Nov 122019
 


Pablo Picasso Still life with fruit basket 1942

 

Schiff Witness Vindman Testified He Advised Ukrainians to Ignore Trump (GP)
Gabbard Lawyers Demand Retraction Of Clinton’s Russia ‘Defamation’ (Hill)
Alexander Downer: Australia Should Reduce UK Intel Sharing If Corbyn Wins (G.)
Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Lithium Deal (CD)
Russia Accuses Bolivian Opposition Of Unleashing Wave Of Violence (R.)
Correa: Morales Was Forced Out In ‘Coup’, OAS Is ‘A US Instrument’ (RT)
Death Throes of a Party (Kunstler)
White Helmets ‘MI-6 Co-Founder’ Found Dead In Turkey
US Northeast ‘Siberian Express’ Arctic Blast Could Break 200 Records (Ind.)

 

 

As I write this there are many helicopters flying overhead because Xi Jinping is visiting the Akropolis Museum. And of course half the city center is closed.

And really, Vindman told Ukraine to not do what Trump wanted? Do we call that treason or is there a better word? Read the whole article.

Schiff Witness Vindman Testified He Advised Ukrainians to Ignore Trump (GP)

Adam Schiff’s star witness Alexander Vindman testified to the House Intel Committee that he “thought” the President was wrong in his policy with Ukraine. So he later told Ukrainians to ignore the President. Alexander Vindman’s testimony was recently released and it shows an ignorant underling in the NSC who believed the President’s policy in the Ukraine was flawed and because of this Vindman notified a group of ‘Ukrainians’ to ignore the President’s requests. The Conservative Treehouse reported on the release and highlighted some interesting pieces from the testimony. Apparently in his opening remarks young Vindman stated that he believed the President ‘demanded’ something from the Ukrainians. Representative Ratcliff destroyed him on this assertion –


Ratcliffe challenges Vindman to find in the President’s transcript of the call where the President ‘demanded’ anything from the Ukrainian President – Vindman could not name anywhere in the transcript where the President demanded anything and that it was all what Vindman perceived and not based on the law or others interpretations of the meeting. Vindman had concerns about the President’s policy (who is he?) – Congressman Ratcliffe next destroyed the witness Vindman pointing out how Vindman told Ukrainian officials (not detailed in the discussion) to ignore President Trump – a blatant crime committed by the underling –

Read more …

This has the potential to get really amusing.

Gabbard Lawyers Demand Retraction Of Clinton’s Russia ‘Defamation’ (Hill)

Lawyers representing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Monday called on Hillary Clinton to retract her comments alleging that the 2020 presidential candidate was a favorite candidate of the Russians, accusing the 2016 Democratic nominee of defamation. “Your statement is defamatory, and we demand that you retract it immediately,” Gabbard’s lawyer wrote in a letter, demanding that Clinton verbally retract the comments and post the retraction on Twitter. Clinton made the remarks last month on the “Campaign HQ” podcast. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her, so far,” Clinton said, without referring to Gabbard by name.

Clinton also said “they” are grooming Gabbard to run as a third-party candidate against the eventual Democratic nominee. A Clinton spokesman later said the former secretary of State had been referring to Republicans with the grooming comment. “It appears you may now be claiming that this statement is about Republicans (not Russians) grooming Gabbard,” Gabbard’s lawyer wrote in the letter. “But this makes no sense in light of what you actually said. After you made the statement linking Congresswoman Gabbard to the Russians, you (through your spokesman) doubled down on it with the Russian nesting dolls remark.”


Gabbard has consistently denied she is interested in a third-party White House bid. The congresswoman has faced repeated criticism for some of her foreign policy views, particularly about American military involvement in Syria.

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Well, well, look what the cat dragged in. Next up is Joseph Mifsud?

Alexander Downer: Australia Should Reduce UK Intel Sharing If Corbyn Wins (G.)

Australia’s former top diplomat in the United Kingdom, Alexander Downer, has intervened in the British election contest, declaring the Morrison government would need to “substantially reduce” intelligence sharing with London in the event Jeremy Corbyn wins on 12 December. In an excoriating assessment of the Labour leader at the National Press Club in Canberra, Downer contended that a Corbyn victory would imperil substantial Australian investments in Britain, and would trigger a reassessment of the “very intimate” security relationship between Canberra and London. Downer is a former leader of the Liberal party in Australia, and was foreign affairs minister in the Howard government for more than a decade. He was appointed after his retirement from politics as high commissioner in London by the Liberal government in Canberra.

[..] Downer’s appearance at Canberra’s National Press Club on Tuesday was billed as a situation report on Brexit, but the former diplomat and foreign affairs minister faced sustained questioning about his participation in the Barr inquiry in the United States. Donald Trump has established the Barr inquiry to discredit the Mueller investigation. The Mueller investigation began after Downer was allegedly told by George Papadopoulos, then a Trump campaign aide, that Russia had obtained damaging information about Hillary Clinton from her emails.


Downer then informed US authorities, which has led to accusations from Trump allies, such as the Senate judiciary committee chairman, Lindsey Graham, about the then high commissioner’s “directed” role in relaying information to US authorities about the Clinton emails. Australia has rejected those accusations. Downer refused to give direct answers to questions about the level of his participation in the Barr inquiry, or whether he now regretted his conversation in a London wine bar with Papadopoulos. He said he did not want to “play into the toxic politics of America” or disrupt the orderly business of the inquiry by providing commentary, although he signalled without saying so directly that he had been interviewed, and was “fully cooperating with the Australian government”.

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Morales had been talking about using the lithium reserves for the Bolivian people for much longer. Word has it that his plane is stuck in Paraguay because countries refuse to allow it in their airspace.

Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Lithium Deal (CD)

The Sunday military coup in Bolivia has put in place a government which appears likely to reverse a decision by just-resigned President Evo Morales to cancel an agreement with a German company for developing lithium deposits in the Latin American country for batteries like those in electric cars. “Bolivia’s lithium belongs to the Bolivian people,” tweeted Washington Monthly contributor David Atkins. “Not to multinational corporate cabals.” The coup, which on Sunday resulted in Morales resigning and going into hiding, was the result of days of protests from right-wing elements angry at the leftist Morales government. Sen. Jeanine Añez, of the center-right party Democratic Unity, is currently the interim president in the unstable post-coup government in advance of elections.

Investment analyst publisher Argus urged investors to keep an eye on the developing situation and noted that gas and oil production from foreign companies in Bolivia had remained steady. The Morales move on Nov. 4 to cancel the December 2018 agreement with Germany’s ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) came after weeks of protests from residents of the Potosí area. The region has 50% to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. Among other clients, ACISA provides batteries to Tesla; Tesla’s stock rose Monday after the weekend. As Bloomberg News noted in 2018, that has set the country up to be incredibly important in the next decade:


“Demand for lithium is expected to more than double by 2025. The soft, light mineral is mined mainly in Australia, Chile, and Argentina. Bolivia has plenty—9 million tons that have never been mined commercially, the second-largest amount in the world—but until now there’s been no practical way to mine and sell it.” Morales’ cancellation of the ACISA deal opened the door to either a renegotiation of the agreement with terms delivering more of the profits to the area’s population or the outright nationalization of the Bolivian lithium extraction industry. As Telesur reported in June, the Morales government announced at the time it was “determined to industrialize Bolivia and has invested huge amounts to ensure that lithium is processed within the country to export it only in value-added form, such as in batteries.”

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Russia’s too quiet lately, on South America and in Syria.

Russia Accuses Bolivian Opposition Of Unleashing Wave Of Violence (R.)

Russia on Monday accused Bolivia’s opposition of unleashing a wave of violence in the South American nation and said it looked like a government push for dialogue had been swept aside by an orchestrated coup. Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Sunday he was resigning to ease violence that has gripped Bolivia since a disputed election, but he stoked fears of more unrest by saying he was the victim of a “coup” and faced arrest. Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was alarmed by the events and called on all political forces to show common sense and to act responsibly.

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The coup against Correa was way more subtle: his deputy Lenin Moreno did the deed.

Correa: Morales Was Forced Out In ‘Coup’, OAS Is ‘A US Instrument’ (RT)

Former leader of Ecuador Rafael Correa said the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales was the result of a coup d’etat and that events could have ended in worse violence, if the socialist leader had not resigned. “Of course there was a coup d’etat,” Correa told RT Spanish in an exclusive interview on Monday, explaining that such an insubordination of the country’s armed forces “cannot exist in a constitutional state of law” or democracy. “If Evo Morales did not resign, there would have been a bloodbath because there was no public order,” he said. Morales resigned on Sunday at the demands of Bolivia’s military chief, following weeks of protests and only hours after he had promised fresh elections. Morales previously proclaimed he had won the October 20 general election with a 10-point lead, a result which was quickly contested by the opposition, who accused him of tampering with the vote.

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“Everybody over twelve in this land knows that his kid Hunter was on the grift in Ukraine, plain and simple, and that Joe assisted in the operation. Color him toast.”

Death Throes of a Party (Kunstler)

Is it possible that Rep. Adam Schiff was hung out to dry by the devious Ms. Pelosi, feeding his vanity to be a one-man impeachment wrecking crew, knowing that the congressman from Hollywood would utterly blow it? Hmmmmm. Begins to look that way as Mr. Schiff’s House Intel Committee goes public this Wednesday with its soviet-style format on full display. Well, first, why? Why allow this nitwit to stage an ersatz impeachment only to see it fail? Perhaps to cancel the Jacobin menace metastasizing in the Democratic Party and get on with the business of winning the 2020 elections — with old-school candidates hand-picked to end-run the gang of fantasists currently on display.

The House Speaker must sniff the odor of failure in the wind. Joe Biden, smiling cretinously, blunders through the primary venues with a big red “L” plastered on his forehead, often uncertain of what state he’s landed in, or what direction to face the camera. Everybody over twelve in this land knows that his kid Hunter was on the grift in Ukraine, plain and simple, and that Joe assisted in the operation. Color him toast. Elizabeth Warren has been caught lying very publicly twice now, first as a phony Cherokee Indian (for career advancement in academia), and lately claiming falsely that she was canned from a teaching job years ago for being pregnant (with a 2007 tape of her out telling a contradictory story). Of course, that’s just the cherry-on-top of her dazzlingly unsound policy proposals to bankrupt the nation. Doesn’t look like she can reel it all back in and pretend to be a credible person in time for a full-on campaign.


