Sep 222019
 
 September 22, 2019  Posted by at 9:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Salvador Dali The tartan el son 1919

 

Only You Can Change The World, Money Can’t (Sudden Debt)
New Revelations Deepen Scandal Over Trump Whistleblower Complaint (CNN)
Trump Defers WikiLeaks Question as DOJ Seeks Assange Extradition (WT)
1 In 4 Luxury NYC Apartments Remain Unsold Over The Past 5 Years (ZH)
Thomas Cook Travel Firm In Talks With UK Gov, Investors Over Rescue Deal (AFP)
Mining Industry Seeks To Polish Tarnished Reputation (AFP)
Tactical Voting By Remain Supporters Could End Boris Johnson’s Reign (Ind.)
Google Creates World’s Most Powerful Computer, NASA ‘Accidentally Reveals’ (RT)
UN Welcomes Huthi Offer To Halt Attacks On Saudi Arabia (AFP)
Hong Kong Protesters Optimistic On US Rights Legislation (AFP)
Global Leaders Pledge To Hope Climate Catastrophe Sorts Itself Out (NT)

 

 

Today Julian Assange’s prison term ends. But he will be kept behind bars, not as a prisoner but as a person awaiting extradition. And you are protesting climate change?!

 

 

Haven’t heard from Sudden Debt in quite some time.

“In the words of Super Mario: whatever it takes (as long as it involves a hammer)”

Only You Can Change The World, Money Can’t (Sudden Debt)

In today’s brave new world Time Value Of Money, the bedrock of financial sanity, is out the window. It’s as if the arrow of time is running backwards, the Second Law of Thermodynamics involving Entropy (aka there’s no such thing as a free lunch) is inoperable, that Perpetual Motion machines actually exist. If negative rates were operative in agriculture, you would always reap less than you sowed. I could go on, but you get my drift. It worries me that no one is screaming bloody murder about it, that Bloomberg, Reuters, WSJ, the FT, all take it more or less in stride. It just aint’t natural. I mean it literally, it goes against natural law – unless the Universe has started shrinking. Which, as far as I know, it hasn’t.


Apart from their unnatural state, negative rates resemble something I loudly warned about well before the CMO, CDO, CDS, etc crisis blew up in 2007-08. Namely, that if you take a pile of dogshit (subprime loans) and cut it into pieces (securitize and tranche it), then little piece A is magically transmuted into gold, B becomes silver, C is copper and so on, until only the tail end bit is still poop! Ahuh…that didn’t work out great, did it? Likewise, if an economy cannot be productive and competitive with 2% interest rates, throwing free money at it won’t change a damn thing. MONEY is not the issue! But, central bankers seem to be like handymen who only carry hammers. Economy won’t grow? Hammer it with money. Still doesn’t grow? Hammer harder!! In the words of Super Mario: whatever it takes (as long as it involves a hammer).

Read more …

The whole thing is only hearsay.

New Revelations Deepen Scandal Over Trump Whistleblower Complaint (CNN)

The Washington Post on Wednesday said the complaint referenced a “promise” Trump allegedly made to the unidentified leader. CNN has not confirmed that aspect of the controversy. The whistleblower didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications, an official briefed on the matter told CNN. Instead, the whistleblower’s concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work, and those details have played a role in the administration’s determination that the complaint didn’t fit the reporting requirements under the intelligence whistleblower law, the official said.


It is hard to know the potential exposure faced by the President. But given the sensitivity of the issue, the complaint is likely to have come from an official familiar with the scope of presidential power. And it was signed off as “urgent and credible” by the inspector general — a Trump appointee — who thought Congress should know in line with whistleblowing laws.

Read more …

Stolen material? Would you like to rephrase that? Or do you actually think whistleblowers are just thieves?

Trump Defers WikiLeaks Question as DOJ Seeks Assange Extradition (WT)

President Trump declined to comment on his administration’s prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange when asked Friday by a reporter from Mr. Assange’s native Australia. Mr. Trump was pressed about the federal government’s criminal case against Mr. Assange while meeting at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “You praised WikiLeaks continuously during the election campaign. Is it right the United States is prosecuting its Australian founder, Julian Assange?” asked Brett Mason, a correspondent for Australia’s SBS News.


“Well, you know, that’s a question I haven’t heard in a long time. I’ll leave that to you to determine,” Mr. Trump replied. Mr. Trump referenced WikiLeaks more than 100 times while campaigning for the White House in 2016, regularly lauding the website for publishing stolen material damaging to his opponent in the race, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Read more …

Bubble.

1 In 4 Luxury NYC Apartments Remain Unsold Over The Past 5 Years (ZH)

Across the US, but especially in coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, the ultraluxury property market increasingly looks like a buyers’ market. Ever since the market for condos peaked three years ago, it has been rapidly cooling off across the most popular urban markets. We’ve been documenting this trend for a few years now, and according to a new report by the website StreetEasy that was cited by the New York Times this week, there are now more than 16,200 condo units across 682 new buildings completed in New York City that have appeared since 2013, and 25% remain unsold, roughly 4,050, most of them in luxury buildings.


The biggest difference between the the last recession and the conditions in today’s market are that projects aren’t stalling out today, perhaps due to the overabundance of cheap credit that has made virtually every unprofitable company into a “corporate zombie” which can continue existing largely thanks to record low interest rates. “I think we’re being really conservative,” said Grant Long, StreetEasy’s senior economist, noting that the study looked specifically at ground-up new construction that has begun to close contracts. Sales in buildings converted to condos, a relatively small segment, were not counted, because they are harder to reliably track. And there are thousands more units in under-construction buildings that have not begun closings but suffer from the same market dynamics.”

Read more …

Isn’t tourism growing like nuts?

Thomas Cook Travel Firm In Talks With UK Gov, Investors Over Rescue Deal (AFP)

Iconic British travel firm Thomas Cook has failed to find further private investment to stave off collapse and is now relying on an unlikely government bailout, a source close the matter told AFP on Saturday (Sep 21). The operator said on Friday that it needed £200 million (US$250 million) – in addition to the £900 million rescue deal secured last month – or else face administration. That scenario could potentially trigger Britain’s largest repatriation since World War II, with more than 150,000 of the company’s British customers overseas on holiday. A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the £200 million from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.


But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator’s longer-term viability, the Times reported on Saturday, leaving it on the brink of collapse and stranding its British holiday makers abroad. “We will know by tomorrow if agreement is reached,” the source told AFP. Two years ago, the collapse of Monarch Airlines prompted the British government to take emergency action to return 110,000 stranded passengers, costing taxpayers some £60 million on hiring planes. The government at the time described it as Britain’s “biggest-ever peacetime repatriation”. Thousands of workers could also lose their jobs, with the 178-year-old company employing about 22,000 staff worldwide, including 9,000 in Britain.

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Don’t let them. Nothing kills more people and planet than mining.

Mining Industry Seeks To Polish Tarnished Reputation (AFP)

The global mining industry is increasingly showing a commitment towards greater respect for human rights and the environment, but is accused of wanting to improve its reputation without seeking real progress. Wildcat miners, including children, are risking their lives daily to unearth metals and minerals they sell to mining companies. In return, they earn a subsistence wage but not the working rights of a legal and salaried mining group employee. “While industry initiatives on certain minerals and metals are helpful, companies are still responsible for undertaking comprehensive human rights due diligence across all minerals and metals in their supply chains,” Eniko Horvath, senior researcher at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), told AFP.

In June, dozens of illegal miners died when part of a copper mine collapsed in southeastern DR Congo. The mine was in the Kolwezi area operated by Kamoto Copper Company, a subsidiary of the Swiss giant Glencore. Meanwhile at the start of the year, a dam collapse at a mine operated by Brazilian group Vale unleashed a tsunami of mud that killed more than 200 people while around 100 more went missing. China, also the scene of fatal mining accidents, has additionally been in the spotlight for its dumping of toxic waste in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, as Beijing drives global production of rare earth elements used in key technologies such as smartphones. Faced with rising criticism, the mining industry says it wants to adopt standards of good governance.

The London Metal Exchange, the global centre for trading in industrial metals, recently adopted new ethical standards to ensure better traceability of raw materials, especially those most at risk such as cobalt used heavily in high-end technology. “As metals play an increasingly important role in society with increased focus on ethical supply chains, the LME’s role and responsibility is vital,” the exchange’s incoming and first female chair Gay Huey Evans said on her appointment.

Read more …

What a mess.

Tactical Voting By Remain Supporters Could End Boris Johnson’s Reign (Ind.)

Tactical voting could cost the Conservatives up to 60 seats at a snap general election and eject Boris Johnson from No 10, new polling has found. Almost half of Labour supporters and an even higher proportion of Greens say they are ready to switch to the Liberal Democrats if it would help defeat the party committed to Brexit in their constituency. More than a third of Lib Dem backers would make the opposite journey at the ballot box – potentially delivering 60 seats and a mortal blow to Mr Johnson’s hopes of winning a majority. The poll, for the People’s Vote campaign, comes after it unveiled plans for the biggest vote-swapping drive in history, to support the best-placed candidate in more than 100 battleground seats.

“Tactical voting could damage Johnson’s prospects fatally, meaning Labour could make net gains from the Tories,” said pollster Peter Kellner, the former YouGov president. Anti-Brexit voters in the key 100-plus seats are being promised clear, independent advice on which candidate to back, in order to maximise the chances of electing a pro-EU MP. In its first 20 endorsements, People’s Vote recommended they back the Lib Dem candidate in nine seats and the Labour candidate in the other 11 seats. Now, in the YouGov poll, 35 per cent of Lib Dem and 42 per cent of Green voters are ready to switch to Jeremy Corbyn’s party if they “thought that the only parties with a realistic chance of winning in your constituency were the Conservatives or Labour”.

In Conservative-Lib Dem contests, half of Labour supporters and a similar share of Green supporters said they would lend support to the Lib Dems, with hardly any voting Conservative. Mr Kellner added: “These figures suggest that tactical voting on this scale could cost the Conservatives up to 60 seats. “Labour would be the beneficiaries in around 50 and the Lib Dems up to 10.”

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“…and then publication vanishes..”

Google Creates World’s Most Powerful Computer, NASA ‘Accidentally Reveals’ (RT)

Google’s new quantum computer reportedly spends mere minutes on the tasks the world’s top supercomputers would need several millennia to perform. The media found out about this after NASA “accidentally” shared the firm’s research. The software engineers at Google have built the world’s most powerful computer, the Financial Times and Fortune magazine reported on Friday, citing the company’s now-removed research paper. The paper is said to have been posted on a website hosted by NASA, which partners with Google, but later quietly taken down, without explanation.


Google and NASA have refused to comment on the matter. A source within the IT giant, however, told Fortune that NASA had “accidentally” published the paper before its team could verify its findings. In the research, Google reportedly claimed that it takes their new quantum processor just around 200 seconds to make calculations that existing supercomputers would require around 10,000 years to perform. They also said the processor requires mere 30 seconds to complete a task the Google Cloud server would need 50 trillion hours to do.

Read more …

But would about arms sales?

UN Welcomes Huthi Offer To Halt Attacks On Saudi Arabia (AFP)

The United Nations envoy for Yemen welcomed Saturday an offer from the country’s Huthi rebels to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia, saying it could bring an end to years of bloody conflict. Implementation of the initiative by the Huthis “in good faith could send a powerful message of the will to end the war,” Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said. The Iran-backed Huthis, which control the capital Sanaa and other parts of Yemen, have been fighting against a Saudi-led coalition which supports the country’s internationally recognized government in a devastating five-year war. Griffiths hailed “the desire for a political solution to end the conflict” in a statement issued from UN headquarters in New York.


On Friday, the Huthis proposed halting attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative. Saudi Arabia gave a cautious response, with minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir saying on Saturday, “We judge other parties by their deeds, actions and not by their words, so we will see (whether) they actually do this or not.” Griffiths stressed “the importance of taking advantage of this opportunity and moving forward with all necessary steps to reduce violence, military escalation and unhelpful rhetoric.” [..] Yemen’s conflict has killed tens of thousands of people — most of them civilians — and driven millions more to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Read more …

But no civil rights for Assange. Got it.

Hong Kong Protesters Optimistic On US Rights Legislation (AFP)

Prominent Hong Kong protesters expressed optimism Saturday that US legislators will pass by year’s end a bill aimed at defending civil rights in the global financial hub roiled by pro-democracy demonstrations and accusations of police abuse. The activists testified on Tuesday at a congressional hearing that examined the legislation. The bill, which enjoys wide support in Congress, would end Hong Kong’s special trading status with the United States unless the State Department certifies annually that city authorities are respecting human rights and rule of law. “We are optimistic that the bill can pass within this year,” Joshua Wong, one of the most recognizable faces in the leaderless protest movement, told AFP in an interview.


Millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland. The months-long movement has expanded into a broader pro-democracy push in the semi-autonomous territory where activists say freedoms are being eroded by Beijing. They also accuse police of brutality. Wong, 22, said there is “new bipartisan consensus” in Congress towards China and Hong Kong. More than 50 US lawmakers are co-sponsors of the bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, he said.

Read more …

“Canada’s first black Prime Minister..”

Global Leaders Pledge To Hope Climate Catastrophe Sorts Itself Out (NT)

In response to huge climate protests around the world, leaders from all nations have announced plans to hope it all sorts itself out. The plans have been agreed by 156 out of 195 countries, and will be implemented immediately. “I am pleased to be on television,” announced President Macron of France, before adding “to announce an agreement amongst leaders from around the globe to hope this whole climate thing sorts itself out. “All countries have pledged to begin hoping it all sorts itself out with immediate effect. So I’m sure we will see some real results in the coming months and years.” Other leaders were quick to agree.


“I hereby promise to really hope the climate catastrophe sorts itself out,” pledged British ‘Prime’ Minister Boris Johnson before going on to do anything but hope that the climate catastrophe sorts itself out. Canada’s first black Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed he had signed up to the plans. “Irie, irie. ‘Ear me know. Me am pledge to hope climate catastrophe sort itself out. Rastafari! Jah!” Finally, President Trump clarified his thoughts on the matter. “Everyone like President. Radical Democrat CNN Hillary Fake News WEATHER,” he tweeted. It is currently anticipated that the climate catastrophe could render large portions of the planet uninhabitable within a generation.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 192019
 


Piet Mondriaan Self portrait 1918

 

Guardian columnist Owen Jones, a self-described left activist and socialist, was attacked in the streets of London at 2 am Saturday morning in what he himself describes as “a blatant premeditated assault” by a bunch of guys. He says he was kicked, punched, but then saved by the friends he was with, and nothing really happened to him. Or he would have taken photos and published them. Owen was fine, before and after. But his pride was not.

No pictures of black eyes or anything, but a brick load of indignation. No matter that in Britain, people are attacked all the time, certainly at that hour, in bar fights, in knife fights, people die every weekend. But for some reason Owen Jones thinks his role in this is special. That the incident happened because of his political views, and because the far right is getting more aggressive.

From Jones’s own Guardian:

 

Owen Jones Attacked Outside London Pub

The Guardian columnist and activist Owen Jones has been physically assaulted in London while celebrating his 35th birthday with friends. In an attack he called “a blatant premeditated assault”, Jones said he was kicked, punched and thrown to the ground by a group of men in the early hours of Saturday morning. He said that he and his friends went to a pub and left at 3am.

“We were about 30 metres away, saying goodbye to each other, when four men charged directly towards me: one of them karate kicked my back, threw me to the ground, started kicking me in the head and back, while my friends tried to drag them off, and were punched trying to defend me. “It was clearly a premeditated attack and I was their target. They all attacked me and only assaulted my friends when they tried to defend me.

“In the past year I’ve been repeatedly targeted in the street by far right activists, including attempts to use physical assault, and homophobic abuse. I’ve had a far-right activist taking pictures of me, and posting threatening messages and a video. “Because of this, and escalating threats of violence and death, I’ve had the police involved. My friends felt it was a matter of time until this happened. Give the context, it seems unthinkable that I was singled out for anything other than a politically motived premeditated attack.”

 

A second article in the same Guardian appeared on Sunday:

 

Owen Jones: Attackers Targeted Me For My Politics

Jones said: “I’m just a symptom of a wider phenomenon, an emboldened, increasingly violent far right.” He said he believed there had been a “dramatic escalation” in the level of threat faced by him and others in the last eight or nine months. He said far-right protesters were being radicalised by what he described as “hate preachers” in politics and in some parts of the media.

“We all know who the hate preachers are: one of them is the most powerful man on earth, the occupant of the White House. But there are also multiple politicians and people in the mainstream media who deliberately stoke tensions, who demonise minorities and who demonise the left,” he said.

[..] “The far right are trying to achieve political ends through coercion and violence, so there’s no way I’m going to change. Yes, I’ll take precautions, but I’ll be at my protests, fighting against racism, for socialism. What could I have done? Not had a birthday thing? Of course everybody should be vigilant, but I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m not changing my politics.”

 

I’m not sure (but of course I wasn’t there and I’m not in Jones’s shoes), but given the time of day, his ‘celebrity’ status and the fact that he’s openly gay, I could imagine this was not about politics. Not that that’s the crucial point in this, which is that everybody should be able to have a birthday party and be left in peace.

I must admit I smiled when I read that Jones said his attackers “charged out of the pub with military precision”, and then ostensibly failed to hurt him even a little bit. That sounds like either the most inept right wing militant unit ever, or they were all just piss drunk.

Still, calling Trump a hate preacher is also demonizing, and I do wonder why Jones feels that is appropriate while other comments are not. The Proud Boys vs Antifa ‘party’ this weekend in Portland, Oregon would seem to establish this, at least in the US, as a two-way street, but I’m not even going to try to convince both sides that there may be some blame in their camp too.

Because I think the following is much more important in the Owen Jones story. A few lines from the first article referenced above say:

 

Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the Guardian and Observer, said: “We deplore the outrageous attack on Owen Jones that took place late last night. Violent assaults on journalists or activists have no place in a democratic society.”


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a message of “solidarity” to Jones. He said: “Owen believes it was politically motivated, and we know the far right is on the march in our country. “An attack on a journalist is an attack on free speech and our fundamental values.”

 

Look, neither Katharine Viner, nor Owen Jones, nor the Guardian as a company, nor Jeremy Corbyn, have any right whatsoever, none, zilch, to present themselves as defenders of journalism or journalists. The reason for that is dead simple, and it consists of only two words: Julian Assange.

Jeremy Corbyn sits in the British parliament, while Assange sits in a high-security prison designed for terrorists, and those two things should never happen at the same time, lest Corbyn loses the right to speak. Hereby lost. And pretending to be a defender of journalism while a man who has won dozens of international awards for … journalism, rots away a few miles from that same Parliament, is too ridiculous to even talk about.

Owen Jones writes for the Guardian, and knows exactly what his employer has done to Julian Assange. And he can whine about an ‘attack’ on him all he wants, but there’s a journalist who’s really under attack, life-changing, life-threatening, if not lethal, and I have never seen Jones speak up for him. So spare us the hollow talk about hate preachers. It’s your own employer and your own government who preach hate.

As for The Guardian, it has been engaged in a vile anti-Assange smear campaign for many years, perhaps culminating in, but by no means limited to, the article last November that claimed Trump’s one-time adviser Paul Manafort had visited Assange many times in the Ecuador embassy, which was thoroughly debunked but never withdrawn or corrected.

Publishing an article such as that while you know it to be a bag of lies, makes you unfit to talk about journalism, period, for the rest of your lives. Sure, many of your readers may believe in you, and in what you tell them, after you’ve fed them smear and falsehoods for so long. But even if they believe you, that still doesn’t make you a news organization, it makes you a propaganda outlet. It makes you a pitchblack stain on your profession.

 

Australian journalist Mark Davis worked with Assange and the Guardian on the publication of the Afghan war logs in 2010. He recently spoke out about those days. And added a nice little -legal- twist to the story.

 

Australian Investigative Journalist Exposes Guardian/New York Times Betrayal Of Assange

At a Sydney “Politics in the Pub” meeting on Thursday night, award-winning Australian journalist Mark Davis revealed new first-hand information exposing the extent of the betrayal of Julian Assange by the Guardian and the New York Times, and refuting the lies both publications have used to smear the WikiLeaks founder.

Davis recounted his experiences documenting Assange’s life in the first half of 2010 for programs screened on the Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). Using excerpts from the documentary “Inside WikiLeaks,” the journalist explained that he was present when WikiLeaks worked closely with media partners, including the Guardian and the New York Times, in the publication of the Afghan War logs.

[..] Davis said the assertions by Guardian journalists that Assange exhibited a callous attitude towards US informants and others who may have been harmed by the publication of the document were “lies.” David Leigh and Nick Davies, senior Guardian journalists, who worked closely with Assange in the publication of the logs, have repeatedly claimed that Assange was indifferent to the consequences of the publication.

