left bank, though water cannon were briefly used to douse protesters on the Champs Elysees boulevard. Tear gas and water cannon were also used in Bordeaux, and in Toulouse, where some protesters marched behind a “cacatov party” banner – a play on Molotov cocktail firebombs – encouraging people to throw “poo-bombs” at police. There were no reports of anyone being hit by a “catatov”, but the threat of excrement projectiles was of concern to reporters covering the marches in Toulouse and Paris. Large parts of central Paris were in lockdown as thousands of police cordoned off key areas around the presidential palace and government buildings.

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Word is they want Assange for harm to US operatives.

Chelsea Manning Ordered To Testify Before Grand Jury In Assange Probe (WaPo)

Chelsea Manning has been called to testify before a grand jury in the investigation of Julian Assange, officials said. The summons is one of several indicators that prosecutors remain interested in WikiLeaks‘ publication of diplomatic cables and military war logs in 2010. Prosecutors in Virginia have been pursuing a case based on conduct that predates WikiLeaks’ publication of hacked emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, and it is not clear investigators are interested in that activity. Officials discussed the investigation of Mr Assange, who founded WikiLeaks, on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the grand jury process.

Ms Manning, whose subpoena was first reported by the New York Times, is a former Army private who served seven years in a military prison for passing secret State Department cables and military documents to WikiLeaks before receiving a commutation from Barack Obama. Ms Manning’s attorneys have filed a motion to quash the subpoena. “I object strenuously to this subpoena, and to the grand jury process in general,” Ms Manning said in a statement. “We’ve seen this power abused countless times to target political speech. I have nothing to contribute to this case and I resent being forced to endanger myself by participating in this predatory practice.”

The subpoena was signed last month by Gordon Kromberg, a national security prosecutor on the Assange case. Mr Kromberg last month persuaded a judge to leave sealed an indictment against Mr Assange despite its inadvertent exposure in an unrelated court filing last year. Under Mr Obama, Justice Department officials had decided not to pursue charges against Mr Assange and WikiLeaks after concluding that to do so could set a precedent that paved the way for prosecuting news organisations for publishing classified information. But the case got a fresh look under Donald Trump.

Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, said the Justice Department probably indicted Mr Assange last year to stay within the 10-year statute of limitations on unlawful possession or publication of national defence information, and is now working to add charges. “There’s nothing else that would make sense,” he said. “The heart of the controversy is, there’s never been a successful prosecution” for publishing classified information, Mr Vladeck said. “There has always been the spectre of a First Amendment defence.”

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Secret Courts and Secret Juries and Secret Documents and Secret Accusations. Nice country.

Chelsea Manning Shows Federal Grand Juries Are Tools of Repression (IC)

Chelsea Manning was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury and give testimony on March 5. The whistleblower filed a motion to quash the subpoena. As such, Manning risks incarceration under the coercive operations of the federal grand jury system. For Manning, the threat of further imprisonment is a particularly brutal one. Beginning in 2010, she was arrested, court-martialed, imprisoned, and tortured for exposing some of the worst crimes and brutalities of the Iraq and Afghan wars. She was released in 2017. Given the secrecy of federal grand jury procedures, we can’t know with any certainty to which potential case the subpoena pertains, or what Manning would be asked.

But since it was issued in the Eastern District of Virginia, we can make the informed speculation that it relates to inadvertently disclosed charges filed under seal against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in that same district. The New York Times reported that “there were multiple reasons to believe that the subpoena is related to the investigation of Mr. Assange,” including the district where the subpoena was issued and the assistant United States attorney that requested the subpoena, who is tied to the Assange prosecution. Another Assange associate, David House, told the Washington Post that he testified before the grand jury as well. “It was all related to disclosures around the war logs,” House said, a reference to the Iraq war documents that Manning released and Wikileaks published.

Manning’s decision to fight her subpoena, however, is not a question of protecting Assange, nor obstructing valid government investigations into federal crimes. Her challenge is an act of resistance against government repression and in defense of a free press.