[..] Which brings us back to Rep. Adam Schiff and his monkeyshines in the star chamber of his personal devising. Now that the show goes public, will he haul many of the same characters back into the witness chair to spin out his engineered narrative, without any cross examination allowed, or other felicities of due process? Someone ought to advise him that playing the Robespierre role tends toward an unhappy ending for the player. Especially when Mr. Jordan of Ohio, newly-seated on the Intel Committee, starts barking out points-of-order. I’m even half-wondering if Mr. Durham, the federal attorney, has not already measured up bills of indictment for Mr. Schiff himself, for the phony CIA agent “whistleblower” Eric Ciaramella, the pre-wired IC Inspector General Michael Atkinson, US chargé d’affaires for Ukraine Bill Taylor, and the spectacularly seditious Colonel Vindman, whose antics stand out in this latest coup attempt against the elected president. And then what kind of bag does that leave Ms. Pelosi holding?

Read more …

There have been dozens of changes made to his Wikipedia page in the past day.

White Helmets ‘MI-6 Co-Founder’ Found Dead In Turkey (ZH)

The White Helmets, a roughly 3,000 member NGO formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense, was established in Turkey in “late 2012 – early 2013” Le Mesurier trained an initial group of 20 Syrians. The group then received funding from Le Mesurier’s Netherlands-based non-profit group, Mayday Rescue – which is in turn funded by grants from the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. According to reporter and author Max Blumenthal, the White Helmets received at least $55 million from the British Foreign Office and $23 million from the Agency for International Development. They have also received millions from Qatar, which has backed several extremist groups in Syria including Al Qaeda.

The US has provided at least $32 million to the group – around 1/3 of their total funding – through a USAID scheme orchestrated by the Obama State Department and routed overseas using a Washington D.C. contractor participating in USAID’s Syria regional program, Chemonics. According to their website, the White Helmets have been directly funded by Mayday Rescue, and a company called Chemonics, since 2014. Yet there’s evidence that both of those organizations started supporting the White Helmets back in early 2013, right around the time the White Helmets claim to have formed as self-organized groups. Mayday Rescue, as we said, is funded by the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. And Chemonics?


They are a Washington, D.C. based contractor that was awarded $128.5 million in January 2013 to support “a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” as part of USAID’s Syria regional program. At least $32 million has been given directly to the White Helmets as of February 2018. -TruthInMedia Notably, the Trump administration cut US funding to the White Helmets last May, placing them under “active review.” While the White Helmets tout themselves as ‘first responders’, the group has been accused of staging multiple chemical attacks – including an April 7 incident in Duma, Syria which the White House used as a pretext to bomb Syrian government facilities and bases.

Read more …

See? Siberia!!! It’s the Russians again.

US Northeast ‘Siberian Express’ Arctic Blast Could Break 200 Records (Ind.)

An Arctic blast sweeping across the eastern United States was expected to bring below-freezing temperatures and as many as 200 record lows throughout the week, according to the National Weather Service. The unusually cold air mass came from Siberia — a phenomenon called “Siberian Express” — and was predicted to bring historic low temperatures from the Great Plains to the Gulf Coast beginning on Monday and lasting until Wednesday night. The cold front rolled through the upper Midwest on Sunday before heading south towards Texas, where forecasters said temperatures nearly 30 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius) below typical November averages would be felt beginning on Tuesday morning.


[..] The weather service’s Weather Prediction Centre tweeted on Monday morning that the nation’s cold spot was located in Malta, Montana, where the temperature sat at -24 degrees Fahrenheit (-31 degrees Celsius). The centre said earlier that 148 daily record lows were forecast “to be broken, tied, or come within 1 degree between Tuesday and Thursday this week,” while National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Donofrio told the Associated Press that some 200 records may be broken this week nationwide. The January-like temperatures are far from common at this time of year in the southeastern US, though it’s not the first time a Siberian Express brought historic lows to the country. The term was reportedly first coined during the January 1982 cold front with air from Siberian origins, which brought record-lows to many parts of the country.

Read more …

 

Watch this interview and replace every mention of “Jamie Dimon” with “Al Capone” and it works perfectly.

 

 

 

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Oct 232019
 


Salvador Dali Portrait of my father 1920

Bernie Pledges To End Prosecuting Whistleblowers Under Espionage Act (IC)
Everyone Is a Russian Asset (Matt Taibbi)
Hillary, Acknowledge the Damage You’ve Caused (Tulsi Gabbard)
Graham To Introduce Resolution Condemning House Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)
The 2020 Election Is Shaping Up To Be An Expensive Run (ZH)
EU Moves Towards Brexit Delay As Johnson Seeks Election To Break Impasse (R.)
Facebook Probe By US States Expands To 47 Attorneys General (R.)
US States Plan Google Antitrust Meeting Next Month In Colorado (R.)
Boeing Ousts First Senior Executive As 737 MAX Crisis Grows (R.)
Trump Approves $4.5 Million In Aid To ‘White Helmets’ In Syria (RT)
The Medicare for All Cost Debate Is Extremely Dishonest (Dayen)

I kid you not, Bernie doesn’t know who Reality Winner is. While AOC has only heard her name, it seems.

These are the people who should protect Julian Assange. They’re just posturing.

Bernie Pledges To End Prosecuting Whistleblowers Under Espionage Act (IC)

As President, Bernie Sanders would end the practice of using the controversial Espionage Act to prosecute government whistleblowers, the Vermont senator told The Intercept in an interview on Saturday ahead of a major rally in New York. The century-old law had largely gone out of fashion until it was deployed heavily by the Obama administration, which prosecuted eight people accused of leaking to the media under the Espionage Act, more than all previous presidents combined. President Donald Trump is on pace to break Barack Obama’s record if he gets a second term: He has prosecuted eight such whistleblowers, five of them using the Espionage Act, according to the Press Freedom Tracker. Asked if it is appropriate to prosecute whistleblowers using the Espionage Act, Sanders said, “Of course not.”

The Espionage Act, which was passed in 1917 to suppress opposition to World War I and now considers leakers to effectively be spies, makes a fair trial impossible, as relevant evidence is classified and kept from the defense, and the bar for conviction is low. The law also comes with stiffer criminal penalties and longer sentences than more obvious charges that might be leveled, such as mishandling classified intelligence. During the interview, The Intercept noted that Trump has referred to White House officials, who provided information to the whistleblower who went through legally sanctioned channels and alerted Congress of Trump’s Ukraine activities, as “spies.”

Democrats widely condemned Trump for the comparison, though those same Democrats have not generally objected to the Justice Department’s use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists, suggesting that the media is being treated tantamount to a foreign adversary. “Whistleblowers have a very important role to play in the political process,” Sanders said in response. “And I am very supportive of the courage of that whistleblower, whoever he or she may be.” Asked if he would give a second look at the record-setting length of the sentence doled out to National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner, Sanders demurred, saying that he was supportive of whistleblowers but unfamiliar with her case.*

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who joined Sanders during the interview, agreed. “I don’t want to speak out of turn when it comes to Reality Winner, but I just think that the prosecution of whistleblowers is frankly against our democracy. We rely on whistleblowers, we rely on journalists, in order for us to hold our systems accountable.”

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“Trump’s campaign was a clown show. He had almost no institutional backing. His “ground game” was nonexistent: his “campaign” was a TV program based almost wholly around unscripted media appearances. [..] He didn’t prepare a victory speech, for the perfectly logical reason that he never expected to win.”

Everyone Is a Russian Asset (Matt Taibbi)

Democrats now are assuming the role once played by Republicans of the Tom Delay era, who denounced everyone opposed to the War on Terror as “Saddam-lovers.” In the midst of this in 2003, the Washington Post protested the way American journalism was “infected with jingoism and intolerance.” That was after Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post ran a headline, “Don’t aid these Saddam-lovers” about “appeasement-loving celebs” like Laurence Fishburne, Tim Robbins, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean Penn, Danny Glover, and Susan Sarandon. Today, the New York Post is the paper crying out against the “sad, sick conspiracy theories” about Gabbard (an “Assad-lover” instead of a “Saddam-lover”), but some of the other players are the same.

Sarandon is regularly denounced now by Democrats instead of Republicans, this time for having supported Stein in 2016, an act seen as equivalent to having tongue-kissed Putin on live TV. She was also one of a handful of celebrities noted for a “controversial” political donation in the Daily Beast’s red-baiting May article about the suspicious contributors to Gabbard’s campaign. The #Resistance has come up with all sorts of words for such fifth-columnists and deviationists: they are “false-balancers” or “false equivalencers,” “neo-Naderites,” “purity-testers,” “both-sidesists,” “whataboutists,” “horseshoe theorists,” “Russia skeptics” or “Russia denialists,” and “anti-anti-Trumpers.” Such heretics are all ultimately seen as being on “team Putin.”

This witch-hunting insanity isn’t just dangerous, it’s a massive breach from reality. Trump’s campaign was a clown show. He had almost no institutional backing. His “ground game” was nonexistent: his “campaign” was a TV program based almost wholly around unscripted media appearances. Trump raised just over half the $1.2 billion Hillary pulled in (making him the first presidential candidate dating back to 1976 to win with a funds deficit). He didn’t prepare a victory speech, for the perfectly logical reason that he never expected to win. Even if you posit the most elaborate theories of Russian interference (which I don’t, but of course I’m denialist scum), what happened in 2016 was still almost entirely a domestic story, with Trump benefiting from long-developing public rejection of the political establishment.

Rather than confront the devastating absurdity of defeat before an ad-libbing game show host who was seemingly trying to lose – a black comedy that is 100% in America’s rich stupidity tradition – Democrats have gone all-in on this theory of foreign infiltration. House speaker Nancy Pelosi even said as much in a White House meeting, pointing at Trump and proclaiming: “All roads lead to Putin.” All? Seriously? Is this ever going to end?

Read more …

Tulsi pushes on as rumors of Hillary entering the race get louder.

