May 192019
 
 May 19, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Caravaggio The calling of St. Matthew 1599-1600

 

E-Commerce Crushes Mall Retailers One by One (WS)
Democrats Run Out Of Stunts To Pull From Impeachment Playbook (Turley)
Salvini and Le Pen Rally To Unite European Nationalists In Milan (EN)
Nigel Farage Faces Investigation By EU Parliament Over Undeclared Gifts (Ind.)
UK Tories Will Split If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader, Warn MPs (Ind.)
Labour Panics As Remain Voters Switch To Liberal Democrats (G.)
Boeing Acknowledges Flaw In 737 MAX Simulator Software (AFP)
France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Mark Six Months Of Protests (AFP)
Four More Chinese Cities Warned Over Pace Of Home Price Growth (R.)
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep—And It’s Killing You (Wired)

 

 

Changing the look and feel of our towns and cities beyond recognition.

E-Commerce Crushes Mall Retailers One by One (WS)

E-commerce sales in the first quarter soared 12.4% from a year ago to $127.3 billion (not seasonally adjusted), the Commerce Department reported on Friday. Last year, e-commerce sales blew through the $500-billion level for the first time ($513.6 billion). For 2019, e-commerce is on track to hit $575 billion, an increase of $61 billion. Over the past five years, e-commerce sales have doubled. On a seasonally adjusted basis, e-commerce sales in Q1 hit an all-time high of $137.7 billion. E-commerce includes sales by the online operations of brick-and-mortar retailers. The top ones have huge and thriving online operations: Walmart, Home Depot, BestBuy, and Macy’s in that order are the fourth through seventh largest e-commerce sites in the US, behind Amazon, eBay, and Apple. So this is the business Macy’s brick-and-mortar stores are in:

But none of the major retailers, with one exception, disclose just how much of their own booming e-commerce sales have eaten into their brick-and-mortar sales. Macy’s, for example, just reported a decline in net sales in Q1 compared to a year ago, but “double-digit growth in our digital business” – the only thing Macy’s said about its e-commerce sales. With overall revenues declining and e-commerce sales booming, its brick-and-mortar operations must have been beset by plunging sales. But Macy’s keeps this data secret.

[..] People say that e-commerce accounts for only a small portion of total retail sales (10.2% in Q1) and therefore doesn’t matter. But this is misleading because e-commerce has not yet made major inroads into sales at gasoline stations, auto dealers, and grocery and beverage stores that together account for 52% of all brick-and-mortar sales. With those taken out of the tally, e-commerce now amounts to 23.6% of the remaining 48% of retail sales.

The stores that are directly targeted by e-commerce are the classic mall stores: Department stores (Sears Holdings, Bon-Ton Stores); book stores (see Borders, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks); video stores (Blockbuster); music stores (Tower Records); hardware and hobby (Orchard Supply Hardware); toy stores (Toys ‘R’ Us); jewelry and accessory stores (Claire Stores); sporting goods stores (Sports Authority); electronics and appliance stores (Circuit City, CompUSA); clothing and clothing accessory stores (Limited Stores, Pacific Sunwear, Aeropostale); and shoe stores (Payless Shoe Source).

So yes, e-commerce is only 10.2% of total retail sales. But it has already killed entire retailer categories, such as video stores, and is killing others while it is leaving other retailer categories essentially unscathed, such as gas stations, auto dealers, and grocery stores – though that may change in the future.

Read more …

The chasm is a mile wide. And impeachment is even further away than that.

Democrats Run Out Of Stunts To Pull From Impeachment Playbook (Turley)

Democrats had called for Mueller to appear before them on Wednesday. Mueller did not show, despite Barr showing a willingness to have him testify. Instead, the committee called for a hearing with constitutional experts to discuss the executive privilege claims raised by the White House. I was one of those experts, and the hearing did not exactly turn out as the Democrats planned. They have insisted that President Trump had already waived privilege to undisclosed evidence shown to Mueller. The committee witnesses, however, agreed that there is no such waiver. Worse, the witnesses agreed that Barr could not release the “full and unredacted report” to Congress including any grand jury, or Rule 6(e), evidence. That is in direct contradiction to weeks of demands for the unredacted report along with a subpoena that demanded disclosure of the entire report.

The committee maintained that “neither Rule 6(e) nor any applicable privilege barred disclosure of these materials to Congress.” Yet, the expert witnesses it called on have now testified that is not true. As I noted to the committee, the subpoena, which is the very basis for the earlier contempt vote, was demanding an unlawful act from Barr, and the committee then held him in contempt for not committing that unlawful act. The key to setting up someone for contempt of Congress is to draft a subpoena that he might actually be able to legally fulfill. Notably, despite all of the punditry and cable news coverage of it, the contempt citation has not yet been submitted to the full House for a vote, let alone to a court for review. That is probably not because the contempt case is too strong.

[..] One reason for the waning audience is that Democrats are stepping on their own lines. The week that their witnesses were contradicting the position of the House Judiciary Committee and the staff was marketing Mueller CDs, Democrats held a closed door party caucus. In it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told Democratic members she has no intention of moving on impeachment. Imitating disgruntled Democratic voters, Pelosi said, “Some of our folks are a little bit ‘Why are we not impeaching the president?” She then added, “They get a little down.”

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Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament: “What links Strache, Le Pen, Salvini & Farage? They are all far-right, they all do Russia’s bidding & they all want to destroy the EU. They say they are patriots, I say they are traitors to traditional European values & freedoms.”

Collusion all over again. Blame someone else, never yourself.

The right has no choice but to unite, the EU parliament contains blocks of parties from at least 7 nations that are required to get seats. But what do these people really agree on?

Salvini and Le Pen Rally To Unite European Nationalists In Milan (EN)

Nationalist parties from across Europe held a rally on Saturday in Milan promising to reshape the continent through next week’s EU parliamentary election. Headlining the event was Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally (RN). The two populists are eager for their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group to become the third largest party in Brussels. “There are no extremists, racists or fascists in this square,” Salvini said. “Here you won’t find the far-right, but the politics of good sense. The extremists are those who have governed Europe for the past 20 years.” Thousands of flag-waving supporters of Salvini’s League party packed a rain-soaked central Milan square to see far-right and anti-immigrant leaders from 11 European Union countries present a common front in their battle to pull back power from Brussels.


“This is a historic moment,” said RN leader Marine Le Pen, “we say no to this immigration which has submerged our nations, putting our people at risk,” she said, playing up an issue that has helped fuel support for nationalist groups. Hundreds of opponents gathered on the sidelines, their boos, jeers and whistles sometimes drowning out the speakers. “Fascists leave Milan,” they chanted as Salvini took the stage. The ENF also includes Austria’s Freedom Party, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, whose head Geert Wilders was present in Milan. But despite their shared dislike of immigration and the EU, Europe’s populists remain divided on many key issues on the continent, including budgetary discipline, migrant distribution and relations with Moscow.

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He hides £450,000. They can fine him £8,800. Nuff said.

Nigel Farage Faces Investigation By EU Parliament Over Undeclared Gifts (Ind.)

Nigel Farage is facing an investigation by European parliament authorities over claims that he failed to declare nearly half a million pounds in gifts from an insurance tycoon under investigation by the National Crime Agency. It was claimed this week that the Brexit Party leader has been given as much as £450,000 in kind by Arron Banks, including a chauffeur-driven car, rent and bills on a £4.4m Chelsea home, and lavish trips to the United States to meet with right-wing politicians. But none of the gifts, detailed in invoices seen by Channel 4 News, were declared on Mr Farage’s register of interests with the European parliament, which is designed to prevent MEPs from keeping their conflicts of interests secret. In a letter seen by The Independent, one of the European parliament’s quaestors – MEPs responsible for the body’s financial and administrative matters – calls on the parliament’s presidency to “investigate these apparent contraventions as a matter of urgency”.

The push for an inquiry comes days before British voters are set to go to the polls for the European parliament elections, with Mr Farage’s Brexit Party thought to be heading for a runaway victory with an anti-EU, anti-establishment message. “As you will be aware, the code of conduct for members of the European parliament with respect to financial interests and conflicts of interest, in particular Article 6(1) of the implementing measures, makes it clear that members shall disclose their attendance at events organised by third parties where the reimbursement of their travel, accommodation or subsistence expenses, or the direct payments of such expenses, is covered by a third party,” Catherine Bearder, the quaestor who is also a Liberal Democrat MEP, said in the letter to Antonio Tajani, president of the European parliament.

“I can see no reference to any of the reported travel or accommodation subsidies related to Mr Farage’s US tour on any of his declarations of financial interests on the parliament’s website.” She noted that Mr Banks was “currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency over the source of his funding for the Brexit campaign”. [..] Under European parliament rules, Mr Farage could be fined up to around €10,000 (£8,800) through withholding of his subsistence allowance if he is found to have broken the rules. [..] Last year, in a separate run-in with expenses rules, Mr Farage had his MEP salary docked by more than £35,000 to recoup misspent EU funds intended for the staffing of his office.

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Not a much loved man. For good reason if you ask me.

UK Tories Will Split If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader, Warn MPs (Ind.)

Electing Boris Johnson leader on a no-deal Brexit ticket would risk a permanent split in the Conservative Party, a former minister has warned. The former foreign secretary has established himself as firm favourite to succeed Theresa May as prime minister in a contest many in Westminster expect to be triggered within weeks. It comes as the prime minister prepares to deliver a speech on Brexit this week, in what a government source billed as a “bold offer” to MPs in a last-ditch attempt to build support for her beleaguered Brexit bill in the Commons. A poll conducted shortly after he confirmed he would stand on Thursday put him on 39 per cent support among party members, well ahead of his nearest rival Dominic Raab on 13 per cent.

But he must first win his way through an MPs’ vote onto the shortlist of two presented to the membership in the country. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is currently thought to be leading in the race to sign up MP supporters, with Mr Johnson, Mr Raab and Michael Gove grouped together some way behind, and a wide range of other potential candidates yet to make real inroads. But Phillip Lee, who quit Ms May’s government last year over her EU withdrawal policy, told The Independent that Mr Johnson would risk the Conservatives’ hold on power and the future of the party if he took it down a no-deal route.

It would be a “sweet irony” if the Brexit figurehead found himself forced to deliver a Final Say referendum because there was no majority in parliament for no deal, he said. “I don’t think it is necessarily a personality who splits the party, I think the policy might,” said Mr Lee, who now chairs the Right to Vote group of Tory advocates of a referendum. “I don’t think a no-deal Brexit leaves the party intact. If that becomes the policy of the winning candidate, expect interesting times to follow.”

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More panic. Everybody panics now. Like they couldn’t have seen this coming.

Labour Panics As Remain Voters Switch To Liberal Democrats (G.)

Senior Labour figures were engaged in a desperate battle to shore up the party’s support on Saturday night, amid warnings that its stance on Brexit was helping to “detoxify the Lib Dems”. With just days left before the European elections at which Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is expected to triumph, shadow cabinet ministers are among those concerned that Labour’s ambiguous position on Brexit has helped revive the Lib Dems. It comes as new polling seen by the Observer suggests Vince Cable’s party is running in first place in London and could even beat Labour overall.

One senior party figure warned: “If the consequence of Labour’s Brexit position and this European election is to essentially detoxify the Lib Dems, then that’s a real problem.” Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, said “lifelong Labour voters” would not back the party this week due to its Brexit stance. He added: “It feels like we’ve given [the Lib Dems] the political equivalent of resuscitation.”

The fears came as it emerged that: • London mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged that he will campaign for Remain “day and night” in any second referendum, as he urged voters, in an article for the Observer, to back Labour to stop a Farage victory. • Theresa May is planning to make one last “bold offer” to MPs in a desperate attempt to secure support for her Brexit deal, including changes demanded by Labour, Democratic Unionist and Tory MPs and a new round of indicative votes. • Labour MPs revealed they were already drawing up attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit should a hardline Brexiter replace May as prime minister, with some suggesting that revoking Brexit had to be a fall-back option.

An Opinium poll for the Observer found that the Liberal Democrats have narrowly overtaken Labour as the favourite party of remain voters, with 29% of the group now backing Cable’s party and 28% backing Labour.

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Not the plane, the simulator. Nobody has one, and won’t before Christmas. But they intend to fly the planes by August.

Boeing Acknowledges Flaw In 737 MAX Simulator Software (AFP)

Boeing acknowledged Saturday it had to correct flaws in its 737 MAX flight simulator software used to train pilots, after two deadly crashes involving the aircraft that killed 346 people. “Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” it said in a statement. The company did not indicate when it first became aware of the problem, and whether it informed regulators. Its statement marked the first time Boeing acknowledged there was a design flaw in software linked to the 737 MAX, whose MCAS anti-stall software has been blamed in large part for the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

According to Boeing, the flight simulator software was incapable of reproducing certain flight conditions similar to those at the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March or the Lion Air crash in October. The company said the latest “changes will improve the simulation of force loads on the manual trim wheel,” a rarely used manual wheel to control the plane’s angle. “Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” it added. Southwest Airlines, a major 737 MAX customer with 34 of the aircraft in its fleet, told AFP it expected to receive the first simulator “late this year.”

American Airlines, which has 24 of the aircraft, said it had ordered a 737 MAX simulator that will be delivered and put into operation in December. Only Air Canada has a MAX simulator, industry sources told AFP. Currently, there is only one flight simulator specific to the 737 MAX in the United States, and it is owned by Boeing, according to FAA documentation. US airlines train their pilots flying the MAX on a simulator built for the 737 NG, the version preceding the 737 MAX in the 737 aircraft family. [..] US airlines have targeted August as the date they expect to resume flying on the 737 MAX.

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Every single week the press cites the government saying numbers are down. Not credible. And Macron still suffers from foot in mouth disease: “democracy is not played out on Saturday afternoons “

Democracy plays out everywhere and all the time.

France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Mark Six Months Of Protests (AFP)

“Yellow vest” protesters turned out across France Saturday to mark six months of rallies against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, but with their numbers dwindling, according to a government tally. A day after Macron appeared to draw a line under the movement, yellow jacket activists – named after the fluorescent vests they wear – marched in Paris and several other cities for the 27th consecutive week. The count from the interior ministry – routinely dismissed by yellow jackets – put the numbers across France at 15,500, of whom 1,600 marched in Paris. That was down again from last week’s count of 18,600, suggesting a steady decline. The yellow jackets’ own tally put the nationwide total at 41,000.


The numbers were nevertheless certainly down from the massive turn-out at the beginning of the movement, when nearly 300,000 people protested across the country on November 17 in what became one of the biggest challenges to Macron’s government. But many of those who turned out on Saturday were determined to keep going. “When I hear Macron say that he has done his bit, I can’t agree, and that motivates me even more,” said Virginie, an executive secretary marching in the southern city of Montpellier. On Friday, Macron said he felt he had answered the questions raised by the movement and that there was no more to be done politically. Those who had other ideas about how the country should be governed should run for office themselves, he said. “But democracy is not played out on Saturday afternoons,” he added.

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Free market: “..a fine line between preserving stability and hurting market sentiment..”

Four More Chinese Cities Warned Over Pace Of Home Price Growth (R.)

China’s housing regulator has urged four more cities to prevent their residential property markets from overheating in the latest sign that authorities are not about to relax their grip on the real estate business in order to spur the economy. The cities of Suzhou, Foshan, Dalian and Nanning have been told by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to stabilize land and housing prices as well as market expectations, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Saturday. Six other cities were warned by the ministry last month to monitor the growth of home prices in their markets, after some cities, including, Foshan quietly started to relax some curbs since December to spur demand.


China’s home property market is a key plank of the economy, influencing tens of related sectors such as construction and financial services. The sector has held up well despite a slowdown in growth in the world’s second-biggest economy, with policymakers walking a fine line between preserving stability and hurting market sentiment. Renewed tensions between China and the United States over trade have also added pressure on Chinese policymakers to keep the domestic economy on a stable footing, while continuing to fend off risks such as housing bubbles. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.6% in April, unchanged from the pace of growth in March, according to a monthly official survey.

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No coffee.

You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep—And It’s Killing You (Wired)

According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, I’m doing serious damage to my health—and life—by not sleeping enough. “The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and education of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic. It’s fast becoming one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century,” Walker, an expert in sleep at UC Berkeley and author of the best-selling book Why We Sleep, told a rapt TED audience on Thursday.

[..] He ran down all the ways in which sleep deprivation hurts people: it makes you dumber, more forgetful, unable to learn new things, more vulnerable to dementia, more likely to die of a heart attack, less able to fend off sickness with a strong immune system, more likely to get cancer, and it makes your body literally hurt more. Lack of sleep distorts your genes, and increases your risk of death generally, he said. It disrupts the creation of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and leads to premature aging. Apparently, men who only sleep five hours a night have markedly smaller testicles than men who sleep more than seven.

“Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology,” he said. “Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.” [..] Everyone is obsessed with sleep. And they know they’re not getting enough—hence the growing demand for sleeping pills, the emergence of sleep tracking devices (Walker wears an Oura Ring to track his), smart beds, Alexa integrations to put you to sleep, and mindfulness sleep apps. Arianna Huffington famously left journalism to found a company devoted to sleep and wellness.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

May 042019
 
 May 4, 2019  Posted by at 8:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier) 1910

 

UN Calls For Julian Assange’s Release From UK High-Security Jail
Barr Launches Wide-Ranging Probe Into 2016 FBI Spying (ZH)
Deeper Into the Dark (Jim Kunstler)
Mueller’s Own Mysteries (Stephen F. Cohen)
Obama On “Scripted, Soulless” Clinton Campaign, “Cartoon Character” Trump (ZH)
UK Tories Lose More Than 1,300 Councillors (BBC)
New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Brexit Referendum (TNE)
Two Medicare-For-All Bills; One Is a Lot Better Than the Other (NC)
French Minister Rows Back On Claim May Day Protesters ‘Attacked’ Hospital (EN)
Africa’s Forests Are Disappearing At An Unprecedented Rate (M&G)
Biodiversity Crisis Is About To Put Humanity At Risk – UN (G.) >
Lost World: Nature At Death’s Door (AFP)

 

 

UK doesn’t care one bit about the UN. So throw them out. Tell them they can come back once they have a functioning legal system. “Independent judges” my posterior.

UN Calls For Julian Assange’s Release From UK High-Security Jail

UN experts have called for Julian Assange to be released from prison and criticised the British government for breaching his human rights. The WikiLeaks publisher was jailed for 50 weeks on Wednesday for breaking bail conditions imposed seven years earlier by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The UN working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) said it was deeply concerned by the “disproportionate sentence” imposed on Assange for violating the terms of his bail, which it described as a “minor violation”. The group has twice previously called for Assange to be freed, after it judged his confinement to the Ecuadorian embassy by the threat of arrest should he leave amounted to arbitrary detention.