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Mar 012019
 


Salvador Dali Eggs on the plate (without the plate) 1932

 

Tax Cuts A Year Later – Did They Deliver? (Roberts)
The Death Of Cash Has Been Greatly Exaggerated – Look At The $100 Bill (MW)
China Trade Talks Made ‘Fantastic’ Progress Last Week -Kudlow (CNBC)
China’s Shadow Debt Burden Much Larger Than Believed (ZH)
Growing China Downdraft Chills Asia Factory Activity (R.)
CPAC On Socialism, Bernie Sanders And 2020: ‘Trump Will Win, 100%’ (G.)
Claim Trump Had Prior Knowledge Of WikiLeaks Fails Hilariously (Dore)
Trump Says Cohen Lied ‘95% Instead Of 100%’ In Testimony To Congress (G.)
The Case That Could Bring Down Canada’s Justin Trudeau (G.)
Anti-Maduro Allies Regroup After The Fight For Humanitarian Aid (CNBC)
Disclosing Subpoena for Testimony, Chelsea Manning Vows to Fight (NYT)
The Grey Wall Of China: Inside The World’s Concrete Superpower (G.)

 

 

Well, they delivered something. But that’s a much bigger topic than just tax cuts, that’s Fed policy.

Lance is trying to utterly confuse us with an absolute overkill of graphs all in one place. But the gist is clear.

Tax Cuts A Year Later – Did They Deliver? (Roberts)

I received a lot of push back on my views when the “mainstream” analysis was the tax cuts would jump start economic growth. Of course, with 2017’s Q1 economic growth coming in at a meager 0.7% annualized, it would certainly seem to be needed. But as I questioned then: “Do tax reductions lead to higher economic growth, employment and incomes over the long-term as promised?” Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, VP Mike Pence argued at the time he was confident that eventually, the deficit would decline as it would be overcome by surging economic “growth” thanks to the tax cuts it will fund. [..] As shown in the chart below, changes to tax rates have a very limited impact on economic growth over the longer term.

Reagan’s tax cuts were effective because they were “timely” due to the economic, fiscal, and valuation backdrop which is diametrically opposed to the situation today. “Importantly, as has been stated, the proposed tax cut by President-elect Trump will be the largest since Ronald Reagan. However, in order to make valid assumptions on the potential impact of the tax cut on the economy, earnings and the markets, we need to review the differences between the Reagan and Trump eras. My colleague, Michael Lebowitz, recently penned the following on this exact issue.

‘Many investors are suddenly comparing Trump’s economic policy proposals to those of Ronald Reagan. For those that deem that bullish, we remind you that the economic environment and potential growth of 1982 was vastly different than it is today.” [..] The differences with today’s economic and market environment could not be starker. The tailwinds provided by initial deregulation, consumer leveraging, declining interest rates, and inflation provided huge tailwinds for corporate profitability growth. The chart below shows the ramp up in government debt since Reagan versus subsequent economic growth and tax rates.

While wages did rise marginally over the last, due more to tightness in the labor market rather than tax cuts, corporations failed to share the wealth. In fact, the ratio of profits to workers wages have materially worsened since the enactment of tax cuts.

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Going to the mattresses. To be honest, it’s always been clear that trying turn the US into a cashless society is the stuff for revolution.

The Death Of Cash Has Been Greatly Exaggerated – Look At The $100 Bill (MW)

The stock market is coming off its best January in years, the economy appears to be holding up well, interest rates are still low, cryptos and mobile payments continue to gain traction — it’s not exactly a cash-friendly climate at the moment. Then what’s going on with the $100 bill? A decade ago, $20 and $1 bills were both far more prevalent than the Benjamins. As you can see by this chart from Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok, the currency hierarchy has shifted dramatically since then.

In 2017, the $100 bill took the crown as the most popular U.S. bill, doubling since 2007, which has helped drive the sharp rise in currency and other liquid assets as a share of GDP:

But why? Deutsche Bank’s Slok mulled a few possibilities. “It could be driven by a global fear of negative interest rates in Europe and Japan,” he said. “Or it could be a savings vehicle for U.S. households worried about another financial crisis, or it could be driven by more demand from the global underground economy.” Of course, we know it’s not because more people are using the $100 bill as pocket money. Smaller bills are still far more popular in that regard. Just look at the average lifespan of each bill:

So what’s that telling us? Mattresses everywhere are getting increasingly stuffed with $100 bills instead of being put to work in the stock market or elsewhere. That speaks to the frame of mind of the Average Joe as much as anything else.