Hillary, Acknowledge the Damage You’ve Caused (Tulsi Gabbard)


Hillary, your foreign policy was a disaster for our country and the world—resulting in the deaths and injuries of so many of my brothers and sisters in uniform, devastating entire countries, millions of lives lost, refugee crises, our enemy al-Qaeda/ISIS strengthened, increased Iranian and Russian influence in the region, Turkey emboldened, and exacerbated the problem of nuclear proliferation by overthrowing Gadhafi in Libya. Yet despite the damage you have done to our country and the world, you want to continue your failed policies directly or indirectly through the Democratic nominee.


It’s time for you to acknowledge the damage you have caused and apologize for it. It is long past time for you to step down from your throne so the Democratic Party can lead with a new foreign policy which will actually be in the interests of and benefit the American people and the world.

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Senate 180º opposite the House. Lovely.

Graham To Introduce Resolution Condemning House Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is planning to introduce a resolution condemning the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process, and argued that any articles should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial. “This resolution puts the Senate on record condemning the House. …Here’s the point of the resolution: Any impeachment vote based on this process, to me, is illegitimate, is unconstitutional, and should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial,” Graham told Fox News’s Sean Hannity. President Trump and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill have lashed out at how House Democrats are handling the impeachment inquiry, arguing they should hold a vote to formally launch the investigation.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has argued the rules don’t require a vote. But Republicans say it would give them more leeway to call their own witnesses, and put swing-state Democrats on the record on launching the impeachment inquiry. Graham added on Tuesday night that Trump should get “the same rights that any American has if you’re giving a parking ticket to confront the witnesses against you: can’t be based on hearsay.” “We cannot allow future presidents and this president to be impeached based on an inquiry in the House that’s never been voted upon that does not allow the president to confront the witnesses against him, to call witnesses on his behalf, and cross-examine people who are accusing him of misdeeds,” he added.

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That’s a given in every next election.

The 2020 Election Is Shaping Up To Be An Expensive Run (ZH)

President Trump has more cash on hand than any single Democratic primary candidate, a product of his unorthodox campaign that started amassing money his first day in the White House, a move no other president in U.S. history has done. While President Trump is gearing up for the general election, there are still 18 Democratic candidates who are fighting to become the party’s nominee in the primary. As Statista’s Sarah Feldman notes, Senator Bernie Sanders has the most cash on hand, followed closely by Senator Elizabeth Warren. Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the three leading Democrats by cash on hand. All top three Democratic hopefuls have over double the cash that former Vice President Joe Biden has on hand. Former Vice President Joe Biden has a moderate $9 million in cash, a number that hasn’t changed much since last quarter.

The amount of cash on hand includes money from fundraising, and any funds from any previous presidential, senate, or congressional campaigns. The cash on hand metric provides insights into how much wiggle room campaigns have to grow their staff, expand their operations, and develop their advertising strategy. Candidates need to do all three to gain traction in early primary and caucus states. Many of the middling and cash-strapped candidates will be in danger of running out of funds, or not meeting the DNC’s stringent fundraising threshold to make the next debate stage. The fundraising requirement involves getting 130,000 donors, 400 of whom need to be from at least 20 states.

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From what I understand the Withdrawal Agreement Bill did not pass parliament, as many claim. It merely passed the second reading, the step before being debated in both houses. Then Boris delayed it.

EU Moves Towards Brexit Delay As Johnson Seeks Election To Break Impasse (R.)

EU leaders should delay Brexit after Prime Minister Boris Johnson paused legislation on his deal following a parliamentary defeat, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday, as Britain spins towards a possible election to break the impasse. As the clock ticks down to the deadline for Britain’s departure on Oct. 31, Brexit is hanging in the balance as divided lawmakers debate when, how and even whether it should happen more than three years since the 2016 referendum. In another day of Brexit drama in the 800-year-old Westminster seat of power, lawmakers handed Johnson the first major parliamentary victory of his premiership by signalling their support for his deal in an early legislative hurdle.


But that was overshadowed just minutes later when lawmakers defeated him on his timetable to rush the legislation through the House of Commons in just three days, prompting the government to say it would pause the legislative process. Tusk recommended late on Tuesday evening that the leaders of the remaining 27 member states back a delay. “In order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension,” he said on Twitter. [..] On Tuesday, lawmakers did vote by 329 to 299 in favour of the second reading of the legislation for the Brexit deal – still no guarantee of success since the bill could be amended by lawmakers who want changes. They then opposed by 322 to 308 votes Johnson’s extremely tight timetable.

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Will it lead anywhere?

Facebook Probe By US States Expands To 47 Attorneys General (R.)

A New York-led probe into allegations that Facebook Inc put consumer data at risk and pushed up advertising rates has expanded to include attorneys general from 47 U.S. states and territories, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Tuesday. The investigation of Facebook announced in September had included Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia. It now includes most U.S. states as well as the U.S. territory of Guam. Facebook shares closed down 3.9% at $182.34 on Tuesday. The statement provided a list of states involved in the probe and added that other states “cannot confirm their participation in pending investigations.” California, the largest state by population, was not on the list.


Some states, particularly New York and Nebraska, have raised concerns that Facebook and other big tech companies engage in anti-competitive practices, expose consumer data to potential data theft and push up advertising prices. Facebook said that its users had multiple choices for the services that the company provides. “We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face,” said Will Castleberry, vice president, state and local policy, at Facebook. “We will work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.” Facebook also faces probes by the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

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They should investigate the links between CIA and Facebook/Google.

US States Plan Google Antitrust Meeting Next Month In Colorado (R.)

U.S. state attorneys general probing Alphabet’s Google plan to meet next month in Colorado to discuss a probe into whether the search giant’s business practices break antitrust law, according to three sources knowledgeable about the meeting. The meeting, which is being planned for Nov. 11, would be similar to a gathering this week in New York where state and federal enforcers from the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission discussed their probe of Facebook, according to one of the sources. A second source said that this meeting would touch on organizational issues and was likely to be one in a long series of gatherings to discuss the probe.


The investigation of Google appears to be well underway since Texas sent the search and advertising giant a subpoena asking for information about its ad business. As of earlier this month, Google began sending data to the attorneys general. The investigation, which involves all state attorneys general except Alabama and California, seeks to dig into the opaque business of online digital advertising, where Google is a dominant player. Attorneys general for the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico are also part of the investigation.

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The first of many, we may hope.

Boeing Ousts First Senior Executive As 737 MAX Crisis Grows (R.)

Boeing Co on Tuesday ousted the top executive of its commercial airplanes division, Kevin McAllister, marking the first high-level departure since two fatal crashes of its 737 MAX jets. The company said it named veteran Boeing executive Stan Deal to succeed McAllister effective immediately as president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). Deal had led Boeing’s Global Services division. The world’s largest planemaker faces a growing crisis over the eight-month safety ban of its previously best-selling flagship single-aisle jet prompted by crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.


Tuesday’s announcement, a day before the company was due to report quarterly financial results, shocked some Boeing employees, with one insider calling McAllister a “scapegoat” and pointing out that he came to the helm of BCA later in the 737 MAX development. It ends a relatively unusual experiment at Boeing of handing an outsider a prominent position, and places the crucial commercial airplanes division in the hands of a long-serving Boeing insider who has formed relationships with some important customers, such as Singapore Airlines. McAllister, a regular figure at industry conclaves, had formed deep relationships with key airline customers forged during his previous position selling services for General Electric Co.

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The Deep State rules supreme: “Last May, the Trump administration had announced it would stop funding the White Helmets, only to backtrack a month later and send the group $6.8 million.”

Trump Approves $4.5 Million In Aid To ‘White Helmets’ In Syria (RT)

US president Donald Trump has authorized $4.5 million in aid to the so-called Syrian Civil Defense (SCD), aka “White Helmets,” calling their work “important and highly valued.” The group’s critics point to its terrorist ties. “Over the course of the 8-year conflict in Syria, the SCD has rescued more than 115,000 people, including many ethnic and religious minorities,” the White House said, announcing the aid on Tuesday. However, the source of this figure is the group itself, and it has not been independently verified. Likewise, the organization has only been around since 2014. Washington pledged $5 million in aid to the group at a conference back in March. Last May, the Trump administration had announced it would stop funding the White Helmets, only to backtrack a month later and send the group $6.8 million.

The group’s name is highly misleading, as the White Helmets have operated solely in areas controlled by anti-government militants, such as the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, now called HTS. The actual Syrian civil defense is part of the government, and has been subjected to US sanctions as such. Currently the White Helmets operate solely in the parts of Idlib province controlled by the militants. Photographs of armed militants with “White Helmets” insignia, participating in the Turkish-backed ‘Operation Peace Spring’ against the Kurds in northern Syria, have appeared on social networks over the past two weeks. Still, the US continues to encourage “allies and partners” to join in its support of the White Helmets, and “efforts to protect civilians, religious and ethnic minorities, and other innocent victims of the Syrian conflict,” according to the White House.

In December 2018, the Russia-based Foundation for the Study of Democracy presented evidence of their investigations in Syria, showing the group to be engaged in staging false chemical and other attacks, harvesting organs of the people they pretended to rescue, and looting the bodies of the fallen, among other things.

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Time to clean up the debate.

The Medicare for All Cost Debate Is Extremely Dishonest (Dayen)

Over the weekend in Indianola, Iowa, Elizabeth Warren announced that she would soon roll out specific details for financing Medicare for All, the culmination of a week of “but how will you pay for that” demands from the media and rival presidential candidates. That a nation with millions of uninsured people and tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths from lack of access to health care is consumed with talking about taxes, rather than the revolution in human rights that would come from universal coverage, tells you a lot about life in the United States, and why we still suffer from a broken system.

But this triumph of budgetary scolding is being applied unevenly. If we want to talk about “paying” for universal coverage, we should expand the discussion to all the candidates who claim to support it. While Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg and others have howled about cost, there’s a deception at the heart of their own plans: either they put just as much health care costs on the federal government as the Warren-Sanders single-payer model, or they’re effectively useless. Biden and Buttigieg have separately proposed public options that would compete with private insurance. In Biden’s plan, even those with employer-sponsored insurance could opt out and choose the public plan.