“The working group regrets that the government has not complied with its opinion and has now furthered the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr Assange,” it said in a statement on Friday. “It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr Assange and that in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case. “The working group is further concerned that Mr Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.

“The WGAD reiterates its recommendation to the government of the United Kingdom, as expressed in its opinion 54/2015, and its 21 December 2018 statement, that the right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.” A government spokesperson said: “The UK has a close working relationship with UN bodies and is committed to upholding the rule of law. Sentencing is a matter for our independent judges, who take into account the full facts of each case, and the law provides those convicted with a right of appeal.” Assange appeared in court on Thursday via video link from Belmarsh as he began a legal fight against extradition to the US, where he is wanted on charges relating to the publication of secret US files leaked by Chelsea Manning, a US intelligence analyst who was subsequently jailed.

Read more …

Plenty people with plenty reasons to try and get Barr impeached. But on what grounds?

Barr Launches Wide-Ranging Probe Into 2016 FBI Spying (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Panel this week that he has assembled a team at the Justice Department to probe whether the spying conducted by the FBI against the Trump campaign in 2016 was improper, reports Bloomberg. Barr suggested that he would focus on former senior leaders at the FBI and Justice Department. “To the extent there was overreach, what we have to be concerned about is a few people at the top getting it into their heads that they know better than the American people,” said Barr. Barr will also review whether the infamous Steele dossier – a collection of salacious and unverified claims against Donald Trump, assembled by a former British spy and paid for by the Clinton campaign – was fabricated by the Russian government to trick the FBI and other US agencies.

(Will Barr investigate whether Steele made the whole thing up for his client, Fusion GPS?) “We now know that he was being falsely accused,” Barr said of Trump. “We have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon.” Mueller’s report didn’t say there were false accusations against Trump. It said the evidence of cooperation between the campaign and Russia “was not sufficient to support criminal charges.” Investigators were unable to get a complete picture of the activities of some relevant people, the special counsel found.

Although Barr’s review has only begun, it’s helping to fuel a narrative long embraced by Trump and some of his Republican supporters: that the Russia investigation was politically motivated and concocted from false allegations in order to spy on Trump’s campaign and ultimately undermine his presidency. -Bloomberg. As Bloomberg notes, Barr’s review could receive a boost by a Thursday New York Times article acknowledging that the FBI sent a ‘honeypot’ spy to London in 2016 to pose as a research assistant and gather intelligence from Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos over possible Trump campaign links to Russia.

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“..beyond even the wicked Hillary Clinton to the sainted former president Obama..” “..Mr. Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, his NSA Director James Clapper, a baker’s dozen of former Obama top FBI and DOJ officials, including former AG Loretta Lynch, and sundry additional players..”

Deeper Into the Dark (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Barr’s stolid demeanor during the Wednesday session was a refreshing reminder of what it means to be not insane in the long-running lunatic degeneration of national politics. Of course, the reason for the continued hysteria among Democrats is that the two-year solemn inquiry by the august former FBI Director, Mr. Mueller, is being revealed daily as a mendacious fraud with criminal overtones running clear through Democratic ranks beyond even the wicked Hillary Clinton to the sainted former president Obama, who may have supervised his party’s collusion with foreign officials to interfere in the 2016 election. Mr. Barr’s hints that he intends to tip this dumpster of political subterfuge, to find out what was at the bottom of it, is being taken as a death threat to the Democratic Party, as well it should be.


A lot of familiar names and faces will be rolling out of that dumpster into the grand juries and federal courtrooms just as the big pack of White House aspirants jets around the primary states as though 2020 might be anything like a normal election. In short and in effect, the Democratic Party itself is headed to trial on a vector that takes it straight into November next year. How do you imagine it will look to voters when Mr. Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, his NSA Director James Clapper, a baker’s dozen of former Obama top FBI and DOJ officials, including former AG Loretta Lynch, and sundry additional players in the great game of RussiaGate Gotcha end up ‘splainin’ their guts out to a whole different cast of federal prosecutors?

It’s hardly out of the question that Barack Obama himself and Mrs. Clinton may face charges in all this mischief and depravity. It’s surely true that the public is sick of the RussiaGate spectacle. (I know readers of this blog complain about it.) But it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the worst and most tangled scandal that the US government has ever seen, and that failing to resolve it successfully really is an existential threat to the project of being a republic. I was a young newspaper reporter during Watergate and that was like a game of animal lotto compared to this garbage barge of malfeasance.


[..] It seems more than merely possible that the entire Mueller Investigation was a ruse from the start to conceal all this nefarious activity. It is even more astounding to see exactly what a lame document the Mueller Report turned out to be. It was such a dud that even the Democratic senators and congresspersons who are complaining the loudest have not bothered to visit the special parlor set up at the Department of Justice for their convenience to read a much more lightly redacted edition of the report.

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“Mueller even brands American pro-détente views—as Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan held in the 20th century—as “pro-Russia foreign policy positions..”

Mueller’s Own Mysteries (Stephen F. Cohen)

• It has occasionally been suggested that Russiagate was originated by high-level US officials who disliked candidate Trump’s pledge to “cooperate with Russia.” This suspicion remains unproven, but throughout, Mueller repeatedly attributes to Trump campaign members and Russians who interacted in 2016, potentially in sinister or even criminal ways, a desire for “improved U.S.-Russian relations,” for “bringing the end of the new Cold War,” for a “new beginning with Russia.” Even Russian President Vladimir Putin is reported to have wanted “reconciliation between the United States and Russia.”

The result is, of course, to discredit America’s once-mainstream advocacy of détente. Mueller even brands American pro-détente views—as Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan held in the 20th century—as “pro-Russia foreign policy positions”. Does this mean that Americans who hold pro-détente views today, as I and quite a few others do, are to be investigated for their “contacts” with Russians in pursuit of better relations? Mueller seems to say nothing to offset this implication, which has already adversely affected a few Americans mentioned and not mentioned in his report.

• Nor does Mueller consider alternative scenarios and explanations, as any good historical or judicial investigation must do. For example, he accepts uncritically the Clinton/Democratic National Committee allegation that Russian agents hacked and disseminated their emails in 2016. Again, maybe so, but why did he not do his own forensic examination or even mention the alternative finding by VIPS that they were stolen and leaked by an insider? Why did he not question Julian Assange, who claimed to know how and through whom the emails reached WikiLeaks? And how to explain Mueller’s minimal interest in the shadowy professor Joseph Mifsud, who helped entrap George Papadopoulos in London? Mueller reports that Mifsud “had connections to Russia” (p. 5), although a simple Google search suggests that Mifsud was indeed an “agent” but not a Russian one, as widely alleged in media accounts.

Read more …

Obama’s all about Obama.

Obama On “Scripted, Soulless” Clinton Campaign, “Cartoon Character” Trump (ZH)

[..] as Obama saw it, the “real blame” for Clinton’s loss “lay squarely with Clinton” – despite her many well-documented attempts to make every conceivable excuse, from blaming Bernie Sanders and his misogynistic “Bernie Bros” to misogynistic Trump supporters. But as Obama vented, nobody forced Clinton to take money from Goldman Sachs, or set up an illicit private email server at her house in Chappaqua. In a stinging passage Baker writes: ‘To Obama and his team, however, the real blame lay squarely with Clinton. ‘She was the one who could not translate his strong record and healthy economy into a winning message. ‘Never mind that Trump essentially ran the same playbook against Clinton that Obama did eight years earlier, portraying her as a corrupt exemplar of the status quo.

‘She brought many of her troubles on herself. No one forced her to underestimate the danger in the Midwest states of Wisconsin and Michigan. ‘No one forced her to set up a private email server that would come back to haunt her. ‘No one forced her to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other pillars of Wall Street for speeches. ‘No one forced her to run a scripted, soulless campaign that tested eighty-five slogans before coming up with ‘Stronger Together’. Obama tried to keep his cool in the weeks afterwards and texted his speechwriter Ben Rhodes: ‘There are more stars in the sky than sand on the earth’. But soon he was unable to contain his rage which escalated after he met Trump in the Oval Office.

Baker writes that despite being cordial in public he afterwards summoned Rhodes who told him that Trump ‘peddles in b*******’ Rhodes said: ‘That character has always been part of the American story. You can see it right back to some of the characters in Huckleberry Finn’. Obama replied: ‘Maybe that’s the best we can hope for’.

Read more …

Tories lose 1,334 councillors (about 28%), Labour loses 82. Guardian says “heavy lossses for Labour Party”.

LibDems were dead, and nobody likes them today. They win 703 seats only because they’re the only strong anti-Brexit vote.

Comment on Twitter: ”The Guardian headlines talk about “heavy lossses for Labour Party” (-4%) Meanwhile even the Tory #BBC is leading with “Tories lose 1300 councillors” Hhhhhhmmmm … the Guardian really, REALLY does hate #Corbyn !!”

Meanwhile, May doesn’t resign after such a loss, she says: voters want us to finish what we’ve been doing.

She must have turned to the bottle.

UK Tories Lose More Than 1,300 Councillors (BBC)

The Conservatives have lost 1,334 councillors, with Theresa May saying voters wanted the main parties to “get on” with Brexit. Labour also lost 82 seats in the English local elections, in which it had been expected to make gains. But the strongly pro-EU Lib Dems gained 703 seats, with leader Sir Vince Cable calling every vote received “a vote for stopping Brexit”. The Greens and independents also made gains, as UKIP lost seats. All 248 English councils holding elections have now announced their full results.


While the scale of the Conservative election losses is larger than expected, Labour had predicted it would gain seats, having suffered losses the last time these council seats were contested, in 2015. The Green Party has added 194 councillors, while the number of independent councillors has risen by 612. UKIP, which enjoyed large gains in 2015, lost 145 seats. Results from Northern Ireland’s 11 councils are also being announced. No local elections are taking place in Scotland and Wales.

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Far from over. Even if Labour signs up for a May deal, what is their legitimacy at this point?

New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Brexit Referendum (TNE)

New polling has found that 61% of those who would vote in a second referendum would vote to Remain in the European Union. The YouGov survey for KIS Finance found that between the choice of Theresa May’s Brexit deal or remaining in the EU, 61% of those who confirmed they would vote stated they wanted the UK to stay in the European Union. When a no-deal scenario is added into the mix, 53% of people would vote to Remain, while 34% would vote for no-deal, and just 12% would vote for Theresa May’s deal.


The research also uncovered that 1 in 10 have put off important financial decisions, such as buying their first home, moving house, spending money on home improvements, investing and making major purchases such as a car, until the future of Brexit is clear. In London this figures rises to 1 in 5 who have delayed key financial decisions as a direct result of Brexit. In Wales, 1 in 6 have been affected and in Scotland 1 in 7 have postponed major financial decisions. The polling was carried out days ahead of the local elections, 23rd – 24th April 2019. Further information can be found on the KIS FInance website.

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Bernie needs a rethink.

Two Medicare-For-All Bills; One Is a Lot Better Than the Other (NC)

Two bills that are called “Medicare for all” bills by their supporters have just been introduced in Congress. On February 27, Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019, HR 1384 , in the House of Representatives. On April 10, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill bearing the same name in the Senate, S 1129. The cost-containment section in Representative Jayapal’s bill will cut health care costs substantially without slashing the incomes of doctors and hospitals. Senator Sanders’ bill cannot do that. In this article, I explain the differences in the cost containment sections of the two bills and call upon Senator Sanders to correct two defects in his bill that minimize its ability to reduce costs.

Defect number one: S 1129 authorizes a new form of insurance company called the “accountable care organization” (ACO). Defect number two: S 1129 fails to authorize budgets for hospitals. Representative Jayapal’s bill, on the other hand, explicitly repeals the federal law authorizing ACOs, and it authorizes budgets for individual hospitals. I write this essay as both a long-time organizer, writer and speaker for a single-payer (the older name for “Medicare for all” system) and a strong supporter of Senator Sanders. Bernie’s enthusiastic support for a “single payer” solution to the American health care crisis has added millions of new supporters to the single-payer movement.

But precisely because he is now the most recognizable face of the single-payer movement, it is extremely important that all of us, whether we’re already in the single-payer movement or we just long for a sane and humane health care system, encourage Bernie to fix the defects in his bill. To explain the two defects in S 1129, I must first explain why a single-payer bill like Representative Jayapal’s will be effective at cutting the high cost of American health care. I begin by explaining the origin and meaning of the “single payer” label. I will then describe the two defects in S 1129 in more detail.

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As soon as you read that Yellow Vests attacked a hospital, you know this is a hoax. Or I hope you do. But I bet the probe that will now follow will stop at looking at evidence of an attack, not at why the government has spread false rumors.

French Minister Rows Back On Claim May Day Protesters ‘Attacked’ Hospital (EN)

Paris’ prosecutor has begun a probe after May Day protesters allegedly entered a famed Paris hospital and tried to force the door to its intensive care unit. But supporters of the “gilets jaunes” (“yellow vests”), who were among demonstrators during a fiery march in the French capital on Wednesday, said they were just seeking refuge from tear gas fired by police. Thirty-two people were in police custody under charges of “gathering to commit degradations or violence,” the prosecutor’s office told Euronews. They were released on Thursday evening as investigations continue, the prosecutor’s office said. France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner initially said the hospital was ‘attacked’ by dozens of anti-capitalist militants and black blocks, but by Friday morning he had changed his position.

“I shouldn’t have used the word ‘attack’. The term ‘violent intrusion’ used by the hospital director seems to be more accurate giving the videos on it shared ever since,” admitted Castaner during a press conference. [..] But supporters of the “yellow vest” movement, whose protests have shaken the government of President Emmanuel Macron over the past half year, insisted the demonstrators were merely seeking refuge from tear gas fired by police. The incident came during a hugely tense May Day which saw police clash with hardline protesters on the sidelines of the annual labour union march. The hospital is close to the Place d’Italie where the march ended. Salome Fournet-Fayas, a 26-year-old set designer who was demonstrating on May Day, was at the hospital with other protesters.

She told Euronews that she and other demonstrators were following the official itinerary for the rally when police fired tear gas at them in such quantity that she almost vomited. Fournet-Fayas said that as demonstrators were fleeing tear gas and possible flash ball shots, they noticed that the hospital gates were open. So they entered and quietly waited for things to calm down on the grass, in the hospital courtyard, without going inside the building. Asked whether some violent protesters might have tried to attack the hospital, she replied that “everyone was very calm.” She said she felt “revolted” by the government’s account of the events. “No one tried to attack to attack this hospital,” she assured. “We were just there waiting.”

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Nothing holds more CO2 than rainforests.

Africa’s Forests Are Disappearing At An Unprecedented Rate (M&G)

This week, Liberian activist Alfred Brownell won the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize for his efforts to protect Liberia’s rainforest from the depredations of a multinational palm oil producer. But new research, showing that deforestation in Africa is increasing at an unprecedented rate, suggests the continent needs plenty more Alfred Brownells if it is to have a hope of protecting its trees — and, ultimately, the planet itself. “We are in a war for this planet,” said Brownell from Northeastern University in Boston. He was forced into exile after he formed a public interest law group that used legal means to prevent the exploitation of Liberian rainforests by a Singapore-based palm oil producer.

“It’s not just a struggle to protect remote towns and villages, or just to protect their sacred sites, or just to protect their land and their crops, their way of life, their culture, their religion. It’s also about protecting these important forests in West Africa which are producing oxygen and absorbing carbon and, in essence, making an enormous contribution in the mitigation of climate change,” he said. [..] Because of their age,primary forests contain more carbon than other forests, making them invaluable in the climate-change fight. Losing them is a double blow: not only is all this carbon released into the atmosphere, but the land where the forests used to be no longer sucks carbon from the atmosphere.

The main problem areas are Brazil and Indonesia’s rainforests, which together account for 46%of primary rainforest loss in 2018. But this year researchers discovered a new disturbing development: trees in Africa are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Three regions in Africa are of particular concern: The first is Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which both experienced dramatic losses in primary forest cover between 2017 and 2018 (60% and 26% respectively). Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what drove the loss, illegal mining is likely to have played a major role, as are expanding cocoa plantations.

The second is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is behind only Brazil in terms of the total area of primary forest lost.“In the … Congo, primary forest loss was 38% higher in 2018 than it was from 2011-2017. Madagascar is the third area of concern. It lost 2% of its primary forests in 2018. That is a higher proportion than any other tropical country. GFW attributes this mostly to small-scale forest clearing for agriculture and fuel.

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“..world leaders will agree rescue plans for nature ..” And they will be grossly insufficient and turn into terrible failures.

Biodiversity Crisis Is About To Put Humanity At Risk – UN (G.)

Like its predecessor, the report is a compilation of reams of academic studies, in this case on subjects ranging from ocean plankton and subterranean bacteria to honey bees and Amazonian botany. Following previous findings on the decimation of wildlife, the overview of the state of the world’s nature is expected to provide evidence that the world is facing a sixth wave of extinction. Unlike the past five, this one is human-driven. Mike Barrett, WWF’s executive director of conservation and science, said: “All of our ecosystems are in trouble. This is the most comprehensive report on the state of the environment. It irrefutably confirms that nature is in steep decline.”

Barrett said this posed an environmental emergency for humanity, which is threatened by a triple challenge of climate, nature and food production. “There is no time to despair,” he said. “We should be hopeful that we have a window of opportunity to do something about it over these two years.” The report will sketch out possible future scenarios that will vary depending on the decisions taken by governments, businesses and individuals. The next year and a half is likely to be crucial because world leaders will agree rescue plans for nature and the climate at two big conferences at the end of 2020.

That is when China will host the UN framework convention on biodiversity gathering in Kunming, which will establish new 20-year targets to replace those agreed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010. Soon after, the UN framework convention on climate change will revise Paris agreement commitments at a meeting in either the UK, Italy, Belgium or Turkey.

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Degradation continues to increase.

Lost World: Nature At Death’s Door (AFP)

Earth’s population has doubled in 50 years. Not only are we living longer than ever before, we are also consuming more. Today, humans extract around 60 billion tonnes of resources from Nature each year — a rise of 80 percent in just a few decades. And we are leaving our mark in other ways. Since 1980, manmade greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, adding at least 0.7C to global temperatures. We dump up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other waste into oceans and rivers each year. The report, compiled from more than 15,000 academic papers and research publications, estimates that 75 percent of land, 40 percent of oceans and 50 percent of rivers “manifest severe impacts of degradation” from human activity.