Their statements have played a key role in the attempts by the corporate media to smear Assange, and dovetail with US government claims that the 2010 publications “aided the enemy.” In reality, the US and Australian militaries have been compelled to admit that release of the Afghan war logs did not result in a single individual coming to physical harm.

Davis explained that he was present in “the bunker,” a room established by the Guardian to prepare the publication of the documents. “Nick Davies made the most recurring, repetitive statement that Julian had a cavalier attitude to life. It’s a complete lie. If there was any cavalier attitude, it was the Guardian journalists. They had disdain for the impact of this material.”

[..] Davis explained that despite the vast technical resources of the Guardian and the New York Times (NYT), it was left to Assange to personally redact the names of informants and other individuals from the war logs, less than three days before scheduled publication. Davis said Assange was compelled to work through an entire night, during which he removed some 10,000 names from the documents.

“Julian wanted to take the names out,” Davis said. “He asked for the releases to be delayed.” The request was rejected by the Guardian, “so Julian was left with the task of cleansing the documents. Julian removed 10,000 names by himself, not the Guardian.”

Davis refuted the attempts by the Guardian and the Times to downplay their central role in the publication of the leaks. He stated that the relationship between the corporate reporters and Assange was not that between journalists and their source. Rather, both outlets were intimately involved in preparing the publication of the documents.

This included, Davis said, the Guardian assigning a technical division to prepare the entire set of logs in a publishable and searchable format on the WikiLeaks website. Davis explained that even in 2010, the Guardian and the NYT had employed “subterfuge” to shield them from any legal repercussions over the publication. Despite the explosive contents of the leaks, they had both insisted that WikiLeaks should publish first.

This, Davis stated, would allow them to claim that they were not primary publishers of the material, but were merely reporting material that had been released by WikiLeaks. This was the equivalent of the publications “pushing Julian out to walk the plank,” he said. “Julian’s in jail now because of that subterfuge.”

Tellingly, Davis stated that this plan was disrupted as a result of technical issues on the WikiLeaks website. The Guardian and the Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories, reporting on WikiLeaks’ supposed publication of the logs, despite the fact that they had not yet been placed on the WikiLeaks website.

WikiLeaks published the documents two days after they had been reported by the corporate publications. “WikiLeaks did not publish for two days,” Davis said. The Guardian and the Times had “reported a lie. They set Julian up from the start.”

Davis’s claim potentially has significant legal implications. The espionage charges, under which the Trump administration is seeking to extradite Assange to the US and prosecute him, include among their offenses WikiLeaks’ publication of the Afghan war logs.

Davis’ timeline, however, indicates that the Guardian and the New York Times were in fact the initial and primary publishers of the material. These publications, which are pillars of the media and political establishment, are “in the frame” for the supposed offenses that the Trump administration is seeking to prosecute Assange for. As Davis bluntly declared, “If Julian’s in jail, they should be as well.”

 

I’m sure the fact that this last article was published on the World Socialist Web Site will only add to the fun, if not credibility, of it, for self-described socialist Owen Jones.

But -more- seriously, you can’t let the most decorated journalist of your time wither away in a concrete box designed for Hannibal Lecter, and at the same time preach about some threat to journalism and the freedom of speech. Because if you do, you ARE that threat.

 

 

 

 

Jul 312019
 


Gustav Klimt Field of poppies 1907

 

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)
Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)
Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)
FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)
China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)
China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)
German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)
Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)
Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)
Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)
Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)
Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

 

 

Judge said DNC “claims entirely divorced from the facts”.

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit the Democratic National Committee filed against the Trump campaign, the Russian government, WikiLeaks and various Trump campaign officials over alleged involvement in the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts during the 2016 presidential race. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl rejected the central theory of the racketeering suit: that the Trump campaign, campaign aides and Trump allies abetted the theft of the emails by encouraging WikiLeaks to publish the messages and by urging they be released when they would be of maximum political benefit to then-candidate Donald Trump. Koeltl said such actions were protected by the First Amendment when taken by people not involved in the actual hacking.

“Even if the documents had been provided directly to the Campaign [and] the Campaign defendants … they could have published the documents themselves without liability because they did not participate in the theft and the documents are of public concern,” the judge wrote in an 81-page opinion. “The DNC cannot hold these defendants liable for aiding and abetting publication when they would have been entitled to publish the stolen documents themselves without liability.” The judge said the DNC’s suit did not allege that anyone beyond the Russian Federation took part in the hacking of the Democratic Party computer systems or email accounts. And he concluded that WikiLeaks could not legitimately be sued as a recipient of that information because what it released was of genuine public interest.

“The DNC’s published internal communications allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election,” Koeltl wrote. “This type of information is plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.” Koeltl, a Manhattan-based appointee of President Bill Clinton, also rejected the DNC’s contention that fundraising-related records amount to trade secrets that get special protection under the law. “The DNC’s interest in keeping ‘donor lists’ and ‘fundraising strategies’ secret is dwarfed by the newsworthiness of the documents as a whole,” the judge wrote. “If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.”

Read more …

They turned on him.

Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his choice for the next U.S. spy chief as someone who could “rein in” intelligence agencies that “have run amok,” fueling concerns Trump seeks assessments that support his own views. Trump’s choice of Republican Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas as the next director of national intelligence, has been greeted with scant enthusiasm by his fellow Republicans and charges by former intelligence officials and Democrats that he is unqualified and will frame intelligence to suit the president.


Ratcliffe, a member of the House Intelligence Committee for six months, would replace Dan Coats, whose judgments on Iran, North Korea and Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections clashed with Trump’s views, earning the president’s disdain. Returning to the White House from an appearance in Virginia, Trump on Tuesday said Ratcliffe “is going to do an incredible job, if he gets approved” by the Senate. “I think we need somebody like that in there,” he continued. “We need somebody strong that can rein it in. Because, as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They have run amok.” Trump denied he had a “conflict” with Coats, saying he was “a friend of mine” and a “terrific person.” But, he added, “Dan made statements and they were a little confused.”

Read more …

Overreach.

Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)

President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that immediately took effect Tuesday, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a high-profile court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates. The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on his final day to take action and passed on a strict party-line vote in the Legislature, requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. They must do so by late November in order to secure a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.

“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said in a statement that accompanied his signature on the bill approved by the Legislature earlier this month. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

Trump, who is not singled out by the law but is clearly its inspiration, is likely to fight back. “The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the president’s reelection campaign. “The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association, since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.”

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That potato is darn hot.

FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration hopes civil aviation authorities around the world will decide at about the same time to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to resume flying, the agency told Congress on Tuesday in a letter seen by Reuters. The FAA and other regulators grounded the plane in March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said in letters to Senators Susan Collins and Jack Reed that the agency “hopes to achieve near simultaneous approval from the major civil aviation authorities around the world” but added that every regulator will make its own determination. “We are working with our colleagues from the European Union, Canada and Brazil to address their concerns,” he wrote.


Collins will chair a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that will feature four senior FAA officials, including Ali Bahrami, who oversees aviation safety. Boeing Co Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts last week he was confident the MAX would be back in service as early as October after a certification flight in “the September time frame.” Ryan Air Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said Monday that he had been told that flight would be delayed until October. Boeing on Tuesday reiterated Muilenburg’s recent comments. Elwell said in his letter the FAA “will lift the 737 MAX grounding order only when it is safe to do so.”

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Shareholders buy each other’s stock with borrowed money and then use it as collateral to borrow more money..

China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)

China is sharpening its scrutiny of small banks’ shareholders amid fears that loans from the lenders to big investors could prove a weak point in the country’s financial system, jolted by the state’s weekend rescue of one lender and recent takeover of another. While nominally small, China’s numerous small city commercial banks risk having outsized significance because of their close ties to the rest of the banking system as well as with bigger shareholders, many of whom are giant companies. Earlier this month, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) asked banks and some other financial firms for details of any investor building up stakes of 5% or more without required regulatory approvals.

The regulator also asked the firms if they had disclosed all business transactions with their main owners, according to a regulatory notice seen by Reuters. Regulators have also conducted spot checks at some smaller banks in the last two months to probe possible misuse of capital linked to shareholders and transferring of ownership interests, said four people with direct knowledge of the matter. The scrutiny comes amid concerns that some debt-heavy Chinese private enterprises have amassed substantial stakes in smaller banks without regulatory approval and are using the lenders for their personal borrowings.

“There may be many shareholders using small Chinese banks as ATM machines, but I don’t think we have enough understanding of bank ownership to know,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Hong Kong-based Orient Capital Research. “Certainly if there are under-capitalized corporates as majority shareholders of the less well-funded smaller banks you could have a bank run,” he said, adding the regulators have so far done a good job of rescuing ailing financial firms.

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Blame outsiders: “..this is the creation of the U.S.”

China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)

Massive anti-Beijing protests which have gripped Hong Kong over the past month, and have become increasingly violent as both an overwhelmed local police force and counter-protesters have hit back with force, are threatening to escalate on a larger geopolitical scale after the White House weighed in this week. With China fast losing patience, there are new reports of a significant build-up of Chinese security forces on Hong Kong’s border, as Bloomberg reports: “The White House is monitoring what a senior administration official called a congregation of Chinese forces on Hong Kong’s border.”

From nearly the start of the protests which began over a proposed extradition bill (which would see Hong Kong citizens under legal accusation potentially extradited to the mainland) interpreted as major Chinese overreach inside historically semi-autonomous Hong Kong, officials in Beijing have suggested an “external plot” afoot, more recently alleging the hidden hand of the United States. The latest charge made Tuesday by mainland government officials is that the still escalating Hong Kong unrest is the “creation of the US” — something which the Trump admin official speaking under anonymity to Bloomberg firmly denied.

On Monday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press interview that “protest is appropriate” and that “we hope the Chinese will do the right thing” regarding respecting Hong Kong’s historic “one country, two systems” status. This was enough to elicit a quick response alleging US meddling out of Beijing on Tuesday. It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing. “He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”

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Here’s thinking fraud is a serious offence in Germany.

German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)

German prosecutors said Monday they had charged former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn and four other managers over “dieselgate”, bringing the cheating scandal back into the headlines just as VW battles to move on from the affair. Prosecutors in Brunswick, near VW’s Wolfsburg HQ in northern Germany, said they had charged Winterkorn and four other managers. Among the accusations against the former chief executive were “a particularly serious case of fraud”, “infraction of the law against unfair competition” and “breach of trust”. Winterkorn was CEO during a period when VW fitted 11 million diesel-powered vehicles worldwide with so-called “defeat devices” – software that made them appear less polluting in the lab than in real driving conditions.


Such allegations have hit other German manufacturers since, with Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler confirming Sunday it was facing a regulatory probe, reportedly over 60,000 vehicles. At the helm from 2007 to 2015, Winterkorn, a trained engineer, had a reputation as a detail-obsessed executive who was familiar with “every screw” of each VW model. The group admitted to the fraud in September 2015, beginning a drawn-out process of fact-finding and legal action that has so far seen it pay out $33 billion in fines, compensation and buyback schemes, much of it in the United States.

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Wishful thinking?!

Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)

Since the 2016 referendum, a civil war-like atmosphere has made it increasingly impossible for Leavers and Remainers to hold a civilized conversation. Corbyn valiantly tried to keep Labour’s Leavers and Remainers together by seeking an honorable compromise: The UK would formally leave the EU, to respect the referendum’s outcome, while remaining in as many of the bloc’s structures as possible – including a customs union. Instead of applauding Corbyn for this tricky balancing act, his opponents within the Labour Party, together with a liberal establishment unprincipled enough to deliver all Leavers to Nigel Farage and Johnson, attacked him with extraordinary viciousness. But that was then and this is now.

With Johnson as prime minister, and his strategy crystal clear, Corbyn’s task is to expose the truth about Johnson’s no-deal Brexit – namely, that it means a Trump-deal Brexit – and put forward Labour’s plan to end the interminable Brexit ordeal immediately. Corbyn must first show voters that a Johnson government will turn the UK into a vassal state of a Trumpian US and of the multinationals eager to usurp the country’s cherished institutions (especially the National Health Service). Johnson will bind the UK to a global alliance of populist/nationalist regimes and destroy Britain’s chances to lead Europe and the world with a Green New Deal that overhauls a failed UK business model based on low taxes, low wages, low investment, zero-hour contracts, and unregulated finance.

Corbyn’s second task is to offer an alternative for ending the humiliation of the ongoing negotiations. That means committing to revoke Article 50 to allow a Labour government time to implement a green-investment, anti-austerity policy agenda in tune with the party’s progressive internationalism, while simultaneously organizing a Citizens’ Deliberative Assembly to formulate the question(s) to be put to voters in a second Brexit referendum. A general election fought over these two unequivocal alternatives, Johnson’s and Corbyn’s, would empower the UK’s people, at last, to determine their country’s future.

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Boris wants to ditch the backstop, and that automatically messes with Good Friday.

Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)

Any future US-UK trade deal would almost certainly be blocked by the US Congress if Brexit affects the Irish border and jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland, congressional leaders and diplomats have warned. Boris Johnson has presented a trade deal with the US as a way of offsetting the economic costs of leaving the EU, and Donald Trump promised the two countries could strike “a very substantial trade agreement” that would increase trade “four or five times”. Trump, however, would not be able to push an agreement through a hostile Congress, where there would be strong bipartisan opposition to any UK trade deal in the event of a threat to the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and to the open border between the two Irelands.


Johnson’s rise to power, and his demand for the EU to drop the backstop, which is intended to safeguard the open border after Brexit, has galvanised determination in Congress to make a stand in defence of the landmark accord, to which the US is guarantor. “The American dimension to the Good Friday agreement is indispensable,” said Richard Neal, who is co-chair of the 54-strong Friends of Ireland caucus in Congress, and also chairs the powerful House ways and means committee, with the power to hold up a trade deal indefinitely. “We oversee all trade agreements as part of our tax jurisdiction,” Neal, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, said in a phone interview. He pointed out that such a complex trade deal could take four or five years, even without the Northern Ireland issue.

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He said it as an observer, it’s not what he wants.

Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)

Voters are right to think Tory MPs largely do not care about poorer people or the NHS, according to Dominic Cummings in comments that have emerged from two years ago. Boris Johnson’s new senior adviser and a key architect of Brexit gave his damning view on Conservative MPs at a conference in 2017, where he said: “People think, and by the way I think most people are right: ‘The Tory party is run by people who basically don’t care about people like me.’ “That is what most people in the country have thought about the Tory party for decades. I know a lot of Tory MPs and I am sad to say the public is basically correct. Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people. They don’t care about the NHS. And the public has kind of cottoned on to that.”


Cummings is now integral to Johnson’s administration, which has a majority of just two and is relying on Conservative and DUP MPs to back his Brexit strategy of taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October – unless he suspends parliament to achieve a no-deal exit. Ian Lavery, the chair of the Labour party, said it was a “staggering admission from the prime minister’s right-hand man”. “As Dominic Cummings says himself, the Conservatives don’t care about anything apart from looking after their rich friends – whether that means selling off our NHS to American corporations in pursuit of a Trump trade deal, or giving tax cuts to big businesses while cutting public services. We need a general election and a Labour government to protect our health service from the likes of Boris Johnson,” Lavery said.

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Shattering.

Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)

A special report in the Observer newspaper in the UK on 23 June 2019 asked the question: Why is life expectancy faltering? The piece noted that for the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in Western Europe. Aside from the figures for the elderly and the deprived, there has also been a worrying change in infant mortality rates. Since 2014, the rate has increased every year: the figure for 2017 is significantly higher than the one in 2014. To explain this increase in infant mortality, certain experts blame it on ‘austerity’, fewer midwives, an overstrained ambulance service, general deterioration of hospitals, greater poverty among pregnant women and cuts that mean there are fewer health visitors for patients in need.

While all these explanations may be valid, according to environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason, there is something the mainstream narrative is avoiding. She says: “We are being poisoned by weedkiller and other pesticides in our food and weedkiller sprayed indiscriminately on our communities. The media remain silent.” Mason begins by offering a brief history of Monsanto in the UK. In 1949, that company set up a chemical factory in Newport, Wales, where it manufactured PCBs until 1977 and a number of other dangerous chemicals. Monsanto was eventually found to be dumping toxic waste in the River Severn, public waterways and sewerage. It then paid a contractor which illegally dumped thousands of tons of cancer-causing chemicals, including PCBs, dioxins and Agent Orange derivatives, at two quarries in Wales – Brofiscin (80,000 tonnes) and Maendy (42,000 tonnes) – between 1965 and 1972.

Monsanto stopped making PCBs in Anniston US in 1971 because of various scandals. However, the British government agreed to ramp up production at the Monsanto plant in Newport. In 2003, when toxic effluent from the quarry started leaking into people’s streams in Grosfaen, just outside Cardiff, the Environment Agency – a government agency concerned with flooding and pollution – was hired to clean up the site in 2005. Mason notes that the agency repeatedly failed to hold Monsanto accountable for its role in the pollution (a role that Monsanto denied from the outset) and consistently downplayed the dangers of the chemicals themselves. In a report prepared for the agency and the local authority in 2005 but never made public, the sites contain at least 67 toxic chemicals. Seven PCBs have been identified, along with vinyl chlorides and naphthalene. The unlined quarry is still leaking, the report says:

“Pollution of water has been occurring since the 1970s, the waste and groundwater has been shown to contain significant quantities of poisonous, noxious and polluting material, pollution of… waters will continue to occur.” Apart from these events in Wales, Mason outlines the overall toxic nature of Monsanto in the UK. For instance, she discusses the shockingly high levels of weedkiller in packaged cereals. Samples of four oat-based breakfast cereals marketed for children in the UK were recently sent to the Health Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, an accredited laboratory for glyphosate testing. Dr Fagan, the director of the centre, says of the results: “These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).”

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“A list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia..”

Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

Pretending to ‘understand’ Russia has become quite the lucrative business for Western media professionals in recent years – and “leading” Russia expert extraordinaire Keir Giles is the latest to believe he has cracked the code. Generous Giles has published a list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia – but before we delve into the finer details, let’s add some important context. This Russia whisperer is a “senior consulting fellow” at Chatham House – a British think tank receiving funding from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), the UK Ministry of Defence, the British Army and the US embassy, as well as an impressive array of arms manufacturers.


Very often, those posing as ‘experts’ on Russia pepper their analysis with outright xenophobia. Yet, this problematic and bigoted language is rarely noticed by their admiring peers because, as I have written before, “the Russians” are an exception to current cultural rules around political correctness. Xenophobia, when it is about Russians, is never condemned in Western media and ‘think tank’ circles. Rather, it has become an essential component of any celebrated ‘analysis’ of the country and its actions. Recall a recent New York Times article which claimed corruption is in the Russian “DNA” and sharing is “not the Russian way.” Before that, there was James Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence, telling NBC that Russians are “genetically driven” to lie and cheat. Now, enter Giles.

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Jul 132019
 


Pablo Picasso Weeping woman 1937

 

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)
Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)
Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)
Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)
Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)
Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)
About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)
CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)
CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)
US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)
EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)
Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

 

 

The circus comes to town one week later but with a much longer show and added attractions. This will be nuts.

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)

The special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress about the findings of the Russia investigation on 24 July, one week later than his appearance was originally planned, under an agreement that gives lawmakers more time to question him. Mueller had been scheduled to report on the inquiry into Russian election meddling and ties between Russia and the campaign of Donald Trump on 17 July. But lawmakers in both parties complained that the short length of the hearings would not allow enough time for all members to ask questions. Under the new arrangement, Mueller will testify for an extended period of time, three hours instead of two, before the House judiciary committee. He will then testify before the House intelligence committee in a separate hearing.

The two committees said in a statement that all members of both committees will be able to question him. In the joint statement, the panels said the longer hearing “will allow the American public to gain further insight into the special counsel’s investigation and the evidence uncovered regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power”. Mueller has expressed his reluctance to testify and said he won’t go beyond what is in his 448-page report. But Democrats have been determined to highlight its contents for Americans who they believe have not read it. They want to extract information from the former special counsel and spotlight what they say are his most damaging findings against Trump.

Democrats are expected to ask Mueller about his conclusions, including that he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice after detailing several episodes in which Trump tried to influence the investigation. Mueller also said there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin. One thing judiciary members want to focus on in questioning Mueller is whether Trump would have been charged with a crime were he not president. Mueller said at the news conference that charging a president with a crime was “not an option” because of longstanding justice department policy. But Democrats want to know more about how he made that decision and when.

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Michael Cohen couldn’t deliver.

Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)

A federal investigation into whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign-finance laws appears to be wrapping up without charges being filed, according to people familiar with the matter. For months, federal prosecutors in New York have examined whether company officials broke the law, including in their effort to reimburse Michael Cohen for hush-money payments he made to women alleging affairs with his former boss, President Donald Trump.
In recent weeks, however, their investigation has quieted, the people familiar with the inquiry said, and prosecutors now don’t appear poised to charge any Trump Organization executives in the probe that stemmed from the case against Cohen.