Buttigieg would offer subsidies to help people pay for the public option, capping the cost of insurance at 8.5 percent of income. Both explicitly pitch this as a cheaper way to establish universal coverage. But that claim relies on a hide-the-ball scenario. Biden or Buttigieg’s public option, over time, will either serve as a weak alternative to private coverage, with high premiums and substandard coverage. Or, backed by government bargaining power, it will outshine private insurance and gradually supplant it. Buttigieg himself talks about his plan as a “glide path” to Medicare for All.

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Places with mass protests : Chile, Ecuador, Lebanon, Barcelona, France, London, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Iraq, Guinea, Bolivia, Algeria, Haiti, Egypt, Pakistan, Brazil, Sudan

New addition today: Azerbaijan.

Despite the name, snow leopards and clouded leopards are not closely related to leopards.

Feb 152019
 


Pablo Picasso Three women at the edge of the beach 1924

 

NBC Issues Latest Reminder That Mueller Report Might Disappoint (ZH)
Trump Will Sign Spending Bill, Declare Emergency Over Border – McConnell (MW)
Russians Told To ‘Prepare For The Worst’ As US Proposes New Sanctions (Ind.)
Theresa May Suffers Embarrassing Defeat As Tories Rebel Over No-Deal (Ind.)
Dutch PM On Brexit: UK Is A Waning Country Too Small To Stand Alone (G.)
German Economy Narrowly Avoids Recession As Weaker Exports Take Toll (G.)
BBC Producer’s Syria Bombshell: Douma “Gas Attack” Footage “Was Staged” (ZH)
As Amazon Drops New York City Project, Progressives Claim A Major Coup (R.)
White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Venezuela Coup (Palast)
How The US Has Hidden Its Empire (Immerwahr)
School Climate Strikes: ‘The Beginning Of Great Change’ (G.)
100s Of Endangered Animals At Risk Of Extinction Due To Wildlife Trade (Ind.)

 

 

They’re inventing a narrative as we speak that Mueller may have proof of collusion, but not enough for a criminal case, and therefore that proof may remain hidden. Which would give NBC plenty material for more empty allegations right up until the 2020 elections. In the media, it’s no longer about what you can prove, it’s about what wiggle room you have to smear and accuse. They’ll never give up: the Senate committee comes up nothing, and they prepare their audience for the Mueller probe doing the same, but somehow that means nothing. No matter what happens, the verdict is already there.

NBC Issues Latest Reminder That Mueller Report Might Disappoint (ZH)

“Millions of Americans may be sorely disappointed” by the Mueller report – or lack thereof, according to NBC News. Yes, after nearly three years of DOJ investigation, FBI spying, and what appears to have been a setup involving a mysterious Maltese professor who bragged about his ties to the Clinton Foundation – it looks like that “the public may never learn the full scope of what Mueller and his team has found.” The NBC report comes days after a bipartisan Senate investigation found no collusion between Trumpworld and Russia, and the same day as former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe admitted that he rushed to open the Russia probe out of fear of being fired.

Unless Mueller files a detailed indictment charging members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia, the public may never learn the full scope of what Mueller and his team has found — including potentially scandalous behavior that doesn’t amount to a provable crime . The reason: The special counsel operates under rules that severely constrain how much information can be made public. -NBC News And while the Attorney General will be required to notify Congress of Mueller’s findings, those reports must amount to “brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them.” “Expectations that we will see a comprehensive report from the special counsel are high. But the written regulations that govern the special counsel’s reporting requirements should arguably dampen those expectations,” said former federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg.

[..] When asked about making the Mueller report public, newly minted Attorney General, William Barr, has said “My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” adding “I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and I will not let personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in January that her vote on Barr’s nomination is contingent upon whether he will release the report publicly. “My vote really depends on whether I believe that that report will come out as written,” said Feinstein. “I served for a long time on the Intelligence Committee, and I know redaction can be excessive.”

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TEXT

Trump Will Sign Spending Bill, Declare Emergency Over Border – McConnell (MW)

President Donald Trump will sign a spending bill to keep the government open and at the same time declare a national emergency at the border, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. McConnell spoke from the Senate floor after Trump said on Twitter he was reviewing the bill with his team at the White House. Trump has discussed using an emergency declaration to build a proposed wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a move that’s certain to provoke a brawl with Congress and perhaps in the courts.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump would sign the bill and “take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.” “The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” Sanders said. The measure passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon by an 83-16 vote, and the House approved it Thursday night with a 300-128 tally. Republicans including Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida voted against it.

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As RT states: “Even the most cursory observer will notice the bill treats alleged Russian meddling abroad and “illicit and corrupt activities” of the Russian president as established, proven facts (they are not).”

Russians Told To ‘Prepare For The Worst’ As US Proposes New Sanctions (Ind.)

Moscow has reacted to a proposed new package of United States sanctions with of mix of anger and resignation. As an influential former minister urged Russians to prepare for the worst, the Kremlin accused the US of “racketeering”. “We see clear symptoms of emotional Russophobia,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists. “But behind the emotions … is an entirely pragmatic, assertive trade calculation, and … nothing less than an attempt to engage in dishonest competition.” The new round of sanctions, proposed in the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act on Wednesday evening, would target Russia’s security service, sovereign debt, and its financial and energy sectors.

The sanctions package is awaiting congressional approval. m According to the bill’s authors, the measures have been proposed in response to two developments: Russian “interference in democratic processes abroad” and its “aggression against Ukraine”, including the seizing of Ukrainian warships in the Kerch strait in November. On Thursday, the proposed sanctions were met with a predictably angry response by Russian state television and more media-hungry parliamentarians. Perhaps the most memorable response was filed by Frants Klintsevich, the prominent, if excitable, member of the Defence and Security Committee of Russia’s upper house. He described the new sanctions as a “dangerous habit” akin to “smoking a pipe before breakfast, poisoning all those around”.

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In the future, this headline will sow much confusion about the date it applies to. May suffers embarrassing defeats almost every day.

Theresa May Suffers Embarrassing Defeat As Tories Rebel Over No-Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May’s Brexit plans have been dealt a body blow following a “fiasco” in the House of Commons, which saw dozens of Tories inflict an embarrassing defeat on their leader. Eurosceptic Conservatives refused to back a motion reiterating support for the prime minister’s negotiating strategy, deeply suspicious that she might try and use it to rule out a no-deal Brexit. The loss brutally exposes how trust between Ms May and her backbenchers has hit rock bottom, with many still furious over comments made by her chief negotiator in a Brussels bar this week which also appeared to exclude a no-deal scenario. But the defeat has also laid bare the extreme fragility of parliamentary support for her approach, with her ministers having claimed only last week that she had secured a “strong mandate” from the Commons.

On another dramatic night in parliament, Ms May was nowhere to be seen as the result was read out to cheers from the Labour benches. The government motion was defeated by 258 votes to 303. One leading Tory described the night as a “fiasco”, Jeremy Corbyn said the country was heading for a “catastrophe”, and a senior source in Brussels said: “There goes the strong mandate.” The Brexit fault line also cut through Mr Corbyn’s party on Thursday, with a significant number of Labour MPs apparently defying their leader’s will in a separate vote amid suspicions that some are close to breaking away. But the spotlight was firmly on the prime minister’s ailing administration as it contorted in an attempt to avoid defeat on what did not have to be a difficult night for Ms May.

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Rutte is an all-out neo-liberal globalist. The kind that control Brussels today. But will that still be the case after the May EU elections?

Dutch PM On Brexit: UK Is A Waning Country Too Small To Stand Alone (G.)

Britain is a “waning country” and too small to stand alone on the world stage, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has claimed in a withering assessment of the UK’s exit from the EU. Rutte, who has emerged as a key player in the talks over the past two years, also warned in an interview that the UK looked to be sliding off the “precipice” towards a “devastating” no-deal Brexit. “Who will be left weakened by Brexit is the United Kingdom,” he said. “It is already weakening, it is a waning country compared to two or three years ago. It is going to become an economy of middling size in the Atlantic Ocean. It is neither the US nor the EU. It is too small to appear on the world stage on its own.”

Rutte, who also claimed the Dutch would replace the UK in the bloc as the pre-eminent voice for free trade, has been regularly consulted by Theresa May on progress in the Brexit negotiations. The Netherlands is one of the EU member states that will be most affected by the barriers to trade that will emerge after the UK leaves the bloc, although it has been the beneficiary of some relocations by big businesses. Figures released last week by the Dutch investment agency revealed 42 companies had relocated to the Netherlands in 2018, citing Brexit as a reason, resulting in the movement of 1,923 jobs. Asked whether a Brexit deal was likely, Rutte said in an interview with European media outlets, including the Spanish newspaper El País: “My impression is that the ball is heading towards the precipice and everyone screams to stop, but nobody does anything to stop it, at least, from the British side.”

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When is Berlin going to start pumping money in?

German Economy Narrowly Avoids Recession As Weaker Exports Take Toll (G.)

Germany narrowly avoided falling into recession in the second half of last year as weaker exports dragged Europe’s largest economy to stalling point during the final three months of 2018. The German economy recorded zero growth in the fourth quarter, managing to just avoid a technical recession after reporting a contraction of 0.2% in the third quarter amid a slump in industrial output. Several economists had previously warned that Germany was on the brink of recession because of consecutive monthly declines in factory output, with the country suffering from weaker levels of global demand and disruption at factories.

Tensions between the US and China have acted as a handbrake on global goods trade, while growth is slowing in the Chinese economy after years of rapid expansion. Sales of cars in China dropped last year for the first time in almost 30 years, affecting manufacturers across Europe. New vehicle emissions tests introduced after the VW emissions scandal have also caused disruption to factories across Europe, including in Britain. Manufacturing accounts for about a fifth of the Germany economy, about double the size of Britain’s industrial base. Overall growth for 2018 in Germany was 1.5%, marginally above the 1.4% expansion recorded in Britain.

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How things we’ve all know for years can still be bombshells.