The document, the first of its kind in 15 years, paints a picture of rife inequality, with richer nations consuming vastly more per capita than poorer ones battling to retain their natural resources. Indeed, per capita demand for materials is four times more in high- than in low-income economies. In Europe and North America, humans now consume several times the recommended intake of meat, sugar and fat for optimal health, while 40 percent of the world’s people lack access even to clean drinking water. The inequality gap is huge and widening: GDP per head is already 50 times larger in wealthy nations than in poor ones. Industrial fishing is destroying our oceans, according to the report. It found that 70,000 industrial fishing vessels operate in at least 55 percent of the world’s high seas.

Nearly three quarters of major marine fish stocks are depleted or exploited to the limit of sustainability, despite efforts from the fishing community to implement quotas and drive down overfishing. On land, the situation looks even bleaker. A third of all land is now given over to agriculture and 75 percent of freshwater resources is dedicated to food production. In all, at least a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from land clearing, crop production and fertilisation, the vast majority of which comes from animal-based food production.


New York Zoo, 1963 “You are looking at the most dangerous animal in the world. It alone of all the animals that ever lived can exterminate (and has) entire species of animals. Now it has the power to wipe out all life on earth.”

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You know I always liked my walking shoes
but you can get a little too fond of the blues
You walk too far, you walk away
Hello sunshine won’t you stay

You know I always loved a lonely town
Those empty streets, no one around

You know I always liked that empty road
No place to be and miles to go
But miles to go is miles away
Hello sunshine won’t you stay

 

 

 

Apr 302019
 


Edouard Manet The absinthe drinker 1859

 

Ros Rosenstein Resigns (ZH)
Trump Sues Capital One, Deutsche Over Complying With Subpoenas (Fox)
Russia Military Budget Continues To Decline (AFP)
One Child Dies From Yemen War And Side Effects Every 12 Minutes (MEE)
Letter to Dennis A. Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing (Ralph Nader)
Boeing Told Southwest 737 MAX Alert Feature NOT ON By Default (RT)
Boeing Boss Rejects Accusations About 737 MAX Jets That Crashed (G.)
Assange Accuses Ecuadorian Diplomatic Staff In London Of Spying (RT)
Why is Maria Butina in Prison? (Ron Paul)
Tom Petty was Right (Jim Kunstler)
The Gilets Jaunes Are Winning, What’s Next? (OffG)
Globalization is Waning (CNBC)
Climate Change Being Fuelled By Soil Damage (BBC)
Antibiotic Resistance As Big A Threat As Climate Change (G.)

 

 

I wonder what we’ll learn about Rosenstein now he’s stepped down. Offering to wear a wire to spy on Trump is still a very curious issue.

Ros Rosenstein Resigns (ZH)

While long-expected, amid two chaos-ridden years as the Justice Department’s No.2, the day has finally come when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has reportedly sent his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, will leave post May 11. “I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education and prosperity,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In his letter, Mr. Rosenstein cited the Justice Department’s progress in executing the Trump administration’s agenda: fighting violent crime, combating the nation’s drug abuse crisis, toughening immigration enforcement and supporting local law enforcement. “Productivity rose, and crime fell,” he wrote.


“Our nation is safer, our elections are more secure and our citizens are better informed about covert foreign efforts and schemes to commit fraud, steal intellectual property, and launch cyberattacks,” he wrote. “We also pursued illegal leaks, investigated credible allegations of employee misconduct and accommodated congressional oversight without compromising law enforcement interests.” Mr. Rosenstein made no mention of the special counsel in his resignation letter, but instead, as WSJ reports, wrote of the Justice Department’s responsibility to avoid partisanship. “Political considerations may influence policy choices, but neutral principals must drive decisions about individual cases,” he wrote.

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“..allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process..”

Really? That’s what this is about?

Trump Sues Capital One, Deutsche Over Complying With Subpoenas (Fox)

President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday against Deutsche Bank and Capital One in an attempt to block congressional subpoenas for his business records, claiming House Democrats are simply attempting to harass him. Politico reported that in a joint statement, Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the Trump suit “meritless.” They claimed Trump’s suit was a tactic to delay accountability. Waters is the chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee and Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff said at the time that the subpoenas were part of an investigation “into allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process.”

Two House committees subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and several other financial institutions earlier this month as part of investigations into Trump’s finances. The lawsuit by Trump, his sons Donald Jr. and Eric and his daughter Ivanka, was filed in Manhattan federal court. The Trump Organization and the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust are among the other plaintiffs. The Trumps want a federal judge to declare the subpoenas unlawful and unenforceable. The lawsuit also seeks to block the financial institutions from disclosing information and complying with the subpoenas. [..] “This case involves congressional subpoenas that have no legitimate or lawful purpose,” the suit, obtained by The New York Times, said.

“The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage. No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one.”

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AFP headline was: “US military spending up for first time in 7 years”. But that’s not the story. It’s Russia. Even France spends more. And stories keep on coming about Russia threatening just about everyone.

Russia Military Budget Continues To Decline (AFP)

US military spending has risen for the first time in seven years, reflecting Trump administration policy, according to a new report released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Worldwide military spending also rose by 2.6 percent to $1.8 trillion overall last year, SIPRI calculated. It was the second year running the global figure has risen, bringing military spending to its highest level since 1988. “The increase in US spending was driven by the implementation from 2017 of new arms procurement programmes under the Trump administration,” said Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme.


The US figure alone of $649 billion was as much as the next eight highest military budgets. But Chinese as well as US spending helped push the overall spending figures for the year higher, said the report. China’s spending has risen 83 percent since 2009, bringing it up to second place, ahead of Saudi Arabia, India — which is modernising its armed forces — and France. [..] Russia meanwhile dropped out of the top five spenders, with its military budget declining since 2016, said the report. Western countries’ economic sanctions against Russia, in place since 2014 because of its conflict with Ukraine, have hit the country’s military budget.

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“..the vast majority of the victims of Yemen’s conflict are children under five..”

One Child Dies From Yemen War And Side Effects Every 12 Minutes (MEE)

By the end of 2019, fighting in Yemen will have claimed about 102,000 lives, according to new figures from the United Nations that indicate the war has killed far more people than previously reported. A UN-commissioned report by University of Denver also revealed that more Yemenis were dying of hunger, disease and the lack of health clinics and other infrastructure than from fighting. About 131,000 Yemenis will have died from these side effects of the conflict between the beginning in 2015 and the end of 2019, according to the 68-page study, called Assessing the Impact of War on Development in Yemen. The combined death toll from fighting and disease is 233,000, or 0.8 percent of Yemen’s 30 million-strong population.


Researchers also said that those five years of conflict will have cost Yemen’s economy $89bn. “It’s worse than people expected,” Jonathan Moyer, an assistant professor and lead author on the report, told Middle East Eye. “It’s one of the highest-impact internal conflicts since the end of the Cold War. On par with Iraq, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – conflicts with an impact on development that lasts for a generation.” According to Moyer, the vast majority of the victims of Yemen’s conflict are children under five. The report says that one child dies from the war and its side effects every 11 minutes and 54 seconds. Moyer’s team also projected forward, calculating Yemen’s losses if the war were to drag on until 2030. If fighting continues until then, the death toll would reach 1.8 million, the economy would have lost $657bn, 84 percent of Yemenis would be malnourished and 71 percent of them would live in extreme poverty, researchers said.

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Nader is Boeing’s biggest fear. He lost a niece in the Ethiopia crash.

Letter to Dennis A. Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing (Ralph Nader)

Dear Mr. Muilenburg: On April 4, 2019 you somewhat belatedly released a statement that “We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds….” You added that a preliminary investigation made it “apparent that in both flights” the MCAS “activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information.” These and other remarks reflect years of mismanagement by Boeing executives, now tragically bearing bitter fruit. Your acknowledgement of the problems with the 737 MAX somehow escaped inclusion in your messages to shareholders, the capital markets and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It is now stunningly clear that your overly optimistic outlook on January 20, 2019 – after the Indonesian Lion Air crash – was misleading. Whatever the public learns, day after day about the troubles of your company, it is still far less than what Boeing knows will come out day by day, and not just about the deadly design of the 737 MAX. Your narrow-body passenger aircraft – namely, the long series of 737’s that began in the nineteen sixties was past its prime. How long could Boeing avoid making the investment needed to produce a “clean-sheet” aircraft and, instead, in the words of Bloomberg Businessweek “push an aging design beyond its limits?” Answer: As long as Boeing could get away with it and keep necessary pilot training and other costs low for the airlines as a sales incentive.

Boeing kept on this track until the competition from its only competitor, Airbus, came along with its A320neo. The year 2011 was a crucial period for the company. Top management was into preliminary work on a new aircraft and then panicked over Airbus’s success. To compete with Airbus, Boeing equipped the 737 MAX with larger engines tilted more forward and upward on the wings than prior 737’s. Thus began the trail of criminal negligence that will implicate the company and its executives.

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Contradictory reports. Boeing seems to have a foot in its mouth.

Boeing Told Southwest 737 MAX Alert Feature NOT ON By Default (RT)

Southwest Airlines, the largest Boeing 737 MAX customer, says Boeing told them a standard flight angle alert system had to be bought separately to be activated, contradicting the manual – and only after the deadly Lion Air crash. The system in question, officially known as the angle of attack (AOA) disagree light, is basically an indicator at a plane’s control board. The light is expected to go on whenever the aircraft’s nose pitches up or down too far, warning its pilots of a potentially dangerous situation. Such a light was a standard issue on earlier models of Boeing planes, and was expected to work in the same manner on the ill-fated MAX 737 planes – except it wasn’t – instead coming as part of an additional indicator package.


When the new planes were delivered to Southwest Airlines, the “lights were depicted to us by Boeing as operable on all MAX aircraft” regardless of purchasing the add-on, the airline operator said in a statement. The manual for the aircraft showed that as well, the company said. After the first deadly crash of a 737 MAX plane in October, operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air, Boeing notified Southwest that the indicators were actually not working by default. The company then promptly installed the optional package that made the warning lights function as the Southwest pilots had expected. Boeing, in a statement to CNBC, said the disagree lights would in the future be included as a standard feature – that is if the grounded jet returns to operations.

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There are no accusations, just a statement by the WSJ that the systems were not activated. That’s either true or it is not.

Boeing Boss Rejects Accusations About 737 MAX Jets That Crashed (G.)

The boss of Boeing has denied accusations that its two 737 Max aircraft involved in fatal crashes lacked an optional safety feature, which might have alerted the pilots to technical malfunctions that partly caused the accidents. “We don’t make safety features optional,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chairman and chief executive, said at the company’s annual meeting in Chicago on Monday. “Every one of our airplanes includes all of the safety features necessary for safe flight.” A preliminary investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash last month found it was triggered by a faulty “angle of attack” sensor, which monitors the inflight position of the plane.

The erroneous readings from the sensor in turn activated the aircraft’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), an auto-pilot program that encourages the plane’s nose to dip down. [..] It was revealed over the weekend that Boeing had removed warnings about pitch sensor malfunction from the standard 737 Max (MCAS) safety package. The Wall Street Journal reported that the warning system, which was present in previous 737 models, was only operative on 737 Max jets if the operator airlines had paid for a package of additional safety features. “In this case again, as in most accidents, there are a chain of events that occurred. It is not correct to attribute that to any single item,” Muilenburg said.

“We know that there are some improvements that we can make to MCAS and we will make those improvements.” He told shareholders that software updates being carried out would make the grounded 737 Max fleet “one of the safest airplanes ever to fly”, adding: “Yet, we know we can always be better. We have a responsibility to design, build and support the safest airplanes in the sky. The recent accidents have only intensified our dedication to it.” [..] It was also revealed on Monday that four Boeing employees had called the Federal Aviation Administration to raise serious concerns about the 737 Max. The calls began coming in within hours of Ethiopian investigators releasing a preliminary report on the crash.

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“Ecuadorian law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for each violation mentioned in the complaint.”

Assange Accuses Ecuadorian Diplomatic Staff In London Of Spying (RT)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has filed a criminal complaint in Ecuador, accusing the diplomatic staff at the London embassy of spying on the whistleblower before leaking illegally obtained data to a third party for extortion. Lenin Moreno’s government violated Assange’s privacy by secretly recording the journalist’s daily activities starting from March 2018, said a complaint submitted Monday to the attorney general’s office in Ecuador on behalf of the whistleblower. It says the spying was conducted with the help of Promsecurity, a private contractor firm which administers electronic surveillance at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.


Naming three officials of the diplomatic mission, including Ambassador Jaime Marchán, as well as four members of Promsecurity, the complaint alleges that the government violated at least four counts of domestic law by illicitly monitoring Assange’s activity. Those involved apparently tried to extort €3 million from WikiLeaks threatening to publish audio, video and personal documents of Assange unless they get paid. Ecuadorian law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for each violation mentioned in the complaint. The matter is “very sensitive and complicated” Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda told reporters after filing the case in Quito, asking for the judiciary to investigate the case. The lawyer did not reveal to whom the Australian’s personal information had been leaked to, but noted that that the Spanish authorities are already investigating the extortion scheme.

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“Maria Butina was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Why is Maria Butina in Prison? (Ron Paul)

Russian gun rights activist and graduate exchange student Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week for “conspiracy to act as a foreign agent without registering.” Her “crime” was to work to make connections among American gun rights activists in hopes of building up her organization, the Right to Bear Arms, when she returned to Russia. She was not employed by the Russian government nor was she a lobbyist on Putin’s behalf. In fact the Putin Administration is hostile to Russian gun rights groups. Nevertheless the US mainstream media and Trump’s Justice Department are treating her as public enemy number one in a case that will no doubt set the dangerous precedent of criminalizing person-to-person diplomacy in the United States.

The Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) was passed in 1938 under pressure from the FDR Administration partly to silence opposition to the US entry into World War II. While a handful of cases were prosecuted during the war, between 1966 and 2015 the Justice Department only brought seven FARA cases for prosecution. Though very few cases have been brought on FARA violations, one of them was against Samir Vincent, who was paid millions of dollars by Saddam Hussein to lobby for sanctions relief without registering. He got off with a fine and “community service.” Millions of dollars in unregistered payments from Saddam Hussein gets no jail time, while Butina gets 18 months in prison for privately promoting a cause most Americans support! How is this justice?

The US Justice Department is not even as tough on illegals who commit capital crimes in the US! Unfortunately Maria Butina was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the rise of the “Russiagate” hysteria, Butina’s case was seen as a useful tool by Democrats to push the idea that President Trump was put into office by the Russians. Plus, many of them are also hostile to our Second Amendment and to the National Rifle Association. So it was a perfect storm for Butina.

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Waiting is the hardest part.

Tom Petty was Right (Jim Kunstler)

The sense of gathering crisis persists. It is systemic and existential. It calls into question our ability to carry on “normal” life much farther into this century, and all the anxiety that attends it is so hard for the public to process that a dismaying number of citizens opt for suicide. There is no coherent consensus about what is happening and no coherent proposals to do anything about it. Bad ideas flourish in this nutrient medium of unresolved crisis. Lately, they dominate the scene on every side. A species of wishful thinking that resembles a primitive cargo cult grips the technocratic class, awaiting magical rescue remedies to extend the regime of Happy Motoring, consumerism, and suburbia that make up the crumbling armature of “normal” life in the USA.


The political Right seeks to Make America Great Again, as though we might return to a 1962 heyday of industrial mass production by wishing hard enough. The Left seeks the equivalent of an extended childhood for all, lived out in a universal safe space, where all goods and services come magically free from a kindly parent-like government, and the sunny days are spent training unicorns to find rainbows. The decade-long “recovery” from the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 amounted to ten years of fake-it-til-you-make-it — with the prospect nil of actually making it to something like economic and cultural soundness. Are we too far gone now? Some kind of shock therapy is surely in the offing, and probably in the form of a violent financial readjustment that will alter the terms of getting and spending so drastically as to topple the matrix of rackets that masquerades as the nation’s business.

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“..typical of Macron, revealing only how his personal authority is slipping away, and strangely enough, how irrelevant he is becoming to the entire debate.”

The Gilets Jaunes Are Winning, What’s Next? (OffG)

In the sharp light of spring it is clear that Macron’s winter strategy: the Great National Debate, has achieved nothing for the government and more tellingly perhaps, has further revealed Macron’s own incapacity to either change himself or shift course. As one anonymous French state official reportedly said: ‘Mitterrand gave them an extra week’s holiday, but Macron can’t manage anything’. He simply seems unable in any form to communicate with either the Gilets or the people of France. His constant speeches, with their casual insults and lack of empathy, remain one of the best recruitment tools the Gilets possess. His recent pronouncements continue this trend.

His promise to rebuild the cathedral in five years was met with scorn – ‘this is not a railway line’, said one commentator, while his invitation to the world (a typical empty gesture) angered and aroused traditionalists. Indeed, as has been widely reported, his endorsement of cash donations from billionaires, simply provided the Gilets with yet more free sticks to beat him and the state. Even his big showpiece speech was cancelled when the Cathedral burst into flames. And what was his big announcement? A freeze on hospital and school closures, the index-linking of pensions to inflation and the closing of the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the university that produces the country’s political and civil elite, all of which, particularly the last, were seen as too late and totally irrelevant.

After all it doesn’t put food on the table or help the people get to the end of the month with any money. As I noted in previous articles, this is typical of Macron, revealing only how his personal authority is slipping away, and strangely enough, how irrelevant he is becoming to the entire debate.

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Lost of people will deny this.

Globalization is Waning (CNBC)

Globalization is waning, and a U.S.-China trade deal would do nothing to reverse that phenomenon, according to a global investment strategist. Peak globalization has actually already come and gone, according to David Roche, president and global strategist at London-based Independent Strategy. “The actual reversal of globalization started over seven years ago,” well before the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, as countries worldwide instituted more protectionist policies, Roche told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last week. In fact, even China — whose leaders are now some of the loudest proponents of global systems — will see most of its future growth come from domestic pursuits, he projected.


“Globalization is on a back foot, it’s not the trade deal with China, a trade deal agreement which would flip the switch and turn on the motor again — the damage has been done,” he added. “There is no way going forward that China is able to grow by using international trade. It is going to grow more domestically.” In fact, China is not the only country looking inward. For many years, Roche noted, countries like Italy have had populist governments adopting nationalist policies, prioritizing the short-term benefit of their citizens instead of embracing globalization and the interconnectivity it entails.

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Dig at your own peril.