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“Lighthizer said after the testimony [..] that formal steps would be taken to abandon plans of raising tariffs on Chinese goods.”

China Trade Talks Made ‘Fantastic’ Progress Last Week -Kudlow (CNBC)

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Thursday that trade talks between the U.S. and China are going great, noting the two countries are making “fantastic” progress in meetings last week. “Last week was fantastic,” Kudlow told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “We’re making great headway on nontariff barriers and tariffs regarding various commodities such as soybeans and energy and beef. We have mechanisms with regard to enforcement, which is -I think- unparalleled.” “The progress has been terrific,” Kudlow added. But “we have to hear from the Chinese side. We have to hear from President Xi Jinping, of course. I think we’re headed for a remarkable, historic deal.” U.S. equities briefly pared some of their losses following Kudlow’s remarks.

Kudlow also said China has expressed willingness to make key structural changes to prevent intellectual property theft, a highly contested issue in these negotiations. Kudlow’s comments follow testimony from Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative. Lighthizer told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that China needed to do more than just buy more U.S. goods for the two countries to strike a permanent trade deal. But Lighthizer said after the testimony, according to The Wall Street Journal, that formal steps would be taken to abandon plans of raising tariffs on Chinese goods. This is a clear signal that a trade deal could come in the near future. “Lighthizer has worked miracles on this Chinese deal,” Kudlow said. “We’ve never come this far on China trade.”

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News item by news item my long held ideas of the importance of the shadow banks for China’s official growth numbers are being confirmed.

China’s Shadow Debt Burden Much Larger Than Believed (ZH)

[..] a team of S&P credit analysts warned in an October report that China’s debt burden might be much larger than previously believed. Against a backdrop of soaring corporate defaults, the team from S&P warned that investors could safely tack on another ~40% of debt/GDP to China’s total (with even more likely hidden from view) after a careful analysis of a new source of shadow debt being tapped by local governments to further their development plans. These Local Government Financing Vehicles, or LGFVs, represented “an iceberg with titanic credit risks” as local officials had increasingly turned to these sources of shadow financing to finance development projects while bureaucrats in Beijing struggled to turn off the credit taps.

Now that Beijing has reckoned with the idea that now is not the time to try and contain the country’s massive debt load, even as the percentage of bad debt balloons, it increasingly appears that these measures might be too little, too late for investors who financed these LGFVs, as the Wall Street Journal revealed in a report about how a local government in China’s impoverished South had caused a stir by stiffing its creditors after racking up a debt pile – largely through these LGFVs – equivalent to roughly three times the government’s annual revenue.

While putting a number on the amount of shadow debt in the system is difficult due to the opacity of the Chinese financial system, one economist at a domestic think tank estimated that off-balance-sheet borrowings by local governments could be as much as 23.6 trillion yuan, as of the end of 2017, meaning that total is likely higher today, as governments have been forced to tap these vehicles during Beijing’s deleveraging campaign. The proliferation of private funds and other money-raising channels for local governments makes it difficult for economists and for Beijing to track the total amount of borrowings. Official figures pegged the sum of local and central government debt at 29.95 trillion yuan ($4.457 trillion) in 2017, roughly 36% of the economy.

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South Korea “exports contracted 11.1 percent in February from a year earlier, their biggest drop in nearly three years, with shipments to major buyer China slumping 17.4 percent.”

Growing China Downdraft Chills Asia Factory Activity (R.)

Weak demand in China and growing global fallout from the Sino-U.S. trade war took a heavier toll on factories across much of Asia in February, business surveys showed on Friday. Activity in China’s vast manufacturing sector contracted for the third straight month, pointing to more strains on its major trading partners and raising questions over whether Beijing needs to do more to stabilize the slowing economy. In many cases, business conditions were the worst Asian companies have faced since 2016, with demand weakening not only in China but globally. Japan’s factory gauge fell at the sharpest pace in 2-1/2 years as slumping orders prompted plants to cut production, while separate data from South Korea showed its exports plummeted.