In January, one month after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, prosecutors requested interviews with executives at the company, CNN reported. But prosecutors never followed up on their initial request, people familiar with the matter said, and the interviews never took place. Meanwhile, there has been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, one person familiar with the matter said.

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“..the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history.”

Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)

Where are Clintons, these dog days of summer? The Hamptons? Salty, sunny Martha’s Vineyard? Under a rock somewhere in the Chappaqua woods? Fate is turning in more than one uncomfortable way for the once-charmed couple of Boomerdom. There is, of course, the freshly re-issued Jeffrey Epstein underage sex scandal, come ‘round again with a vengeance this time because there are fewer Clinton partisans left in the Department of Justice where the matter has festered for decades like a fistula slowly seeping its rot through the body politic. The vengeance emanates from the Clinton’s nemesis, the uppity Golden Golem of Greatness who dared to “steal” Hillary’s place in the Oval Office (and history).

To put it plainly, Mr. Trump had enough of the two-year-plus persecution he endured from the Clinton-inspired Mueller investigation into the Clinton-propagated Russia Collusion flim-flam. And having patiently survived this audacious, seditious effrontery, is now out to squash the Clintons like a pair of palmetto bugs. [..] And now there is the Epstein matter, which threatens not only former president Bill Clinton, but a cosmos of political, financial, and entertainment “stars” in countless ugly incidents that involve a kind of personal corruption that has no political context but says an awful lot about the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history. President Clinton has already kicked off this debacle by lying to the media about the number of rides he took on Mr. Epstein’s notorious airplane.

I voted for Bill Clinton twice. When they came up from the backwater of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1992, they seemed like the fresh, bright antidote to twelve years of fusty Reaganism with the GHW Bush moldy cherry-on-top. Governor Bill, so glib and charming. Tall and catnip to the ladies, too! And almost immediately he was in deep shit over that part of his act, but he wiggled through it all with the aid of his perky, stalwart wife and partner, who defended him sedulously on nationwide TV. (America had never even heard about her misadventures on the Watergate Committee, where, age 27, she gained a reputation for being less than honest.) And that was followed by the first instance of Hillary moneygrubbing when she turned a few thousand bucks into a six-figure bonanza almost overnight in a wired commodities trade.

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There is so much ugliness still hidden in this. Will we ever know?

Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)

Federal prosecutors allege in a new court filing that Jeffrey Epstein may have engaged in witness tampering by paying off two potential witnesses days before the Miami Herald began publishing a series of explosive exposés about the registered sex offender and his victims. According to financial records, Epstein wired $350,000 to two ‘possible co-conspirators’ who could testify against him. $100,000 was wired from “Institution-1” to one person, while just three days later $250,000 was wired to another individual. Neither of the payments appear to be recurring based on five years of bank records. Is one of the co-conspirators Ghislaine Maxwell? The daughter of a British media barron, Maxwell was described by one Epstein accuser in a 2017 lawsuit as “the highest ranking employee” of his alleged enterprise, in which she was said to have managed both Epstein’s household and his sex life.

Via the Wall Street Journal: “Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of a British media baron, was a fixture for years in Manhattan’s social scene, often written about in tabloids for her close ties to British royalty and to a mysterious financier named Jeffrey Epstein. But Mr. Epstein’s arrest last week on sex-trafficking charges has brought renewed attention to her alleged role as one of his top aides. Ms. Maxwell, 57 years old, has been accused by three women in affidavits and other court filings of recruiting young women for Mr. Epstein and training them for sex. Two of the women have alleged that Ms. Maxwell, together with Mr. Epstein, sexually assaulted them, according to the filings.

What’s more, “Juan Alessi, who said in one of the depositions that he served as the Palm Beach house manager from around 1992 through 2002, described a basket of sex toys in Ms. Maxwell’s bathroom closet. He said he would find them around when he cleaned up after visits from the young women,” according to the Journal.

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Only Big Ag deals with Wall Street.

Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)

In the wake of the U.S. housing meltdown of the late 2000s, JPMorgan Chase & Co hunted for new ways to expand its loan business beyond the troubled mortgage sector. The nation’s largest bank found enticing new opportunities in the rural Midwest – lending to U.S. farmers who had plenty of income and collateral as prices for grain and farmland surged. JPMorgan grew its farm-loan portfolio by 76 percent, to $1.1 billion, between 2008 and 2015, according to year-end figures, as other Wall Street players piled into the sector. Total U.S. farm debt is on track to rise to $427 billion this year, up from an inflation-adjusted $317 billion a decade earlier and approaching levels seen in the 1980s farm crisis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


But now – after years of falling farm income and an intensifying U.S.-China trade war – JPMorgan and other Wall Street banks are heading for the exits, according to a Reuters analysis of the farm-loan holdings they reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks fell by $3.9 billion, to $18.3 billion, between their peak in December 2015 and March 2019, the analysis showed. That’s a 17.5% decline.

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I meant to do that?!

Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)

A widely expected interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve would give China more breathing room in shoring up its slowing economy, some analysts said. Overnight, markets took Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments during the first of a two-day Congressional testimony as affirming expectations for easier monetary policy in the U.S. The S&P 500 briefly topped 3,000 for the first time, and Treasury yields edged lower. A looser monetary policy environment would reduce pressure on China’s central bank to ease monetary policy. Amid trade tensions with the U.S., China’s economy has struggled to gain momentum.


Private surveys released last week by Caixin showed services activity fell in June to its lowest since February, and the manufacturing sector contracted, after three months of expansion. Among several measures to support the economy over the last several months, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has made targeted attempts to lower financing costs to privately run enterprises, which account for the majority of the country’s economic growth and employment. “If the Fed does go ahead and cut rates, which I don’t think is a given … it simply means the PBoC has a little breathing room to see if the policies it has implemented have an impact on the real economy,” Hannah Anderson, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, told CNBC on Thursday by phone.

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“Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion..”

“..debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017..”

About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)

China’s lending to other countries has surged in the past decade, causing debt levels to jump dramatically, and as much as half of such debt to developing economies is “hidden,” a new study has found. Such “hidden” debt means that the borrowing isn’t reported to or recorded by official institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, or the Paris Club — a group of creditor nations. Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion — or from 1% of global economic output to more than 5%, according to the study from Germany-based think tank the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. “This has transformed China into the largest official creditor, easily surpassing the IMF or the World Bank,” the report’s researchers said.


The study, which looked at nearly 2,000 Chinese loans to 152 countries from 1949 to 2017, was undertaken by well-known debt expert Carmen Reinhart from Harvard University, as well as Kiel Institute’s Christoph Trebesch and Sebastian Horn. For 50 developing countries which have borrowed from China, that debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017, according to estimates by the study’s researchers. “Advanced and higher middle income countries tend to receive portfolio debt flows, via sovereign bond purchases of the People’s Bank of China, ” the report said. “As a result, many advanced countries have become highly indebted towards the Chinese government.”

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There’s Adam Schiff for you in all his glory. Watch for him in the Mueller hearings too.

CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)

When the CIA and other agencies in the United States government pushed for the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) in 1981, it was crafted to exclude “covert agents” who resided in the U.S. There was consideration by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of how the legislation might “chill or stifle public criticism of intelligence activities or public debate concerning intelligence policy.” More than three decades later, the CIA is apparently unsatisfied with the protections the bill granted “covert agents. It has enlisted a select group of senators and representatives to help expand the universe of individuals who are protected, making members of the press who cover intelligence matters more vulnerable to prosecution.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, was involved in adding language to expand the IIPA to the Intelligence Authorization Act moving through Congress. “Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans by criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill,” declared Daniel Schuman, who is the policy director for Demand Progress. Schuman added, “Schiff’s expansion of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act beyond all reason will effectively muzzle reporting on torture, mass surveillance, and other crimes against the American people—all at the request of the CIA. Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.”

The CIA put their specific request for what language they would like amended in writing and sent it to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Their request was essentially copied and pasted, with no changes, into the intelligence bill. “Undercover agency officers face ever-evolving threats, including cyber threats,” the CIA argued. “Particularly with the lengths organizations such as WikiLeaks are willing to go to obtain and release sensitive national security information, as well as incidents related to past agency programs, such as the RDI investigation [CIA torture report], the original congressional reasoning mentioned above for a narrow definition of ‘covert agent’ no longer remains valid.”

“This proposal would provide protection for all undercover agency officers by allowing for the prosecution of individuals responsible for disclosing the identities of those officers, regardless whether the undercover officer serves inside or outside of the United States,” the agency additionally stated. Schiff supports the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and shares the CIA’s view that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” not a media organization. In 2018, when Assange was willing to speak with investigators about the Russia probe, he replied, “Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

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Do I want to read this report?

CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)

In December 2014, the Bureau, alongside The Rendition Project, began a major project to trace the history of the RDI programme. The impetus for our investigation came from the long-awaited publication of a report into CIA torture by the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee. The authors of this report had high-level access to internal CIA documents, which they mined to produce a damning assessment of the torture programme’s brutality, mismanagement and ineffectiveness. But they were compelled by the Obama administration, and by the CIA itself, to censor — “redact” — all parts of the report that could identify specific times and places where abuses had occurred.

This is important, because without being able to tie illegal activities to specific times and places, the quest for redress is hamstrung, and meaningful accountability — legal, public, historical — remains a mirage. The Senate report did offer a crucial insight, however: the first complete list of prisoners held in the CIA’s black sites. 119 names, each with a date of custody (redacted) and a record of how many days they were held (also partly redacted). In the days after the publication of the Senate report, we set to work reconstructing this list to reveal the hidden dates. Figuring out a date often meant that we could match it to a flight record; matching to a flight record meant that we could determine where a prisoner was brought from or sent to.

As we cross-correlated thousands of data points — from declassified government documents, footnotes in the Senate report, aviation data, records of corporate outsourcing of rendition flights, legal cases, media reporting and NGO investigations — the contours of the CIA’s programme of secret detention and torture began to emerge more clearly. Rather than just understanding certain individual histories, we could begin to discern the entire scope of the programme’s development. More than four years later, we’re publishing the results of our investigation in a 400-page report entitled CIA Torture Unredacted. It is the first time that the entirety of the CIA’s detention programme has been systematically revealed.

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“Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes.”

US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)

The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office will hold a hearing on Aug 19 in its probe of France’s new planned tax on big technology companies, calling the proposal “unreasonable.” President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the tax, which could lead to the United States imposing new tariffs or other trade restrictions. USTR said in a public notice the levy was an “unreasonable tax policy.” The plan departs from tax norms because of “extraterritoriality; taxing revenue not income; and a purpose of penalizing particular technology companies for their commercial success,” it said. USTR added that statements by French officials suggest the tax will “amount to de facto discrimination against U.S. companies… while exempting smaller companies, particularly those that operate only in France.”


The tax is due to apply retroactively from the start of 2019. USTR said that calls into question the fairness of the tax. On Thursday, the French Senate approved the 3% levy that will apply to revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than 25 million euros in French revenue and 750 million euros ($845 million) worldwide. Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes. They say a levy is needed because big, multinational internet companies such as Facebook and Amazon are currently able to book profits in low-tax countries like Ireland, no matter where the revenue originates. Political pressure to respond has been growing as local retailers in high streets and online have been disadvantaged.

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The crazies.

EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday it would allow for the expanded use of a pesticide it considers toxic to bees, a move that comes just days after the Trump administration said it was suspending data collection on bee populations. The pesticide known as sulfoxaflor will be permitted for use on certain crops for the first time, and in other areas that were prohibited under the Obama administration. The agency considers sulfoxaflor “very highly toxic” to bees. In a call with reporters to announce the decision, a top EPA official emphasized the agency’s research on the pesticide’s effects on bees and said the rule was designed with pollinators in mind.


“To reduce exposure to bees, the product label will have crop-specific restrictions and important pollinator protection language,” including limits on how close to bloom sulfoxaflor can be sprayed, the official said. But it may be difficult to monitor whether the regulations spare bees as intended. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it was suspending one of the few remaining government data sets that monitor bee populations and loss. “At a time when honeybees and other pollinators are dying in greater numbers than ever before, Trump’s EPA decision to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless,” Earthjustice, which fought sulfoxaflor use in the 2015 suit, said in a statement Friday. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy, and environment.”

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“..perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation.”

Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

Deep set beady eyes peer from folds of thick leather skin. They close slowly in a leisurely, ponderous blink. Nostrils flare with each warm, damp exhalation, causing a slight rise of the stubby nasal horn that rests on those cavernous nostrils. I stare at this primitive, prehistoric creature which seems to have just trundled out of the Jurassic Period. Her skin is leather-thick, her face is topped by a firm horn and her species is over 20 million years old. She seems invincible. Somehow our soft-skinned species has managed to mangle her population down and down until today, when only one Malaysian Sumatran Rhino exists on earth. And there I stand looking into her eyes. She is called Iman. Iman means faith.

Faith is a funny concept when you stand looking at the very last individual of a species and your ears ring with her plaintive cries. Rather than feel faith in humanity, I felt a deep loss, a deep hopelessness. That was only after five minutes of meeting Iman. Yet behind me stood Dr Junaidi Payne and Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, who have been working on protecting the Sumatran Rhino in Sabah for almost their whole lives. They were there in 2017 when Puntung had to be euthanised. They were there in May this year when Tam, the last male, died. They will, most likely, be there when Iman breathes her last breath. The last breath of a species. They have front row seats of the sixth mass extinction, directed and produced wholly by humans.


Iman cannot be saved. It is the brutal yet undeniable truth that one day she will be gripped by illness or old age and will leave us. If I choose to have children, their world will be undoubtedly different to ours today. Perhaps they will cry at the abundance of life that has been ravaged by their ancestors. Perhaps they will listen to the story of the time I met Iman. But perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation. Rhino and girl. We were two, yet we were alike. Our hearts both pounding as we watched each other, our gazes both narrowed and our breath quickened.

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Jun 152019
 


Arnold Böcklin Mermaids at play 1886

 

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Two (Suzie Dawson)
Well Guess What? He Was Right Again! Free Julian Assange (CJ)
DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan (Ray McGovern)
System To Circumvent US Sanctions On Iran Ready Soon: German FM (AlJ)
Jeremy Corbyn Challenges UK Government’s Iran Tanker Accusations (BBC)
Brexit Britain Wallows In Dangerous Talk Of National Humiliation (O’Toole)
All Eyes On Fed As Stock Market Pines For Rate Cut (R.)
US Commercial Real Estate Is Another Dangerous Bubble In The Making (Colombo)
The “Deficits Don’t Matter” Folly (Stockman)
Beijing Yields To Hong Kong’s Financial Clout (R.)
Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan (Simon Black)

 

 

Trump was merely added years after the Russia-WikiLeaks slander had started.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Two (Suzie Dawson)

The public has been led to believe that the 2016 election and the resulting Mueller Report is the definitive evidence that WikiLeaks was somehow in cahoots with Russia, reinforcing the premise that they were in a political alliance with, or favoured, Donald Trump and his Presidential election campaign. Prominent Russiagate-skeptics have long pointed out the multitude of gaping holes inherent in those theories, including the advocacy group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) who have produced credible forensic work analysing the 2016 WikiLeaks releases, that resoundingly debunks officials claims.


In the course of researching this article, I stumbled across a major discovery that augments that: the false notion of WikiLeaks being a front for Russian intelligence isn’t new – it has been pushed by media since 2009. It turns out the circulation of the WikiLeaks-Russia myth was a tried and true diversionary, smear tactic that was simply regurgitated in 2016. Julian Assange believed that UK intelligence agencies were behind the pushing of that narrative, and he was publicly stating so at the end of last decade. He wouldn’t make such claims lightly, and other emerging facts support his suspicion.

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“Otherwise you are just the establishment’s PR firm.”

Well Guess What? He Was Right Again! Free Julian Assange (CJ)

“Today’s the day that journalism gets put on trial,” Dimmack said. “And it’s interesting that behind me there are this many cameras. There haven’t been this many cameras for quite a while. It’s interesting that when Julian was dragged out and kidnapped from within that Ecuadorian embassy, all of you guys had actually gone home, and it was a Russian TV station that actually caught it, Ruptly. It’s almost as if you don’t care.”

“For seven years you have smeared and slandered that man who is going to appear on video in that court in about fifteen minutes,” Dimmack told the mainstream press, right to their fucking faces. “You are all responsible for what has happened today! All of you in the media! Every one of you. You have got blood on your hands. When he released those documents that Chelsea Manning gave him, all he did was the job of a publisher. That’s it. Right now Julian Assange is going to court and put on trial for exposing war criminals as war criminals. And all of you for seven years have smeared and slandered him. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

“You have all got a chance right now to actually do a U-turn and repair some of the damage that you have done over the last seven years,” Dimmack roared. “The Fourth Estate is extremely important. You know this. This is why journalism is such a noble profession; you are meant to hold power accountable, not to suck up to it sycophantically and just repeat propaganda. Otherwise you are just the establishment’s PR firm.” “Stand up for Julian Assange and tell the truth,” he continued. “Ask yourselves why is it for seven years you have printed lie after lie after lie about him? Why is it for seven years you have said that he went to the Ecuadorian embassy to escape a rape charge? No he didn’t! How many times have I said it? He went in there to escape extradition to the United States.” “Well guess what?” Dimmack concluded, gesturing to the courthouse. “He was right again! Free Julian Assange.”

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More Russiagate.

DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan (Ray McGovern)

The New York Times Thursday morning has bad news for one of its favorite anonymous sources, former CIA Director John Brennan. The Times reports that the Justice Department plans to interview senior CIA officers to focus on the allegation that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to intervene in the 2016 election to help Donald J. Trump. DOJ investigators will be looking for evidence to support that remarkable claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report failed to establish. Despite the collusion conspiracy theory having been put to rest, many Americans, including members of Congress, right and left, continue to accept the evidence-impoverished, media-cum-“former-intelligence-officer” meme that the Kremlin interfered massively in the 2016 presidential election.

One cannot escape the analogy with the fraudulent evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As in 2002 and 2003, when the mania for the invasion of Iraq mounted, Establishment media have simply regurgitated what intelligence sources like Brennan told them about Russia-gate. No one batted an eye when Brennan told a House committee in May 2017, “I don’t do evidence.” As we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have warned numerous times over the past two plus years, there is no reliable forensic evidence to support the story that Russia hacked into the DNC. Moreover, in a piece I wrote in May, “Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate,” I again noted that accumulating forensic evidence from metadata clearly points to an inside DNC job — a leak, not a hack, by Russia or anyone else.

So Brennan and his partners, FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper were making stuff up and feeding thin but explosive gruel to the hungry stenographers that pass today for Russiagate obsessed journalists. With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan conclusively as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story. Evidence, real evidence in this case, abounds, since the Brennan-Comey-Clapper gang of three were sure Hillary Clinton would become president. Consequently, they did not perform due diligence to hide their tracks.

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From Monday. A few days later, the tankers were attacked. And not with mines either.

System To Circumvent US Sanctions On Iran Ready Soon: German FM (AlJ)

A European payment system designed to circumvent US sanctions on Iran will be ready soon, Germany announced on Monday. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran as part of European efforts to salvage the historic JCPOA nuclear pact and defuse rising US-Iranian tension. Iran and Germany held “frank and serious” talks on saving the 2015 deal with world powers, Zarif told a joint press conference. “Tehran will cooperate with EU signatories of the deal to save it,” Zarif said. Maas said earlier the payment system, known as INSTEX, (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) will soon be ready to go after months of work.


“This is an instrument of a new kind so it’s not straightforward to operationalise it,” he said, pointing to the complexity of trying to install a totally new payment system. “But all the formal requirements are in place now, and so I’m assuming we’ll be ready to use it in the foreseeable future,” added Maas about the system for barter-based trade with Iran. A cautious thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington began in 2015 when the deal was struck between six world powers and Iran, limiting its nuclear activity. But tensions with the US have mounted since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions. Iran has criticised the European signatories of the JCPOA for failing to salvage the pact after Trump pulled the US out. “There is a serious situation in the region. An escalation of tension is becoming uncontrollable and military action wouldn’t be in line with the interests of any party,” Maas said.

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From Skripal to Iran.

Jeremy Corbyn Challenges UK Government’s Iran Tanker Accusations (BBC)

Jeremy Corbyn has questioned whether the government has “credible evidence” to show Iran is behind the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said responsibility for Thursday’s attack in the Gulf of Oman “almost certainly” lies with the Iranian regime. But the Labour leader tweeted that there was no evidence for this. Mr Hunt responded that Mr Corbyn’s comments were “pathetic” and said he should back British intelligence. It is the second time in the past few weeks that tankers appear to have been attacked in the region and comes amid escalating tension between Iran and the United States.