Climate Change Being Fuelled By Soil Damage (BBC)

Climate change can’t be halted if we carry on degrading the soil, a report will say. There’s three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon’s being released by deforestation and poor farming. This is fuelling climate change – and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population, the authors will say. Problems include soils being eroded, compacted by machinery, built over, or harmed by over-watering. Hurting the soil affects the climate in two ways: it compromises the growth of plants taking in carbon from the atmosphere, and it releases soil carbon previously stored by worms taking leaf matter underground.


The warning will come from the awkwardly-named IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – a panel studying the benefits of nature to humans. The body, which is meeting this week, aims to get all the world’s governments singing from the same sheet about the need to protect natural systems. IPBES will formally release its report on Monday 6 May. About 3.2 billion people worldwide are suffering from degraded soils, said IPBES chairman Prof Sir Bob Watson. “That’s almost half of the world population. There’s no question we are degrading soils all over the world. We are losing from the soil the organic carbon and this undermines agricultural productivity and contributes to climate change. We absolutely have to restore the degraded soil we’ve got.”

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Antibiotics in fish farming. We sure are beyond repair.

Antibiotic Resistance As Big A Threat As Climate Change (G.)

Protests against climate change should be extended to the other greatest threat facing humanity, according to England’s chief medical officer, who says an Extinction Rebellion-style campaign is needed to save people from antibiotics becoming ineffective in the face of overuse and a lack of regulation. The threat of antibiotic resistance is as great as that from climate change, said Dame Sally Davies, and should be given as much attention from politicians and the public. “It would be nice if activists recognised the importance of this,” she said. “This is happening slowly and people adjust to where we are, but this is the equivalent [danger] to extreme weather.”

Davies said efforts to combat the problem of common illnesses becoming untreatable by antibiotic medicines should be coordinated at a worldwide level in a similar way as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of scientists set up in 1988 to tackle global warming. The IPCC warned last year that climate change would lead to disaster within 12 years if urgent action was not taken to reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Davies said the consequences of antibiotic resistance posed at least as great a threat to humanity’s future, and in the same timescale, but few efforts had been made to deal with the issue. “There is not the appetite [among pharmaceutical companies] to develop new medicines,” she said. “There is a systemic failure. We need something similar to the IPCC.”

She listed a series of problems that the world has allowed to build up, from overuse of antibiotics and a lack of restraints on prescribing strong medications, to the rampant use of the drugs on animals, including by farmers for “growth promotion”, as the drugs can make animals put on weight faster. Such use has been banned in Europe and the US, but is common elsewhere, and even in the EU and US, the use of strong antibiotics critical to human health is still allowed on animals despite scientific advice to the contrary.

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Apr 292019
 


Pablo Picasso Head and guitar 1927

 

Ron Chernow At Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (G.)
Aaron Maté Shreds Rachel Maddow (RT)
Why Did Mueller Let Trump Off the Hook? (Mike Whitney)
Did the Russians Really Interfere in Our Elections? (Unz)
Warren Buffett Thinks Most Newspapers Are “Toast” (ZH)
Iran Appeals Directly To Trump: Your Advisers Drag You Into War (ZH)
IMF Warns Of Slowing Growth, Rising Unrest Across Middle East (CNBC)
UK Tories To Lose 800-1000 Seats In This Week’s Local Elections (G.)
Spanish Socialists Win Most Seats, Far Right Resurgent (G.)
Yellow Vests Mutilated By ‘Sublethal’ Police Weapons Unite (RT)
Conservative Bavaria Forces Bold Action on Protecting Nature (Yale)
Up To A Million Species Face Extinction, Many Within Decades – UN (AFP)

 

 

An“erudite defence of the freedom of the press” in front of almost all Washington reporters. And it doesn’t mention Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning even once.

To me, there is nothing more upsetting in our world today. These people care about themselves only, about their petty little freedom. The truth be damned. But they have no freedom if Assange doesn’t, it’s all or nothing. Or one could say they have the freedom to lie. And that’s the one thing Assange never did.

Ron Chernow At Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (G.)

In Washington, Chernow, biographer of founding father Alexander Hamilton and former president Ulysses S Grant, delivered an eloquent and erudite defence of the freedom of the press with some subtle barbs, winning a standing ovation from an audience that quickly forgot any disappointment over the lack of a comedian this year. “We now have to fight hard for basic truths that we once took for granted,” said Chernow, who mentioned Trump by name only once in an address that framed the current presidency as just one chapter in America’s epic novel. He told how the first president, George Washington, often felt maligned and misunderstood by the press but never generalised that into a vendetta. “Relations between presidents and the press are inevitably tough, almost always adversarial, but they don’t need to be steeped in venom.”


The second president, John Adams, used laws to crack down on the media and lost his re-election campaign in 1800, Chernow continued. “Campaigns against the press don’t get your face carved into the rocks of Mount Rushmore, for when you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy. The tribunal of history does not deal leniently with presidents who punish the free press.” Chernow insisted that, while America has taken some wrong turns throughout history, democracy has endured. He told how, towards the end of the civil war, a chastened but hopeful Abraham Lincoln, sitting at a campfire with Grant, quoted his secretary of state William Seward as saying: “There was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare, but still enough to meet the emergency.”

Read more …

Cute, nice, see the Twitter thread at the link, but I must wonder: why bother? You’re just giving her more to talk about.

Question should be: how can this nutcase still have a TV show? And why do people watch it? Is this what ‘freedom of the press’ has come to mean? The freedom to lie?!

Aaron Maté Shreds Rachel Maddow (RT)

Journalist Aaron Mate has eviscerated MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for peddling “Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, falsehoods & innuendo,” after Maddow threw a tantrum when YouTube dared to recommend an RT video. Mate, a longtime skeptic of the mainstream media’s beloved ‘Russiagate’ narrative, was the subject of a recent interview with RT. When MSNBC’s Russiagater-in-chief Rachel Maddow found out that YouTube’s algorithm had actually suggested the interview to viewers, she saw more Russian meddling and proclaimed the recommendation “death by algorithm.” Mate unloaded on Maddow on Sunday, systematically destroying the MSNBC host for her two years as “the leading purveyor of now debunked Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, falsehoods & innuendo.”

Buckle up. “Just recently you were caught in real-time lying to your audience,” he began. “You claimed Barr was handling the redactions by himself. But the chyron — on screen right below — told viewers the truth, that Mueller was in fact ‘assisting’ w/ the redactions.” With Maddow seemingly content to lie on live television, it fell upon her show’s producers to flash the truth on viewers’ screens. Mate then recalled the time Maddow suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the ‘pee tape’ (the most far-fetched allegation in the Democrat-commissioned, internet-sourced Steele dossier) to force Trump into withdrawing US troops stationed near Russia. Of course, this never happened, and Trump recently announced plans to ramp up deployments to Poland. A swing and a miss for Maddow.

[..]Despite peddling baseless conspiracies and flagrant Russophobia every night, Maddow remains one of the US’ most popular news anchors, and one of the best paid. The MSNBC host regularly vies with Fox News’ Sean Hannity for the top spot on the cable news ratings, and earns a cool $7 million per year for her work. Although Maddow has been perhaps the most fervent promoter of Russiagate hysteria on television, her ratings have clumped after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report put most of her theories to bed last month. Maddow’s show slipped from its number one position after the report dropped, and lost half a million viewers in the space of a week. Mate, although reporting to a far smaller audience, has received an Izzy Award for his “meticulous reporting” that “challenged the way the public was being informed about the Mueller investigation.”

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Whitney back in conspiracy mode.

Why Did Mueller Let Trump Off the Hook? (Mike Whitney)

[Mueller’s] assignment was undermine Trump’s moral authority by brandishing the cudgel of criminal indictment over his head. This is how a D.O.J. appointee, who had never held public office in his life, became the most powerful man in Washington. My question is simply this: Why did Mueller give up all that power when he did? I think I can answer that, but first, we need a little more background. Check out this quote from candidate Trump in 2016: “We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past…We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments…. Our goal is stability not chaos, because we want to rebuild our country [the United States]… We will partner with any nation that is willing to join us in the effort to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism …In our dealings with other countries, we will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding, and good will.”

Imagine how terrified the foreign policy establishment must have been when they heard Trump utter these words. No more regime change wars? Are you kidding me? That’s what we do: Regime-Change-Is-Us., and now this upstart, New York real estate tycoon is promising to do a complete 180 and move in another direction altogether. No more destabilizing coups, no more bloody military interventions, instead, we’re going to work collaboratively with countries like Russia and China to see if we can settle regional disputes and fight terrorism together? Really? At the same time Trump was promising this new era of “peace, understanding, and good will,” Hillary Clinton was issuing her war whoop at every opportunity. Here’s candidate Hillary trying to drum up support for taking on the Russians in Syria:

“The situation in Syria is catastrophic. And every day that goes by, we see the results of the Assad regime in partnership with the Iranians on the ground, and the Russians in the air…When I was Secretary of State, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones.” Interesting, isn’t it? Here’s Hillary, the “liberal” Democrat, pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria even though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, stated clearly that “Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.”

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If they did we have no evidence of it. We have the word of CIA and FBI for it, but that has no value.

Did the Russians Really Interfere in Our Elections? (Unz)

The one issue that both Democrats and most Republicans seem to agree on, the issue which both say is “proven conclusively” by Mueller is that the Russians “attempted to interfere and did interfere” in our 2016 election. Interesting, is it not, that the Republicans who zealously defend the president and attack the obviously political nature of the Mueller Report would accept, as if on faith and without question, the accusations of Russian interference, also contained in the report? Turn on Fox and watch, say, Martha MacCallum (e.g., “The Story,” April 24, 2019) declare “we all know now without doubt that the Russians tried to interfere” in our elections, or listen to most any GOP congressman repeat that same narrative with unquestioning certitude.

But that assertion—is it truly backed up factually? Where is the evidence, other than largely questionable information sourced from our largely discredited intelligence agencies which, as we know, had a determined goal of overthrowing the president by any means possible? Almost three years have passed from the first fake news that appeared in the media on the subject of “Russian collusion,” a concerted effort launched to discredit at first the Donald Trump candidacy and then sabotage his presidency, including his efforts to stabilize Russian-American relations. As proof of Russian actions, the Mueller Report cites the indictments against twenty-five Russian citizens who were indicted for attempted “interference” (those Russians are, let us add, quite conveniently out of the country and thus not prosecutable).

When those indictments were issued, Russia pointed out the flimsy, unsupported and transparently made-up nature of the charges, and demanded that American authorities provide conclusive proof. Such requests were rebuffed. In order to evaluate the evidence, the Russian government proposed reestablishing the bilateral expert group on information security that the Obama Administration had terminated, which could have served as a platform for conversation on these matters. The American side was also invited to send Justice Department officials to Russia to attend the proposed public questioning of the Russian citizens named by Mueller. Additionally, Russia offered to publicize the exchanges between the two countries following the publication of the accusations of cyberattacks, exchanges which were conducted through existing channels between October 2016 and January 2017.

Our government refused every offer.

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“Not all papers are doomed, though. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal will survive, he said.”

Did Buffet really completely miss the change in business model from reporting to manufacturing the news? Maybe at his age that’s to be expected?

Warren Buffett Thinks Most Newspapers Are “Toast” (ZH)

Buffett, who through his Berkshire Hathaway BH Media subsidiary owns a veritable print-media empire, said during an interview with Yahoo Finance (which will carry the live stream of Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting on May 4) released on Tuesday that the newspaper industry is “toast”, and that most print papers (including, presumably, the 30 daily newspapers and 47 weeklies owned by BH) will soon cease to exist as they lose more vital advertising revenue to Internet powerhouses like Google and Facebook. Fortunately for Berkshire, the decline of the industry won’t have much of an impact on its bottom line because BH bought its newspapers at a “reasonable” price, Buffett said.


As Buffett sees it, the problem with trying to shift to a subscription-based model is two-fold: Consumers once sought out print newspapers not just for the news content, but for the ads. The classifieds included vital information about job opportunities and housing, while supermarkets ran fliers about what products were on special that week. That functionality has largely been subsumed by Craigslist. “It upsets the people in the newsroom to talk that way, but the ads were the most important editorial content from the standpoint of the reader,” Buffett said. Between 2006 and 2016, the newspaper industry’s advertising revenue had fallen to nearly a third of what it once was, with newspapers bringing in $18 billion in ad revenue, compared with $49 billion ten years prior.

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History is a lousy teacher.

Iran Appeals Directly To Trump: Your Advisers Drag You Into War (ZH)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Chris Walls on Fox News Sunday that he believes President Trump’s own advisers as well as Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel are “dragging the United States into a conflict” with Iran. It comes just days after Zarif made similar statements about the possibility of US and Iranian ships clashing in the Persian Gulf, warning that a false flag “accident” scenario could “lure” Trump into war — something which he thinks Trump himself doesn’t want to see happen. It appears Tehran’s new strategy as it reels from the sanctions squeeze on oil and Trump ending the crude export waiver program is to try and delicately peel Trump away from the American ‘deep state’.


Zarif specifically named National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israel, Saudi Arabia, along with close Saudi ally the United Arab Emirates, all as seeking to escalate tensions leading toward a regime change war on Iran. Wallace asked if they’re “all trying to exercise regime change?” according to Fox, and Zarif responded, “at least, at least.” Iran’s top diplomat explained: “They have all shown an interest in dragging the United States into a conflict. I do not believe that President Trump wants to do that, I believe President Trump ran on a campaign promise of not bringing the United States into another war. But I believe President Trump’s intention to put pressure, the policy of maximum pressure on Iran in order to bring Iran to its knees so that we would succumb to pressure, is doomed to failure.”

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Saudi Barbaria has the solutions.

IMF Warns Of Slowing Growth, Rising Unrest Across Middle East (CNBC)

Slowing global growth and elevated tensions in trade and geopolitics are posing economic challenges for countries in the Middle East, according to the IMF’s latest report. “Global developments are affecting the outlook for this year, namely the slowdown in growth especially on trade, the volatility in the oil price, as well as also the global financing conditions, in additional to a certain number of country specific issues,” Jihad Azour, the IMF’s director of the Middle East and Central Asia, told CNBC on Sunday. The Regional Economic Outlook report — published each spring by the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department — also highlighted how volatile oil prices are negatively affecting some countries, while others are grappling with rising public debt.

“For oil-importing countries where debt is high, it’s very important to tackle it and to reduce the level of deficit. That will allow those countries to reduce their debt burden over GDP,” Azour added. Growth for oil exporters is projected to dip slightly in 2019 to 0.4 percent, from 0.6 percent the previous year, driven by an economic contraction in Iran following the renewal of sanctions. For oil-importing countries in the region, growth is expected to slow, declining from 4.2 percent in 2018 to a projected 3.6 percent this year. However, that figure is expected to rebound to 4.2 percent from 2020 to 2023. “Despite the current increase in prices, the medium-term price projections of oil remain in the corridor of the mid-$60s,” Azour said.

“Therefore it’s very important for countries to pursue and accelerate their diversification strategies and at the same time, maintain their pace of fiscal adjustment that will allow them to reduce their dependence, in terms of revenues on oil,” he added. [..] In the past 18 months, the IMF’s Reported Social Unrest Index — which calculates the share of articles in major news sources that include key terms relating to protests, demonstrations, and other forms of social unrest — has hit multi-year highs in some countries in the Middle East region. “Clearly, the inability of governments and countries to address the unemployment issue has led to the feelings, especially among the youth, of social unease and tension,” Azour said.

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Boris Johnson’s fortunes are rising. Imagine that.

UK Tories To Lose 800-1000 Seats In This Week’s Local Elections (G.)

The Conservatives can expect to lose 800 or more seats at the local elections this week, as voters punish Theresa May’s administration for failing to pass a Brexit deal, a leading Conservative analyst has said. In his latest projection for Thursday’s polls, in which more than 8,000 council seats in England are being contested, the Tory peer Robert Hayward suggested his party could lose about 500 to the Liberal Democrats, and 300 to Labour. He blamed his party’s failure to assemble a majority for the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement for his gloomy forecast, and predicted turnout would be unusually low because of “disenchantment” with all the major parties.


“I have heard of no canvasser of any party who has received a detailed dissertation re Brexit. It is therefore likely that had Mrs May’s deal, or anything like it, been approved the Tories would have fared markedly better than they are likely to,” he said, adding: “The elections might even have been about local issues.” A poor showing will be a fresh blow to May’s shattered authority, and increase the pressure on her to set out a timetable for her departure – and signal how she plans to break the impasse at Westminster. Cross-party talks are expected to resume on Monday, but Downing Street has been forced to delay a high-risk plan to table its key piece of Brexit legislation.

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Apparently, in Spain, too, democracy is a system for the not-too-smart. You know that if this is how your PM addresses you after winning, “We want a country that looks forwards and advances.”. As opposed to?

Spanish Socialists Win Most Seats, Far Right Resurgent (G.)

Spain’s ruling socialists won the most votes but fell short of a majority in Sunday’s snap general election, a contest marked by the breakthrough of the far-right Vox party and a disastrous performance by the country’s traditional conservative party. Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) won 123 seats, the conservative People’s party (PP) 66, the centre-right Citizens party 57, the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos and its allies 42, and Vox 24. Despite it being the country’s third general election in under four years, turnout was 75.8% – well up on the 66.5% two years ago. Sánchez hailed the result and the high turnout as proof of Spain’s desire to move forward and reject the reactionary policies of some of his rightwing opponents.


“We made it happen,” he told supporters in Madrid, echoing the PSOE’s campaign slogan. “We’ve sent out the message that we don’t want to regress or reverse. We want a country that looks forwards and advances.” However, the PSOE will still need to seek the support of other parties to reach the 176 seats necessary to form a government in Spain’s 350-seat congress of deputies. Even with the support of Unidas Podemos and related groups, it would still be 11 seats short of a majority and would need the help of smaller regional and nationalist parties. Podemos’s leader, Pablo Iglesias, has already shown enthusiasm for a deal with the PSOE. He said that while his party would have liked a better result – it dropped 29 seats on the last election – “it’s been enough to stop the right wing and build a leftwing coalition government”.

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“..at least 154 people have been seriously injured by police use of non-lethal weapons during protests. Of that number, 22 people have lost the use of an eye due to flash balls. A further five have had their hand torn off by gas canisters..”

Yellow Vests Mutilated By ‘Sublethal’ Police Weapons Unite (RT)

Yellow Vest protesters who have suffered life-changing injuries at the hands of French police have launched their own association, promising fresh actions against police brutality. Called “the Mutilated for the edification of others,” the collective aims to accurately calculate the number of people who have been injured nationally by police during Yellow Vest protests. It also called for an end to the use of the non-lethal weapons deployed by French police — namely tear gas canisters and flashballs — and a large national demonstration is scheduled in Paris on May 26. Among those attending was Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent Yellow Vest leader who was hit in the eye with a gas canister during a demonstration in January.