“The weakening trend in Chinese import demand weighed heavily on exports across the rest of the region,” said Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics. [..] China watchers are looking to Premier Li Keqiang’s work report to the annual meeting of parliament next week for clues on further stimulus plans. Li will set out the government’s economic targets for the year on Tuesday. Sources have told Reuters Beijing will set a 2019 growth target of 6.0-6.5 percent, down from around 6.5 percent in 2018. China reported economic growth cooled to 6.6 percent last year, its weakest pace since 1990, but some analysts believe actual activity is much weaker.

[..] In Japan, the Markit/Nikkei Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell into contraction territory as both domestic and foreign orders slumped. “We need to be mindful that uncertainty over the global economic outlook is heightening,” Bank of Japan board member Hitoshi Suzuki said on Thursday, after data showed the biggest drop in industrial output in a year in January. Readings from South Korea — the first economy in Asia to report trade data each month – were equally grim. Its exports contracted 11.1 percent in February from a year earlier, their biggest drop in nearly three years, with shipments to major buyer China slumping 17.4 percent.

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“Once deeply resistant to Trump, CPAC is now like a religious gathering full of Trump idolatry. “Make America Great Again” (Maga) hats and sweaters are much in evidence..”

CPAC On Socialism, Bernie Sanders And 2020: ‘Trump Will Win, 100%’ (G.)

“The favourite in the Democratic race is Bernie Sanders because the way he makes socialism sound,” said Brandon Morris, 32, wearing a Maga cap. “Most citizens don’t know how the system works; once I tell them, they see it will fall apart.” Morris, a nurse from Gainesville, Florida, who is African American, added: “I’m against socialism because I see it as a form of slavery. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris talk about Medicare for All and that will kill doctors’ incentives to work hard. Look at Cuba.” Like Trump, Sanders ran in 2016 warning of a rigged system and the downsides of global trade and, like Trump, he thrived in midwestern states against Hillary Clinton. Less than a week after declaring his 2020 candidacy, Sanders had already raised $10m, well ahead of any of his rivals.

Wearing a Maga cap and stars and stripes jacket, Sam Lee, the communications director of conservative group Grand Opportunity USA, said: “I think Sanders has the ability to generate a base. He’s genuine. It’s the same thing as Trump: they’re very upfront about who they are. But Trump will win, 100%.” Lee rejected candidates such as Harris and Elizabeth Warren as “background noise”, adding: “Every election has people who aren’t going to make it and I don’t think they could.” Fran Wendelboe, the treasurer of the conservative organisation the 603 Alliance in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a primary, said: “Among the young voters, Bernie Sanders still seems popular. I think he still has great traction. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t seem to be getting much – she should get out of the race. But they’re all trampling themselves to get as far to the left as they can. Nobody’s going to beat Trump.”

Mike Wertz, a self-employed property appraiser, said: “It’s hard to run against Santa Claus: Bernie Sanders is Santa Claus because he says he would give everything away free. But Trump is still popular.” Wertz, 52, from Stevensville, Maryland, dismissed the prospects of Joe Biden, the former vice-president who is yet to declare whether he will mount a third bid for the White House. “Biden would get exposed. He stumbles around and says silly things. Trump would bring that out of him; he wouldn’t let Biden get away with it. If Biden said something stupid, Trump would tweet it in about 30 seconds.”

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Just to show you my views are not alone. Jimmy Dore and Aaron Maté.

Someone mailed me yesterday talking about the conservatism of my columns. Never saw that before. And I don’t agree. Raging against the empty narratives of the anti-Trump machine does not make me a Trump supporter. People should read more carefully. The world is not divided into two camps.

Claim Trump Had Prior Knowledge Of WikiLeaks Fails Hilariously (Dore)

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Cohen and the Democrats lost it all when he said at the start he never wanted a White House job.

Trump Says Cohen Lied ‘95% Instead Of 100%’ In Testimony To Congress (G.)

Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that Michael Cohen lied about almost everything during his explosive congressional testimony the day before – but told the truth by saying he had no evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. Speaking in Vietnam after meeting the North Korean leader, Kim Jong un, Trump said Cohen, his former legal fixer, lied “95% instead of 100%” of the time during a hearing of the House oversight committee on Wednesday. “I was impressed,” said Trump. Trump falsely claimed several times that Cohen had testified that there had been “no collusion”. In fact, Cohen said he did not know any “direct evidence” of collusion. “But I have my suspicions,” he told members of Congress.