The US military released video footage which it said proved Iran was behind Thursday’s attacks on the Norwegian and Japanese tankers – something Iran has categorically denied. The UK Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that a branch of the Iranian military – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – attacked the two tankers on 13 June, adding that “no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible”. “These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region,” Mr Hunt said. However, in a tweet Mr Corbyn questioned that assessment and said the UK should ease tensions in the region, not fuel a military escalation.

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And it works!

Brexit Britain Wallows In Dangerous Talk Of National Humiliation (O’Toole)

Launching his bid for the Tory leadership this week, Dominic Raab announced, histrionically: “We’ve been humiliated as a country.” For those of us who do not live on planet Brexit, this might have been mistaken for a belated reaction to the genuinely demeaning spectacle of Donald Trump’s state visit a week earlier. But, of course, like almost all of his fellow contenders to be the next prime minister, Raab was playing his part in a strange performance in which the national honour has been so horribly besmirched by the European Union that it can be salved only by taking the pain of a no-deal Brexit.

Perhaps if you keep acting out phoney feelings, you end up not being able to recognise the real thing. Brexit Britain has been wallowing in a hyped-up psychodrama of national humiliation. It is, indeed, one of the very few things that remainers and leavers still share, even if they feel mortified for very different reasons. In relation to the EU, this sense of humiliation is wildly overplayed. But when Trump comes to town and really does degrade Britain, the sense of wounded dignity that ought to be felt seems curiously absent.

[..] how come the idea of national humiliation has loomed so large in Brexit? Shortly before the missed departure date of 29 March, a Sky Data poll asked: “Is the way Britain is dealing with Brexit a national humiliation?” Ninety per cent of respondents said yes. This idea of collective abasement is everywhere in the Brexit narrative. A random sample of headlines from across the spectrum tells the story: “Brexit and the prospect of national humiliation” (Financial Times); “Voice of the Mirror: Theresa May’s Brexit is a national humiliation”; “A national humiliation: Never was so much embarrassment caused to so many by so few” (Telegraph); “‘Humiliating to have to beg’ for EU exit, says Arlene Foster” (Irish Times). And so, endlessly, on.

There is something hysterical in this constant evocation of humiliation. It is a cry of outraged self-regard: how dare they treat us like this? Yes, of course, the Brexit debacle has reduced Britain’s prestige around the world. And the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May is indeed a miserable thing when compared with the glorious visions that preceded it. But Britain has not been humiliated by the EU – the deal was shaped by May’s (and Arlene Foster’s) red lines. Britain did not get what the Brexiters fantasised about, but it did get what it actually asked for. That’s not humiliation.

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Markets my ass. The only thing that’s left is the Fed. Markets are dead.

All Eyes On Fed As Stock Market Pines For Rate Cut (R.)

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting next week is shaping up as a pivotal one for Wall Street, with stocks primed for a selloff should the Fed fail to take an even more dovish tilt after policymakers raised expectations for a rate cut in recent weeks. The benchmark S&P 500 has rallied more than 5% this month as softening economic data coupled with comments by Fed officials heightened expectations the Fed will cut rates by the end of the year and, at the very least, telegraph it is leaning toward a later rate cut at its June 18-19 meeting. Those gains came on the heels of a selloff in May of nearly 7% in the S&P, largely fueled by investor concerns that trade wars were escalating, slowing the economy and putting it at risk of falling into a recession.


Bets for a rate cut were amplified by comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on June 4, who said the central bank will respond “as appropriate” to the risks from a global trade war and other developments, and after a weak May payrolls report on June 7. Bank of America Merrill Lynch Chief Economist Michelle Meyer expects the Fed’s “dot plots” projection of interest rates, which represents the anonymous, individual rate projections of Fed policymakers for the next few years, to shift lower as officials start to factor in cuts. However, “the median dot will signal a Fed on hold,” Meyer said in a note. “The market has somehow convinced themselves that we are in an easing cycle. I am not sure how we got so far ahead of ourselves,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

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Virtual wealth in a virtual reality.

US Commercial Real Estate Is Another Dangerous Bubble In The Making (Colombo)

As a result of the Fed’s ZIRP and QE programs in the past decade, virtually all types of assets soared in value: stocks, bonds, art, classic cars, farmland, residential real estate, and commercial real estate. On average, U.S. commercial real estate prices have surged by 111%, or more than double, since their 2009 low. Interestingly, most people don’t realize that U.S. commercial real estate also experienced a bubble from 2004 to 2008 at the same time as the U.S. housing bubble. This early bubble inflated for many of the same reasons as the housing bubble, which were ultra-low borrowing costs and loose lending standards. From 2004 to 2008, commercial real estate prices rose 66%, but crashed by nearly 40% during the 2008 financial crisis. Commercial real estate prices have increased even more in the current bubble (111% vs. 66%), which means that the coming commercial real estate bust is likely to be even worse than the 2008 bust.

As discussed earlier, low interest rate environments often cause dangerous bubbles to develop by encouraging borrowing booms. Like the U.S. commercial real estate bubble of 2004 to 2008, commercial real estate lending has flourished during the current bubble. Since 2012, total commercial real estate loans at U.S. banks have increased by an alarming $700 billion or 50%.

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“There haven’t been any cataclysmic consequences, so why worry about it?”

The “Deficits Don’t Matter” Folly (Stockman)

Well, that was timely. The US Treasury just posted a record $207 billion deficit for May and record monthly spending of $440 billion. That brought the rolling 12 month deficit to just shy of the trillion dollar mark at $986 billion. The timely part is two-fold. First, it just so happens that May marked month #119 of the current expansion, making it tied for the duration record with the 1990s cycle. But even JM Keynes himself would be rolling in his grave in light of the chart below. To wit, even by the lights of hardcore Keynesians of yore, fiscal deficits were supposed to be falling sharply at the end of a business cycle or even moving into surplus as they did in 1999-2000, not erupting toward 5% of GDP as has now happened.

The second timely note, of sorts, is that the Wall Street Journal was Johnny on the Spot this AM with a front page story entitled, “How Washington Learned to Love Debt and Deficits”. The story’s quote from the current Dem Chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Yarmouth, says it all. There simply has never been such bipartisan complacency about the nation’s public finances in all of modern history – including during the biggest borrow and spend days of FDR, LBJ and every president since Gerald Ford: “Rep. John Yarmuth (D., Ky.), House Budget Committee chairman, says he rarely hears from constituents concerned about rising deficits and debt. Many voters’ attitudes, he says: “There haven’t been any cataclysmic consequences, so why worry about it?”

The WSJ story is a dog’s breakfast of rationalizations, non sequitirs, political double-talk and Keynesian tommyrot. What is the most telling, however, is that it was co-authored by Jon Hilsenrath, who was the paper’s long-time Fed reporter. Yet it contains not a single word about the role of central banks in fostering the utter collapse of fiscal responsibility described by his lengthy report. So for want of doubt, here is the culprit. The central banks of the world have expanded their balance sheets by upwards of $22 trillion since the turn of the century, thereby massively monetizing the erupting public debt of the US and most of the world via fiat credit snatched from thin air.

So did that massive $22 trillion “buy” order from the central banks weigh heavily on the supply of funds side of the scales in the fixed income market, thereby driving bond prices skyward and yields ever lower? Why, goodness gracious, yes it did!

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Really?

Beijing Yields To Hong Kong’s Financial Clout (R.)

Beijing has yielded to Hong Kong’s unique economic status. Carrie Lam, chief executive of the special administrative region, on Saturday indefinitely suspended a bill that would have allowed extradition to the mainland, responding to mass rallies and violent street protests that rocked the city. It’s a defeat for her, and leaves the central government embarrassed. But for the Chinese Communist Party, preserving Hong Kong’s financial role still trumps the desire for more political control. Lam took office in 2017, and is considered a reliable Beijing loyalist. Pushing through the extradition bill, however, came from her, she said. Either way, the central government endorsed it enthusiastically as well. Yet the strength and breadth of the protests caught both Lam and Beijing off guard.


The backlash was not confined to democracy advocates, much less to a radical minority that began calling for independence after the Occupy movement in 2014. It extended to anyone who distrusted the Chinese legal system. In the end, that seemed to be almost everyone. Some tycoons began moving funds out of Hong Kong to Singapore in advance of the bill’s passage, Reuters reported, a hint of the outflows before the 1997 handover from Britain. And not only did the pro-Beijing camp fail to mobilise against the demonstrations in force – as it did in 2014 – the conservative business community began expressing public doubts about the agenda almost immediately. Financial markets wobbled. Worse still, U.S. politicians threatened to re-evaluate Hong Kong’s unique status, which could affect everything from visas to trade.

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We’re all on planet Japan. Pension systems everywhere are imploding.

Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan (Simon Black)

It was only a few days ago that the Japanese government’s Financial Services Agency published its oddly-titled “Annual Report on Ageing Society”. (Like everything in Japan, English translations often hilariously miss the mark…) This is a report that the Ministry of Finance puts out every year. And as the name implies, the report discusses the state of Japan’s pension fund, and its future prospects for taking care of its senior citizens. Bear in mind that Japan has the oldest population in the world; Japan ranks #2 in the world for average age (46.9, just behind Monaco), #1 in the world for the greatest percentage of citizens over the age of 70, and #1 in the world for life expectancy. In a nutshell, this means that Planet Japan has more people collecting pension benefits, for more years, than anywhere else.

Yet at the same time, Japan’s pension fund is completely insolvent. There simply aren’t enough people paying into the system to make good on the promises that have been made. At present there are only 2 workers paying into the pension program for every 1 retiree receiving benefits in Japan. The math simply doesn’t add up, and it’s only getting worse. Planet Japan’s birth rate is infamously low, and the population here is actually DECLINING. So, fast forward another 10-15 years, and there will be even MORE people collecting pension benefits, and even FEWER people paying into the system. This year’s ‘Annual Report on Ageing Society’ plainly stated this reality; it was a brutally honest assessment of Japan’s underfunded pension program.

The report went on to tell people that they needed to save their own money for retirement because the pension fund wouldn’t be able to make ends meet. This terrified a lot of Japanese workers and pensioners. So the government stepped in to quickly solve the problem… by making the report disappear. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized for the report, calling it “inaccurate and misleading.” And Finance Minister Taro Aso– himself a pensioner at age 78 (though in typical Japanese form he looks like he’s 45)– simply un-published the report.

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Jun 082019
 
 June 8, 2019  Posted by at 8:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Georges Seurat Study for “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” 1884

 

Freeing Julian Assange: Part One (Suzie Dawson)
WikiLeaks Warns US Preparing More Charges Against Assange (Wsws)
YouTube, Facebook Purges Are More Extensive Than You Think (Taibbi)
Too Much Money -And Too Few Places To Invest It- (Axios)
Putin Says UK’s Next Prime Minister Should ‘Forget About’ Skripal Attack (Ind.)
Going Where, Exactly? (Kunstler)
Orwell’s Classic ‘1984’ Turns 70 Amid Enduring Interest (AFP)
Boeing Delayed Fix Of Defective 737 MAX Warning Light For Three Years (R.)
Russia-China: a Strategic Alliance for the 21st Century (SCF) /span>
Our Dying World (CP)
Why Replace Dolphins With Oil Drilling? (G.)
The White Man Is Our Finishing Off Our Planet And We Want To Defend It (CD)

 

 

Excellent by Suzie. Who fears for her life and freedom for writing it. She has been living in exile in Moscow.

All of WIkiLeaks has been hit by sex smears. Which destroyed all of their reputations, businesses, etc.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part One (Suzie Dawson)

Julian Assange controlled policy, process, publishing and protected sources. He established satellite organisations and was the managing director of the WikiLeaks empire. Jacob Appelbaum went on stages around the world, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people about the value and importance of utilising and supporting WikiLeaks. He was a major conduit to the tech crowd and a constant presence at developer, privacy and journalism conferences. Trevor Fitzgibbon liaised with media bigwigs, musicians and celebrities, recruiting them to the cause and utilising them to enhance WikiLeaks public profile. He managed media relationships, engineered and pushed proactive narratives.

These three men relentlessly championed WikiLeaks. These three men built the original campaign to save Chelsea Manning. These three men helped to save Edward Snowden. These three men all had their public reputations destroyed. You don’t have to look hard on social media or the web to see how often Julian Assange is described as a serial rapist. Nor to discover that Jacob Appelbaum is described as a serial rapist too. And Trevor Fitzgibbon? Yup, also called a serial rapist. What is the likelihood of all three public figures representing the key pillars of WikiLeaks, conveniently being serial rapists? In retrospect, it defies logic. In aggregate, the subterfuge is so obvious as to be ludicrous. But when the CIA is targeting you there’s always more in store. One rapist, two rapists, three rapists, four.

When celebrated Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson was appointed Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks in October 2018, the announcement was lauded across the aisles. The accolades would be short-lived however, as within a week of his accepting the mantle, he was being smeared as “a hostile and abusive person toward women“, and a “violent drunk with a history of being physically and emotionally abusive of women”. The wording of the smear article is as limp as the accusations – “An air of allegations… He may now face allegations… unable to independently confirm the veracity of these allegations…” No victims came forward. No charges were filed. No investigation launched. They just threw their mud at the new head of the WikiLeaks publishing pillar and hoped it would stick, as it had with the others.

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“In its statement, WikiLeaks warned: “While the case would collapse in the US due to the prosecution’s reliance on testimony by Thordarson and Monsegur, who are not credible witnesses, the United States can conceal their witnesses’ identities during UK extradition proceedings in order to boost their chances of winning.” It continued: “This will make it impossible for Assange to challenge the credibility of the witnesses during UK extradition proceedings, which will commence on 14 June.”

WikiLeaks Warns US Preparing More Charges Against Assange (Wsws)

The US Justice Department is preparing even more charges against journalist and publisher Julian Assange, WikiLeaks warned Thursday. The charges, WikiLeaks said, would be based on the testimony of Sigurdur Thordarson, an FBI informant previously convicted of fraud, who recently travelled to the United States to answer questions aimed at preparing a new indictment. The news came the same day as fresh warnings about the deterioration of Assange’s health. Assange’s father, John Shipton, was scheduled to visit his son in Belmarsh Prison but was turned away and told Assange was seeing a doctor for an apparently urgent visit. “My visit was double-booked, it has been cancelled,” he told Australia’s Herald Sun. “[The doctor’s visit] must be at short notice because a double booking occurred.”

Earlier this week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer warned that Julian Assange could die in prison if his persecution is not stopped immediately. When ABC reporter Philip Williams asked Melzer, “If your calls are ignored, do you fear that he could actually die in prison?” he replied, “Absolutely, yes. That’s a fear that I think is very real.” The Trump administration has until June 14 to present its full request to Britain for Assange’s extradition. The current indictment includes 18 charges, over Assange’s role in the exposure of US war crimes and global diplomatic conspiracies, carrying a maximum sentence of 175 years’ imprisonment. WikiLeaks’ press release, however, stated that the US is likely preparing a superseding indictment. It would include the already unveiled charges, along with new counts against Assange.

WikiLeaks’ press release, however, stated that the US is likely preparing a superseding indictment. It would include the already unveiled charges, along with new counts against Assange. WikiLeaks noted: “Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported that Sigurdur Thordarson was flown to the United States last week where he was ‘comprehensively interrogated,’ in preparation for the filing of a new superseding indictment against Julian Assange by the end of next week.” [..] The FBI informant has no credibility. He has a lengthy record of involvement in illegal spying and state provocations, along with a criminal record encompassing convictions for embezzlement, fraud and sex crimes against minors. Thordarson could not be considered a reliable or honest witness in any prosecution that upheld the right to due process for the accused.

[..] Within a year of his involvement, Thordarson was suspected by WikiLeaks of stealing from the organisation. He was subsequently convicted in Iceland in 2014 of 18 theft-related charges[..] In August 2011, Thordarson claims that he contacted the US embassy in Reykjavik, offering to assist in the “ongoing criminal investigation in the United States” against Assange. He was rapidly picked up as an informant by the FBI. By his own admission, Thordarson met with FBI agents multiple times in Reykjavik between 2011 and 2012. During that period, US authorities flew him to Denmark three times and to the US on one occasion, for secret meetings about WikiLeaks. Thordarson provided the FBI with eight hard drives of material he claimed was from WikiLeaks. He received thousands of dollars from the US government.

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“Legitimate journalists are again being caught in the wash of internet cleanups..”

I like Taibbi, but not this. Talking about “Legitimate Journalists” is far too slippery a slope. What makes a journalist legitimate? Being employed by MSM? Is Assange a journalist? (the term invites that discussion). Moreover, he invites YouTube and Facebook to censor people, but only the “illegitimates”. Only the legal system can decide that, not social media.

YouTube, Facebook Purges Are More Extensive Than You Think (Taibbi)

If you turned on cable news this week, or read our own coverage in Rolling Stone, you might have heard about YouTube’s decision to demonetize well-known conservative commentator Steven Crowder. Crowder’s offense involved calling Vox journalist Carlos Maza a “lispy queer” and a “gay Vox sprite,” leading, says Maza, to further harassment. Much press commentary either cheered YouTube’s move or called it belated. Simultaneously, YouTube announced it would ban whole genres of videos that fell under a hate/conspiracy label. From a Yahoo news summary:


“YouTube announced Wednesday it would ban videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination as well as those denying well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.” “Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended under our YouTube Partner Program.” Many greeted these stories with a shrug. If blue-state audiences even know who Steven Crowder is, they think he’s a jerk. And what could be wrong with removing videos “denying well-documented violent events”?

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“The top 1% of U.S. households are holding a record $303.9 billion of cash, a quantum leap from the under $15 billion they held just before the financial crisis.”

Too Much Money -And Too Few Places To Invest It- (Axios)

A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it. Why it matters: At a time when growing income inequality is fueling voter discontent and underpinning an array of social movements, the top 1% of earners and big companies are holding record levels of unused cash. The big picture: U.S. companies raked in a record $2.3 trillion in corporate profits last year, while the country’s total wealth increased by $6 trillion to $98.2 trillion (40% of which went to those with wealth over $100,000). So, where is all the money going?

The IMF notes large companies around the world are overwhelmingly and uniformly choosing not to reinvest much of it into their businesses. They’re hoarding it in cash and buying back stock. “There are only 2 things that money can do — sit on a balance sheet unused, where it’s just earned income earning an interest rate of zero,” ICI chief economist Sean Collins points out. “Or it makes sense to release it to share buybacks or dividends.” • Companies could pay their workers more, but “that would be terrible for the stock market,” says Neil Shearing, chief economist at Capital Economics — half-jokingly. • Companies made a record $1.1 trillion in stock buybacks in 2018 and are on track to surpass that number this year.

But they still have record cash holdings of close to $3 trillion. Wealthy households and individuals are pouring money into asset managers, betting on companies that lose $1 billion a year, bonds from little-known Middle Eastern republics, and giving hot Silicon Valley start-ups more venture capital than they can handle. And private equity has seen so much cashflow that firms have $2 trillion of unused capital. But even that hasn’t been enough to account for all the new money. The top 1% of U.S. households are holding a record $303.9 billion of cash, a quantum leap from the under $15 billion they held just before the financial crisis.

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Trolling.

Putin Says UK’s Next Prime Minister Should ‘Forget About’ Skripal Attack (Ind.)

Britain’s next prime minister should “forget about” the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury, Vladimir Putin has said. The Russian president said he hoped whoever succeeded Theresa May would see what he described as the bigger picture and move on from the Skripal attack. “When all’s said and done we need to turn this page connected with spies and assassination attempts,” Mr Putin said on the sidelines of an economic forum in St Petersburg. He described Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to MI6, as London’s spy. “He’s your agent not ours. That means you spied against us and it’s hard for me to say what happened with him subsequently. We need to forget about all this in the final analysis,” he said.


[..] Mr Putin recalled his own experience working first for the Soviet Union’s KGB spy service and then Russia’s FSB security service. “Global issues linked with common national interests in the economic, social and security spheres are more important than games played by intelligence services,” he said. ”I’m talking to you as an expert, believe me. We need to cast off this fluff and get down to business.” [..] Mr Putin also issued a stern warning about the danger of a new arms race, accusing the United States on shunning talks on extending the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which is set to expire in 2021. He said while Russia had repeatedly signalled its intention to begin discussions on extending the pact, Washington had been unresponsive. “We have said 100 times already that we are ready, but no one is talking to us,” he claimed.

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“..consider instead the vista of a reduced population working in the fields and pastures to bring enough food out of the long-abused land to live through the next winter.”

Going Where, Exactly? (Kunstler)

Societies are self-organizing, emergent phenomena. They respond to the circumstances that reality presents, and they take us in unexpected directions. The general expectation in the USA since the Second World War has been for ever-increasing material comfort provided by an inexhaustible techno-industrial cornucopia, kind of a cosmic goodie machine. Well, we’d better adjust our thinking to the fact that the horn-of-plenty is shockingly out of goodies, and that no amount of financial hocus-pocus is going to refill it. Valiant attempts to redistribute the already-existing wealth are liable to prove disappointing, especially when the paper and digital representations of that wealth in “money” turn out to be figments — promises to pay that will never be kept because they can’t be kept.