BBC Producer’s Syria Bombshell: Douma “Gas Attack” Footage “Was Staged” (ZH)

Now approaching nearly a year after the April 7, 2018 alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria — which the White House used as a pretext to bomb Syrian government facilities and bases throughout Damascus — a BBC reporter who investigated the incident on the ground has issued public statements saying the “Assad sarin attack” on Douma was indeed “staged”. Riam Dalati is a well-known BBC Syria producer who has long reported from the region. He shocked his nearly 20,000 twitter followers on Wednesday, which includes other mainstream journalists from major outlets, by stating that after a “six month investigation” he has concluded, “I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.”

The “hospital scene” is a reference to part of the horrid footage played over and over again on international networks showing children in a Douma hospital being hosed off and treated by doctors and White Helmets personnel as victims of the alleged chemical attack. The BBC’s Dalati stated on Wednesday: “After almost 6 months of investigations, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital.” He noted he had interviewed a number of White Helmets and opposition activists while reaching that conclusion.

He continued in a follow-up tweet: “Russia and at least one NATO country knew about what happened in the hospital. Documents were sent. However, no one knew what really happened at the flats apart from activists manipulating the scene there. This is why Russia focused solely on discrediting the hospital scene.” Dalati’s mention of activists at the flats “manipulating the scene there” is a reference to White Helmets and rebel activist produced footage purporting to show the deadly aftermath of a chemical attack inside a second scene — a bombed out apartment showing dozens of dead bodies.

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Yes, Amazon is the company that paid $0 in income taxes. And then people say progressives stand in the way of progress. Some progress.

As Amazon Drops New York City Project, Progressives Claim A Major Coup (R.)

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time on Thursday in calling Amazon’s decision to scrap plans to build a major New York outpost with nearly $3 billion in city and state incentives a big victory for progressive politicians. The democratic socialist congresswoman has become the face of the Democratic Party’s ascendant left wing, thanks in part to her upset victory last year in a district near the proposed Amazon.com Inc development. “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

Amazon blamed local opposition for its abrupt reversal, which some saw as the latest evidence of the progressive movement’s surging influence ahead of the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination next year. “They have shown sufficient power to back off the largest corporation in the world,” Douglas Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College in New York and an expert on city politics and public opinion. “They killed Amazon, the biggest beast around.”

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“Guaidó’s supporters, like Carmona’s, know they can’t win an election given the overwhelming fact of the newly empowered Mestizo majority. So Guaidó has skipped the idea of an election altogether..”

White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Venezuela Coup (Palast)

Four centuries of white supremacy in Venezuela by those who identify their ancestors as European came to an end with the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez, who won with the overwhelming support of the Mestizo majority. This turn away from white supremacy continues under Maduro, Chavez’s chosen successor. In my interviews with Chavez for BBC beginning in 2002, he talked with humor about the fury of a white ruling class finding itself displaced by a man who embraced his own Indigenous and African heritage. In Venezuela, as in the USA, poverty and race are locked together. Why did so many Mestizo, poor Venezuelans love Chavez? As even the CIA’s surprisingly honest Fact Book states:

“Social investment in Venezuela during the Chavez administration reduced poverty from nearly 50% in 1999 to about 27% in 2011, increased school enrollment, substantially decreased infant and child mortality, and improved access to potable water and sanitation through social investment.” But, just as Maduro took office, the price of oil began its collapse, and the vast social programs that oil had paid for were now supported by borrowing money and printing it, causing wild inflation. The economic slide is now made impossibly worse by what the UN rapporteur for Venezuela compared to “medieval sieges.” The Trump administration cut off Venezuela from the oil sale proceeds from its biggest customer, the US.

Everyone has been hurt economically, but the privileged class’s bank accounts have become nearly worthless. So, knowing that the Mestizo majority would not elect their Great White Hope Guaidó, they simply took to the streets — often armed. (And yes, both sides are armed.) I’ve seen this movie before. When I look at today’s news reports of massive demonstrations against the so-called “dictatorship” of Venezuela’s left government, it looks awfully like 2002, when I was first in Caracas reporting for BBC Television. [..] In 2002, George W. Bush’s State Department cheer-led the coup. The plotters kidnapped Chavez and held him hostage. The coup was led by an oil industry leader and head of the Chamber of Commerce, Pedro Carmona, who had seized the nation’s White House, and, like Guaidó today, declared himself president.

Carmona told me proudly about the fancy inaugural ball held by the nation’s elite and attended by Bush’s ambassador. But the Bush/Carmona coup collapsed when a million mostly Mestizo, Indigenous and Black Venezuelans flooded the capital and forced the plotters to return their hero, the supposedly unpopular Chavez, to Miraflores, the presidential palace. “Presidente” Carmona fled. Today, Guaidó’s supporters, like Carmona’s, know they can’t win an election given the overwhelming fact of the newly empowered Mestizo majority. So Guaidó has skipped the idea of an election altogether, simply replacing running for office with the “recognition” from Trump and allies which Guaidó can’t get from Venezuelans.

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Wonderful summary of upcoming book.

How The US Has Hidden Its Empire (Immerwahr)

There aren’t many historical episodes more firmly lodged in the United States’s national memory than the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is one of only a few events that many people in the country can put a date to: 7 December 1941, the “date which will live in infamy,” as Franklin D Roosevelt put it. Hundreds of books have been written about it – the Library of Congress holds more than 350. And Hollywood has made movies. But what those films don’t show is what happened next. Nine hours after Japan attacked the territory of Hawaii, another set of Japanese planes came into view over another US territory, the Philippines. As at Pearl Harbor, they dropped their bombs, hitting several air bases, to devastating effect.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was just that – an attack. Japan’s bombers struck, retreated and never returned. Not so in the Philippines. There, the initial air raids were followed by more raids, then by invasion and conquest. Sixteen million Filipinos – US nationals who saluted the stars and stripes and looked to FDR as their commander in chief – fell under a foreign power. Contrary to popular memory, the event familiarly known as “Pearl Harbor” was in fact an all-out lightning strike on US and British holdings throughout the Pacific. On a single day, the Japanese attacked the US territories of Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, Midway Island and Wake Island. They also attacked the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and they invaded Thailand.

At first, “Pearl Harbor” was not the way most people referred to the bombings. “Japs bomb Manila, Hawaii” was the headline in one New Mexico paper; “Japanese Planes Bomb Honolulu, Island of Guam” in another in South Carolina. Sumner Welles, FDR’s undersecretary of state, described the event as “an attack upon Hawaii and upon the Philippines”. Eleanor Roosevelt used a similar formulation in her radio address on the night of 7 December, when she spoke of Japan “bombing our citizens in Hawaii and the Philippines”. That was how the first draft of FDR’s speech went, too: it presented the event as a “bombing in Hawaii and the Philippines”. Yet Roosevelt toyed with that draft all day, adding things in pencil, crossing other bits out.

At some point he deleted the prominent references to the Philippines. Why did Roosevelt demote the Philippines? We don’t know, but it’s not hard to guess. Roosevelt was trying to tell a clear story: Japan had attacked the US. But he faced a problem. Were Japan’s targets considered “the United States”? Legally, they were indisputably US territory. But would the public see them that way? What if Roosevelt’s audience didn’t care that Japan had attacked the Philippines or Guam? Polls taken slightly before the attack show that few in the continental US supported a military defense of those remote territories.


The Greater United States as it was in 1941

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Get them when they’re young. They dragged this girl over to Davos, letting her think that means something. Well, it did, it meant she became a puppet. Davos, Brussels; kids, you’re being used. You’re now part of a propaganda campaign that says ‘leaders’ actually give a damn. But they just want your future vote.

School Climate Strikes: ‘The Beginning Of Great Change’ (G.)

Greta Thunberg is hopeful the student climate strike on Friday can bring about positive change, as young people in more and more countries join the protest movement she started last summer as a lone campaigner outside the Swedish parliament. The 16-year-old welcomed the huge mobilisation planned in the UK, which follows demonstrations by tens of thousands of school and university students in Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Japan and more than a dozen other countries. “I think it’s great that England is joining the school strike in a major way this week. There has been a number of real heroes on school strike, for instance in Scotland and Ireland, for some time now. Such as Holly Gillibrand and the ones in Cork with the epic sign saying ‘the emperor is naked’,” she told the Guardian.

With an even bigger global mobilisation planned for 15 March, she feels the momentum is now building. “I think enough people have realised just how absurd the situation is. We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in human history and basically nothing is being done to prevent it. I think what we are seeing is the beginning of great changes and that is very hopeful,” she wrote. Thunberg has risen rapidly in prominence and influence. In December, she spoke at the United Nations climate conference, berating world leaders for behaving like irresponsible children. Last month, she had similarly harsh words for the global business elite at Davos. She said: “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

The movement she started has morphed and grown around the world , and, at times, linked up with older groups, including Extinction Rebellion, 350.org and Greenpeace. Next week she will take the train – having decided not to fly due to the high carbon emissions of aviation – to speak at an event alongside Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, in Brussels, and then on to Paris to join the school strikes now expanding in France. Veteran climate campaigners are astonished by what has been achieved in such a short time. “The movement that Greta launched is one of the most hopeful things in my 30 years of working on the climate question. It throws the generational challenge of global warming into its sharpest relief, and challenges adults to prove they are, actually, adults. So many thanks to all the young people who are stepping up,” said Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org.

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Eh, school strikers?

100s Of Endangered Animals At Risk Of Extinction Due To Wildlife Trade (Ind.)

Hundreds of animal species are at risk of extinction because wildlife trade restrictions are taking too long to come into effect, a major new study warns. Over a quarter of animals on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list – the world’s most critically endangered – are not protected by Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Cites is regarded as the primary international framework for preventing species extinction due to international wildlife trade. It came into force in 1975 in order to coordinate and regulate trade in wildlife products, and can put into effect bans on sales of certain species or their body parts.

The research also revealed the long wait species have to gain recognition by Cites. Even among IUCN’s red-list species, 62 per cent of those protected by Cites had waited as long as 19 years for recognition or are still waiting to be listed up to 24 years after being first considered. “It’s absolutely critical that policymakers allow science to inform a speedy protection process,” said Eyal Frank, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. He said: “New trends in wildlife trade can develop quickly, with some species going from common to near extinction in just a few years.