Trump said of Cohen: “He lied a lot, but it was very interesting, because he didn’t lie about one thing. He said no collusion with the Russian hoax. And I said, ‘I wonder why he didn’t just lie about that too, like he lied about everything else.’” Cohen delivered a scathing account of his 10 years as Trump’s enforcer, calling the president a racist conman, implicating him in a series of felonies and estimating that Cohen had threatened 500 people on Trump’s behalf. He said Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr, had been involved in a criminal conspiracy to pay hush money to a pornographic actor, Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with the elder Trump. Federal prosecutors in New York continue to investigate.

Cohen confirmed that Trump was under federal investigation for undisclosed crimes and warned that Trump may try to cling to power even if his re-election campaign fails next year. He also alleged that Trump knew in advance of plans by WikiLeaks to publish Democratic party emails, which US authorities say were stolen by Russian intelligence operatives, and that Donald Jr was to meet with Russians at Trump Tower. But, Cohen said, he knew of no direct evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election campaign. US intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian operation was aimed at boosting Trump’s chances.

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Trudeau’s riding has lots of SNC-Lavalin jobs. But he may have gone too far.

The Case That Could Bring Down Canada’s Justin Trudeau (G.)

What is going on in Canada? Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is facing the biggest political scandal of his administration. The affair centres around allegations that his former attorney general, Jody-Wilson Raybould, was improperly pressured by some of his closest advisers to prevent the prosecution of a large Canadian engineering firm over accusations of fraud and bribery. Thus far, the scandal has been politically costly; Gerald Butts, a longtime friend of Trudeau’s, and his closest adviser, resigned two weeks ago. Wilson-Raybould has resigned, too. A handful of polls are showing the scandal is politically unpopular for the governing Liberals – which is worrying for them, given there is a federal election in October.

What is the company accused of? SNC-Lavalin, based in Montreal, is accused of paying C$48m worth of bribes in Libya to Muammar Gaddafi’s family, in order to secure lucrative contracts. The bribery is alleged to have occurred between 2001 and 2011. If found guilty, the company would be barred from bidding on federal projects for a decade. SNC-Lavalin employs nearly 50,000 people worldwide, with 3,400 in Quebec. Company executives have been lobbying fora “deferred prosecution agreement”, which in effect allows them to pay a fine in lieu of a criminal prosecution, with no ban on bidding for contracts. But federal prosectors have decided to pursue a trial.

This is where the scandal is centred: the prime minister and his aides, along with the finance minister, have been accused of pressing Wilson-Raybould to intervene and asking prosecutors to accept a deferred prosecution agreement. Wilson-Raybould declined to override the judgment of her top legal team.

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Nobody is willing to say yes to intervention.

Anti-Maduro Allies Regroup After The Fight For Humanitarian Aid (CNBC)

Venezuela’s opposition has formally urged the international community to keep all options on the table, after deadly clashes broke out in border towns over the weekend. On Saturday, at least three people were killed and hundreds more were left injured, Reuters reported, as opposition activists tried to defy a government ban to bring food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements into the country. It comes at a time when the South American nation is in the midst of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory. President Donald Trump has consistently refused to rule out the prospect of military intervention in Venezuela and the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido, has called on the international community to “keep all options open.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted over the weekend that Washington would “take action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela.” To be sure, the prospect of U.S.-led military intervention is clearly being signaled as a form of “action.” “I think large-scale U.S. military intervention remains unlikely, though the chances are increasing — that’s worrying,” Tom Long, assistant professor in the department of politics and international studies at the University of Warwick, told CNBC via email. “More than the deadly clashes, what I worry could push towards military action is the lack of options remaining for the opposition and its international allies to increase pressure,” he added.

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We can only guess as to why Chelsea picks the NYT to divulge details about this. We don’t have to guess as to why the NYT picks it up; it wants to repeat this one again:

” In recent years, Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks have become notorious for their role in disseminating Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers as part of the Russian government’s covert efforts to damage the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help Donald J. Trump win.”

And Chelsea now helps them do it.