So, instead of fantasizing about free PhD programs for everybody, and free insulin for the multitudes, consider instead the vista of a reduced population working in the fields and pastures to bring enough food out of the long-abused land to live through the next winter. Consider a world in which, if we are lucky, the electricity runs for a few hours a day, but possibly not at all. Imagine a world in which men and women actually function in different divisions of labor and different social spaces because they must, to keep the human project going. Imagine a world in which the ideas in your head about that world actually have to comport with the way the way that world really works — and the severe penalty for failing to recognize that. That’s the more likely world we’re heading into. It won’t put an end to dreams of utopias and cosmic rewards, but it will be a sobering moment in history.

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AFP of course can’t write this without referring to Trump.

Orwell’s Classic ‘1984’ Turns 70 Amid Enduring Interest (AFP)

Seventy years after its publication, George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel “1984” continues to fascinate readers, in particular youngsters growing up in a social media-dominated age of increasing angst. “Some students are very shocked by it, and remain shocked by it,” said Michael Callanan, an English teacher and director of the Orwell Youth Prize, which supports political expression amongst young people. “It is part of the paradox of a book being 70-years-old,” he added. “I think they were taken aback by how fresh and how true to our lives today it strangely is.” Written in 1948, and published the following year, “1984” depicted a chilling future world in which a totalitarian state controls people’s thoughts and actions, suppressing any dissent.


This rigidly-controlled society features a so-called “ministry of truth” that distorts reality, with the ever-watchful eyes of “Big Brother” keeping tabs on citizens’ behaviour. The novel introduced other terms that have endured in the lexicon, including “double-think”, which means “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”, according to Orwell. For Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation, which promotes the work of the writer who died in 1950 aged 46, and administers various awards, his masterpiece was “very prescient”. She noted the book’s description of “two minutes hate” – in which citizens watch a daily film inciting them to hate enemies of the state – as comparable to online hate-mobs today.

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Sinking further.

Boeing Delayed Fix Of Defective 737 MAX Warning Light For Three Years (R.)

Boeing Co learned that a cockpit warning light on its 737 MAX jetliner was defective in 2017 but decided to defer fixing it until 2020, U.S. lawmakers said on Friday. The defective warning light alerts pilots when two sensors that measure the angle between the airflow and the wing disagree. Faulty “angle of attack” data is suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes involving Boeing’s best-selling 737 MAX in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia in March. Those crashes, which killed 346 people, have triggered investigations by aviation regulators and U.S. lawmakers and left Chicago-based Boeing facing one of the biggest crises in its more than 100-year history.


Boeing decided in November 2017 to defer a software update to correct the so-called AOA Disagree alert defect until 2020, three years after discovering the flaw, U.S. Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Rick Larsen said in a press release on Friday. Boeing only accelerated this schedule after the Lion Air accident in Indonesia, they added. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said by email that a company safety review found the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation. “Based on the safety review, the update was scheduled for the MAX 10 entry into service in 2020,” Johndroe said. “We fell short in the implementation of the AoA Disagree alert and are taking steps to address these issues so they do not occur again.”

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Just don’t think they’re friends.

Russia-China: a Strategic Alliance for the 21st Century (SCF) /span>

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed China’s Xi Jinping to Moscow this week for a three-day state visit. It wasn’t just the personal warmth between the two leaders that was on display. They have met on nearly 30 occasions over the past six years. President Xi referred to Putin as his closest international ally and friend. More importantly, the two nations are solidifying a strategic alliance that could define the shape of geopolitics for the 21st Century. Putin and Xi, who also attended the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum this week, signed a raft of bilateral commercial agreements which will propel Eurasian development and indeed global development.

Of particular significance is the continued drive by Moscow and Beijing to conduct international trade in national currencies, obviating the US dollar as a payment means. This is a crucial step in countering the desired “hegemonic control” of the global financial system by Washington. Time and again, Washington has abused its privileged position of printing or withholding dollars in order to further its own agenda of dominating other nations. That abuse has to stop, and it will stop as Russia and China pave the way to a new, fairer mechanism of international finance and trade. The vision of cooperation and partnership outlined by Putin and Xi is one based on mutual respect and peaceful prosperity.

Not just for those two nations but for all others who participate in the multilateral vision that they promulgate. In that way, the alliance being consolidated by Russia and China is one that offers renewed hope in a progressive and peaceful future for the planet. This positive vision is especially welcome at a time when the US under President Donald Trump is unleashing a barrage of tensions and potential conflicts from its bid to assert global dominance. The US is wielding sanctions and threats at numerous nations, including Russia and China, as well as even towards its own supposed allies in Europe, all in a desperate attempt to assert a hegemonic unipolar ambition.

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“twenty-two percent of the earth’s landmass was altered by humans just between 1992 and 2015..”

“More than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in the past three decades..”

Our Dying World (CP)

[..] “twenty-two percent of the earth’s landmass was altered by humans just between 1992 and 2015. Ninety-six percent of the world’s animals, by weight, are now humans and their livestock,” writes Wallace-Wells. He describes “the forces that unleashed climate change – namely ‘the unchecked wisdom of the market’” to conclude that “neoliberalism is the God that failed on climate change.” Indeed those who hope that salvation from the human-induced climate catastrophe will come from our neoliberal leaders are deluding themselves and wasting time.

For those who consider our ravaged climate the work of centuries, this book will be a shock. “More than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in the past three decades,” Wallace-Wells writes. The climate catastrophe is predominantely the creation of the World War II generation, the boomers and their children. And if we don’t wean ourselves quickly from oil and gas, from our meat-intensive diet, and if we don’t stop pouring concrete, large parts of the earth will become uninhabitable. In fact, the UN projects “200 million climate refugees by 2050.” At the high end, Wallace-Wells quotes “a billion or more vulnerable people with little choice but to fight or flee.” You think the Syrian war produced a refugee crisis for Europe (a war, by the way, largely fuelled by climate-change induced drought)? Or that Central American drought has propelled unsustainable numbers of migrants to the U. S.? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

If business continues as usual, by century’s end, we humans will have the distinction of having produced eight degrees of warming. (Currently we’ve produced one degree of warming.) People “at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around outside without dying…whole regions will become unlivable…as soon as the end of this century.” Train tracks will buckle and roads will melt. Another way of stating matters is “twenty-five Holocausts and the worst case outcome puts us on the brink of extinction.” And this disaster has just started.

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Because Greece needs money.

Why Replace Dolphins With Oil Drilling? (G.)

Before the giants of oil and gas joined the litany of threats facing Greek sperm whales, the plight of the world’s largest-toothed animal was little known. Like the Hellenic trench, which was discovered only two decades ago and is the habitat most associated with the species, the mammals were once the preserve of dedicated oceanographers. Now international eco-warriors, bent on stopping oil companies drilling for underwater reserves, are determined to put both the region and its unique species on the map. At stake is an unusually endangered zone. One of the world’s most significant marine mammal areas, it is home not only to the sperm whale, Greece’s chief predator, but fin whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, fast-vanishing common dolphins, Mediterranean monk seals and loggerhead sea turtles.

All face mortal danger if, as planned, exploration for hydrocarbons is conducted off the country’s western coast. With worries mounting, WWF Greece and Greenpeace recently went to Athens’ highest administrative court, the council of state, in the hope of getting two oil company concessions annulled in waters off western and south-western Crete. The organisations cited inadequate environmental monitoring, both post- and pre-exploration. The move follows publication of an unprecedented declaration by 100 of the world’s leading scientists, conservation and ecological groups. The prospective drilling was described in a two-page statement as the death knell for iconic sea mammals already facing manmade threats ranging from ship strikes and plastic pollutants to radar noise from military naval exercises.

“Despite its global import, cetaceans in the Hellenic trench are already facing a series of direct and severe threats,” the signatories opined, calling on leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras to cancel the offshore activity. “Oil and gas exploration and exploitation as an additional great threat … would become an important blow to their chances of survival.” Greece, they said, should instead follow “the bold political and investment decisions” of other EU member states by embracing renewable energy rather than hydrocarbons, one of the biggest drivers of climate change.

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But the domain name goes to Bezos.

The White Man Is Our Finishing Off Our Planet And We Want To Defend It (CD)

Satellite images reviewed by the Brazilian government show massive deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a grim reminder of the devastation wrought by the country’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro. According to Reuters, 285 square miles of forest was cleared in May, the highest one month total in a decade. The information comes from Brazilian space research institute INPE’s DETER alert system. “If this upward curve continues, we could have a bad year for the Amazon forest,” said INPE satellite monitoring head Claudio Almeida. The Amazon deforestation is just part of a global problem, said youth activist Greta Thunberg. “Disastrous deforestation like this must come to an end,” Thunberg said. “And not just in the Amazon… We are literally sawing off the branch we all live on.”


[..] The Bolsonaro administration in January announced its plans to open the Amazon for resource exploitation—a move that came before the new presidency was even a month old. At the time, Bolsonaro’s chief of strategic affairs Maynard Santa Rosa referred to the Amazon as an “unproductive, desertlike” area that would benefit from development. In April, as Common Dreams reported, indigenous activists in Brazil sounded the alarm over the Bolsonaro government’s attack on the rainforest and made a non-violent demonstration at the country’s capital city of Brasilia. “The white man is our finishing off our planet and we want to defend it,” Alessandra Munduruku, a representative of the Munduruku tribe from the northern state of Pará, said during that protest.

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May 302019
 


 

WikiLeaks Expresses ‘Grave Concerns’ for Assange’s Health (CN)
Press Freedom is Under Threat in the Land of its Birth (CP)
Putin Has A Mueller Pee Tape (RT)
The Limits of American Destructiveness (Dmitry Orlov)
China Accuses US Of ‘Naked Economic Terrorism’ (AFP)
Why Tesla At $10 Is Not Far-Fetched (Colombo)
UK Car Production Plunged By Nearly Half In April (G.)
Boris Johnson To Face Court Over Brexit Claims (R.)
Boeing 737 MAX Won’t Fly Again Before August – IATA (G.)
The Day Einstein Became A Global Star (Dunn)
Good News: Elephant Slaughter Down. Bad News: They Still Face Total Doom (AFP)

 

 

“Assange’s health has deteriorated too much to appear via video link for today’s extradition hearing in central London. It may now take place at Belmarsh prison.”

WikiLeaks Expresses ‘Grave Concerns’ for Assange’s Health (CN)

WikiLeaks has condemned Britain for its treatment of Julian Assange, expressing “grave concerns” for the health of its publisher who has been transferred to the health ward of Belmarsh prison in London. In a statement released on Twitter on Wednesday, the publication also condemned Ecuador for having created conditions “incompatible with basic human rights” for Assange, who had been granted asylum in its London embassy and remained there for seven years. He was cutoff the last year from the internet with only minimal visits permitted. [..] Britain had twice ignored rulings by the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention that the UK should let Assange free and pay him compensation.


“The UK’s refusal to abide by UN rulings, and its subsequent treatment of Mr. Assange since his arrest, presents serious questions about the UK’s standing as a human rights-abiding nation,” WikiLeaks said in its statement. Assange has been kept in isolation for 23 hours a day at Belmarsh, and has been allowed only a handful of visits from his lawyers. The UN’s special rapporteur for torture visited him with a doctor, who examined Assange, earlier this month. The rapporteur’s report has not yet been released. “During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight,” WikiLeaks said.

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“.. the tradition of press freedom was actually established way back in 1735..”

Press Freedom is Under Threat in the Land of its Birth (CP)

Assange had always claimed that he had skipped bail on a scheduled court hearing over a Swedish government extradition request that it was all a trumped up affair designed to get him to Sweden where he could then more easily be deported to the US to face espionage charges. That claim was scoffed at by British prosecutors, Swedish prosecutors and by most of the US media, including publications like the NY Times and the Washington Post. Those two publications had been all too happy to publish Wikileaks documents, but both have subsequently derisively mocked Assange’s claim to be a fellow publisher and journalist entitled to First Amendment protection from US prosecution for Wikileaks’ releasing of classified government documents obtained from whistleblowers like Snowden and Army private Chelsea Manning.

These smug supposed models of journalistic professionalism and integrity have been happy to have Assange’s Wikileaks do the dirty drudge work of gaining the trust of whistleblowers, receiving their leaked classified materials documenting criminal and corrupt behavior by the US and other governments, and disseminating those documents to the world’s media while protecting their sources — the very job that the reporters at publications like the Times and Post should be doing — but then turn around and claim that Assange is not a real journalist and Wikileaks is not a real publication because it supposedly doesn’t have a fine, professional editorial staff vetting its documents to protect privacy and of course “national security.” It’s a joke really, when one considers the error-filled and propaganda-peddling articles both publications regularly put into print despite or perhaps with the endorsement of those “professional” editors. (Besides which Wikileaks does review and where necessary, properly censors the material it releases.)

This pinched view of what constitutes the “press” when it comes to First Amendment protection ignores the reality that the tradition of press freedom was actually established way back in 1735, well before the founding of the United States or the passage of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That’s when John Peter Zenger, the owner of a printing press in the colony of New York on which he published a small newspaper, the New York Weekly Journal, won acquittal in a criminal libel suit brought against him by the governor of the colony of New York. Was Zenger, an immigrant from Germany who’s English skills are described as “poor,” a “real” journalist with an editor overseeing his work for accuracy when he won that groundbreaking case? No. And how about that journalistic pioneer Ben Franklin? Did he have an editor checking his work for accuracy, respect for privacy, etc. in 1729 when he and partner Hugh Meredith began publishing their Pennsylvania Gazette? Of course not!

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How upside down is this?

Muellker: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Putin Has A Mueller Pee Tape (RT)

After Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered a public statement standing by the findings of his final report, liberal commentators began reading between the lines. How long before Putin is accused of getting to Mueller?
Mueller delivered his public statement on Wednesday, and offered very few surprises. His final report, which cleared President Donald Trump of colluding with Russia in 2016 and found insufficient evidence to bring obstruction charges against the president, “speaks for itself,” Mueller said. The Special Counsel also stated that Attorney General William Barr has already “made the report on our investigation largely public,” and that he would not testify on anything beyond the publicly available information.

So a bland statement of Justice Department policy? On the surface, yes. But that didn’t stop Democrats from clamoring for further investigations, or viewing Mueller’s declination to prosecute as a dog-whistle for impeachment. Journalist Mark Ames joked that “Putin has a Mueller pee tape,” a reference to one particularly lurid tale presented in the ‘Steele Dossier.’ Ironically, the Steele Dossier –though completely uncorroborated– was used by the FBI to justify surveilling the Trump campaign and played a central role in kick-starting the investigation that Mueller eventually took over. Ames added: “If Maddow doesn’t air a segment tonight claiming Putin has a Mueller pee tape, it can only mean one thing–Putin has a Maddow pee tape.”

Are Robert Mueller and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow guilty by urination? Well, no, but the idea that Maddow would air such a segment on Mueller is not a far-fetched one. In the two years since Mueller took over the ‘Russiagate’ investigation, Maddow has flung dung-heaps of conspiratorial Russian nonsense at viewers every night. There was her warning that the Kremlin could “flip the off switch” on the US power grid and freeze Americans to death last winter, the suggestion that Trump personally paid for the services of “Russian hackers,” and the insistence that Vladimir Putin would use the (then debunked) ‘Pee Tape’ to force Trump to withdraw US troops from Eastern Europe (the exact opposite happened).

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“You can’t tell anything by looking at [Pompeo’s] smirking fat mug, but I am sure that he was crying on the inside.”

The Limits of American Destructiveness (Dmitry Orlov)

When Saddam Hussein decided to start selling oil for euros, the CIA organized a provocation that caused him to invade Kuweit as punishment for stealing Iraqi oil. This allowed the US to organize a gigantic expeditionary force with divisions from a large number of countries, including Syria and Egypt and pretty much all of NATO. After a decade of Hussein festering in place, a somewhat smaller coalition dealt him the coup de grâce, destroying Iraq in the process. The victims of the American invasion and occupation outnumber Saddam Hussein’s victims by orders of magnitude. Later, the same thing was done to Muammar Qaddafi, for similar reasons, and Libya is likely to remain as a ruin. There, some sort of minor coalition was cobbled together.

But now the US finds that it urgently needs to knock out Iran because otherwise it will be too late. It is time to form a new coalition and Mike Pompeo has started racing around Eurasia. First off, he offended the Germans by canceling his state visit with Angela Merkel on a moment’s notice and without offering a reason. Instead, he flew to Baghdad—a perfect location for launching an attack on Iran, except that the Iraqi response was a message of solidarity with Iran, willingness to mediate the US-Iranian dispute, and consideration of a ban on US troops on Iraqi soil.

And so Mike flew to Sochi, where he met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and, briefly, with Putin. Most likely, Putin told him where he can stuff his war plans, and so Mike canceled his planned trip to Moscow, to avoid having Sergei Lavrov wipe his feet on him again. And so Mike flew on to Europe, where he got a quick “no” on Iran from EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini and an outright refusal to meet from the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain. And so Mike flew back to Washington. You can’t tell anything by looking at his smirking fat mug, but I am sure that he was crying on the inside.

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Thinking about that term. Is it the opposite of all-dressed economic terrorism?

China Accuses US Of ‘Naked Economic Terrorism’ (AFP)

China accused the United States of “naked economic terrorism” on Thursday as Beijing ramps up the rhetoric in their trade war. The world’s top two economies are at loggerheads as trade talks have apparently stalled, with US President Donald Trump hiking tariffs on Chinese goods earlier this month and blacklisting telecom giant Huawei. “We are against the trade war, but we are not afraid of it,” vice foreign minister Zhang Hanhui said at a press briefing to preview President Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia next week. “This premeditated instigation of a trade conflict is naked economic terrorism, economic chauvinism, and economic bullying,” Zhang said, stressing that China opposes the systematic use of sanctions, tariffs and protectionism. “There is no winner in a trade war,” he warned.


China has hit back with its own tariff increase that will take effect June 1, while state media has suggested that Beijing could stop exports of rare earths to the United States, depriving Washington of a key resource used to make hi-tech products. Meanwhile, state media and officials have stepped up the rhetoric, tapping patriotic fervour as the Communist Party digs in for what could be a long fight with the United States. An anchor for the English-language state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) even held a rare debate on Thursday with a presenter from Fox Business Network to discuss the trade war after jousting on social media. The debate between CGTN’s Liu Xin and Fox Business’s Trish Regan was civil, with the American journalist saying “I appreciate you being here” and the Chinese anchor inviting her to come to China, adding “I will take you around”.

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No bubble, no Tesla.

Why Tesla At $10 Is Not Far-Fetched (Colombo)

Last week, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas shocked the investing world by cutting his worst-case forecast for Tesla stock from $97 to just $10 per share (it was trading at approximately $200 per share at the time of the announcement). Jonas cited the company’s heavy debt load and exposure to China as the main reasons for his downgraded outlook – “The reduction in our bear case to $10 is driven primarily by our concerns around Chinese demand for Tesla products.” “Our revised bear case assumes Tesla misses our current Chinese volume forecast by roughly half to account for the highly volatile trade situation in the region, particularly around areas of technology, which we believe run a high and increasing risk of government/regulatory attention.” Tesla’s stock price has plunged by over 50% or $200 since its peak in December:

While most analysts and financial journalists completely laughed off Adam Jonas’ $10 worst-case forecast for Tesla stock, what immediately came to my mind was that it was not far-fetched at all. While Jonas’ basis for that price was the company’s heavy debt load and exposure to China, which are both valid risks in their own right, I have been warning about a much larger macro risk that virtually nobody else is discussing: Tesla’s exposure to the U.S. household wealth bubble. To summarize my argument, U.S. household wealth has been experiencing a bubble in recent years because the Fed has artificially inflated stock and bond prices. This household wealth bubble has created a wealth effect that has helped to temporarily boost consumer spending, including sales of Tesla automobiles.


Tesla is a luxury car company that sells expensive cars to affluent people, and the U.S. is responsible for approximately half of Tesla’s sales. As much as Tesla has been struggling (Tesla lost nearly $1 billion in 2018 and $2 billion in 2017), those struggles are occurring during the largest wealth bubble that has ever occurred in America’s history. If Tesla can’t make it in this frothy environment, they’re not going to make it period. Unfortunately, like all bubbles, today’s household wealth bubble will violently burst, just like it did in the early-2000s and in 2008 and 2009. When that happens, Tesla will bleed red ink like never before and $10 per share may become a reality.

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And I think that’s a good thing.

UK Car Production Plunged By Nearly Half In April (G.)

Car production plunged by nearly half in April as factories shut down to prepare for a Brexit date that never came, prompting renewed anguish from the UK motor industry at the “untold damage” done by prolonged uncertainty. In a slump that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) described as “extraordinary”, 70,971 vehicles rolled off the production lines in April, down 44.5% from 127,970 in the same month of last year. Labour said the figures showed that the government’s “mishandling” of Brexit was already hurting carmakers, warning of further pain if the next Tory leader backs leaving the EU without a deal.