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Jul 222018
 


Paul Gauguin The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel) 1888

 

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange (Greenwald)
In Historic First, DOJ Releases Carter Page FISA Application (ZH)
Breannan And The 2016 Spy Scandal (Strassel)
UK To Refuse To Pay Brexit Bill Without Trade Deal (AFP)
Warning On Australia’s Looming Interest-Only Crisis (SMH)
German Industry Groups Warn US On Tariffs Ahead Of EU-US Meeting (R.)
NATO: Doomed To Destruction By Its Own Growth (SCF)
Hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ Evacuated By Israel to Jordan (R.)
Our Vanishingly Pleasant Land (McCarthy)

 

 

This is physically sickening. Checked front web pages of BBC, Guardian and Independent today: not a word. Hence: another gag order. Yes, there are journalists who don’t like Assange, but it’s not about liking him. It’s about your own freedom to speak. Guess that’s already gone then. I feel sick to my stomach.

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange (Greenwald)

Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been using a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities. Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence.

Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia. A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement.

The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange’s asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told the Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno’s government has returned Ecuador to a highly “subservient” and “submissive” posture toward western governments.

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The only thing left on the menu is nothingburgers.

In Historic First, DOJ Releases Carter Page FISA Application (ZH)

The Department of Justice late Friday released via the FBI’s FOIA Vault a redacted copy of the Carter Page FISA warrant application and several renewals, which accuse Page of being a Russian spy, as summarized by the New York Times – which obtained a copy of the materials through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Of note, in the nearly two years since the application was filed, Page hasn’t been charged with any of the allegations contained within it. The previously top-secret document is the first such release by the DOJ in the 40 years since the surveillance law was enacted. In April, the DOJ said they were “processing for potential redaction and release certain [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] materials related to Carter Page,” after watchdog group Judicial Watch and several other organizations filed similar lawsuits.

The application reads in part: “Identity of the target The target of this application is Carter W. Page, a U.S. person, and an agent of a foreign power, described in detail below.” “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant application continues. A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.” -NYT. The document then concludes that Page was allegedly “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” which they viewed as probably cause to spy on him – and again, which Page has never been charged with.

Page – who has repeatedly denied being a Russian spy, said in April that the FISA application was “beyond words,” and a “Joke,” while claiming that he has never served as an agent for a foreign government. We would also note that he hasn’t been charged as one. Page was targeted months earlier by FBI informant Stefan Halper, who formed a relationship with Page and several other Trump aides as part of the Obama administration’s active counterintelligence operation on the Trump campaign. While President Trump has characterized the entire counterintelligence operation as a “witch hunt,” an increasing chorus of frustrated GOP lawmakers have begun to echo his sentiment, as we are now in month 18 of post-inaugural investigation by the Department of Justice.

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When intelligence becomes partisan political, that’s a big problem.

Breannan And The 2016 Spy Scandal (Strassel)

Mr. Comey stands accused of flouting the rules, breaking the chain of command, abusing investigatory powers. Yet it seems far likelier that the FBI’s Trump investigation was a function of arrogance and overconfidence than some partisan plot. No such case can be made for Mr. Brennan. Before his nomination as CIA director, he served as a close Obama adviser. And the record shows he went on to use his position—as head of the most powerful spy agency in the world—to assist Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and keep his job).

Mr. Brennan has taken credit for launching the Trump investigation. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing in May 2017, he explained that he became “aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons.” The CIA can’t investigate U.S. citizens, but he made sure that “every information and bit of intelligence” was “shared with the bureau,” meaning the FBI. This information, he said, “served as the basis for the FBI investigation.” My sources suggest Mr. Brennan was overstating his initial role, but either way, by his own testimony, he was an Obama-Clinton partisan was pushing information to the FBI and pressuring it to act.

More notable, Mr. Brennan then took the lead on shaping the narrative that Russia was interfering in the election specifically to help Mr. Trump – which quickly evolved into the Trump-collusion narrative. Team Clinton was eager to make the claim, especially in light of the Democratic National Committee server hack. Numerous reports show Mr. Brennan aggressively pushing the same line internally. Their problem was that as of July 2016 even then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper didn’t buy it. He publicly refused to say who was responsible for the hack, or ascribe motivation. Mr. Brennan also couldn’t get the FBI to sign on to the view; the bureau continued to believe Russian cyberattacks were aimed at disrupting the U.S. political system generally, not aiding Mr. Trump.

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The UK already agreed to pay it.

UK To Refuse To Pay Brexit Bill Without Trade Deal (AFP)

Britain will only pay its EU divorce bill if the bloc agrees the framework for a future trade deal, the new Brexit Secretary warned in an interview published Sunday. Dominic Raab, who replaced David Davis after he quit the role earlier this month in protest over the government’s Brexit strategy, said “some conditionality between the two” was needed. He added that the Article 50 mechanism used to trigger Britain’s imminent exit from the European Union provided for new deal details. “Article 50 requires, as we negotiate the withdrawal agreement, that there’s a future framework for our new relationship going forward, so the two are linked,” Raab told the Sunday Telegraph.

“You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side. “So I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.” The British government has sent mixed signals so far on the divorce bill. Prime Minister Theresa May agreed in December to a financial settlement totalling £35 to £39 billion ($46-51 billion, 39-44 billion euros) that ministers said depended on agreeing future trade ties. But cabinet members have since cast doubt on the position. Finance minister Philip Hammond said shortly afterwards he found it “inconceivable” Britain would not pay its bill, which he described as “not a credible scenario”.

The country is set to leave the bloc on March 30, but the two sides want to strike a divorce agreement by late October in order to give parliament enough time to endorse a deal. Raab met the EU’s top negotiator Michel Barnier for the first time on Friday, where he heard doubts over May’s new Brexit blueprint for the future relationship. But Barnier noted the priority in talks should be on finalising the initial divorce deal. A hardline stance by the British government on the financial settlement could complicate progress, with Raab insisting on the link with the bill and a future agreement. “Certainly it needs to go into the arrangements we have at international level with our EU partners,” he told the Telegraph. “We need to make it clear that the two are linked.”

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Australia’s bad, but not the only country with an interest-only problem.

Warning On Australia’s Looming Interest-Only Crisis (SMH)

Australia’s version of the sub-prime crisis that ushered in the global financial crisis could be looming, with a significant number of the 1.5 million households with interest-only loans likely to struggle with higher repayments, experts warn. Martin North, the principal at consultancy Digital Finance Analytics, said interest-only loans account for about $700 billion of the $1.7 trillion in Australian mortgage lending and it was “our version of the GFC”. “My view is we’re in somewhat similar territory to where the US was in 2006 before the GFC,” Mr North said.

Craig Morgan, managing director of Independent Mortgage Planners, said one in five people who took a loan two or three years ago would not qualify for the same loan now, because of the crackdown on lending by the regulator and ongoing fallout from the Royal Commission into financial services. “In the last six months lenders have had this lightbulb moment of what ‘responsible lending’ means,” Mr Morgan said. One of the triggers for the GFC was rising defaults from over-leveraged borrowers who were unable to refinance when their honeymoon rates ended. However, the sub-prime lending in the United States before the GFC included large mortgages being given to people without jobs or on minimum wage.

“This is absolutely not ‘sub-prime’ in the US definition but there were people [in Australia] who were being encouraged to get very big loans on the fact that principal & interest was impossible to service but they could service interest-only,” Mr North said. “We also know that some interest-only loans were not investors but they are actually first-home buyers encouraged to go in at the top of the market.” The Reserve Bank has previously warned $500 billion in interest-only loans are set to expire in the next four years, causing a significant jump in repayments of 30-40 per cent when borrowers are forced to start paying back the principal.

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The car industry may be too complex for simple tariffs.

German Industry Groups Warn US On Tariffs Ahead Of EU-US Meeting (R.)

German industry groups warned on Sunday, ahead of a meeting between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump, that tariffs the United States has recently imposed or threatened risk harming the U.S. itself. The U.S. imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminum on June 1 and Trump is threatening to extend them to EU cars and car parts. Juncker will discuss trade with Trump at a meeting on Wednesday. Dieter Kempf, head of Germany’s BDI industry association, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper it was wise for the European Union and United States to continue their discussions.

“The tariffs under the guise of national security should be abolished,” Kempf said, adding that Juncker needed to make clear to Trump that the United States would harm itself with tariffs on cars and car parts. He added that the German auto industry employed more than 118,000 people in the United States and 60 percent of what they produced was exported to other countries from the U.S. “Europe should not let itself be blackmailed and should put in a confident appearance in the United States,” he added. EU officials have sought to lower expectations about what Juncker can achieve, and downplayed suggestions that he will arrive in Washington with a novel plan to restore good relations.

Eric Schweitzer, president of the DIHK Chambers of Commerce, told Welt am Sonntag he welcomed Juncker’s attempt to persuade the U.S. government not to impose tariffs on cars. “All arguments in favor of such tariffs are … ultimately far-fetched,” he said.

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Pentagon just delivered $200 million in deadly weapons to Ukraine. Madness.

NATO: Doomed To Destruction By Its Own Growth (SCF)

In the 1960s, Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby in the United States created a superhero with a novel twist. He was called Giant-Man, and the bigger he got, the weaker he became. Today that character is a prophetic parable about the future of the post- Cold War “super-NATO” that has expanded to include 29 nations compromising more than 880 million people. First it absorbed all the former Warsaw Pact member states in Central Europe. Then it absorbed the three tiny and virulently anti-Russian Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia. Now NATO is looking to embrace former Soviet Georgia and Ukraine.

As if all this was not enough, some genius at NATO Supreme Headquarters in Brussels came up with the idea of calling the alliance’s June 2016 military exercises in Eastern Europe ANACONDA. An anaconda is a gigantic carnivorous snake in the Amazon rain forest that first encircles its victims, crushes them to death and then devours them. What message was Russia meant to take from such tasteless nomenclature? However, it will not happen. Far from burying Russia, the US-led NATO alliance has been burying itself instead through its reckless, unending and remorseless growth. The curse of Giant Man is upon it. When the comic book hero Giant Man grew to 50 or 60 feet tall, he collapsed under his own weight. Such a fate is already happening to NATO.