“You have 19 people in front of you and you have only 26 eyes that look back,” he told the press conference. “Count, there is a small problem,” he added. We demand the truth, justice and the ban on so-called sublethal weapons,” said Robin Pagès, another activist. He accused French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner of “lying” when the minister suggested that only “10 people have been hit in the head by LBD [flashball] shots.” According to statistics gathered by the activist group Desarmons-les (“Disarm Them”), at least 154 people have been seriously injured by police use of non-lethal weapons during protests. Of that number, 22 people have lost the use of an eye due to flash balls. A further five have had their hand torn off by gas canisters.

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“Voters were surprisingly moved by a landmark study showing steep declines in flying insects in Germany.”

Conservative Bavaria Forces Bold Action on Protecting Nature (Yale)

Bavaria is known around the world for its Munich Octoberfest, beautiful alpine panoramas, old castles, and cars from the Bavarian Motor Works (BMW). But within Germany, Bavaria is known for something else: It is by far the most conservative of the country’s 16 federal states. Bavaria’s staunchly traditionalist governing party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has been in power continuously since 1946, pursuing a conservative agenda relating to family, bioethics, immigration — and the environment. Over the years, it has restricted the construction of wind farms, thwarted new environmental regulations for farmers, and blocked imposing a speed limit for cars on autobahns.

In recent months, however, Bavaria has taken a surprising detour from its traditional path. Responding to a grassroots citizens campaign and overwhelming support for a state referendum, the Bavarian government agreed earlier this month to implement one of Europe’s most progressive laws on protecting nature and restoring biodiversity, primarily through changing industrial farming practices. The about-face began in earnest in February when Bavarian citizens — increasingly concerned about the loss of natural areas, destructive farming techniques, and widely publicized reports that the populations of flying insects in Germany had plummeted — overwhelmingly supported a “referendum for biodiversity” that called for the state government to implement fundamental changes in nature conservation.

State law required that 10 percent of Bavaria’s 9 million registered voters support the referendum for it to become the basis for negotiations on a new nature conservation law. In fact, nearly double the required number of voters — 1.75 million Bavarians — showed up at their town halls to support what had become known as the “save the bees” initiative. [..] Now, Bavaria plans to implement a sweeping set of conservation measures, including setting aside 13 percent of the state in special ecological zones, committing to establishing organic agriculture on nearly a third of all Bavarian farmland, and taking steps to protect wetlands, waterways, and threatened insect populations. On May 8, the state parliament in Munich is slated to pass what Bavarian Prime Minister and CSU leader Markus Söder calls “the most sweeping nature protection law in the whole of Europe.”

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It’s not about nature anymore, it’s about our own survival. As if that will stop us.

Up To A Million Species Face Extinction, Many Within Decades – UN (AFP)

Diplomats from 130 nations gather in Paris from Monday to validate a grim UN assessment of the state of Nature and lay the groundwork for an 11th-hour rescue plan for life on Earth. A 44-page, draft “Summary for Policy Makers” obtained by AFP catalogues the 1001 ways in which our species has plundered the planet and damaged its capacity to renew the resources upon which we depend, starting with breathable air, drinkable water and productive soil. The impact of humanity’s expanding footprint and appetites has been devastating. Up to a million species face extinction, many within decades, according to the report, and three-quarters of Earth’s land surface has been “severely altered”.


A third of ocean fish stocks are in decline, and the rest, barring a few, are harvested at the very edge of sustainability. A dramatic die-off of pollinating insects, especially bees, threatens essential crops valued at half-a-trillion dollars annually. Twenty 10-year targets adopted in 2010 under the United Nation’s biodiversity treaty – to expand protected areas, slow species and forest loss, and reduce pollution – will, with one or two exceptions, fail badly. Based on an underlying report that draws from 400 experts and weighs in at 1,800 pages, the executive summary has to be vetted line-by-line by diplomats, with scientists at their elbow.

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“I hate the indifferents. Living means taking sides…Some whimper piously, others curse obscenely, but nobody, or very few ask themselves: If I had tried to impose my will, would this have happened?”
– Antonio Gramsci

 

 

Apr 282019
 
 April 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Giovanni Bellini Pietà c1460

 

So Where is the Swedish Warrant? (Craig Murray)
Assange’s Legal Team Files Lawsuit Against Ecuador Over Extortion (Sp.)
Putin ‘Outraged’ At Maria Butina Sentencing (BBC)
Obama White House Engaged Ukraine In Russia Collusion Narrative (Solomon)
Majority Of British Now Think Brexit Referendum Was A Bad Idea (G.)
Labour To Decide On Brexit Public Vote On Tuesday, Says Corbyn (G.)
Corbyn Launches Bid To Declare A National Climate Emergency (G.)
UK Fracking Tsar Quits After Six Months, Blames Eco Activists (G.)
Ecuador To Appeal Amazon Oil Exploration Ruling (AFP)
Guaido Makes New Appeal To Venezuela Army Ahead Of Mayday Protests (AFP)
Spanish Socialists Run For Re-Election Sunday On “Green New Deal De España”
Leftwing Activists Join Gilets Jaunes For Peaceful Paris Protest (G.)

 

 

I’ve said it before: the Swedish people are far too silent on this.

So Where is the Swedish Warrant? (Craig Murray)

If the Swedish allegations against Julian Assange were genuine and not simply a ruse to arrest him for extradition to the United States, where is the arrest warrant now from Sweden and what are the charges? Only the more minor allegation has passed the statute of limitations deadline. The major allegation, equivalent to rape, is still well within limits. Sweden has had seven years to complete the investigation and prepare the case. It is over two years since they interviewed Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. They have had years and years to collect all the evidence and prepare the charges. So where, Swedish prosecutors, are your charges? Where is your arrest warrant?

Julian Assange has never been charged with anything in Sweden. He was merely “wanted for questioning”, a fact the MSM repeatedly failed to make clear. It is now undeniably plain that there was never the slightest intention of charging him with anything in Sweden. All those Blairite MPs who seek to dodge the glaring issue of freedom of the media to publish whistleblower material revealing government crimes, by hiding behind trumped-up sexual allegations, are left looking pretty stupid. What is the point of demanding Assange be extradited to Sweden when there is no extradition request from Sweden? What is the point in demanding he face justice in Sweden when there are no charges? Where are the charges from Sweden?

The answer to that is silence. Sweden was always a fit-up designed to get Assange to the USA. And now they don’t need it, so Sweden has quietly gone away. All the false left who were taken in by the security services playing upon a feminist mantra should take a very hard look at themselves.

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Embassy staff stole and gave away Assange documents. The story will be that these were just individuals, not a Lenin Moreno policy.

Assange’s Legal Team Files Lawsuit Against Ecuador Over Extortion (Sp.)

Assange had been residing at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly seven years before his asylum was revoked on 11 April, followed by his arrest and further extradition to the Westminster Magistrate’s Court. Julian Assange’s lawyers have filed a lawsuit against a group of Spaniards, members of staff at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as well as Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry over extortion, AFP reported, citing Assange’s defence team. Earlier, Spanish media reported that the group of Spaniards had got hold of Assange’s videos and personal documents, which they threatened to publish unless paid $3.3 million by the WikiLeaks team. The lawsuit was reportedly brought forward in Spain. The source also noted that an investigation into the matter was ongoing, adding that Assange was allegedly spied on in the embassy.

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How does that judge sleep at night?

What the Butina case shows us in technicolor is that the US has kangaroo justice in kangaroo courts.

Putin ‘Outraged’ At Maria Butina Sentencing (BBC)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit out at a US court’s sentencing of agent Maria Butina, dubbing it “an outrage” and a “travesty of justice”. Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday after trying to infiltrate US political groups in an effort to sway American policies in favour of Moscow. The 30-year-old had pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent. But the Russian president said the sentence was an attempt to save face. In his first public remarks since the sentencing, Mr Putin on Saturday said it was “not clear what she was convicted of or what crime she committed”. “I think it’s a prime example of ‘saving face.’ They arrested her and put the girl in jail. But there was nothing on her, so in order not to look totally stupid they… fixed her up with an 18-month sentence to show that she was guilty of something,” he told reporters in Beijing.


Speaking to the court on Friday, Butina said: “I destroyed my own life.” The Russian gun rights activist had been in custody since her arrest in July. While initially pleading not guilty, she reversed her position after reaching a deal with prosecutors and admitted to a single count of conspiracy in December. The judge noted on Friday that Butina had provided “substantial assistance” to law enforcement. But despite Butina’s plea for leniency, the sentencing fully complied with the government’s recommendation. “This was no simple misunderstanding by a overeager foreign student,” Judge Chutkan said. The 18-month sentence includes the nine months Butina has already served. She will face immediate deportation after her sentence is complete. At the end of the sentencing, Judge Chutkan said she wished Butina “the best of luck.”

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Oh boy… Wonder what Horowitz will have on this.

Obama White House Engaged Ukraine In Russia Collusion Narrative (Solomon)

As Donald Trump began his meteoric rise to the presidency, the Obama White House summoned Ukrainian authorities to Washington to coordinate ongoing anti-corruption efforts inside Russia’s most critical neighbor. The January 2016 gathering, confirmed by multiple participants and contemporaneous memos, brought some of Ukraine’s top corruption prosecutors and investigators face to face with members of former President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), FBI, State Department and Department of Justice (DOJ). The agenda suggested the purpose was training and coordination. But Ukrainian participants said it didn’t take long — during the meetings and afterward — to realize the Americans’ objectives included two politically hot investigations: one that touched Vice President Joe Biden’s family and one that involved a lobbying firm linked closely to then-candidate Trump.

[..] The other case raised at the January 2016 meeting, Telizhenko said, involved Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company under investigation in Ukraine for improper foreign transfers of money. At the time, Burisma allegedly was paying then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter as both a board member and a consultant. More than $3 million flowed from Ukraine to an American firm tied to Hunter Biden in 2014-15, bank records show. According to Telizhenko, U.S. officials told the Ukrainians they would prefer that Kiev drop the Burisma probe and allow the FBI to take it over. The Ukrainians did not agree. But then Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in March 2016, as I previously reported. The Burisma case was transferred to NABU, then shut down. [..] Ukraine is riddled with corruption, Russian meddling and intense political conflicts, so one must carefully consider any Ukrainian accounts.

But Telizhenko’s claim that the DOJ reopened its Manafort probe as the 2016 election ramped up is supported by the DOJ’s own documents, including communications involving Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, his wife, Nellie, and ex-British spy Christopher Steele. [..] Previously, Politico reported that the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington assisted Clinton’s campaign through a DNC contractor. The Ukrainian Embassy acknowledges it got requests for assistance from the DNC staffer to find dirt on Manafort but denies it provided any improper assistance. Now we have more concrete evidence that the larger Ukrainian government also was being pressed by the Obama administration to help build the Russia collusion narrative. And that onion is only beginning to be peeled. But what is already confirmed by Ukrainians looks a lot more like assertive collusion with a foreign power than anything detailed in the Mueller report.

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What they think today is irrelevant.

Majority Of British Now Think Brexit Referendum Was A Bad Idea (G.)

More than half the public – 55% – now think it would have been better never to have held the EU referendum given the difficulties of reaching an agreement on Brexit, according to the latest Opinium/Observer poll. Strikingly, more Conservative voters (49%) now think the referendum was a bad idea than believe it was the right thing to have done (43%). Among Labour supporters, 72% believe it would have been better never to have staged the vote, while 18% say it was worthwhile. The Conservatives are down 3 percentage points on 26% compared with a fortnight ago and continue to trail Labour (also down 3pts on 33%) by seven percentage points. Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party, meanwhile, has established itself in a clear third place on 17%, having been included in the national poll for the first time.

The Liberal Democrats are down 2 points on 6%, the SNP unchanged on 5%, Ukip down 7 on 4%, the Greens unchanged on 4%, Change.UK (also included for the first time) is on 4% and Plaid Cymru is unchanged on 1%. When voters were asked how they intended to vote in the European elections, the news was even better for the Brexit party. Support for Nigel Farage’s new party and Labour stands level at 28% – double that for the Conservatives, on 14%. The pro-remain Liberal Democrats and ChangeUK parties both stand on 7%, while the Greens are on 6%, the SNP 5%, Ukip 3% and Plaid Cymru 1%. If a second referendum were held between the options of leaving the EU on the prime minister’s deal or remaining in the EU, 46% say they would vote to remain (unchanged on a fortnight ago) while 34% would vote to leave (down 4%).

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Jeremy pushes the blame away from himself.

Labour To Decide On Brexit Public Vote On Tuesday, Says Corbyn (G.)

Labour’s ruling body will decide on Tuesday whether the party will campaign for a public vote on any Brexit deal, Jeremy Corbyn has said on the campaign trail in leave-voting Peterborough. Almost 90 Labour MPs and MEPs, including a number of frontbenchers, wrote to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to demand that its European election manifesto include a “clear commitment to a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal”. However, Corbyn declined to guarantee the commitment. He stressed that he was not a dictator and that the matter would be for the NEC to decide.


“The national executive will decide on Tuesday what will be in the European election manifesto, and we will reflect the decisions made [at] last year’s Labour party conference, which were for a customs union, market access and rights protection within – with – the European Union,” he said. “We would prefer to have a general election, but failing that, if we get that agreement, we are prepared to consider putting it to a confirmatory vote. That is a decision the national executive of the party will make. “It’s important that the party, which is a democratic party structure, makes those decisions. Sadly – or perhaps it’s a good thing – I’m not a dictator of the Labour party.”

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Jeremy rides the popularity waves of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. That’s what the timing tells you.

Corbyn Launches Bid To Declare A National Climate Emergency (G.)

Labour will this week force a vote in parliament to declare a national environmental and climate change emergency as confidential documents show the government has spent only a fraction of a £100m fund allocated in 2015 to support clean air projects. Jeremy Corbyn’s party will demand on Wednesday that the country wakes up to the threat and acts with urgency to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, which will require global emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” before 2050. The move will place Conservative MPs under pressure to back the plan, or explain why they refuse to do so, now fears over the combined problems of air pollution and climate change have risen to the top of the political agenda.

On Saturday night Corbyn said the recent wave of protests were “a massive and necessary wake-up call” that demanded “rapid and dramatic action, which only concerted government action and a green industrial revolution can deliver.” He said that if parliament backed the move and became the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency it would “trigger a wave of action from governments around the world”. [..] The motion will call for new targets on the mass rollout of renewable and low carbon energy and transport, proper funding of environmental protection, reversing species decline and developing plans to move towards a zero waste economy.

The plan comes as confidential minutes of a government advisory group obtained by the Observer show how all but a small proportion of a £100m pot allocated to Highways England to combat air pollution “on and near our roads” in 2015 has not been spent, despite a 2020 deadline. Minutes of a meeting of the Highways England designated funds advisory group from last December and marked “Sensitivity – Official”, reveal concerns at the highest level that the money may not be spent within the defined timetable. Highways England is the government company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads. The minutes state that a “key risk remains of fully investing all remaining air quality designated funding by the end of March 2020. By the end of October 2018 just £2.82m had been invested.”

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This woman is a certified nut. Good riddance.

UK Fracking Tsar Quits After Six Months, Blames Eco Activists (G.)

The government’s fracking tsar has quit the post after just six months, claiming policy relating to the controversial process means there is “no purpose” to her job. Natascha Engel told the business secretary, Greg Clark, that developing the industry would be “an impossible task” despite its “enormous potential”. In her resignation letter, she said environmental activists had been “highly successful” in encouraging the government to curb fracking. Engel, a former Labour MP, wrote the letter following two weeks of protests by the Extinction Rebellion group, which brought parts of London to a standstill with demands to cut emissions to zero by 2025.


She wrote: “A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.” Engel complained that a traffic light system that halts fracking when a tremor with a magnitude of 0.5 is recorded “amounts to a de facto ban”. “The UK could be on the cusp of an energy revolution the like of which we have not seen since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas,” she wrote.

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The Inter-American Court of Human Rights the judge based his decision on, also spoke out very strongly for Assange. Politicians ignore it at will.

Ecuador To Appeal Amazon Oil Exploration Ruling (AFP)

The Ecuadoran government announced Saturday it will appeal a ruling won by the country’s Waorani indigenous tribe that blocks oil companies’ entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands for exploration activities. The Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Natural Resources said in a statement it “will appeal the decision, given that although documents and videos were presented and compliance with all standards was demonstrated, these were not taken into account.” After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, on Friday accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration.


The lands are protected under Ecuador’s constitution that establishes the “inalienable, unseizable and indivisible” rights of indigenous people “to maintain possession of their ancestral lands and obtain their free adjudication.” Crucially, however, the wealth in the subsoil is owned by the state. The constitution also enshrines the need for prior consultation on any plans to exploit the underground resources, given the probable environmental and cultural impacts on tribal communities. The state reached an agreement with the Waorani over oil exploration in 2012, but the tribe’s leaders said they were duped. The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights..

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Huh, what? He’s still there? Cute to see what side the impartial AFP is on.

Guaido Makes New Appeal To Venezuela Army Ahead Of Mayday Protests (AFP)

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido used his latest mass rally on Saturday to reiterate an appeal to the army to end its support for Nicolas Maduro’s regime, and announced massive Mayday protests to oust the embattled president. Guaido told supporters at the rally in Caracas that the support of the army was “fundamental” to oust Maduro, “but time is passing and the wait cannot be eternal.” He reminded military leaders they have “a historic opportunity resting on their shoulders.” Despite support from more than 50 states who recognize him as interim president, US-backed Guaido has been unable to affect Maduro’s grip on the military, which continues to keep him in power, along with allies China and Russia.


Guaido will aim to keep up the street pressure on the regime with a huge Mayday protest on Wednesday that he said would be “the largest in the country’s history.” At his rally on Saturday, he held a swearing-in ceremony for “freedom commandos” — volunteers he has put in charge of organizing ongoing protests against the government. The government has also called for mass pro-Maduro demonstrations to be held as part of its annual Mayday parade. [..] Leftist firebrand Maduro has presided over a crumbling economy in which inflation is projected to soar to a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year, with millions of Venezuelans having fled in the face of a shortage of basic goods. Washington has hit Venezuela with a raft of sanctions aimed at cutting off financial support for Maduro and his top officials. An oil embargo comes into effect on Sunday.

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Wasn’t Podemos shut down by social media earlier this week? Oh, right, their WhatsApp channel.