The majority of the decline in production was down to large automotive firms such as Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and Peugeot bringing forward annual maintenance stoppages that usually take place in the summer. By moving the date of the planned shutdowns, they hoped to ensure that any disruption to their supply lines around 29 March – the original date of Brexit – took place while production lines were already idling, minimising the impact. However, the postponement of the UK’s exit from the EU means that the stoppages, which the SMMT called “costly”, proved to be needless. The shutdowns cannot be repeated over the new Brexit date of 31 October, meaning car firms will have to bear any slowdown to their vital “just-in-time” manufacturing processes during a period of full-scale output.

[..] April’s fall in vehicle production is the 11th straight monthly decline, with previous falls put down to sluggish demand in international markets including the EU, US and China. However, the 44.5% slump in April was much steeper than the 15% seen in February and the 13% reported in March, with the SMMT blaming Brexit contingency plans.

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“..he lied about Brexit by stating Britain would be 350 million pounds a week better off outside the EU..”

Boris Johnson To Face Court Over Brexit Claims (R.)

Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May as British prime minister, must appear in court over allegations he lied about Brexit by stating Britain would be 350 million pounds a week better off outside the EU, a judge ruled on Wednesday. The figure, famously emblazoned on a campaign bus, was a central and controversial part of the Leave campaign’s successful “take back control” message ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Opponents argued that it was deliberately misleading and it became symbolic of the divisions caused by the referendum, which saw Britons vote by 52%-48% to leave the European Union.


District Judge Margot Coleman ruled that Johnson, a former British foreign secretary and ex-mayor of London, must answer a private summons alleging he had committed three criminal offences of misconduct in a public office. In her written ruling at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Coleman said the accusations were not proven. But she added: “Having considered all the relevant factors I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested for the three offences as drafted. “This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing, and the case will then be sent to the Crown Court for trial,” she said.

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The pressure mounts.

Boeing 737 MAX Won’t Fly Again Before August – IATA (G.)

The Boeing 737 Max aircraft will not return to the skies before August, according to the head of aviation’s main trade body.The 737 Max was grounded by regulators in the wake of two crashes, and although manufacturer Boeing has been working on a fix to allay safety concerns, it is likely to remain out of service for another 10 to 12 weeks, into peak season for many airlines. Alexandre de Juniac, the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, said the timing would depend on regulators, but he hoped to see a unified global timetable for the model’s reintroduction. [..] Speaking in Seoul ahead of the association’s annual meeting, De Juniac said airlines were not expecting a return to service within the next 10 to 12 weeks: “But it is not our hands. That is in the hands of regulators.”

Iata is planning a summit meeting between airlines, regulators and Boeing in July to discuss a coordinated timeline to restore the 737 Max to commercial flying, De Juniac said. “We hope that [the regulators] will align their timeframe,” he said. The 737 Max disasters have ignited tensions between regulators on either side of the Atlantic, amid concerns over the FAA’s relationship with Boeing, including the degree of self-certification. Ethiopia chose to send the data recorders from the crash to safety investigators in Paris, and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has indicated it would carry out its own assessment of the 737 fix, rather than rely on the FAA. According to Reuters, sources at ICAO, the UN aviation agency, believe the FAA will approve the 737 Max again as soon as late June.

US operators United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, early customers of the model sold as a more fuel-efficient iteration of the 737 shorthaul workhorse, have removed the planes from their flight schedules until early to mid-August. De Juniac said prolonged grounding was “taking its toll” on airlines. Although Iata expects its 290 airline members to be recording a 10th consecutive year of aggregate profit, he said the 737 was adding to headwinds including “rising costs, trade wars and other uncertainties [that] are likely to have an impact on the bottom line”.

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May 29 1919.

The Day Einstein Became A Global Star (Dunn)

One hundred years ago, two teams of British astronomers travelled thousands of miles to photograph the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919. But they weren’t just there for the spectacle – they intended to prove Albert Einstein’s relativity theory. Much like today, few people understood Einstein’s work in the 1910s. Those who could get their head round it, however, knew that if his ideas were correct, a massive body like the Sun would bend any light passing near it. A way to test this would be to photograph the stars around the Sun during an eclipse and then photograph them again when the Sun was further away from them. Comparing the images would allow you to measure any displacement in the stars’ apparent positions.

According to Einstein’s theories, the change should be 1.75 arcseconds, twice the value predicted by Newtonian physics. To put that figure in context, it’s like trying to measure the width of a penny from a mile away. But that was exactly what two teams of British astronomers hoped to do in 1919. To add to the challenge, they had to transport their equipment to Sobral in northern Brazil, and the island of Príncipe, off the west coast of Africa. One of the architects of the plan was Arthur Stanley Eddington, professor of astronomy at Cambridge and an active promoter of Einstein’s theories (he was one of the few people who understood them). As a Quaker and pacifist, he also welcomed the opportunity to promote international cooperation after global war.

Eddington went to Príncipe with clockmaker Edwin Cottingham, while Charles Davidson and Andrew Crommelin of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, went to Brazil. Each team took a large telescope, used to capture the image fed into it from a coelostat, a clockwork-driven mirror that counteracted Earth’s rotation during long exposures of up to half a minute. The Sobral team also took a second, smaller telescope as backup. [..] It was only in November 1919 that the results were announced at a meeting in London. When they were, it was the photographs from the smaller telescope at Sobral that proved decisive and were then distributed to astronomers worldwide.

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Death penalty. Nothing else works.

Good News: Elephant Slaughter Down. Bad News: They Still Face Total Doom (AFP)

The illegal slaughter of African elephants to feed Asia’s demand for ivory has decreased by more than half in eight years, but the majestic mammals are still threatened with extinction, researchers warned. In 2011, poachers killed some 40,000 tuskers – about 10 per cent of the continent’s population, according to figures from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), based in Geneva. Last year the kill rate was about four per cent, or 15,000 animals, according to new research published in Nature Communications. “We are seeing a downturn in poaching, but it is still above what we think is sustainable,” co-author Colin Beale, a conservation biologist at the University of York, said.


On current trends, the African elephant is in danger of being “virtually wiped out”, surviving only in small, heavily protected pockets, he said. A century ago up to 12 million of the world’s heaviest land animal roamed the continent. Today, they number about 500,000, if forest elephants – a subspecies – are included. Despite a 1990 ban on international trade in ivory, demand in Southeast Asia and especially China has overwhelmed the capacity of local and global authorities to curb the carnage. “Currently, poaching is worst in west and central Africa,” said Beale. “I worry most for the future of forest elephants.” Smaller, more solitary than their cousins on the savannah, forest tuskers in the Congo Basin are estimated to have declined by 65 per cent over the last 15 years alone.

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May 212019
 


Albrecht Dürer Praying hands 1508

 

President Trump Takes Aim at the Military Industrial Complex (Cassandra)
Xi Sends Trump A Message: Rare-Earth Export Ban Is Coming (ZH)
US Judge Backs Democrats’ Request For Trump Financial Records (AFP)
Fed’s Powell: Business Debt No Subprime Crisis, But Still Merits Reflection (R.)
Deutsche Bank Death Spiral Hits New Low. European Banks Get Re-Hammered (WS)
The Missing Step (Craig Murray)
Battle Breaks Out For WikiLeaks Founder Assange’s Computers (Fox)
Joe Biden, The Tranquilizer (Jim Kunstler)
Nigel Farage Copied Italy’s Five Star Movement (G.)
Italian Dock Workers Refuse To Load Saudi Arms Ship Over Yemen War (RT)
New Ukraine President: “First Task” Is To “End War In Donbass” (ZH)
Yesterday The Definition of The Kilogram Changed Forever (SA)

 

 

It’s too contradictory to say such things after handing Bolton and Pompeo a job.

President Trump Takes Aim at the Military Industrial Complex (Cassandra)

President Donald Trump took aim at the military industrial complex in an interview with Fox News, saying that while he wants to bring troops home, “they never want to leave, they always want to fight.” The president was discussing Iran and how he prefers to solve tensions economically, but is up against people that would send “thousands of soldiers” into Syria if it was up to them. Hilton had asked the president if he could “reassure people you’re not looking for some kind of conflict in Iran?” His response was far different than his tough tweet about Iran on Sunday. “Well, I’m the one that talks about these wars that are 19 years (long), and people are just there. And don’t kid yourself, you do have a military industrial complex. They do like war,” Trump said in his interview with Fox News’s Steve Hilton.


“You know, In Syria with the caliphate, so I wipe out 100% of the caliphate that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have these crazy people going around, blowing up stores and blowing up things, these are seriously ill people…But I wiped out 100 percent of the caliphate,” Trump continued. “I said, I want to bring our troops back home — the place went crazy. They want to keep– you have people here in Washington, they never want to leave. I said, you know what I’ll do, I’ll leave a couple hundred soldiers behind, but if it was up to them they’d bring thousands of soldiers in.” Trump added, “someday people will explain it, but you do have a group, and they call it the military-industrial complex.” “They never want to leave, they always want to fight. No. I don’t want to fight, but you do have situations like Iran. You can’t let them have nuclear weapons. You just can’t let that happen,” Trump said.

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The problems with rare earth metals have been known for a long time. So preparations have been made. Weaponized?

Xi Sends Trump A Message: Rare-Earth Export Ban Is Coming (ZH)

Back in April of 2018, when the trade war with China was still in its early stages, we explained that among the five “nuclear” options Beijing has to retaliate against the US, one was the block of rare-earth exports to the US, potentially crippling countless US supply chains that rely on these rare commodities, and forcing painful and costly delays in US production as alternative supply pathways had to be implemented. As a result, for many months China watchers expected Beijing to respond to Trump’s tariff hikes by blocking the exports of one or more rare-earths, although fast forwarding one year later this still hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and overnight President Xi Jinping’s visit to a rare earths facility fueled speculation that the strategic materials will soon be weaponized in China’s tit-for-tat war [with] the US.

As Bloomberg reported overnight, shares in JL MAG Rare-Earth surged by the daily limit on Monday after Xinhua said the Chinese president had stopped by the company in Jiangxi, a scripted move designed to telegraph what China could do next. The reason for the dramatic market response is that the presidential visit flags policy priorities, and “rare earths have featured in the escalating trade spat between the U.S. and China.” Specifically, as Bloomberg notes, China raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on American imports, while the U.S. excluded rare earths from its own list of prospective tariffs on roughly $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to be targeted in the next wave of measures. And just in case the White House missed the message, Xi was accompanied on the trip to JL MAG by Liu He, the vice premier who has led the Chinese side in the trade negotiations.

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Lawyers laughing all the way to the bank. For years.

US Judge Backs Democrats’ Request For Trump Financial Records (AFP)

A US federal judge on Monday denied President Donald Trump’s efforts to quash a subpoena from Democratic lawmakers to release years of financial documents dating from before his time in the White House. The decision marked the first time that US courts have waded into the conflict pitting the president against the Democrats who, riding on their newfound majority in the House of Representatives, have opened a raft of probes into Trump. Trump, who says he is the victim of “harassment,” has refused to cooperate in the investigations focused on his tax returns, his finances or matters related to Russian efforts to tip the 2016 election in his favor. US District Judge Amit Mehta refused to block the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena for accounting firm Mazars USA pending litigation.


The lawmakers’ April 15 request for records dating back to 2011 followed testimony by Trump’s one-time lawyer Michael Cohen that his boss would often change the estimated value of his assets and liabilities on financial statements as he felt was needed for various purposes. On April 22, Trump and affiliated organizations and entities filed suit, requesting that the court declare the subpoena “invalid and unenforceable” as it questioned the legislative validity of the Democrats’ demands.] “So long as Congress investigates on a subject matter on which ‘legislation could be had,’ Congress acts as contemplated by Article I of the Constitution,” which guarantees the body its legislative powers, Mehta said. “Applying those principles here compels the conclusion that President Trump cannot block the subpoena to Mazars.”

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Unless his power is taken away, he will lead the US into oblivion.

Fed’s Powell: Business Debt No Subprime Crisis, But Still Merits Reflection (R.)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Monday dismissed comparisons between the rise of business debt to record levels in recent years and the conditions in U.S. mortgage markets that preceded the 2007-to-2009 economic crisis, but even so said caution was warranted. Comparisons to the years before the financial crisis are “not fully convincing” Powell said at an Atlanta Federal Reserve bank conference on financial markets, since the growth of debt seems in line with economic growth, debt service costs remain low, and the financial system is better positioned to absorb losses.


Despite that, he pointed to the lack of transparency about the funding sources and ultimate holders of corporate debt, and to risks that any economic downturn could worsen if indebted borrowers begin to fail as reasons for caution. “Business debt has clearly reached a level that should give businesses and investors reason to pause and reflect,” Powell said, with corporate borrowing at a record level of around 35 percent of corporate assets. Though growth in corporate debt has slowed lately, “another sharp increase…could increase vulnerabilities appreciably,” Powell said. That concern is another reason the Fed may be reluctant to cut interest rates, since lower borrowing costs could prompt firms to take on more debt.

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What you get when you don’t allow zombies to die.

Deutsche Bank Death Spiral Hits New Low. European Banks Get Re-Hammered (WS)

The amazing thing with Deutsche Bank shares is this: Since 2007, so for 12 years, bottom fishers have been routinely taken out the back and shot, every time, with relentless regularity – as have big institutional investors, from Chinese conglomerates to state-owned wealth funds, that thought they were picking the bottom. A similar concept applies to European banks in general. May 2007 was the high point. And it has been brutal ever since – 12 years of misery. Deutsche Bank shares dropped another 2.9% on Monday in Frankfurt, and closed at a new historic low of €6.64 after hitting €6.61 intraday. This time, the blame was put on UBS analysts that finally stamped “sell” on the stock, replacing their “neutral” rating. Deutsche Bank’s market cap is now down to just €13.8 billion. Shares have plunged 39% over the past 12 months and 60% since January 2018 (data via Investing.com):

The bank has been subject to years of revelations of shenanigans that span the palette. Once a conservative bank that primarily served its German business clientele in Germany and overseas, it decided to turn itself into a Wall Street high-flyer that caused its shares to skyrocket until May 2007, when it got tangled up in the Financial Crisis that then led to a slew of apparently never-ending hair-raising revelations, settlements with regulators, and huge fines. Since their death-spiral began in May 2007, Deutsche Bank shares have lost over 94% of their value. The UBS downgrade to sell came just in the nick of time:

[..] the stocks of European banks, as depicted by the Stoxx 600 Banks index – which tracks 44 representative banks – dropped 1.6% on Monday to the lowest level since January 9, 2019, and has plunged 30% since the end of January 2018. But going back 12 years, the plunge takes on different dimensions and parallels that of Deutsche Bank, with the index down 74% since May 2007, just bumping along the bottom, from hopeless to hope and back to hopeless:

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“The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor.”

The Missing Step (Craig Murray)

In Sweden, prosecutors have applied to the Swedish courts to issue a warrant for Julian’s arrest. There is a tremendous back story to that simple statement. The European Arrest Warrant must be issued from one country to another by a judicial authority. The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor. This was particularly strange, as the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm had initially closed the case after deciding there was no case to answer, and then another, highly politically motivated, prosecutor had reopened the case and issued a European Arrest Warrant, without going to any judge for confirmation. [..] immediately after Assange lost his case against the warrant in the Supreme Court, the British government changed the law to specify that future warrants must be from a judge and not a prosecutor.

[..] The judgement against Assange in the UK Supreme Court on the point of whether the Swedish Prosecutor constituted a “judicial authority” hinged on a completely unprecedented and frankly incredible piece of reasoning. Lord Phillips concluded that in the English text of the EWA treaty “judicial authority” could not include the Swedish prosecutor, but that in the French version “autorite judiciaire” could include the Swedish prosecutor. The two texts having equal validity, Lord Phillips decided to prefer the French language text over the English language text, an absolutely stunning decision as the UK negotiators could be presumed to have been working from the English text, as could UK ministers and parliament when they ratified the decision.

[..] Sweden has not filed a request for arrest. Sweden is going through its judicial processes – which it skipped the first time – in order to decide whether or not to file a request for arrest. This gives Assange the opportunity to start the process of fighting the allegations, which he strenuously denies, in the Swedish courts. However at present his Swedish lawyer cannot access him in Belmarsh high security jail, which is typical of the abuses of process to which he is subject.

[..] Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes. Contrast, for example, the Panama Papers which, contrary to promises, only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM intermediaries. Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.

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“If anything surfaces, I can assure you it would’ve been planted,” he said. “Julian isn’t a novice when it comes to security and securing his information. We expected this to happen and protections have been in place for a very long time.”

Battle Breaks Out For WikiLeaks Founder Assange’s Computers (Fox)

On Monday, judicial authorities from Ecuador carried out an inventory of all the belongings and digital devices left behind at the London embassy following his expulsion last month from the diplomatic compound that had been his home the past seven years. It came as Sweden announced it was seeking Assange’s arrest on suspicion of rape, setting up a possible future tug-of-war with the United States over any extradition of Assange from Britain.

It’s not known what devices authorities removed from the embassy or what information they contained. But authorities said they were acting on a request by the U.S. prosecutors, leading Assange’s defenders to claim that Ecuador has undermined the most basic principles of asylum while denying the secret-spiller’s right to prepare his defense. “It’s disgraceful,” WikiLeaks’ editor in chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Ecuador granted him asylum because of the threat of extradition to the U.S. and now the same country, under new leadership, is actively collaborating with a criminal investigation against him.”

[..] Hrafnsson, who has visited the Australian activist in jail, said Assange saw his eviction coming for weeks as relations with President Lenin Moreno’s government deteriorated, so he took great care to scrub computers and hard drives of any compromising material, including future planned leaks or internal communications with WikiLeaks collaborators. Still, Hrafnsson said he fully expects Moreno or the Americans to claim revelations that don’t exist. He called Monday’s proceedings a “horse show” because no legal authority can guarantee Assange’s devices haven’t been tampered with, or the chain of custody unbroken, in the six weeks since his arrest. “If anything surfaces, I can assure you it would’ve been planted,” he said. “Julian isn’t a novice when it comes to security and securing his information. We expected this to happen and protections have been in place for a very long time.”

[..] According to the request for a detention order obtained by The Associated Press, Assange is wanted for “intentionally having carried out an intercourse” with an unnamed woman “by unduly exploiting that she was in a helpless state because of sleep.”

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Biden is damaged goods.

Joe Biden, The Tranquilizer (Jim Kunstler)

I call Mr. Trump the Golden Golem of Greatness for a reason (several really) but mainly for his seemingly implacable demeanor. He’s exactly like that folkloric figure from the mists beyond the Pale of Settlement, an animate hunk of impassive clay communing with spirits of the dead, blundering blindly about the land, scaring little children and turning the peasants’ blood to ice-water. You might even say he was conjured up by the very deacons of Wokesterism who now tremble at his every thundering footstep.

Uncle Joe Biden is surely the antidote to all that. He served four years under the Wokester Deacon-in-Chief, Mr. Obama, and cheerfully endured his ritual castration, rendering him harmless to all who must-be-believed, and other sub-categories of the aggrieved and oppressed. At 76, he is way older than anyone (anyone serious, that is) who ever ran for President before, perhaps bordering even on feeble, and that’s another plus: he couldn’t hurt a fly. At least not here in the States. He has no plans, apparently, to try to make America great again — but he still has a hearty appetite for international adventuring that might redound to the benefit of the US War industry and its handmaidens on K Street and Capitol Hill.

And, of course, Uncle Joe goes through these palliative motions of bringing tranquility to the Democratic scramble, his smile fixed, teeth gleaming, hair perfect, hand a’pumping, as ever more information emerges about the spectacular effrontery of his international money-grubbing while vice-president. He did what in Ukraine in 2014. And Uncle Joe’s son, Hunter, walked away with how many millions of dollars after being appointed to the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings? Uncle Joe even bragged to the Council on Foreign Relations about how he browbeat Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko into firing their equivalent of Attorney General, who was about to look into this fishy Burisma deal. And then there was the even bigger windful after Uncle Joe paid a call on China and Hunter’s shadowy company, Rosemont Seneca, landed a billion dollar private equity deal (whatever that means) from an equally shadowy company fronting for the Chinese government.

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If Casaleggio hadn’t suddenly died, M5S would have been much stronger.

Nigel Farage Copied Italy’s Five Star Movement (G.)

One day in January 2015, Nigel Farage gave his senior adviser, Raheem Kassam, an unusual bit of news. “On Monday, we’re going to Milano,” he said. (Farage always pronounced it “Mil-ar-no”, much to Kassam’s amusement.) “I was like: ‘What? Why?’” Kassam said. Farage, who was then the leader of the anti-European Union party Ukip, explained that they were going to sit down with Gianroberto Casaleggio. Kassam whipped out his phone and quickly Googled “Casaleggio” – he had never heard of him. Farage described Casaleggio to Kassam as the “genius behind Five Star”, the Italian political party that won a 25% vote share in 2013, the first national elections it had ever contested.