The fundamental problem of the NATO alliance is that it is simultaneously too big and too diverse. The bigger it gets, the weaker it gets. This is because, with every state that joins the Alliance, the only militarily significant power within it, the United States, takes on an additional commitment to defend it. What does the United States get in return for its reckless bestowal of such earth shaking commitments? It gets nothing at all. When a tiny nation like Lithuania or Estonia boasts about meeting the 2 percent of GDP defense spending requirement of NATO this is ludicrous. The armed forces and GDP’s of such countries are so small as to be nonexistent. The much larger nations in the Alliance in Western Europe make no pretense of coming remotely close to their two percent defense spending pledge.

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No, not a daring escape, as I read somewhere. Negotiated by Russia.

Hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ Evacuated By Israel to Jordan (R.)

About 800 members of Syria’s White Helmets civil defense group and their families were evacuated via Israel to Jordan on Sunday from southwest Syria, where a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive is under way, media said. In a statement, the Israeli military said it had completed “a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organization and their families … due to an immediate threat to their lives”. It said they were transferred to a neighboring country, which it did not identify, and that the evacuation came at the request of the United States and several European countries.

Israeli media identified the Syrians as belonging to the White Helmets organization. Officially called the Syrian Civil Defense but known by their distinctive white helmets, the group has operated a rescue service in rebel-held parts of Syria. Jordan’s official Petra news agency said on its website the kingdom “authorized the United Nations to organize the passage of about 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan for resettlement in Western countries”. The agency identified the Syrians as civil defense workers who fled areas controlled by the Syrian opposition after attacks there by the Syrian army. Petra said they would remain in a closed area in Jordan and that Britain, Germany and Canada had agreed to resettle them within three months.

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Poison to feed ourselves.

Our Vanishingly Pleasant Land (McCarthy)

It’s bizarre: in what seems like a display of obtuseness on a nationwide scale, it is still not generally realised or admitted that across huge swathes of the land, the biodiversity that at the end of the second world war was giving animation and vibrant life to the countryside as it had always done has simply vanished. By the government’s own admission, farmland birds have declined by 56% just since 1970; and the wild flowers have gone, and the butterflies have disappeared in their turn. Farewell to the spotted flycatcher, adios to the corncockle, goodbye to the high brown fritillary: what remains may be green, at least in spring, but that is mainly the pesticide-saturated crops; in wildlife terms, the landscape is now grossly impoverished, beyond any other one in Europe.

In his important new book, Cocker, one of our leading Nature writers, tackles head-on this remarkable twin phenomenon of destruction and ignorance, and he does so on an ambitious scale, seeking to explain and understand it by looking back in detail over a century of growing conservation efforts by individuals, charities, quangos and governments. How have they failed? In particular he is preoccupied with a paradox: how can our Nature have been so devastated, when there are more people who are members of green organisations in Britain than anywhere else? How can it have happened at the very moment in history that saw the rise of a new popular philosophy, environmentalism?

The simple answer is that this moment in history also saw the rise of intensive farming, a juggernaut beyond the power of green groups to control – and indeed beyond the power of individual governments once the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union was fixed in place. It is modern industrial agriculture, above all by its immense reliance on poisons to boost crop yields, that has wiped out the wildlife of our countryside on a scarcely believable scale.

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May 062018
 
 May 6, 2018  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Paul Klee In the Houses of Saint Germain 1932

 

The Rising Dollar Will Trigger Next “Systemic Banking Crisis” – Napier (ZH)
Warren Buffett Compares Bitcoin To ‘Rat Poison Squared’ (Ind.)
UK Rates Will Stay Low For A Very Long Time (G.)
Trump White House Accuses China Of ‘Orwellian Nonsense’ (G.)
US Prosecutors Allege Ex-CEO of VW Knew All About Diesel Cheating (BBC)
US Freezes Funding For Syria’s “White Helmets” (CBS)
The U.S Government Can Still Confiscate Gold (GT)
Shock Figures From Top Thinktank Reveal Extent Of NHS Crisis (G.)
Earthquakes, Lava Fissures Could Last For Months On Hawaii (R.)
CO2 Levels In Earth’s Atmosphere ‘Highest In 800,000 Years’ (Ind.)
Facing Extinction, The North Atlantic Right Whale Cannot Adapt. Can We? (G.)

 

 

Emerging markets are already hurting. Watch Turkey.

The Rising Dollar Will Trigger Next “Systemic Banking Crisis” – Napier (ZH)

Fresh off his successful call earlier this year that the US dollar would strengthen in the coming months, macroeconomic strategist and market historian Russell Napier joined MacroVoices host Erik Townsend to discuss why he favors deflation and why he has such a bullish view on the US dollar. Echoing David Tepper’s concerns that the equity highs for the year might already be in, and that a 10-year yield above 3.25% could lead to market chaos, Napier said he sees interest rates rising sharply in the coming months as the dollar strengthens – a phenomenon that will push the US back into deflation.

Napier’s thesis relies on one simple fact: With the Fed and foreign buyers pulling back, who will step into the breach and buy Treasurys? The answer is – unfortunately for anybody who borrows in dollars – nobody. In fact, the Fed is expected to allow $228 billion in Treasury debt to roll off its balance sheet this year. This “net sell” will inevitably lead to higher interest rates in the US, as well as a stronger dollar. And once the 10-year yield reaches the 4% area, signs of stress that could be a lead up to a global “credit crisis” could start to appear.

“We know what the Federal Reserve plans to sell this calendar year, $228 billion. We know what the rise in global foreign reserves is, and about 64% of that will flow into the United States’ assets. Slightly less of that will flow into Treasuries. $228 billion, at the current rate at which foreign reserves are accumulating, we are not going to see foreign central bankers offsetting the sales from the Fed. So that’s a net sell. We don’t know what that net sale will be, but it’s a net sale from central bankers at a time when the Congressional Budget Office forecasts a roughly $1 trillion fiscal deficit. This is the first time in my investment career that savers will have to fund the whole lot. And it’s perfectly normal that real rates of interest have to go higher to attract those savings.

$1 trillion is still a large amount of money. It can come from anywhere in the world. It can come from outside the United States. It can come from inside the United States. But it’s a liquidation of other assets or a rise in the savings rate, which is necessary to fund this. Either of these things is positive for the dollar.”

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“It essentially will not deliver anything other than supposed scarcity..”

Warren Buffett Compares Bitcoin To ‘Rat Poison Squared’ (Ind.)

Mega-investor Warren Buffett still is not buying into the crypto-currency craze, likening Bitcoin to “rat poison squared”. “Cryptocurrencies will come to a bad ending”, Mr Buffett told shareholders at a retreat in Omaha, Nebraska, according to the Associated Press, adding that crypto currencies have no intrinsic value. “It essentially will not deliver anything other than supposed scarcity”, added Mr Buffett, who has earned the nickname the “Oracle of Omaha” for his prescient investment decisions. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO maintained his sceptical stance even as the alternate currency’s soaring value set off a scramble last year.

In an interview with CNBC last year, he said his company did not own any cryptocurrency and was avoiding taking a position in them. “What’s going on definitely will come to a bad ending,” Mr Buffett said at the time. Other prominent economists and investors have echoed those warnings, cautioning that the frenzied speculation around crypto-currencies had the makings of a bubble. Turning to politics, Mr Buffett downplayed the risks of a trade war breaking out as a result of Donald Trump imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum, which sparked Chinese retaliation. He said it was unlikely that the two countries would “dig themselves into” a “real trade war”, suggesting the broad appeal of trade would prevent conflict.

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If the Fed raises rates, can BoE remain behind?

UK Rates Will Stay Low For A Very Long Time (G.)

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has already faced accusations of behaving like the Grand old Duke of York and he will probably do so again should Britain’s central bank opt to keep interest rates on hold. Since he joined the Bank in 2013, he has marched borrowers and savers up the hill with heavy hints about the imminent prospect of a rate rise, only to march them back down again. Last November’s restoration of 2016’s emergency rate cut hardly qualified as a major move, whatever the Bank said about its significance. Until an interview with the BBC during the IMF spring meetings a fortnight ago, it seemed to be a racing cert that the Bank was finally ready to begin the long journey back to 3% and push the base rate from 0.5% to 0.75%.

The markets were guided to expect action at a meeting of the monetary policy committee on Thursday. And it wasn’t just Carney dropping hints. Almost every member of the committee who had previously blocked a rise had gone on the record arguing that the time for a rate increase was near at hand. Speeches by external member Jan Vlieghe constituted the most startling intervention. During 2016 and much of 2017, the former hedge fund economist turned interest-rate setter was one of the most vociferous opponents of a rise. His former brethren in the Square Mile considered him an arch dove who might never vote to increase rates, such was his downbeat view of the economy’s growth potential.

Yet, towards the end of last year, he was one of the most optimistic proponents of the economy’s resilience and the likelihood of a rate rise. Just as before, a moment of central bank exuberance looks like becoming a non-event – which is strange given Vlieghe’s reasoning for backing an increase last year. Then, he said that ultra-low unemployment, steady growth and the probable end to a long period of declining real wages was enough to justify tighter monetary policy.

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Ha!

Trump White House Accuses China Of ‘Orwellian Nonsense’ (G.)

The White House on Saturday condemned Chinese efforts to control how US airlines refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as “Orwellian nonsense”. The harshly worded statement came as a high-level trade delegation led by the Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin returned from negotiations in China. The carriers were told to remove references on their websites or in other material that suggests Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are part of countries independent from China, US and airline officials said. Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue. Beijing considers the self-ruled, democratic island a wayward province. Hong Kong and Macau are former European colonies that are now part of China but run largely autonomously.

A spokesman for Airlines for America, a trade group representing United Airlines, American Airlines and other major carriers, said the group was “continuing to work with US government officials as we determine next steps”. In January, Delta Air Lines, following a demand from China over listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, apologized for making “an inadvertent error with no business or political intention” and said it had taken steps to resolve the issue. Also in January, China suspended Marriott International’s Chinese website for a week, punishing the world’s biggest hotel chain for listing Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.

On Saturday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Donald Trump “ran against political correctness in the United States” and as president would “stand up for Americans resisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens”.

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What will Germany do?