Spanish Socialists Run For Re-Election Sunday On “Green New Deal De España”

The idea of a Green New Deal first sprouted in the U.S. — which is only fair, since we did the first New Deal, after all. Depending on the results of this weekend’s elections, though, Spain might be the first country to actually put one into place. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, or PSOE, took over at the national level last summer following a corruption scandal that hobbled longtime Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his right-wing Popular Party, the PP. PSOE struck a tenuous bargain with the country’s regional nationalist parties, allowing party leader Pedro Sánchez to become prime minister. That agreement fell apart over budget negotiations earlier this spring, forcing Sánchez to call for a snap election that will take place on Sunday. PSOE is ahead in the polls and could potentially form a government with the left populist party Podemos, formed in 2014 out of Spain’s Occupy Wall Street-esque 15-M movement.


Should PSOE remain in power, Spain — Europe’s fifth-largest economy — could become a testing ground for rolling out a Green New Deal nationwide. Sánchez came out in support of the U.S. Green New Deal — sometimes translated as “El New Deal Verde” or “El Green New Deal de España” — in January and has campaigned on it throughout the election. Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, told me by phone earlier this month that a Green New Deal “accepts that we are in an emergency moment where we need to transform,” calling it an “opportunity to update our economy and our industry.” She sees it, too, as an opportunity to draw vital connections between income and wealth inequality and the degradation of the environment, “transforming that into a positive agenda.”

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“Organisers see the Paris demonstration as a dry run for Wednesday’s May Day rally, which will bring together several unions from different sectors…”

The gilets jaunes must be careful not to be co-opted as just another party political movement.

Leftwing Activists Join Gilets Jaunes For Peaceful Paris Protest (G.)

Thousands of trade unionists and activists from leftwing parties marched with gilet jaune (yellow vest) protesters through Paris on Saturday to present a united front against French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest reforms package. The demonstration, which passed off peacefully, came before the main gilets jaunes march in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where protesters clashed with police trying to enforce a ban in parts of the city centre. Veterans of the protests, which have been running for six months, led off the Paris march, which was organised by the militant CGT union. Many senior figures from the radical left marched with them, including Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of France Unbowed and one of Macron’s most vocal critics.


Welcoming this show of unity, Melenchon told BFM TV: “It’s the first time that there has been a call of this kind, that’s to say union organisations, associations and political movements.” It was a government plan to increase diesel prices and raise taxes on pensions last November that initially sparked the protests in rural France, which quickly ballooned into a full-scale anti-government rebellion. But in the early months of the movement, its leading figures resisted attempts by parties on the far left and the far right to hijack their cause for their own ends, as they saw it. [..] Organisers see the Paris demonstration as a dry run for Wednesday’s May Day rally, which will bring together several unions from different sectors.

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Apr 212019
 


Rembrandt van Rijn The deposition 1632-33

 

Yellow Vests Back In Action Despite ‘Unifying’ Notre Dame Disaster (RT)
Mueller Team Ignored Findings Of Former US Intelligence Officials (SP)
The Deep State vs. WikiLeaks (Escobar)
Julian Assange Put Through ‘Hell’ At Embassy, Says Former Diplomat (Sky)
UK PM May To Be Told To Quit By Top Conservative (R.)
London Home Prices Had Biggest Monthly Drop Since Lehman (DQ)
Battle To Save Amphibians From Global Killer Disease (G.)
Emissions From Thawing Arctic Permafrost 12 Times Higher Than Thought (Ind.)
Climate Change: The Facts – Our Greatest Threat, Laid Bare (G.)
Climate Change – The Facts (David Attenborough)

 

 

I predicted Macron would use the Notre Dame fire against the Yellow Vests, and he delivers. “We have to unify under our great leader, Me!”

Curious numbers here, 6 cops for every protester:

“The total number of people who took to the streets on Saturday reached 9,600, with 6,700 of them protesting in Paris, the Interior Ministry said.”

“Some 60,000 police officers were deployed across the country..”

Yellow Vests Back In Action Despite ‘Unifying’ Notre Dame Disaster (RT)

Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality. Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster. “The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”


Joan of Arc monument, Toulouse

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere. “If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24. Some 60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, while a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame in Paris.


A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by the authorities, but sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting took place across the city, with at least one car torched. There were also clashes between protesters and gendarmerie in the capital. The police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd, arresting 189 people, according to France Info. Yellow Vest rallies also took place in Nantes, Pau, Caen, Montbeliard, Bordeaux, Lyon and other French cities. The total number of people who took to the streets on Saturday reached 9,600, with 6,700 of them protesting in Paris, the Interior Ministry said.

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“How many of you wouldn’t be scared shitless by the head of the CIA declaring you the next target?”

Mueller Team Ignored Findings Of Former US Intelligence Officials (SP)

A group of former military and intelligence officials, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), conducted their own forensic tests that received a bit of attention in the United States press because they were some of the first people with prior backgrounds in government to question the central allegations of hacking into DNC servers. They asserted their examinations of the files showed DNC emails published by WikiLeaks were leaked, not hacked. However, the Mueller report makes no mention of the claims made by VIPS over the past two to three years—not even to debunk them.

The report stated, “Unit 26165 officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016.” But “appear to have” indicates the team did not have incontrovertible proof. They could only speculate. “The Office cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries, who visited during the summer of 2016,” the report acknowledged. “For example, public reporting identified Andrew Müller-Maguhn as a WikiLeaks associate who may have assisted with the transfer of these stolen documents to WikiLeaks.”

Yet, this is wildly misleading. The source for this example is a 2018 profile of Müller-Maguhn by journalist Ellen Nakashima that was published by the Washington Post. Müller-Maguhn told Nakashima it “would be insane” for him to hand deliver sensitive files, especially when the CIA has labeled WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” “How many of you wouldn’t be scared shitless by the head of the CIA declaring you the next target?,” he said.

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Comey didn’t want Assange’s knowledge to get public, because it would have killed the “Russians hacked the DNC” narrative. And that would be a threat to the whole Russiand-did-it story Mueller kept in his report. These guys are just story tellers, it’s fiction.

The Deep State vs. WikiLeaks (Escobar)

[..] it was only in 2017, in the Trump era, that the Deep State went totally ballistic; that’s when WikiLeaks published the Vault 7 files – detailing the CIA’s vast hacking/cyber espionage repertoire. This was the CIA as a Naked Emperor like never before – including the dodgy overseeing ops of the Center for Cyber Intelligence, an ultra-secret NSA counterpart. WikiLeaks got Vault 7 in early 2017. At the time WikiLeaks had already published the DNC files – which the unimpeachable Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) systematically proved was a leak, not a hack. The monolithic narrative by the Deep State faction aligned with the Clinton machine was that “the Russians” hacked the DNC servers.

Assange was always adamant; that was not the work of a state actor – and he could prove it technically. There was some movement towards a deal, brokered by one of Assange’s lawyers; WikiLeaks would not publish the most damning Vault 7 information in exchange for Assange’s safe passage to be interviewed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). The DoJ wanted a deal – and they did make an offer to WikiLeaks. But then FBI director James Comey killed it. The question is why. Some theoretically sound reconstructions of Comey’s move are available. But the key fact is Comey already knew – via his close connections to the top of the DNC – that this was not a hack; it was a leak.

Ambassador Craig Murray has stressed, over and over again how the DNC/Podesta files published by WikiLeaks came from two different US sources; one from within the DNC and the other from within US intel. There was nothing for Comey to “investigate”. Or there would have, if Comey had ordered the FBI to examine the DNC servers. So why talk to Julian Assange? The release by WikiLeaks in April 2017 of the malware mechanisms inbuilt in “Grasshopper” and the “Marble Framework” were indeed a bombshell. This is how the CIA inserts foreign language strings in source code to disguise them as originating from Russia, from Iran, or from China. The inestimable Ray McGovern, a VIPS member, stressed how Marble Framework “destroys this story about Russian hacking.”

No wonder then CIA director Mike Pompeo accused WikiLeaks of being a “non-state hostile intelligence agency”, usually manipulated by Russia. Joshua Schulte, the alleged leaker of Vault 7, has not faced a US court yet. There’s no question he will be offered a deal by the USG if he aggress to testify against Julian Assange. It’s a long and winding road, to be traversed in at least two years, if Julian Assange is ever to be extradited to the US.

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Moreno is a corrupt criminal.

Julian Assange Put Through ‘Hell’ At Embassy, Says Former Diplomat (Sky)

Julian Assange was always respectful but went through “hell” in the Ecuadorian embassy as officials tried to “break him down”, according to a former senior diplomat. Fidel Narvaez worked at the London embassy for six of the seven years the WikiLeaks figurehead lived there and says they became friends. Assange was evicted a few weeks ago after a change of government in Ecuador. Its new president, Lenin Moreno, publicly criticised the whistleblower and gave the impression the government ended his stay after growing tired of his alleged bad behaviour.


Assange birthday party, Ecuador embassy, July 2015

Speaking to Sky News, Fidel Narvaez disputed claims that Assange had assaulted guards, didn’t clean up after himself, didn’t take care of his pet cat and even smeared human excrement on the walls of the embassy. He said: “Julian had a respectful relationship with staff, diplomats and administrative staff. I don’t recall a single incident when he disrespected someone until I left in July 2018. “He was 100% respectful. Clean and tidy? What is clean and tidy? Did he put the dishes in the dishwasher? Probably not at weekends. Is that a crime?”


Mr Narvaez worked at the embassy in Knightsbridge in central London between 2010 and 2018 as consul and first secretary. Assange went into the embassy in June 2012 and did not leave until he was carted away by British police a few weeks ago with the agreement of the authorities in Ecuador. Mr Narvaez said: “The last year was hell for Julian in that embassy. “I was there the first months of the last year and I witnessed when Julian was told that he would no longer be allowed to have internet or access to the phone and wouldn’t be able to have visitors. “The strategy was very clear – break him down. The government didn’t know how to end the asylum and face the catastrophic historical shame for doing that.”

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Oh, that’s right, Brexit!

UK PM May To Be Told To Quit By Top Conservative (R.)

A top member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will tell her in the coming week that she must step down by the end of June or her lawmakers will try again to depose her, the Sunday Times reported, without citing sources. May survived a vote of no confidence in December and although party rules mean lawmakers cannot challenge her again until a year has passed, lawmaker Graham Brady will tell her the rules will be changed unless she quits, the newspaper said.


Brady, who chairs the Conservative Party’s influential 1922 Committee of backbench lawmakers, will tell her that 70 percent of her members of parliament want her to resign over her handling of Brexit, the Sunday Times said. Britain was originally due to leave the European Union on March 29, but that deadline was pushed back to April 12 and then again to Oct. 31 as May failed to break an impasse in parliament on the terms of Brexit.

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Third world real estate.

London Home Prices Had Biggest Monthly Drop Since Lehman (DQ)

London home prices in February took their biggest one-off hit since the dark days of the last crisis, according to data published Thursday by the UK’s Office of National Statistics. The average price of a residential property in London tumbled 2% in February from January, the sharpest monthly drop since November 2008, when the City was grappling with the fallout from the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. For the 12-month period, the average price dropped 3.8%, the sharpest year-over-year fall since August 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis. The average home in London is now worth £459,800 ($600,000), down 5.9% from the peak in July 2017:

But it’s still more than double the median UK home price (£225,000). In other words, while prices may have moderated somewhat they’re still well beyond the reach of average Londoners. Here are some more standouts from the ONS report: The slowdown is spreading out from London. Home prices in the south east of England recorded an annual decline (-1.8%) for the first time since 2011. Prices also fell in the North East and remained virtually unchanged in Yorkshire and the Humber. Home price annual growth is slowing in England; prices tick down in Scotland.


Prices did increase in a few places. Home price growth was strongest in Wales and the North West, increasing in both regions by 4.1% in the year to February 2019. It’s a very different story in the capital, which during the first decade and a half of this century enjoyed much faster home price growth than the rest of the country but which is now suffering a much sharper slowdown.The most exclusive boroughs of the city center — often referred to as Prime Central London — have been hit hardest, with prices falling an estimated 14% from their 2014 peak.

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It’s all interconnected and we are killing it all.

Battle To Save Amphibians From Global Killer Disease (G.)

Frogs, salamanders, and toads across the world are now under attack from a widening range of interacting pathogens that threaten to devastate global amphibian populations. That is the stark warning of leading zoological experts who will gather this week in London in a bid to establish an emergency plan to save these endangered creatures. “The world’s amphibians are facing a new crisis, one that is caused by attacks by multiple pathogens,” said Professor Trent Garner of the Zoological Society of London, which is hosting the conference. “We desperately need to devise strategies that can protect them.”


The golden toad of Costa Rica, which is now considered to be extinct. Photograph: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Thirty years ago experts noticed that amphibian populations were plunging in different areas of the world as an emerging fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis, or simply chytrid, began taking its toll of frogs and toads. At least 100 species have since been wiped off the face of the planet. These include the golden toad in Costa Rica (Incilius periglenes); the southern gastric-brooding frog of Australia (Rheobatrachus silus); and Arthur’s stubfoot toad (Atelopus arthuri) in Ecuador. Hundreds of other amphibian species have also suffered severe declines – as a result of chytrid infections.


But scientists also know chytrid is not the only cause of the amphibian deaths now occurring around the world. Another pathogen known as the ranavirus, which exists in at least four varieties, has been observed killing amphibians. In addition they found that there are at least two species of chytrid, and within these, many different genetic types.

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Nitrous oxide emissions, that is. But the article says nothing about amounts, so what to make of it? How much of the stuff is there?

Emissions From Thawing Arctic Permafrost 12 Times Higher Than Thought (Ind.)

Emissions from thawing Arctic permafrost may be 12 times higher than previously thought, scientists have discovered. Permafrost is a mix of soil, rock or sediment that has been frozen for at least two years which is mostly found in the uppermost areas where temperatures are rising more quickly than the rest of the world. When it thaws because of global warming, it releases large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise and creating a perpetual cycle where more permafrost melts. Nitrous oxide, a third greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, stays in the atmosphere for an average of 114 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


It has “conventionally been assumed to have minimal emissions in permafrost regions”, according to a fresh study published in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. However the research team behind the study, led by Harvard University scientists, has found that nitrous oxide emissions are 12 times higher than previously thought and therefore more of a threat. The group used a small plane with a probe on its nose to measure greenhouse gases over 120sqm of thawing permafrost in the North Slope of Alaska. They found that nitrous oxide emissions reached what was previously thought to be the expected yearly limit within just one month in August 2013. Nitrous oxide also poses a second threat because “up in the stratosphere, sunlight and oxygen team up to convert the gas into nitrogen oxides, which eat at the ozone”, Harvard University said in a statement.

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Attenborough trying to make up for lost time.

Climate Change: The Facts – Our Greatest Threat, Laid Bare (G.)

You sense that Our Planet was unfortunately timed for the BBC. In Climate Change: The Facts, the gloves are now not so much off as thrown to the floor in a certain rage. It’s right there in the title, bold and stark. This hour-long documentary, part of the Our Planet Matters season, is wide-ranging yet concise, easy to understand, not blighted by the ego of, say, An Inconvenient Truth, and it is designed to do for climate change denial what 2017’s Blue Planet did for single-use plastic. That’s not to say it should be Attenborough’s responsibility to get the wider public to pay attention, nor that it is down to the BBC. It isn’t.

But Climate Change: The Facts is a rousing call to arms. It is an alarm clock set at a horrifying volume. The first 40 minutes are given over to what Attenborough calls, without hyperbole, “our greatest threat in thousands of years”. Expert after expert explains the consequences of rising CO2 levels, on the ice caps, on coastal regions, on weather and wildlife and society itself. The most powerful moments are in footage shot not by expert crews who have spent years on location, but on shaky cameras, capturing the very moment at which the reality of our warming planet struck the person holding the phone.

In Cairns, Australia, flying foxes are unable to survive the extreme temperatures; rescuers survey the terrible massacre, and we learn that while 350 were saved, 11,000 died. A man and his son talk through their escape from raging wildfires, over the film they took while attempting to drive through a cavern of blazing red trees. These are horror movies playing out in miniature. It is difficult to watch even five minutes of this and remain somehow neutral, or unconvinced.

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After -how many?- too many years of silence, David Attenborough finally speaks out in his 90s. A very late wake-up. By now he’s so old, it’s not going to hurt him much, he won’t be around to see it. What if he’d done this 20-30-30 years ago? He’s THE voice on planet issues. And hey, he’s got the best camera people on the topic, so yeah, go full screen for the entire hour this doc lasts (click YouTube, bottom right corner).

Climate Change – The Facts (David Attenborough)

After one of the hottest years on record, Sir David Attenborough looks at the science of climate change and potential solutions to this global threat. Interviews with some of the world’s leading climate scientists explore recent extreme weather conditions such as unprecedented storms and catastrophic wildfires. They also reveal what dangerous levels of climate change could mean for both human populations and the natural world in the future.

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Mar 232019
 
 March 23, 2019  Posted by at 9:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Inge Morath Window washers 1958

 

France To Deploy Army Against Yellow Vests (G.)
Mueller Report Is Just The Start Of A New Russia Showdown (CNN)
Mueller-Dämmerung (CF)
Letter From US Attorney General To Lawmakers On Mueller Report (R.)
WikiLeaks Seeks To Publish Mueller Report In Full (RT)
May Urged To Go As She Hints At Pulling Third Vote On Brexit Deal (G.)
The EU Knows It, So Do Our Own MPs – Theresa May Is Finished (G.)
Secret Cabinet Document Reveals Chaotic Planning For No-Deal Brexit (G.)
Revoke Article 50 Petition Hits Three Million Signatures (Ind.)
Coercion Meets Its Match (Kunstler)

 

 

Using your army on your own land against your own people…

France To Deploy Army Against Yellow Vests (G.)

France has drafted in extra security forces including army troops to try to prevent any repeat of violence during gilets jaunes protests in Paris or other cities this weekend. Police, gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed in a show of force in the capital and in the southern city of Nice, where the president, Emmanuel Macron, will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, for a state visit on Sunday. Despite a ban on protests in parts of Nice, yellow vest organisers have called for a demonstration there on Saturday, the 19th day of action. Protests are also expected in other French cities. Critics see the deployment of troops from Operation Sentinelle, which was established after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, as provocative.