Nothing like this had happened before in modern Italian politics. Casaleggio and the comedian Beppe Grillo, who was famous in Italy for his rabble-rousing live shows, had founded the movement just four years earlier. They had largely built the Five Star Movement online, with remarkably little money or mainstream media attention. Five Star was only one step toward Casaleggio’s long-term ambition: to supplant parliament with an online democracy where citizens, highly informed through the internet, could fashion policy directly. Farage had “always been interested” in direct democracy, Kassam said, and in “turning everything over to the internet”. But Farage was more impressed by the fact that, after just a few years, Casaleggio’s largely online movement was on the verge of becoming Italy’s biggest political party.

He wanted to know how Casaleggio had done it – and then to replicate its success. In Milan, Farage was struck by how Casaleggio was using social media and the internet to create a new model for political communications. Five Star members were discussing and voting on policy and nominating and electing each other to run for office while being steeped in party propaganda, all on a single online platform. This made supporters feel as if the movement’s identity was emerging organically from their online interactions, while Casaleggio and Grillo could guide those interactions with messaging from above. What’s more, the “movement” was dominated by a private company owned by Casaleggio.

Five Star was in many ways less like a political party than a publicly traded company in which members were voting shareholders, but Casaleggio had the controlling stake. Farage left Milan “very excited” about bringing Five Star’s style of digital democracy to the UK, Kassam said. So did Farage’s ally Liz Bilney, who was also present at the Milan meeting and went on to found the pro-Brexit group Leave.EU. “If I was starting Ukip today,” Farage told the political scientists Matthew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo around that time, “would I spend 20 years speaking to people in village halls or would I base it on the Grillo model? I know exactly what I would do.”

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Governments try to make blood money. Workers do not.

Italian Dock Workers Refuse To Load Saudi Arms Ship Over Yemen War (RT)

Italian unions have refused to load cargo onto a Saudi ship carrying weapons, in protest against Riyadh’s war on Yemen. The dock workers have gone on strike, refusing to work until the ship leaves port in Genoa. While the Saudi Arabian ship, the Bahri-Yanbu, was expected to leave for Jeddah by the end end of the day, it seems the delivery might end up being rather late. After unsuccessful attempts to have the ship barred from docking in Italy altogether, it was greeted by banners and a protests as it arrived in port Monday. Workers were joined by human rights campaigners who oppose stocking the ship over fears the supplies will be used against the civilian population in Yemen.


The demonstrators held signs opposing the war and arms trafficking. “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen,” union leaders said in a statement. Port officials have acknowledged that the generators that protesters fear may be used for military purposes have been blocked from being brought on board, but say some non-critical goods will still be loaded. Union leaders are scheduled to meet with the port’s prefects to discuss the impasse. The ship was loaded with weapons in Belgium, but successfully blocked from picking up additional arms at a French port as a result of a similar protest.

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Sounds hopeful for sure.

New Ukraine President: “First Task” Is To “End War In Donbass” (ZH)

There’s fresh hope that unrest in Donbass raging since 2014 could find resolution as Ukraine’s new president, comedian and presidential impersonator turned overnight real political leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was just sworn in on Monday, and immediately he is dissolving parliament and urging peaceful settlement in the country’s east. The 41-year old Zelenskiy said in translated comments via The Moscow Times: “Our first task is to end the conflict in the Donbass.” With a clear mandate from Ukrainian voters who overwhelmingly want to see an easing of tensions with Russia, and the exit of oligarchs from power to halt mass political corruption, he announced during the inauguration ceremony from Kiev he wants to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, even if it means losing his post.

In his much anticipated inauguration speech, Zelenskiy switched from Ukrainian to Russian to say: “I believe that the first step to begin this dialogue will be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners [held by Russia].” He further emphasized he would pursue peace at a cost to his reputation — “and, if need be, even this job” — according to The Moscow Times. Zelenkiy’s upset victory over Petro Poroshenko by a double-digit margin has led some to dub him the “Donald Trump of Ukrainian politics” given his outside the system status and willingness to break from the establishment on the question of dialogue with Russia. He promised Ukrainians that he would seek to do this “without losing our territory, never.”

The five-year long conflict in the east involving Russian-backed separatists who’ve severed ties from Kiev in a move for de facto independence has killed an estimated 13,000 people and has at times threatened to escalate to the level of western intervention. The billionaire chocolate magnate Poroshenko, who came to power as a result of the West-backed so-called Euromaidan revolution gave one parting shot during his concession speech: in the Kremlin, he said, “they believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian president, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence,” according to a translation by the LA Times.

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Nerds ‘R’ Us.

Yesterday The Definition of The Kilogram Changed Forever (SA)

Finally, 130 years after it was established, the kilogram as we know it is about to be retired. But it’s not the end: tomorrow, 20 May 2019, a new definition will be put in place – one that’s far more accurate than anything we’ve had until now. After the shift was unanimously voted in at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles at the end of last year, the change is now finally about to become official. Le kilogramme est mort, vive le kilogramme. Most people don’t think about metrology – the science of measurement – as we go about our day. But it’s vastly important. It’s not just the system by which we measure the world; it’s also the system by which scientists conduct their observations. It needs to be precise, and it needs to be constant, preferably based on the laws of our Universe as we know it.

But of the seven base units of the International System of Units (SI), four are not currently based on the constants of physics: the ampere (current), kelvin (temperature), mole (amount of substance) and kilogram (mass). “The idea,” explained Emeritus Director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) Terry Quinn to ScienceAlert, “is that by having all the units based on the constants of physics, they are by definition stable and unaltering in the future, and universally accessible everywhere.” For example, a metre is determined by the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299792458 of a second. A second is determined by the time it takes for a caesium atom to oscillate 9,192,631,770 times.

A kilogram is defined by… a kilogram. No, literally. It’s a kilogram weight called the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK), made in 1889 from 90 percent platinum and 10 percent iridium, and kept in a special vault in the BIPM headquarters. [..] For the last few years, metrologists have been talking about the need for a new standard. Now, they’re finally ready to redefine the kilogram based on the Planck constant, the ratio of energy to frequency of a photon, measured to its most precise value yet only last year. “It is only now that we can define the kilogram in terms of a constant of physics – the Planck constant, the speed of light and the resonant frequency of the caesium atom,” Quinn explained.


One of the IPK copies in its double bell jars. (NIST)

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May 202019
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Diana Bathing with her Nymphs with Actaeon and Callisto 1634

 

China Forced Tech Transfer Problem Is Growing – EU Business Group (R.)
US Ban Won’t Derail Huawei’s European 5G Rollout (AT)
Google Starts To Cut Ties With Huawei (AFP)
Huawei Stockpiles 12 Months Of Parts Ahead Of US Ban (Nikkei)
US Prosecutors To ‘Help Themselves’ To Julian Assange’s Possessions (PA)
Swedish Prosecutors Ask To Detain Assange Over Rape Investigation (Ind.)
Skripal Poisoning Suspects Received Mystery Phone Call Following Attack (G.)
Rich White Men Rule America. How Much Longer Will We Tolerate That For? (G.)
Theresa May Prepares ‘Bold’ Last-Ditch Offer To MPs On Brexit Bill (G.)
Corbyn Defends Labour’s Bid For Both Leavers And Remainers (G.)
NHS England Loses 6,000 Mental Health Nurses In 10 Years (G.)

 

 

Europe’s politicians are slow to take this up.

China Forced Tech Transfer Problem Is Growing – EU Business Group (R.)

Cases of European firms forced to transfer technology in China are increasing despite Beijing saying the problem does not exist, a European business lobby said, adding that its outlook on the country’s regulatory environment is “bleak”. China’s trading partners have long complained that their companies are often compelled to hand over prized technology in exchange for access to the world’s second-largest economy. Demands by the United States that China address the problem are central to the two countries’ ongoing trade war, which has seen both sides pile tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said on Monday that results from its annual survey showed 20% of members reported being compelled to transfer technology for market access, up from 10% two years ago.

Nearly a quarter of those who reported such transfers said the practice was currently ongoing, while another 39% said the transfers had occurred less than two years ago. “Unfortunately, our members have reported that compelled technology transfers not only persist, but that they happen at double the rate of two years ago,” European Chamber Vice President Charlotte Roule said at a news briefing on the survey. “It might be due to a number of reasons… Either way, it is unacceptable that this practice continues in a market as mature and innovative as China,” Roule said. In certain “cutting edge” industries the incidence of reported transfers was higher, such as 30% in chemicals and petroleum, 28% in medical devices, and 27% in pharmaceuticals, she added.

China’s top Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, said on Saturday that Washington’s complaints on the issue were “fabricated from thin air”. Amid the escalating U.S.-China trade war, Beijing has put pressure on the EU to stand with it against U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policies, though the world’s largest trade bloc has largely rebuffed those efforts. The EU has also become increasingly frustrated by what it sees as the slow pace of economic opening in China, even after years of granting China almost unfettered access to EU markets for trade and investment. However, European officials say publicly that they do not support the use of tariffs as a solution.

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“So intertwined were the activities of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia in European telecom infrastructure that it is impossible to ban the sale of parts to one of them without affecting the others..”

US Ban Won’t Derail Huawei’s European 5G Rollout (AT)

Two high-ranking European government officials told Asia Times in background discussions that a US ban on sales of electronic components to Huawei Technologies wouldn’t stop the Chinese telecom firm from rolling out 5G mobile networks in Europe. Europe doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, the officials emphasized in background briefings, because the United States doesn’t offer a competing product, and Huawei’s competitors – Ericsson and Nokia – don’t have the capacity or the knowledge to replace the Chinese giant. The two Scandinavian firms don’t offer serious competition to Huawei, but rather work in close cooperation with the much larger Chinese firm.


Huawei’s research and development budget is roughly double that of Ericsson and Nokia combined, according to public sources. So intertwined were the activities of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia in European telecom infrastructure that it is impossible to ban the sale of parts to one of them without affecting the others, an official explained. The official, who oversees telecom policy for one of the Group of 10 economies, doubted that Washington’s action would have much impact. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters Thursday that they would not ban the Chinese firm, adding that policies were in place to safeguard their security. French President Macron told a technology conference Friday that France’s “perspective is not to block Huawei or any other company. France and Europe are pragmatic and realistic.” Macron stressed that France would balance security with access to good technology.

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What technology will Google use?

Google Starts To Cut Ties With Huawei (AFP)

US internet giant Google, whose Android mobile operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said Sunday it was beginning to cut ties with China’s Huawei, which Washington considers a national security threat. In the midst of a trade war with Beijing, President Donald Trump has barred US companies from engaging in telecommunications trade with foreign companies said to threaten American national security. The measure targets Huawei, a Chinese telecoms giant in Washington’s sights that is listed by the Commerce Department among firms with which American companies can only engage in trade after obtaining the green light from the authorities.


The ban includes technology sharing. “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson told AFP. The move could have dramatic implications since Google, like all tech companies, must collaborate with smartphone makers to ensure its systems are compatible with their devices. Google will have to halt business activities with Huawei that involve transfer of hardware, software and technical services that are not publicly available — meaning Huawei will only be able to use the open source version of Android, a source close to the matter told AFP. Huawei will no longer have access to Google’s proprietary apps and services, such as the Gmail email service.

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“How do the Chinese think they can win a trade war
when Xi isn’t even on Twitter.

Huawei Stockpiles 12 Months Of Parts Ahead Of US Ban (Nikkei)

Huawei Technologies told global suppliers six months ago it wanted to build up a year of crucial components to prepare for trade war uncertainties, even as it moved to secure new sources and become more self reliant, sources familiar with the plans told the Nikkei Asian Review. Meanwhile, concerns are mounting in Huawei’s Asian tech supply chain about collateral damage from the U.S. government’s move to potentially block American and even foreign companies from doing business with the world’s leading telecom equipment maker, whose global procurement totals around $67 billion a year. Shares in companies whose fortunes depend in part on Huawei business sold off Thursday.

The reaction followed a statement Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce that it was placing the company on a export control list. The listing, once in effect, means that all of Huawei’s American suppliers will require U.S. government approval to sell to the Chinese company. The lack of detail in the statement creates uncertainty for Asian manufacturers. Many important Huawei suppliers in the region including Sony and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. — the world’s largest contract chipmaker — have held internal meetings to assess the implications, multiple sources told Nikkei.

Multiple sources said that Huawei’s preparations for a worst-case scenario – a U.S. ban on business with key suppliers – started more than six months ago and were not limited to chips but spanned a wide range of electronics, including passive components and optical parts. For some components that are subject to higher risks of export controls, Huawei has stockpiled six months’ to more than a year’s worth of supply, while holding at least three months’ worth of less crucial ones, the sources said.

The world’s second-largest smartphone vendor also started at the beginning of this year to certify more suppliers of chips, optical components, camera-related technologies and other parts in places outside the U.S., people familiar with the matter said. “Previously, Huawei would only use the world’s top one or two suppliers for electronic components, but this year it assigned the team to extend the reach to three to four suppliers for each component,” said a source with direct knowledge of the plan. “The most important goal is to avoid the worst case that Huawei’s products in smartphone, servers, and telecom equipment could not be delivered because of a U.S. ban or other trade war uncertainties.”

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WikiLeaks: “Ecuador to hand over Assange’s entire legal defence to the United States.”

Laws are now meaningless.

US Prosecutors To ‘Help Themselves’ To Julian Assange’s Possessions (PA)

Julian Assange’s belongings from his time living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London will be handed over to US prosecutors on Monday, according to WikiLeaks. Ecuadorian officials are travelling to London to allow US prosecutors to “help themselves” to items including legal papers, medical records and electronic equipment, it was claimed. WikiLeaks said UN officials and Assange’s lawyers were being stopped from being present. Lawyers said it was an illegal seizure of property, which has been requested by the US authorities. The material is said to include two of Assange’s manuscripts.

Assange was dragged out of the embassy last month and is serving a 50-week prison sentence for bail violations. He faces an extradition request from the US next month. Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: “On Monday, Ecuador will perform a puppet show at the embassy of Ecuador in London for their masters in Washington, just in time to expand their extradition case before the UK deadline on 14 June. The Trump administration is inducing its allies to behave like it’s the wild west.”

Baltasar Garzón, the international legal coordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, said: “It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the the agent of political persecution against him, the United States. “It is an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information exposing massive human rights abuses and corruption. We call on international protection institutions to intervene to put a stop to this persecution.”

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And if laws are meaningless, lies become the truth.

Swedish Prosecutors Ask To Detain Assange Over Rape Investigation (Ind.)

Swedish prosecutors have filed a request for the detention of Julian Assange over a rape allegation. The warrant, if granted, would be the first step in a process to have the Wikileaks founder extradited from the UK, where he is serving a 50-week sentence for breach of bail conditions. Sweden reopened an investigation into the rape allegation, first made in 2010, earlier this month. The probe was shelved in 2017 because Assange was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition. The 47-year-old was arrested after police stormed the embassy in April following Ecuador’s withdrawal of asylum. The US subsequently requested his extradition to face charges in relation to the leak of government secrets. Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said she would issue a European Arrest Warrant for Assange if a court granted her request for his detention “on probable cause suspected for rape”.

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The leaked OPCW files show the Douma gas attack to be a false flag. That raises very serious questions about the Skripal case at the same time, because of the OPCW’s involvement. So Britain brings out the Guardian’s Luke Harding to divert attention. Harding and the Guardian still never retracted the fake Assange-Manafort article.

Skripal Poisoning Suspects Received Mystery Phone Call Following Attack (G.)

The Russian men suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury received a phone call after returning to London on the day of the alleged attack, raising the possibility that a backup team played a role in the operation. One theory being considered by investigators is whether the call, which has not been disclosed before, was a signal to tip them off that the operation had been a success. Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism unit said the inquiry into the poisoning was ongoing and detectives would not be drawn on any specifics. But it is understood that investigators are sifting other pieces of evidence which suggest that the suspects – Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin – may not have been acting alone.


Chepiga and Mishkin flew from Moscow to London on Friday 2 March last year, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. The pair travelled to Salisbury the following day and returned to the city again on Sunday 4 March. Detectives say they applied the lethal nerve agent novichok to the door handle of Skripal’s home and caught the train back to London. The Guardian has been told they then returned to their hotel in Bow, east London. It was there they received an unexplained phone call, a source said. Shortly after the call, they travelled to Heathrow airport for a 10.30pm flight back to Moscow. “One theory is that the two waited to hear whether the attack had been a success, and the phone call was the signal to say it had been,” said a source. “It could have been the confirmation that led them to head for the airport.”

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“A Constitution written by slaveholders is being interpreted by a tiny room full of elites who have been given no meaningful popular approval…”

Rich White Men Rule America. How Much Longer Will We Tolerate That For? (G.)

White men have never made up the majority of the United States population, and yet from the country’s beginnings they have made up most of its political decision-makers. The Constitution itself is an outrageously undemocratic document. People today are bound by a set of procedural rules that were made without the input of women, African Americans, or native people. The Framers quite deliberately constructed a system that would prevent what they called “tyranny of the majority” but what is more accurately called “popular democracy.” That set of rules has been very effective at keeping the American populace from exercising power. James Madison was explicit about the function of the United States Senate—it was “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

Indeed, that’s precisely what it does. As Jamelle Bouie points out, the Senate has “an affluent membership composed mostly of white men, who are about 30% of the population but hold 71 of the seats” out of 100. Though popular opinion may overwhelmingly favor universal healthcare and more progressive taxation, these policies are said to be “politically impossible” because the millionaires who populate Congress do not favor them. [..] The supreme court is the highest branch of government, in that it can overturn the decisions of the other two branches. It consists of just nine people, all of whom went to Harvard or Yale, and two-thirds of whom are men. Ian Samuel has pointed out the remarkable fact that, thanks to the way the senate is structured, the senators who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the court received represent 38 million fewer people than the senators who voted against him.

The implications here are extreme. It simply doesn’t matter where the people of the United States stand on union dues, campaign finance reform, or abortion. What matters is the opinion of nine elites, in many cases appointed by presidents who did not win the popular vote. A Constitution written by slaveholders is being interpreted by a tiny room full of elites who have been given no meaningful popular approval. When you step back and look at the situation objectively, it’s utterly farcical to call the United States government democratic.

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Sure. Waste some more time. What difference does it make anymore?

Theresa May Prepares ‘Bold’ Last-Ditch Offer To MPs On Brexit Bill (G.)

Theresa May will ask her cabinet to sign off a package of Brexit concessions this week, as she gears up for one last bid to win over MPs and salvage something concrete from her troubled premiership. With the Conservatives on course for a drubbing in Thursday’s European elections, the prime minister hopes the results will focus the minds of her own MPs and persuade them to support the long-awaited withdrawal agreement bill (WAB). Despite the collapse of cross-party talks with Labour, ministers hope some of the measures discussed can still be bolted on to the bill, as part of what May has called a “new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons”.


The Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We’ve been in talks with the Labour party, we’ve been exploring issues around workers’ rights, environmental standards, what commitments can be given to parliament in terms of the next phase of negotiations.” The development secretary, Rory Stewart, told the BBC the two sides in the talks had been “half an inch apart”, and added “the issue of trading with Europe” to the list of areas where MPs should expect to see movement. Proposals are expected to include separate legislation to ensure parliament is given a vote on whether to adopt any improvements to workers’ rights introduced by the EU27 in future – though that would fall short of Jeremy Corbyn’s call for changes to be automatically adopted.

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He makes SOME sense, but is that enough?

Corbyn Defends Labour’s Bid For Both Leavers And Remainers (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has given a robust defence of Labour’s decision to try to appeal to both leavers and remainers in this Thursday’s European elections. With an Observer poll suggesting Labour could be squeezed into third position behind Nigel Farage’s Brexit party and the pro-remain Liberal Democrats, Corbyn said he still wanted to bring the two sides of the Brexit divide together. “Labour supporters voted both leave and remain, and every other party in this European election is appealing to either one side or the other, defining everybody on 2016. We’re not. We’re defining people as hopefully supporters of us – but also, people who have common problems, however they voted.


“The levels of poverty in remain and leave areas are very similar; the levels of child poverty. I think we have to be responsible about this, and appeal to people across those views.” Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the Labour leader added: “If I may say so, it’s yourself and the British media that are obsessed with defining everybody about how they voted three years ago.” He also rejected the Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips’scall for Labour to decide whether it is a party that backs Brexit, or opposes it. “She’s not right, because she fought the last general election, just like I did, on a manifesto that said we would respect the result of the referendum.” However, Corbyn appeared to soften his stance on a second referendum, saying Labour would try to win a majority for its Brexit plan, “and if we can get that through parliament, the proposal we’ve put, then I think it would be reasonable to have a public vote to decide on that in the future”.