US Prosecutors Allege Ex-CEO of VW Knew All About Diesel Cheating (BBC)

It was an “appalling” fraud that went to the very top of the company. That is the striking allegation made by US prosecutors looking into the emissions-cheating scandal at the Volkswagen Group. The indictment unsealed on Thursday claims that former CEO Martin Winterkorn was not only fully briefed about what his engineers were up to, he also authorised a continuing cover-up. These allegations have yet to be tested in a court of law. But if true, they paint a picture of extraordinary executive wrongdoing at one of the titans of German industry. Dr Winterkorn himself is unlikely ever to face trial in the US. But he remains under investigation in Germany on suspicion of deceiving investors.

The Volkswagen scandal erupted in September 2015, when the company admitted that nearly 600,000 cars sold in the US were fitted with “defeat devices” designed to circumvent emissions tests. Shortly afterwards the then head of its US operations, Michael Horn, told a congressional committee that the deception was the work of “a couple of software engineers”. We know that was far from the truth. Volkswagen has already admitted as much in an agreed “statement of facts” published last year as part of a settlement with the US Department of Justice. That document set out how Volkswagen engineers struggled to make a diesel engine which would both perform well and be capable of meeting stringent US emissions standards.

It explained how instead they designed a system to switch on emissions controls when the cars were being tested, and turn them off during normal driving. It also described how managers repeatedly sanctioned the use of this system despite objections from some employees, and encouraged engineers to hide what they were up to. The indictment against Dr Winterkorn goes considerably further – suggesting that the CEO himself was made well aware of what the engineers were doing and authorised a continued cover-up. It claims that in early 2014, engineers heard about a study commissioned by the International Council on Clean Transport, which showed that VW diesels were producing far higher emissions on the road than in official lab tests.

It says that senior managers were informed, and warned that the study might result in VW’s deception being uncovered. A memorandum was written for Dr Winterkorn explaining that the company would be unable to explain the test results to the authorities.

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No, CBS, you can’t sing the praises of these people without looking behind them.

US Freezes Funding For Syria’s “White Helmets” (CBS)

Less than two months ago the State Department hosted members of the White Helmets at Foggy Bottom. At the time, the humanitarian group was showered with praise for saving lives in Syria. “Our meetings in March were very positive. There were even remarks from senior officials about long-term commitments even into 2020. There were no suggestions whatsoever about stopping support,” Raed Saleh, the group’s leader, told CBS News. Now they are not getting any U.S funding as the State Department says the support is “under active review.” The U.S had accounted for about a third of the group’s overall funding. “This is a very worrisome development,” said an official from the White Helmets. “Ultimately, this will negatively impact the humanitarian workers ability to save lives.”

The White Helmets, formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense, are a group of 3,000 volunteer rescuers that have saved thousands of lives since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. A makeshift 911, they have run into the collapsing buildings to pull children, men and women out of danger’s way. They say they have saved more than 70,000 lives. Having not received U.S. funding in recent weeks, White Helmets are questioning what this means for the future. They have received no formal declaration from the U.S. government that the monetary assistance has come to a full halt, but the group’s people on the ground in Syria report that their funds have been cut off.

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“..gold is actually what kept the Federal Reserve solvent in 2008.”

The U.S Government Can Still Confiscate Gold (GT)

By the 1930s, the US government was facing its most severe financial crisis, and it needed gold (something of value), to stimulate the economy that was running on the fumes of fiat currency. So, it took people’s gold. It was as simple as that. Non-compliance was threatened with severe punishment. We may be facing another financial crisis, and it might be best to avoid the role of fugitive “gold hoarder.” At this point, it doesn’t make sense for the government to confiscate private gold, as a cashless society will indirectly control peoples finances. Why would the government seize gold? In 1933, under the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, the dollar had to be backed by 40 percent gold.

This would give the Federal Reserve room to print new money when needed. What’s a government to do when it needs to print money, but doesn’t have the gold reserves needed to back it up? It passes an Executive Order making gold ownership illegal but buys up the illegal gold itself. That’s what Roosevelt did. When the government continued to print more money, it declared ownership of silver illegal a year later. Soon after the government confiscated all gold, the price rose by 40 percent. As if by magic, the US government had a lot more funds than it had before. What happens is that the government buys your gold with cash, then devalues the cash and raises the value of the gold. It wins, you lose.

While the government attributes artificial value to money, it can do and does the same to the value of gold. The government currently holds 261 million ounces of gold in reserve at marked on its book at $42.22 per ounce. That’s a total value of $11 billion. Or is it? The fair market value of gold today is around $1,300 per ounce. As Jim Rickards pointed out in the New Case For Gold, gold is actually what kept the Federal Reserve solvent in 2008.

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Third world.

Shock Figures From Top Thinktank Reveal Extent Of NHS Crisis (G.)

The NHS has among the lowest per capita numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds in the western world, a new study of international health spending has revealed. The stark findings come from a new King’s Fund analysis of health data from 21 countries, collected by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. They reveal that only Poland has fewer doctors and nurses than the UK, while only Canada, Denmark and Sweden have fewer hospital beds, and that Britain also falls short when it comes to scanners. “If the 21 countries were a football league then the UK would be in the relegation zone in terms of the resources we put into our healthcare system, as measured by staff, equipment and beds in which to care for patients,” said Siva Anandaciva, the King’s Fund’s chief analyst.

“If you look across all these indicators – beds, staffing, scanners – the UK is consistently below the average in the resources we give the NHS relative to countries such as France and Germany. Overall, the NHS does not have the level of resources it needs to do the job we all expect it to do, given our ageing and growing population, and the OECD data confirms that,” he added. The report concludes that, given the dramatic differences between Britain and other countries: “A general picture emerges that suggests the NHS is under-resourced.”

The thinktank’s research found that the UK has the third-lowest number of doctors among the 21 nations, with just 2.8 per 1,000 people, barely half the number in Austria, which has 5.1 doctors per 1,000 of population. Similarly, the UK has the sixth-smallest number of nurses for its population: just 7.9 per 1,000 people – way behind Switzerland, which has the most: 18 nurses, more than twice as many. With hospital beds, the UK has just 2.6 for every 1,000 people, just over a third of the number in Germany, which has the most – 8.1 beds – and which places the UK 18th overall out of the 21 countries which the OECD gathered figures for. The number of hospital beds in England has halved over the last 30 years and now stands at about 100,000 ..

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How wrong can this go?

Earthquakes, Lava Fissures Could Last For Months On Hawaii (R.)

More homes on Hawaii’s Big Island were destroyed on Saturday as eruptions linked to the Kilauea volcano increased, spewing lava into residential areas and forcing nearly 2,000 people to evacuate, officials said. Scientists forecast more eruptions and more earthquakes, perhaps for months to come, after the southeast corner of the island was rocked by a 6.9 tremor on Friday, the strongest on the island since 1975. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said on Saturday that several new lava fissures had opened in the Leilani Estates subdivision of Puna District, about a dozen miles (19 km) from the volcano. Not all the fissures were still active, it added.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said at midday local time on Saturday that “eruptive activity is increasing and is expected to continue.” Janet Babb, a spokeswoman for the observatory, said by telephone that the eruptions could carry on “for weeks or months.” Babb said the activity since Thursday is beginning to show similarities to another event in the area in 1955 that lasted for 88 days, when far fewer people lived near the volcano.

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Rebalancing carbon: there’s too much inside the planet.

CO2 Levels In Earth’s Atmosphere ‘Highest In 800,000 Years’ (Ind.)

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached its highest level in at least 800,000 years, according to scientists. In April, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere exceeded an average of 410 parts per million (ppm) across the entire month, according to readings from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This is the first time in the history of the observatory’s readings that a monthly average has exceeded that level. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography said that before the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels did not exceed 300ppm in the last 800,000 years.

The Keeling Curve, which plots the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, shows a steady rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere for decades. Scientists have warned levels of carbon dioxide are crossing a threshold which could lead to global warming beyond the “safe” level identified by the international community, fuelling a rise in sea levels. The latest reading shows a 30 per cent increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere since recording began in 1958. The first measurement was recorded as 315ppm. Carbon dioxide concentration exceeded 400ppm for the first time in 2013. Prior to 1800, atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280ppm, which demonstrates the effect of manmade emissions since the industrial revolution.

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“By 1935, with as few as 60 breeding individuals left, the situation was so dire that the right whale became the first cetacean to be protected by law.”

Facing Extinction, The North Atlantic Right Whale Cannot Adapt. Can We? (G.)

As if to confound everyone, this past week Dr Charles “Stormy” Mayo and his team from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies reported seeing up to 150 right whales in Cape Cod Bay. Dr Mayo – who has been studying these animals for 40 years and has a scientist’s aversion to exaggeration – is stunned. “It is amazing for such a rare and utterly odd creature,” he tells me. All the more amazing since he knows this great gathering could be a final flourish. By 2040, the North Atlantic right whale may be gone. He hesitates, then uses the e-word: extinction. How can such a huge mammal simply disappear within reach of the richest and most powerful nation on earth?

Shifting food sources – due to climate change – are leading whales to areas where maritime industries are unused to them. In the past 12 months, 18 rights have died after ship strikes or entanglement in fishing gear. With as few as 430 animals left, 100 of them breeding females in a reduced gene pool, the species is unsustainable. The right whale may be the strangest beast in the ocean. Vast and rotund, its gigantic mouth is fringed with two-metre strips of baleen, once “harvested” by humans to furnish Venetian blinds and corset stays but used by the whale to strain its diet of rice-sized zooplankton from the sea.

These bizarre animals are not easily known or imagined. They live far longer than us – like its Arctic cousin, the bowhead, the right whale may reach 200, perhaps more. Individuals could be older than constitutional America. They exist beyond us in time, dimension and experience. If we lose the right whale, we lose part of our planet’s biological history. [..] By 1935, with as few as 60 breeding individuals left, the situation was so dire that the right whale became the first cetacean to be protected by law. But by the start of this century, the numbers seemed to recover. Shipping lanes were shifted and fishing industries took on board the whale’s protected status. It even got its own air exclusion zone. “Like a Hollywood star,” as John Waters quipped to me.


Eubalaena glacialis with calf

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