Macron’s administration views the potential escalation of civil unrest as a serious challenge to its authority and is determined to regain the upper hand after it was accused of being unprepared for last week’s riots. Last weekend protests in Paris were hijacked by rioters and looters who destroyed luxury shops, newspaper kiosks and one of the country’s most exclusive restaurants on the Champs Élysées. The Paris police prefect was sacked after his officers were accused of failing to stop the unrest. The interior minister, Christophe Castaner, spoke to the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, and the local prefect, Georges-François Leclerc, on Thursday to reassure them that security forces would be deployed to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s clashes and destruction.

[..] Officials say soldiers will be used this weekend to protect key buildings, freeing up police and gendarmes to control crowds. Bruno Leray, the Paris military chief, told French radio they could “go so far as to open fire …if their life is threatened or the life of those people they are defending”. The hard-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon said Leray’s admission was “grave” and could “feed a fatal escalation” of violence. A number of gilets jaunes have been injured by police firing rubber bullets. “Maintaining order is not a task to be given to the army. The army’s mission is to defend the nation against its enemies, and in no way can demonstrators be considered internal enemies,” Mélenchon wrote in a letter to the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, on Friday.

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Don’t say they didn’t warn you. This is their meal ticket.

Mueller Report Is Just The Start Of A New Russia Showdown (CNN)

Robert Mueller’s latest service to America is all but complete. But the reverberations from his yet-to-be-revealed report could amount to inestimable political and constitutional consequences. The conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation was an important landmark in itself, at a moment in America’s modern history when governing institutions are under intense strain. It demonstrated that so far at least, a credible legal examination is possible into the most explosive of charges against an unchained President, without interference and despite the bitter polarization of the times. The question now is whether everyone accepts the result.

The nation could learn within days whether Mueller answered key inquiries: Did Trump cooperate with a hostile foreign power to win the 2016 election? Did he use that platform to seek to enrich himself with multi-billion dollar business deals in Russia? Did the President obstruct justice, including by firing FBI Director James Comey, in an effort to cover it all up? And is there any evidence to suggest why Trump often appears to be obedient to Russian President Vladimir Putin, following fears felt deep within the FBI that the US President was compromised? And can he explain the multiple suspicions contacts between Trump’s associates and Russians — both before and after the election — and the lies they all told about those relationships?

Trump’s team is already celebrating, claiming it is already clear that the President has already been vindicated since Mueller did not indict anyone for cooperating with Russian election meddling. The lack of charges against Trump’s son, Donald Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who were involved in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, especially disappointed his critics. Their escape proved the shrewdness of Trump’s consistent messaging that the only question that mattered in an investigation that held Washington spellbound for two years was whether there was collusion. “The fat lady has sung,” one Trump aide told CNN’s Jim Acosta.

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“..Trump is going to reach over, grab that report, roll it up tightly into a makeshift cudgel, and then beat the snot out of his opponents with it.”

Mueller-Dämmerung (CF)

if you’re going to accuse a sitting president of being a Russian intelligence asset, you kind of need to be able to prove it, or (a) you defeat the whole purpose of the exercise, (b) you destroy your own credibility, and (c) you present that sitting president with a powerful weapon he can use to bury you. This is not exactly rocket science. As any seasoned badass will tell you, when you’re resolving a conflict with another seasoned badass, you don’t take out a gun unless you’re going to use it. Taking a gun out, waving it around, and not shooting the other badass with it, is generally not a winning strategy. What often happens, if you’re dumb enough to do that, is that the other badass will take your gun from you and either shoot you or beat you senseless with it.

This is what Trump is about to do with Russiagate. When the Mueller report fails to present any evidence that he “colluded” with Russia to steal the election, Trump is going to reach over, grab that report, roll it up tightly into a makeshift cudgel, and then beat the snot out of his opponents with it. He is going to explain to the American people that the Democrats, the corporate media, Hollywood, the liberal intelligentsia, and elements of the intelligence agencies conspired to try to force him out of office with an unprecedented propaganda campaign and a groundless special investigation. He is going to explain to the American people that Russiagate, from start to finish, was, in his words, a ridiculous “witch hunt,” a childish story based on nothing. Then he’s going to tell them a different story.

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Hard to see why he shouldn’t release the whole thing.

Letter From US Attorney General To Lawmakers On Mueller Report (R.)

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:

I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. In addition to this notification, the Special Counsel regulations require that I provide you with “a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General” or acting Attorney General “concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3). There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.

The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or delineation decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.

Finally, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” this notification “would be in the public interest.” I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.

Sincerely,

William P. Barr

Attorney General

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But Russia!

WikiLeaks Seeks To Publish Mueller Report In Full (RT)

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has launched a fundraiser to “facilitate the full publication” of the long-awaited Russiagate report, as many wonder: why pay for a nothingburger that’s poised to be released to the public anyway? While some wondered if the WikiLeaks’ twitter account was ‘hacked’ by the Democrats, many wondered why the whistleblowers’ website would seek to raise so much money to publish ‘literally nothing.’ Most netizens, however, seemed puzzled by the initiative, with reactions ranging from accusations of trying to ‘bribe’ Robert Mueller to the idea that WikiLeaks is trying to get hold of the report to release a ‘redacted’ version of it.

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Major march in London today. But there will have to be very many people for it to have any effect.

May Urged To Go As She Hints At Pulling Third Vote On Brexit Deal (G.)

Pressure on Theresa May has reached new heights as ministers backed attempts to let parliament take control of the next stage of the Brexit process and MPs openly speculated that her time in office could end within weeks. As a beleaguered May returned from Brussels, MPs suggested her deal could lose by an even higher margin, with several saying the timing now required the prime minister to “fall on her sword”. May wrote to Tory MPs on Friday in an attempt to address some of the criticism and regain control over the process. In her letter, she even hinted she may not bring her deal back to parliament for the third time without “sufficient support” and apologised for the tone of her statement on Wednesday night where she blamed MPs for the Brexit impasse.

MPs had earlier suggested that it could be pointless for the prime minister to attempt to pass her deal next week, after a defiant statement by the Democratic Unionist party where they rejected the current state of negotiations. In her letter, May said the decision of the EU council meant she would bring back her deal next week “if it appears there is sufficient support and the Speaker permits it”. The prime minister said a number of colleagues had raised concerns about her speech in Downing Street on Wednesday. “You have a difficult job to do and it was not my intention to make it any more difficult,” she wrote, offering to hold more meetings with MPs next week. May will face further pressure from hundreds of thousands of members of the public expected to join the Put it to the People march in London on Saturday to demand a second referendum, after millions signed a petition to revoke article 50.

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“..that was the moment when Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and others realised they were dealing with someone out of her depth, unable to perform at the level required for the job that needed doing.”

The EU Knows It, So Do Our Own MPs – Theresa May Is Finished (G.)

EU leaders cannot say explicitly that they no longer want to deal with the current prime minister. Urging regime change is beyond the pale of normal diplomacy among democratic states. But there is no effort to conceal the frustration in May or the evacuation of confidence in her as a negotiating partner. The one thing everyone in Brussels, Berlin and Paris had most wanted to avoid from an article 50 extension was giving May a licence to carry on behaving as she has done for what feels like an eternity. They could no longer tolerate the hollow shell of a prime minister shuttling back and forth between Tory hardliners demanding fantasy Brexits and Brussels negotiators who trade in realities.

There is a difference between patience with the prime minister and readiness to help her country navigate through its current crisis. There are still stores of goodwill available for Britain in Brussels, but they cannot be unlocked by May. The bankruptcy of May’s overseas enterprise has been coming since the day she set up shop in No 10. The squandering of credibility started almost at once, with the appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary in 2016. Only someone with a tin ear for European sensibilities would have given the top diplomat job to a man known on the continent as a rogue peddler of anti-Brussels propaganda. Then there was the early negotiating period, during which EU leaders thought May’s robotic, inscrutable manner concealed a deep, strategic intelligence.

They came to realise that there was no mask. The inanity – the reciting of “Brexit means Brexit” even in private meetings – was not the cover story for a secret plan. It was the plan. The point of no return was the summit in Salzburg last September. May was invited to make the case for what was left of her “Chequers plan” to European heads of government. It was late. They were tired. There were other difficult matters to attend to. And instead of speaking candidly, persuasively, passionately or even just coherently, the British prime minister read mechanically from a text that was, in substance, no different from an op-ed article already published under her name in a German newspaper that morning. It was embarrassing and insulting.

Many European diplomats say that was the moment when Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and others realised they were dealing with someone out of her depth, unable to perform at the level required for the job that needed doing.

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Chaos is the only thing that’s guaranteed.

Secret Cabinet Document Reveals Chaotic Planning For No-Deal Brexit (G.)

The extent and range of the impact of a no-deal Brexit is revealed in a confidential Cabinet Office document that warns of a “critical three-month phase” after leaving the EU during which the whole planning operation could be overwhelmed. The classified document, seen by the Guardian, sets out the command and control structures in Whitehall for coping with a no-deal departure and says government departments will have to firefight most problems for themselves – or risk a collapse of “Operation Yellowhammer”. “The … structure will quickly fall if too many decisions are unnecessarily escalated to the top levels that could have reasonably been dealt with internally …” the document says. It also concedes there are “likely to be unforeseen issues and impacts” of a no-deal Brexit that Operation Yellowhammer has been unable to predict.

The Cabinet Office has taken the lead in preparations for no deal and is desperately war-gaming scenarios in the event the UK leaves without a coherent plan. The document includes a flow-chart of a routine no-deal day in Whitehall – which starts at 7am with “situation reports” from across the UK being sent to ministers and senior officials, and continues with non-stop assessments and meetings until 5.30am the following day. This high tempo is likely to be necessary for months, the document says. One source with knowledge of Operation Yellowhammer made clear that while planning had stepped up, the overall picture remained chaotic and “rudderless”.

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You’ll need them out on the street. This weekend.

Revoke Article 50 Petition Hits Three Million Signatures (Ind.)

A petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked and Brexit cancelled has attracted more than three million signatures. The milestone, hit by midday on Friday, was reached after more than two million people signed up in less than 24 hours. It has since become the parliament website’s fastest growing petition despite the service crashing several times on Thursday, apparently unable to cope with demand as people voiced their discontent for Theresa May’s plans for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Signatures continued to be added even after the threat of a no-deal exit on 29 March was removed when EU leaders agreed Brexit could be delayed. At one point nearly 2,000 people were signing up every minute.

Analysis by software firm Tableau of the 16,000 petitions running on the government website showed the revoke Article 50 petition had more than three times as many signatures as all the pro-Brexit petitions combined. After the number of signatures passed one million, the petitions committee, a cross-party group of MPs appointed to examine petitions to parliament, said the rate of signing was the highest its website had ever had to deal with. Organiser Margaret Anne Georgiadou wrote: “The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is ‘the will of the people’. “We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now for remaining in the EU. A People’s Vote may not happen – so vote now.”

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US universities appear to become a lifeform all their own.

Coercion Meets Its Match (Kunstler)

It’s not hard to see how this fiasco developed and blossomed. In the 1960s, when I was in college, Marxism offered a neat, pre-engineered template for opposing the odious Establishment that blundered into the Vietnam War. Students then at least had skin in the game: the threat of getting drafted into the army and shipped over to die in the jungle for a senseless conflict. In fact, many young men unsuited for college took refuge there to evade the military. Then, with a bull market in Boomer Generation PhDs, the faculties were soon filled with the former Sixties radicals.

Many were Boomer women, who set out to explain and correct the evolving relations of men and women in the office workplace of the day. By then the war was over. The sick economy of the 1970s put an end to the ability of men to support a family and more women were forced to enter the office environment. Meanwhile radical progressivism needed an ever-fresh supply of new aggrieved parties to justify its agitation against the old Marxist bugbears of bourgeois values and structural oppression — and incidentally fuel academic careers. Hence, the multiplication of victims into handy intersectional categories.

By the 1980s, it also became evident that 60s civil rights legislation to end Jim Crow laws had not solved the quandaries of race in America, and that disappointment refreshed the progressive crusade to heal the world of injustice and inequality. Every other effort to produce equal outcomes for different categories of people had also proved disappointing, so now progressives resort to plain coercion to force equal outcomes at all costs, and nowhere is that behavior more overt than on campus the past decade.

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Mar 032019
 


Pablo Picasso The artist and his model 1926

 

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

 

 

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

US is Cleanest Dirty Shirt Among Manufacturing Giants (WS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Massive Cuts Are Coming To Social Security (MW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can he be resuscitated? Or will he be arrested?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Word is they want Assange for harm to US operatives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 242019
 



René Magritte The victory 1939

 

‘Irresponsible’ Agents Blamed As Top End Australia Property Plunges 40% (AFR)
China’s Premier Slams Central Bank For Gargantuan Credit Injection (ZH)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Call For A ‘Living Wage’ Starts In Her Office (Akin)
Our Long Strange Boom (CHS)
Theresa May Insists Brexit ‘Must Not, Will Not’ Be Blocked (PA)
“New Economic or Financial Crisis” in Eurozone Could Start in Italy (DQ)
France Calls On Germany To Ease Arms Export Rules (R.)
Tens Of Thousands March As France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests Rumble On (R.)
The American War on Terror – Now in 80 Countries (Savell)
Kurdish Forces Evacuate Remaining Civilians From Last ISIS Pocket (AFP)
‘Amphibian Plague’ Could Lead To Dangerous New Hybrid Disease (Ind.)
UK Badgers, Stoats And Otters Bounce Back To Long-Term Historical Lows (G.)

 

 

The Venezuela coverage is too obvious and predictable, I’ll leave it alone today.

Who can we blame? Certainly not ourselves.

‘Irresponsible’ Agents Blamed As Top End Australia Property Plunges 40% (AFR)

Prices for some prestigious properties have fallen by more than 40 per cent as vendors rein in their expectations in response to falling demand, tighter credit and lower prices. Buyers’ agents, who represent property buyers, are blaming the reductions on the “irresponsible” and unrealistically high prices set by realtors desperate to win business from sellers. “These price cuts are a result of bad agency practice,” said David Morrell, director of buyers’ agency Morrell Koren. “Professionals should set realistic values that reflect where the market sits.” Mr Morrell said such over-valuations were widespread and were partly driven by real estate agents trying to generate more revenue through advertising campaigns paid for by the vendor, which then generate commissions and other incentives from advertising companies.

The higher the forecast price of a property the more is likely to be spent on advertising. He said elite-end sales in the $10 million to $20 million range remain robust with the biggest issue being lack of new stock. “A lot of agents are losing money. The kickbacks help keep their businesses running,” he said. Properties in top-end suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne have been heavily discounted during sale negotiations or had their advertised prices cut as clearance rates and market pessimism grows. A property in East Melbourne, about 3 kilometres from the central business district, is selling for more than 40 per cent less that what it was listed in the middle of last year. The price for the single-storey Victorian house with two bedrooms and four living spaces is around $3.65 million to about $3.9 million, compared with between $5.75 and $6 million six months ago.

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I must have said it 1000 times: China has relied on shadow banks so much for its ‘growth’, that now it has no more control over them.

China’s Premier Slams Central Bank For Gargantuan Credit Injection (ZH)

Last week many traders were dumbfounded when, just as speculation was building that China was preparing to unleash a massive credit expansion a la Shanghai Accord, Beijing confirmed that it had indeed decided to massively reflate its (and the global) economy, in what may soon be dubbed the Shanghai Accord 2.0, when the PBOC announced it had flooded the economy with a gargantuan 4.64 trillion yuan in various new forms of debt which comprise China’s Total Social Financing in January, including notably, the “shadow” credit which Beijing had been aggressively cracking down on: an aggressive credit expansion which many took as a tacit confirmation that China was losing the fight with deleveraging.

As the following chart from BofA’s Michael Hartnett shows, which puts China’s latest credit expansion in historical context, January’s debt tsunami was vastly greater than China’s credit expansion during both the global financial crisis and the Shanghai Accord.

And while analysts, economists and markets cheered this unprecedented credit generosity by Beijing, [..] it appears that January’s gargantuan credit boost may end up being a one off event, because while China’s credit injection amounting to over 5% of GDP was welcome by global market, it also resulted in a rare public spat between Chinese premier Li Keqiang and the central bank, after he expressed concern about record credit expansion in January, a result of monetary stimulus intended to support flagging economic growth.

[..] the Prime Minister warned of risks from January’s credit deluge: “The increase in total social financing appears rather large on the surface, but if one analyses in detail, a large part of this rise was bill financing and short-term lending. Not only does this potentially create ‘arbitrage’ and ‘empty cycling’ of funds, but it may also bring new potential risks.” He is referring to what we said last Friday, when we noted that a big part of the TSF surge was the result of a fresh shadow banking expansion. The chart below indicates that Beijing may have thrown in the towel on its crackdown in Shadow Banking, which after contracting for almost all of 2018, not only rose for the first time in 11 months, but soared the most in nearly two years as Chinese regulators now appear focused on providing credit using the very same channels they spent the past two years desperately trying to block.

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As all the smart money will condemn AOC, she makes a smart move.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Call For A ‘Living Wage’ Starts In Her Office (Akin)

Ocasio-Cortez, who has called on fellow lawmakers to pay their staffs a “living wage,” is making an example out of her own office. The New York Democrat has introduced an unusual policy that no one on her staff will make less than $52,000 a year — an almost unheard of amount for many of the 20-somethings whose long hours make House and Senate offices run. For Pagon Marchena, 22, the pay bump meant an end to a grueling, seven-day-a-week work schedule that was wearing down her resolve to stay in Washington, where rents average more than $2,000 a month. “It was unsustainable,” she said. “I needed an office that was going to pay me a fair wage.”

[..] House lawmakers agreed to minor increases for fiscal years 2017 and 2019 in the amount of money appropriated to members’ offices for staffer pay and other expenses, called Members’ Representational Allowances, or MRAs. The total budget of $574 million in fiscal 2019 is still below a high of $660 million in fiscal 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service. [..] Ocasio-Cortez is trying to force the conversation. She made national headlines in December by announcing that all interns in her office would make $15 an hour plus benefits — a rarity for Capitol Hill offices in which interns are often unpaid. She has also highlighted the high number of Hill staff members who work side jobs to make up for median salaries as low as $35,000 for staff assistants, the lowest paid positions in congressional offices… “We think that if a person is working, they should make enough to live,” said Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director.

[..] because all congressional offices get the same budgets to use for staff pay and other expenses, there is only so much that individual lawmakers can do. Ocasio-Cortez’s solution requires sacrifices for staffers at the top of the pay scale, potentially opening her to criticism from the right that her office policies, like her political identity as a Democratic socialist, call for a form of class warfare. It could also pose challenges to attracting and retaining older employees who have obligations such as mortgages and child care — which in D.C. can cost $23,000 a year for a single child. Salaries in Ocasio-Cortez’s office top out at $80,000, Trent said. That’s well below the median pay for Hill chiefs of staff at $154,634, according to the Legistorm analysis. And it’s a fraction of what experienced staffers could make in other jobs in Washington.