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As dementia spreads like wildfire.

NHS England Loses 6,000 Mental Health Nurses In 10 Years (G.)

The number of mental health nurses in England has slumped by more than a tenth over the past decade, new figures have revealed. This is despite commitments from both Theresa May and her predecessor, David Cameron, to boost resources for mental health services, which many medical professionals say are now in crisis. The total mental health nursing workforce has decreased by 10.6% since 2009, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). While numbers of mental health nurses have grown in some areas, such as community care, they have fallen elsewhere. Numbers are down by a quarter (25.9%) in acute care and inpatient care – where the number of mental health nurses has fallen by more than 6,000 over the decade.


Donna Kinnair, appointed as RCN chief executive and general secretary last month, will use a speech to the group’s annual congress on Monday to call on ministers to address England’s 40,000 nursing vacancies, and point out the new figures on the reduction in specialist mental health nurses. “Thousands of experienced professionals have been lost in recent years as the investment failed to match the rhetoric,” she will say. “The shortage of beds, too, leaves vulnerable people often sent hundreds of miles from home and their loved ones for the care they need. As a country and a health service, we are letting down people who must be able to rely on us most. We must draw a line under this and allocate serious resources to mental health care, including the right number of staff.”

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Happy birthday brother Malcolm.

 

 

 

 

May 172019
 


Carl Bloch The transfiguration c1865

 

Chelsea Manning Jailed Again For Refusing To Testify Against WikiLeaks (RT)
The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak Ever
The Liberal Embrace of War (Matt Taibbi)
UK-US Row Over Iran Intel Unleashes Storm Of Behind The Scenes Infighting (ZH)
FBI-CIA Dispute Erupts Over Whether Comey Or Brennan Pushed Steele Dossier (ZH)
A World Aching For Peace & Stability Can No Longer Afford NATO (Wight)
Brexit Talks About To Fail As May’s Premiership Fades (R.)
How Much Was Pilot Error A Factor In The Boeing 737 MAX Crashes? (ST)
Boeing Faces a Possible Legal Nightmare With Airlines for 737 MAX (TPG)
US Must Break Up Facebook ‘Monopoly’ (FT Op-Ed)
Huawei’s Chip Maker Says It Has Long Been Preparing For US Ban Scenario (R.)
Greek Austerity Policy ‘Proven To Be Right,’ Says Merkel (K.)
Tower Of London Saved From Prophesy As First Ravens In 30 Years Hatch (Tel.)

 

 

“I would rather starve to death than to change my opinion in this regard.”

They have 60 days from Assange’s arrest to make her talk.

Chelsea Manning Jailed Again For Refusing To Testify Against WikiLeaks (RT)

A federal judge has ordered Chelsea Manning to be jailed again for refusing to testify in a grand jury probe of Julian Assange, threatening the whistleblower with fines if the defiance continues. Manning says she would rather die. “I would rather starve to death than to change my opinion in this regard. And when I say that, I mean that quite literally,” Manning said during a hearing at a federal courthouse in Virginia on Thursday. The US Army intelligence specialist has already spent seven years behind bars for handing over classified military and diplomatic files to WikiLeaks in 2010, and another 62 days in jail until last week for refusing to testify before another grand jury.

This time, Manning faces a fine of $500 a day if she continues to refuse cooperation after 30 days in jail. The fine will go up to $1,000 a day after two months. “I have never heard of jailing a witness for this long,” former FBI agent and whistleblower Colleen Rowley told RT. If the grand jury term goes on for 18 months, the fines could exceed half a million dollars, she added, calling it “draconian.” Rowley added that the jailing of Manning is either illegal retaliation by the Trump administration, “or the case against Julian Assange is just that weak that they absolutely need Chelsea Manning’s testimony in order to firm up these specious charges.”

[..] The new grand jury subpoena appears to be related to the US prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who was arrested last month and is currently awaiting his extradition hearing in the UK. Assange is officially accused of conspiring with Manning to hack into Pentagon computers, while acknowledging the hack never actually happened. “I’ve read the indictment and the affidavit that came with the indictment” against Assange, Manning said on Thursday, “and the case doesn’t make sense, it seems kind of bananas.” If there is already an indictment against Assange, what’s the purpose of another grand jury, Manning asked reporters.

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Where are they now? “WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera and Le Monde ..”

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak Ever

For WikiLeaks, 2010 was an exceptionally eventful year. In April the transparency organization released “Collateral Murder,” the video of U.S. Army helicopters as they shot more than a dozen Iraqis in Baghdad. That proved a worldwide shock and put the 4-year-old publisher on the global media map. “Afghan War Diaries,” a cache of 75,000 documents, followed in July. Three months later, on Oct. 22, 2010, WikiLeaks released an even more explosive trove: 391,831 documents and videos it named “Iraq War Logs.” This superseded “Afghan War Diaries” as by far the most extensive leak of classified material in U.S. history. It shone a stark light on the U.S.–led coalition’s conduct in Iraq after its 2003 invasion, when the nation had erupted into a violent sectarian war.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, said the Logs “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.” The source for the “Iraq War Logs” was once again Chelsea Manning, who by then was in a military prison awaiting trial on charges connected to “Collateral Murder” that wound up including 22 counts of theft, assisting the publication of classified intelligence and aiding the enemy. With the publication of the “Iraq War Logs,” WikiLeaks disgorged an unprecedented profusion of documents, military reports and videos. The Logs cover the six-year period from Jan. 1, 2004, (a matter of months after the 2003 invasion) to Dec. 31, 2009.

WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera and Le Monde to disseminate the Iraq Logs. Taken together, the Logs portray Iraq under allied occupation as the scene of lawless mayhem and violence. Codes of conduct were routinely ignored, shootings were often indiscriminate and torture of detainees was regularly treated as acceptable practice. Innocent civilians were under constant threat of U.S.-led coalition gunfire and arrest, interrogation, and mistreatment by allied military units and the Iraqi army and police.

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Americans who want peace have nobody left to talk to.

The Liberal Embrace of War (Matt Taibbi)

The United States has just suspended flights to Venezuela. Per the New York Times: “CARACAS — The United States banned all air transport with Venezuela on Wednesday over security concerns, further isolating the troubled South American nation…” A disinterested historian — Herodotus raised from the dead — would see this as just the latest volley in a siege tale. America has been trying for ages to topple the regime of President Nicholas Maduro, after trying for years to do the same to his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. The new play in the Trump era involves recognizing Juan Guaidó as president and starving and sanctioning the country. Maduro, encircled, has been resisting.

The American commercial news landscape, in schism on domestic issues, is in lockstep here. Every article is seen from one angle: Venezuelans under the heel of a dictator who caused the crisis, with the only hope a “humanitarian” intervention by the United States. There is no other perspective. Media watchdog FAIR just released results of a study of three months of American opinion pieces. Out of 76 editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, the “big three Sunday morning talk shows” or PBS News Hour, zero came out against the removal of Maduro. They wrote: “Corporate news coverage of Venezuela can only be described as a full-scale marketing campaign for regime change.”

Allowable opinion on Venezuela ranges from support for military invasion to the extreme pacifist end of the spectrum, as expressed in a February op-ed by Dr. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeffrey Sachs called “An Urgent Call for Compromise in Venezuela”: “We strongly urge… a peaceful and negotiated transition of power rather than a winner-take-all game of chicken…” So we should either remove Maduro by force, or he should leave peaceably, via negotiation. These are the options. After the disaster of Vietnam eons ago, American thought leaders became convinced we “lost” in Indochina because of — get this — bad PR. The real lesson in Vietnam should have been that people would pay any price to overthrow a hated occupying force. American think-tankers and analysts however somehow became convinced (and amazingly still are) that the problem was Walter Cronkite and the networks giving up on the war effort.

[..] Earlier this month, onetime fierce Iraq war opponent Rachel Maddow went on TV to embrace John Bolton in a diatribe about how the poor National Security Adviser has been thwarted by Trump in efforts to topple Maduro. “Regardless of what you thought about John Bolton before this, his career, his track record,” Maddow said. “Just think about John Bolton as a human being.” The telecast was surreal. It was like watching Dick Cheney sing “Give Peace a Chance.”

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We already knew that. It’s called pattern recognition: “No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria..”

UK-US Row Over Iran Intel Unleashes Storm Of Behind The Scenes Infighting (ZH)

A new report in Britain’s The Times says the UK’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) is standing by its senior officer in the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, who earlier this week publicly contracted the Pentagon and US administration by appearing to dismiss US intelligence claims over the heightened Iran threat. The awkward public exchange unfolded between the US military and its closest allied military coalition force during a Pentagon press conference on Tuesday wherein a top British commander in charge of anti-ISIS coalition forces rebuked White House claims on the heightened Iran threat.

“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, a deputy head of the US-led coalition, asserted confidently in a video link briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon in response to a CNN question. Essentially this meant the powerful number two commander of “Operation Inherent Resolve” Combined Joint Task Force was questioning the entire basis on which the “imminent threats” and “high level of alert” shift in mission readiness decision was made. But now Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is said to be fuming over the handling of the situation. The public disagreement, quickly picked up in world headlines, and further weakening the White House’s stance on the “Iran threat”, has unleashed a storm of controversy among allies behind the scenes.

The Times report includes the following bombshell details: “Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are understood to be angry at the MoD’s handling of the situation. The row raises questions about the extent of intelligence that the US has shared with Britain about the alleged threat from Iran. Israeli media reported that the warnings were passed on by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. The US State Department has ordered non-emergency employees to leave Iraq.”

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US intelligence agencies fighting over a fake document.

FBI-CIA Dispute Erupts Over Whether Comey Or Brennan Pushed Steele Dossier (ZH)

A dispute has erupted over whether former FBI Director James Comey or his CIA counterpart, John Brennan, promoted the unverified Steele dossier as the Obama-era intelligence community targeted the Trump campaign. According to Fox News, an email chain exists which indicates that Comey told bureau subordinates that Brennan insisted on the dossier’s inclusion in the intelligence community assessment (ICA) on Russian interference. Also interesting is that the dossier was referred to as “crown material” in the emails – a possible reference to the fact that Steele is a former British spy. In a statement to Fox, however, a former CIA official “put the blame squarely on Comey.”


“Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report,” said the official. “They opposed this because the dossier was in no way used to develop the ICA,” the official continued. “The intelligence analysts didn’t include it when they were doing their work because it wasn’t corroborated intelligence, therefore it wasn’t used and it wasn’t included. Brennan and Clapper prevented it from being added into the official assessment. James Comey then decided on his own to brief Trump about the document.”

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Start with ending Russophobia, and take it from there.

A World Aching For Peace & Stability Can No Longer Afford NATO (Wight)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling for an end to the fighting in Libya is like an arsonist calling for the house he’s just burned to the ground to stop emitting smoke. For this reason it can only be an excess of black humor or wilful amnesia on the part of Mr Stoltenberg that explains his perverse call for this particular conflict to end in this particular country, eight years after it received a prolonged visit from a Western military alliance over which he currently presides. Along with recent NATO exercises in Estonia, involving 9,000 troops operating just 15km from Russia’s border, Jens Stoltenberg’s call for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis in Libya suggests that the pride of place above the entrance to NATO headquarters in Brussels should be inscribed in bold letters with the Orwellian mantra of ‘War is peace. Freedom is slavery’.

Because ever since the demise of the Soviet Union, NATO has been engaged in a perennial quest for meaning and relevance, which means to say for opportunities to unleash its democracy missiles and drop its democracy bombs. It is a quest that has and continues to involve ideologues in the media, neocon think tanks, and governments going out of their way to convince people across Europe and the US that without NATO manning the ramparts of Western civilization, the barbarians located to the North, South, East and West of them will come and destroy everything they hold dear.

Stripped of obfuscation, what we have here is a tawdry and base exercise in scaremongering; its aim to inculcate the belief that Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, Venezuela (you can take your pick) is their enemy and a threat to their security. Thus it is that the extent to which people living in the West refuse to internalise the propaganda of their own ruling class and its functionaries is determined by their ability to see the world as it truly is, rather than continue to exist in the darkened room of Western exceptionalism.

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Tories see big losses in the polls. Boris to the rescue. But pushing through Brexit at this point is going to get real ugly.

Brexit Talks About To Fail As May’s Premiership Fades (R.)

Nearly three years after the United Kingdom unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, when or if it will ever indeed quit the European club it joined in 1973. Brexit talks between May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party are about to close without an agreement, the BBC said, hours after May agreed on Thursday to set out a timetable for her departure in early June. “If the talks are not going anywhere, from my point of view that leads to only one conclusion,” Hilary Benn, the chairman of parliament’s Brexit committee, told BBC radio. “There are only two ways out of the Brexit crisis that we’ve got: either parliament agrees a deal or we go back to the British people and ask them to make the choice.”


After the Brexit deal that May struck with Brussels was defeated a third time by parliament, she announced on April 2 that she would open talks with Labour. But the two parties have failed to agree on major issues such as the opposition party’s demand for a post-Brexit customs union. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who voted against membership of the EU in 1975, has said that May refused to budge on key demands. May’s hands have been tied, knowing that to make concessions to Labour would lead to fury in her divided party. Labour has feared that any compromises on issues such as workers’ rights would be torn up by May’s successor. The two party leaders will now move to a second phase, aimed at agreeing on a process for parliamentary votes designed to find a consensus, the BBC said.

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Boeing blames the pilots. Easy because they’re dead.

How Much Was Pilot Error A Factor In The Boeing 737 MAX Crashes? (ST)

In his opening statement Wednesday at the House Aviation subcommittee hearing on the 737 MAX in Washington, D.C., the lead Republican congressman blamed errors by the Indonesian and Ethiopian pilots for the two deadly MAX crashes in those countries. “Pilots trained in the United States would have successfully been able to handle” the emergencies on both jets, said Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He added that preliminary reports about the accident “compound my concerns about quality training standards in other countries.” Graves was repeating the main points in a report written by two pilots at a major U.S. airline that pointed to pilot error as “the most consequential factor” in both crashes.

Their report was commissioned and paid for by institutional investors with large holdings in Boeing stock. That case for pilot error as the major cause of the crashes seems close to a surrogate for what Boeing has only hinted at, and may be a key part of the manufacturer’s legal defense in liability lawsuits. Yet two flight-simulator sessions replicating the conditions on the doomed flights contradict Graves’ contention that better trained pilots would have escaped disaster. And some Western-trained pilots criticize the report as based on unverified assumptions and minimizing the intense stress Boeing’s runaway flight-control system imposed on the two flight crews.

“I’m disappointed with those who sit in their lofty chairs of judgment and say this wouldn’t have happened to U.S. pilots,” said a veteran captain with a major U.S. airline, who asked not to be named to avoid involving his employer. The flight crew on the March 10 Ethiopian flight faced a barrage of alerts in the flight that lasted just 6 minutes. Those alerts included a “stick shaker” that noisily vibrated the pilot’s yoke throughout the flight, warning the plane was in danger of a stall, which it wasn’t; repeated loud “DON’T SINK” warnings that the jet was too close to the ground; a “clacker” making a very loud clicking sound to signal the jet was going too fast; and multiple warning lights telling the crew the speed, altitude and other readings on their instruments were unreliable.

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Don’t forget: Boeing faces Ralph Nader. And his entire network.

Boeing Faces a Possible Legal Nightmare With Airlines for 737 MAX (TPG)

Boeing could be on the hook for enough to bankrupt a small country — but it the Chicago-based company were found not to bear any responsibility for the issues with the 737 MAX, then it could have to pay nothing, though whoever is found to be at fault would still be liable, of course. If Boeing were found liable, then the court would have to decide the appropriate award Boeing would have to pay out to the airlines — enough to compensate the plaintiff for the damage to its business from lost fares, sunk costs in the defective aircraft, etc.


If, in the least likely but most sensational possibility, Boeing officials are found to have actively covered up a problem with the aircraft in what amounts to a crime, then the plaintiffs would probably be awarded not just compensatory damages but punitive damages — typically three times the amount of the compensatory damages. None of this, however, addresses the likely wrongful-death lawsuits from the families of the passengers who perished in the 737 MAX crashes. In those cases, the airlines and Boeing will probably be sitting on the same side of the courtroom — as co-defendants. But Dedmon stressed that, as the 737 MAX crisis is still unfolding, it’s still hard to speculate where things will go, in the courtroom or outside it. “It’s the tip of the spear,” he said.

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But CIA wants it just the way it is.

US Must Break Up Facebook ‘Monopoly’ (FT Op-Ed)

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently called for the US government to be more proactive in regulating social media. His former dorm mate Chris Hughes went a step further last week. Mr Hughes wants to break up the social network he co-founded. The controversies surrounding Facebook point to a broader need for a new competition law. At a time when governments in Europe are already moving against Big Tech’s excesses, the US should take the chance to reform its own outdated rules. In his article, Mr Hughes excoriates Mr Zuckerberg for chasing profits over user security.

The Facebook co-founder is alarmed by Mr Zuckerberg’s ability to decide what millions of people read via the network. Mr Hughes goes on to criticise the US government for its relative inaction, emphasising that fining Facebook or instituting new privacy rules is insufficient. In calling for the company to be broken up, Mr Hughes rejects the school of competition law dominant in the US since the 1980s. This views pricing as the only metric for assessing competition. Such a narrow focus collapses when applied to Facebook and other Big Tech firms, which provide services for “free” in return for taking users’ data, rather than their cash.

Facebook epitomises the dangers of data oligopolies, with its plan to tie WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram into a single encrypted messaging system. With control of three major platforms, it can use metadata such as contacts or external pages to provide useful data to advertisers and to train algorithms. New competitors without access to these data reservoirs will inevitably struggle to compete. In the past, Big Tech firms have simply acquired them and folded them into their business or copied their ideas at scale. The data rich get data richer, even though there is no apparent cost to consumers under current competition law.

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“HiSilicon has been secretly developing back-up products for years..”

Huawei’s Chip Maker Says It Has Long Been Preparing For US Ban Scenario (R.)

Huawei Technologies’ chip arm HiSilicon said on Friday it has long been prepared for the “extreme scenario” that it could be banned from purchasing U.S. chips and technology, and is able to ensure steady supply of most products. HiSilicon, which mainly designs chips for Huawei equipment, made the comments in a letter to staff attributed to President He Tingbo dated “the small hours of May 17”, shortly after the United States officially banned Huawei from buying U.S. technology without special approval. The ban has thrown into disarray prospects for sales at some of the largest tech companies and drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, further ratcheting up tensions over trade.


Huawei confirmed authenticity of the letter seen by Reuters and published by Chinese media on Friday. HiSilicon has been secretly developing back-up products for years in anticipation of the unlikely scenario that Huawei may one day be unable to obtain advanced chips and technology from the United States, He said in the letter. HiSilicon’s efforts have ensured a steady supply and “strategic safety” of most products, He said, adding that Huawei will aim to be technologically self-sufficient. He described HiSilicon’s efforts as a “long march in the history of technology” that would now pay off with the United State’s “crazy decision” that brought this “extreme and dark moment”.

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The currency union is more important than the people. Some mutti. Some union.

Greek Austerity Policy ‘Proven To Be Right,’ Says Merkel (K.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended austerity policy in Greece and other debt-hit countries in the eurozone, however acknowledging that the people had to shoulder a “considerable” burden. “What counts is that the currency union and the euro were maintained,” Merkel said in an interview with Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung. Merkel, who is in her fourth and final term in office, said that reforms in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain “have proven to be right, even if I don’t dispute that the burden for the population was considerable.” Speaking about Europe’s refugee crisis, Merkel said that the problem requires greater burden-sharing among EU members as well as efforts to tackle the roots of the problem.

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Pheww…. Saved by the bell.

Tower Of London Saved From Prophesy As First Ravens In 30 Years Hatch (Tel.)

The Tower of London will be protected from a prophesied demise for years to come, after the first ravens in 30 years were born inside its walls. At least six ravens have been kept at the fortress since the days of King Charles II, who feared the Tower and the kingdom would fall if they were ever allowed to leave. Ruination loomed large last year as the number of legal raven breeders continued to shrink across the UK, making it harder for the ancient quota to be honoured. A new aviary was eventually installed inside the London landmark, into which two breeding ravens – Huginn and Muninn – were brought at the end of last year.


Few expected the couple to be settled in time for the 2019 mating season, but, not without some sense of occasion, new life began emerging on April 23 – St George’s Day. All four chicks have now hatched, the first to do so at the Tower since 1989. They join seven other ravens in addition to the breeding couple and shore up the Tower’s safety for the foreseeable future. Chris Skaife, ravenmaster at the Tower of London, said: “My suspicions were first piqued that we might have a chance of baby chicks when the parents built a huge nest suddenly overnight and then almost immediately the female bird started to sit on it, then on the April 23 I noticed the birds going to the nest with food.”

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