Disclosing Subpoena for Testimony, Chelsea Manning Vows to Fight (NYT)

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted in 2013 of leaking archives of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, revealed in an interview on Thursday that she had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury — and vowed to fight it. The subpoena does not say what prosecutors intend to ask her about. But it was issued in the Eastern District of Virginia and comes after prosecutors inadvertently disclosed in November that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been charged under seal in that district. Ms. Manning, who provided a copy of the subpoena to The New York Times, said that her legal team would file a motion on Friday morning to quash it, arguing that it would violate her constitutional rights to force her to appear.

She declined to say whether she would cooperate if that failed. “Given what is going on, I am opposing this,” she said. “I want to be very forthright I have been subpoenaed. I don’t know the parameters of the subpoena apart from that I am expected to appear. I don’t know what I’m going to be asked.” [..] Ms. Manning said that her lawyers have been talking about the subpoena with an assistant United States attorney in the Eastern District, Gordon D. Kromberg. After an inadvertent court filing revealed that Mr. Assange has been charged under seal, it was Mr. Kromberg who successfully argued before a judge that any such charges remain a secret and should not be unsealed. Moreover, she said, Mr. Kromberg told her lawyers in vague terms that prosecutors wanted to talk to her about her past statements.

During her court-martial, Ms. Manning delivered a lengthy statement about how she came to copy archives of secret documents and send them to WikiLeaks, including her online interactions with someone who was likely Mr. Assange. “It’s disappointing but not surprising that the government is continuing to pursue criminal charges against Julian Assange, apparently for his role in uncovering and providing the public truthful information about matters of great public interest,” said Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Mr. Assange. [..] In recent years, Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks have become notorious for their role in disseminating Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers as part of the Russian government’s covert efforts to damage the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help Donald J. Trump win.

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“Since 2003, China has poured more cement every two years than the US managed in the entire 20th century.”

The Grey Wall Of China: Inside The World’s Concrete Superpower (G.)

In the suburbs south of Beijing, what could one day be the world’s busiest airport is rapidly taking shape. Nicknamed “the starfish” due to the striking design by Zaha Hadid Architects, the Beijing Daxing international airport is set to open in October, and could eventually handle more than 100 million passengers a year. While the 52,000-tonne steel exoskeleton covering the airport’s six concourses immediately catches the eye, what lies beneath is familiar to many Chinese mega-projects: concrete – 1.6m cubic metres of it. Located 67km south of the capital, the airport sprawls across 780,000 sq metres – about a third of the size of Edinburgh. It aims to process 72 million passengers a year, and will have four runways by 2025, but there is a longer-term vision for additional runways and talk of 200 million passengers. Beijing’s existing international airport in the north-east, which will stay open, already handles around 96 million passengers a year.


Photograph: Sipa Asia/Rex/Shutterstock

The new airport is just the latest chapter in the story of how China became the concrete superpower of the 21st century. Since 2003, China has poured more cement every two years than the US managed in the entire 20th century. Even after a dip in recent years, China uses almost half the world’s concrete. The construction sector – roads, bridges, railways, urban development and other concrete-and-steel projects – accounted for one-third of the expansion of the Chinese economy in 2017. China is already home to the largest concrete structure in the world – the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River. Sometimes touted as China’s “new Great Wall”, the dam includes 27.2m cubic metres of concrete and its hydroelectric power station is the world’s largest power station in terms of capacity.

Like all of China’s concrete achievements, the Three Gorges Dam has been mired in controversy. Around 1.4 million people were displaced by the project, and there were complaints that the rehousing settlements were inadequate or that compensation money disappeared into local government coffers. More than 100 workers died in the construction process, and archaeological and cultural sites were flooded. None of this prevented Li Yongan, general manager of the Three Gorges Corporation, from declaring in 2006 that the dam was “the grandest project the Chinese people have undertaken in thousands of years”.

Li only had to wait seven more years to be outdone by yet another Chinese feat of concrete. In 2013, the eastern route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project opened, connecting the Grand Canal in China’s east with the capital in the north. The project is a multi-decade plan to divert the water from China’s lush south to its arid north, where water scarcity is an acute problem. The waterway has already cost around $80bn (£61bn), making it the most expensive infrastructure project in the world. In the first phase alone, it has used more than double the amount of concrete in the Three Gorges Dam: 65m cubic metres. The project ultimately aims to transport fresh water a distance of more than 4,300km.

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