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So, think Charles is an AOC fan?

Our Long Strange Boom (CHS)

It’s been a long, strange economic boom since the nadir of the Global Financial Meltdown in 2009. A 10-year long boom that saw the S&P 500 rise from 666 in early 2009 to 2,780 and GDP rise by 43% has been slightly more uneven for most participants. First and most importantly, household income hasn’t risen by the same percentages as assets, GDP or costs of big-ticket expenses such as rent, healthcare and college tuition. The broadest measure of income, median household income, has registered a 23% increase in the past decade, roughly half of GDP gains and a mere fraction of stock market and housing gains.

[..] The bottom quintile (20%) registered income gains of 20% from 2009 to 2017, while the middle quintile (roughly speaking, the middle class) gained 25.5% and the top 5% enjoyed a 31.6% gain. The raw numbers tell the story in a slightly more visceral fashion: Upper limit of bottom quintile: $24,638 up 20% since 2009 Upper limit of middle quintile: $77,552 up 25.5% since 2009 Lower limit of top 5%: $237,034 up 31.6% since 2009 (the median household income is much higher–around $350,000 according to Household Income Quintiles the Tax Policy Center.)

So the top 5% earn at a minimum 10 times the lowest quintile income and around 4 or 5 times the middle quintile income. Here in Northern California, this has manifested in rapidly expanding homeless encampments a stone’s throw away from new luxury rental apartments charging $3,000 and up for one-bedroom flats and $4,000 and up for two-bedroom flats. Meanwhile, the streets are filled with potholes and cracks. Maintaining streets–presumably one of the core missions of local government–is simply not being done in a timely manner. Major streets are in such disrepair that local businesses have taken to raising banners demanding “pave our street now.”

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Cut it out already! How are we going to survive the next 5 weeks?

Theresa May Insists Brexit ‘Must Not, Will Not’ Be Blocked (PA)

Theresa May has vowed to Tory grassroots activists that she will not allow the referendum vote for Britain to leave the EU to be frustrated. The prime minister is flying to Egypt for an EU-League of Arab States summit where she is expected to hold talks with key EU figures as she battles to break the deadlock in the Brexit talks. Downing Street has played down hopes of a breakthrough during the course of the two-day gathering in the Red Sea resort, despite the presence of major players including the European Council president, Donald Tusk. The prime minister is pressing for changes to the Northern Ireland backstop which she hopes will finally convince MPs to back her Withdrawal Agreement following last month’s crushing Commons defeat.

Ahead of her departure, No 10 released details of her speech to a closed meeting of the National Conservative Convention (NCC) in Oxford on Saturday, when she told supporters the government’s focus on delivering Brexit must be “absolute”. Her comments came after three pro-EU cabinet ministers signalled they could back moves in parliament to delay Britain’s withdrawal to prevent a “disastrous” no-deal break. The intervention by Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke led to calls for their resignations by furious Tory Brexiters – comments said to have been echoed in private by some cabinet ministers. Northern minister John Penrose warned taking no-deal off the table could undermine May’s efforts to secure concessions on the backstop.

“It could torpedo Brexit completely, leaving us in a ‘Hotel California’ Brexit, where we’d checked out but could never leave,” he said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph. “We’d have built an enormous elephant trap for ourselves, and there’d be no way to climb out.”

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“Italy’s government is perfectly cognizant that French, German and Spanish banks are now far too exposed to Italian debt for their respective governments to even entertain the idea of pushing Italy to the edge.”

“New Economic or Financial Crisis” in Eurozone Could Start in Italy (DQ)

“Don’t underestimate the impact of the Italian recession.” This was the stark warning from French Economy Minister Bruno Le Marie in an interview with Bloomberg News. “We talk a lot about Brexit, but we don’t talk much about an Italian recession that will have a significant impact on growth in Europe and can impact France because it’s one of our most important trading partners.” Italy’s economy as measured in real GDP shrank for two quarters in a row, which puts it into a “technical recession”. It’s the second time in four months that France’s Economy Minister has expressed deep concern about the Italian economy in public.

At the end of October he urged the commission to “reach out to Italy” after the EU’s executive had rejected the country’s draft 2019 budget for breaking EU rules on public spending. Le Maire also conceded at the time that while contagion in the Eurozone was definitely contained, the Eurozone “is not sufficiently armed to face a new economic or financial crisis.” The French government is now openly worried that such a crisis could begin in Italy. The economies of both Italy and France are tightly interwoven, with annual trade flows of around €90 billion. More important still, French banks are, by a long shot, the biggest owners of Italian public and private debt, with total holdings of €311 billion as of the 3rd quarter of 2018, according to the BIS — up €34 billion from the 1st quarter of 2018.

Italy’s government is perfectly cognizant that French, German and Spanish banks are now far too exposed to Italian debt for their respective governments to even entertain the idea of pushing Italy to the edge. That knowledge is fueling the coalition government’s bravado, with some lawmakers now even talking about nationalizing Italy’s central bank, the Bank of Italy, for a total sum of €155,000 and taking control of its assets, including Italy’s large pile of gold.

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In France the arms industry has much more power than in Germany. WWII is a factor in that.

France Calls On Germany To Ease Arms Export Rules (R.)

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday that Germany should ease its strict arms export rules for countries outside the European Union to strengthen the defense industry. France has complained that joint arms manufacturing projects are being stalled by Berlin’s refusal to authorize future arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia, a major buyer. Germany said in November it would reject future arms export licenses to Riyadh over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has not formally banned previously approved deals but has urged industry to refrain from such shipments for now.

“It is useless to produce weapons through improved cooperation between France and Germany if we are unable to export them,” Le Maire told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “If you want to be competitive and efficient, we need to be able to export to countries outside Europe,” Le Maire said. The minister said France also had relatively strict rules for arms exports. “Our hope is that we will come to an agreement with Germany in this crucial point,” Le Maire said. Germany and France are working on a joint proposal for arms export guidelines to non-European countries. Angela Merkel said in January the EU must deepen cooperation in defense and in particular weapons systems development, warning Germans that they may need to make compromises on strict export controls.

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As usual, hard to get decent coverage of Acte XV.

But Reuters does feel compelled to report increasing numbers of protesters.

While Macron is taking selfies with farm animals.

Tens Of Thousands March As France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests Rumble On (R.)

Tens of thousands of people marched on Saturday in Paris and other cities and dozens were arrested as France’s “yellow vest” movement staged its 15th consecutive weekend of demonstrations against the government. Some 46,600 people joined the protests nationwide, including 5,800 in the capital, the Interior Ministry said. That was up from 41,500 last week, with 5,000 in Paris. Demonstrations have generally gotten smaller since a peak in December when the French capital saw some of the worst rioting, vandalism and looting in decades. Police said 28 people were arrested in Paris, but protesters marched mostly peacefully through the capital’s wealthier neighborhoods surrounded by a heavy police presence.

As the march wound down, scuffles broke out and police used tear gas to disperse crowds at the Place du Trocadero overlooking the Seine river and across from the Eiffel Tower. Some 18 people were also arrested in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand and potentially dangerous objects were seized ahead of a march in which police said 2,500 participated. Another 18 people were arrested in the western city of Rennes where six police officers were slightly injured and six protesters were hurt by large riot control pellets fired by police. The movement has posed the biggest challenge to Macron’s authority since he came to office in May 2017, although it faces increased infighting as some members have sought to run in upcoming European Parliament elections.

Macron’s popularity has recovered from lows reached in the wake of violent clashes during protests in December, after he launched a series of debates across the country aimed at reconnecting with voters particularly in rural areas. He received a mostly warm welcome on Saturday at an annual farm show in Paris, taking selfies with the public and chatting with farmers as he strolled for hours among the crowd and animals.

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Impossible not to think of the last days of Rome.

The American War on Terror – Now in 80 Countries (Savell)

When I first set out to map all the places in the world where the United States is still fighting terrorism so many years later, I didn’t think it would be that hard to do. This was before the 2017 incident in Niger in which four American soldiers were killed on a counterterror mission and Americans were given an inkling of how far-reaching the war on terrorism might really be. I imagined a map that would highlight Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria – the places many Americans automatically think of in association with the war on terror – as well as perhaps a dozen less-noticed countries like the Philippines and Somalia. I had no idea that I was embarking on a research odyssey that would, in its second annual update, map U.S. counterterror missions in 80 countries in 2017 and 2018, or 40% of the nations on this planet (a map first featured in Smithsonian magazine).

As co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, I’m all too aware of the costs that accompany such a sprawling overseas presence. Our project’s research shows that, since 2001, the U.S. war on terror has resulted in the loss — conservatively estimated — of almost half a million lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone. By the end of 2019, we also estimate that Washington’s global war will cost American taxpayers no less than $5.9 trillion already spent and in commitments to caring for veterans of the war throughout their lifetimes.

In general, the American public has largely ignored these post-9/11 wars and their costs. But the vastness of Washington’s counterterror activities suggests, now more than ever, that it’s time to pay attention. [..] That our counterterror missions are so extensive and their costs so staggeringly high should prompt Americans to demand answers to a few obvious and urgent questions: Is this global war truly making Americans safer? Is it reducing violence against civilians in the U.S. and other places?

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Origianl AFP title: “Syria force to pluck more civilians from last IS pocket”. But are the Kuds a ‘Syria force’?

Kurdish Forces Evacuate Remaining Civilians From Last ISIS Pocket (AFP)

US-backed fighters said Saturday they are keeping a corridor open to rescue remaining civilians from the Islamic State group’s last speck of territory in Syria, as the UN appealed for urgent assistance. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have evacuated nearly 5,000 men, women and children from the jihadist holdout since Wednesday, bringing the SDF closer to retaking the less than half a square kilometre still under IS control. “On our side, the corridor is open and we hope a larger number of civilians will arrive but that depends on IS fighters and whether they will give civilians a chance to exit,” SDF spokesman Adnan Afrin told AFP at their Al-Omar base. He said the SDF had evacuated “more than 2,000 people, including women, children and men” on Friday, mostly wives and children of IS fighters.

Nearly 2,500 people arrived the same day at a Kurdish-run camp for the displaced further north, compounding dire conditions inside the already crammed settlement, the UN’s humanitarian coordination office OCHA said. It warned of the “huge challenges” posed by the influx. More than four years after IS overran large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq and declared a “caliphate”, they have lost all but a tiny patch in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border. Some 2,000 people are believed to remain inside Baghouz, according to the SDF. The force says it is trying to evacuate remaining civilians through a corridor before pressing on with a battle to crush the jihadists unless holdout fighters surrender.

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Life just continues on its way toward extinction. But we live in cities, so how would we know?

‘Amphibian Plague’ Could Lead To Dangerous New Hybrid Disease (Ind.)

The team that cracked the case of the “amphibian plague” devastating frog and toad populations around the world are worried that worse is still to come. A killer fungus known as Bd has triggered a mass amphibian extinction that has spread across every continent and been described as among the worst infectious diseases ever recorded. Scientists have described rainforests struck silent as the plague wiped out entire populations of local frogs in mere months, stifling their night-time chorus of croaks. At least 200 frog species are thought to have been driven to extinction since the 1970s, with particularly heavy losses in Bd-infested parts of Latin America.

Intense research efforts have identified the disease and traced it to its source in east Asia, and local conservation groups have worked tirelessly to quarantine the fragmented populations that remain. However, with the international trade in amphibians continuing unabated, the team credited with discovering the disease are concerned about what the future may bring. In particular, the melding of different Bd strains from around the world has the potential to create hybrids that are even deadlier than current incarnations. [..] “If we keep hauling amphibians back and forth, you don’t know what the outcome is going to be, you might get something that’s more pathogenic [capable of causing disease],” said Dr Joyce Longcore, the scientist who first identified the unusual aquatic fungus known as Bd.


Photograph: Jamie Voyles

Unless you stop international travel and international trade, things like this are going to continue, and you can make your rules stronger for trade but if you have any volume at all something is going to get through.” For decades amphibians have been traded for food, as pets, or even – in the case of the African clawed frog – for use in crude pregnancy tests. This transport of living amphibians has already been identified as the trigger for the original Bd outbreak, and recent lab tests revealed hybrid forms emerging in Brazil and South Africa that appear to be deadlier than the original.

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Presented as ‘incredible revival’, but that’s just nonsense.

Just stop polluting your land to grow food. That’s all it is.

UK Badgers, Stoats And Otters Bounce Back To Long-Term Historical Lows (G.)

They must survive government culls, gamekeepers, poisoning, persecution and increasingly busy roads but, in modern times at least, Britain’s carnivores have never had it so good: badger, otter, pine marten, polecat, stoat and weasel populations have “markedly improved” since the 1960s, according to a new study. The otter, polecat and pine marten have bounced back from the brink of extinction, and the country’s only carnivorous mammal now in danger of being wiped out is the wildcat, with the dwindling Scottish populations hit by hybridisation with domestic and feral cats.

Britain’s carnivores have largely “done it for themselves” and recovered often unexpectedly quickly after a reduction in harmful human activities – hunting, trapping and the use of toxic chemicals – according to scientists from Exeter University, Vincent Wildlife Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. But the scientists warn that, while carnivore populations have recovered over the course of a human lifetime, most are still at long-term historical lows, with much more scope for recovery in distribution and density. “Carnivores have recovered in a way that would have seemed incredibly unlikely in the 1970s, when extinction of some species looked like a real possibility,” said lead author Katie Sainsbury from the Environment and Sustainability Institute at Exeter University.

“Most of these species have essentially recovered by themselves, once pressures from predator controls and pollutants were reduced, and it’s taken them a while. Yes, there are more of them now than in most people’s lifetimes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for populations to grow and spread further.” The reasons for each carnivore’s recovery are different. Otters were harmed by organochlorine pesticides washed into rivers but have returned to every English county since the pesticides were banned and hunting was outlawed in 1978. There are now an estimated 11,000.

Polecat numbers have risen to 83,000 in the decades since a 1958 ban on gin traps, which were once used to control rabbits and also widely caught polecats. Polecat populations moved eastwards at about three miles a year between 1975 and 2015, finally returning to the south-east, Midlands and East Anglia. Badger populations are estimated to have doubled since the 1980s, assisted by a decline in persecution since their legal protection in 1973 and protection of setts in 1992. Researchers also believe that milder winters caused by climate change are helping badgers survive the season in better shape and raise more cubs.


Pine marten. Photograph: Nature Picture Library/Alamy

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Feb 182019
 
 February 18, 2019  Posted by at 10:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Face female study 1925

 

Yellow Vests Mark 3 Months of Marches, France investigates Antisemitism (AP)
Two Trump Cabinet Officials Were “Ready To Support” 25th Amendment Coup (ZH)
Trump To Veto Disapproval Of Emergency (AP)
Tories Under Fire For Dismissing March For 2nd Brexit Referendum (Ind.)
New Zealand To Target Online Giants With Digital Tax (R.)
Facebook Labelled ‘Digital Gangsters’ By UK Report On Fake News (G.)
UK Must Investigate Foreign Influence And Voter Manipulation In Brexit Vote (Ind.)
Australia Claims Foreign Government Hacked Major Political Parties (R.)
Varoufakis: ECB Profits Should Be Used For A European Poverty Fund (KTG)
Venezuela Denies EU Lawmakers Entry Given ‘Conspiratorial Motives’ (R.)
Virtual Fences, Robot Workers, Stacked Crops: Farming In 2040 (O.)
Return Of Wolves To Germany Pits Farmers Against Environmentalists (G.)
UK Plans To Make Plastic Packaging Producers Pay For Waste Disposal (R.)
Plastic Chemicals Discovered Inside Bird Eggs From Remote Arctic (Ind.)

 

 

How state propaganda works (and is disseminated by sympathetic media).

“The scene was a vicious verbal interlude..” “The verbal attack on Finkielkraut could risk further eroding the movement’s initially strong public support. “The yellow vest movement [..] is now marked by growing divisions within its ranks.”

In reality, the French see young people with their eyes missing due to Macron-ordered rubber bullets. The only support that’s eroding is that for Macron.

Yellow Vests Mark 3 Months of Marches, France investigates Antisemitism (AP)

Paris judicial authorities opened an investigation Sunday into anti-Semitic remarks hurled at a noted philosopher during a yellow vest protest, an incident that raised national concerns about the movement’s ascendant radical fringe. The Paris prosecutor’s office said the investigation was being conducted into “public insult based on origin, ethnicity, nationality, race or religion.” A band of men taunted philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the sidelines of a protest through the French capital Paris on Saturday. “Go back to Tel Aviv,” ”Zionist,” and “France is our land” were among the insults captured on video. Finkielkraut, a member of the prestigious Academie Francaise, told French television station LCI on Sunday he doesn’t intend to file a complaint.

The scene was a vicious verbal interlude as thousands of protesters made their way through the Left Bank for the 14th Saturday in a row of demonstrations by the yellow vest movement. Several thousand protesters gathered again in Paris on Sunday to mark the three-month anniversary of the yellow vest movement’s protests, which started Nov. 17 with nationwide protests of fuel tax increases. [..] The verbal attack on Finkielkraut could risk further eroding the movement’s initially strong public support. The yellow vest movement [..] is now marked by growing divisions within its ranks. One yellow vest protester who has tried to put together a candidates list for the European Parliament election was heckled Sunday by detractors.

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Government officials vs a newly elected president. Must be a first. Patriots vs voters.

Two Trump Cabinet Officials Were “Ready To Support” 25th Amendment Coup (ZH)

Two Trump Cabinet officials were “ready to support” a DOJ scheme to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump, according to Bloomberg and Fox News, citing closed-door testimony from the FBI’s former top lawyer, James Baker – who said that the claim came from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “The testimony was delivered last fall to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. Fox News has confirmed portions of the transcript. It provides additional insight into discussions that have returned to the spotlight in Washington as fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe revisits the matter during interviews promoting his forthcoming book.” -Fox News

While Baker did not identify the two Cabinet officials, he says that McCabe and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page approached him to relay their conversations with Rosenstein, including their discussions of the 25th Amendment scheme. “I was being told by some combination of Andy McCabe and Lisa Page, that, in a conversation with the Deputy Attorney General, he had stated that he – this was what was related to me – that he had at least two members of the president’s Cabinet who were ready to support, I guess you would call it, an action under the 25th Amendment,” Baker told the Congressional committees. The 25th Amendment allows for the removal of a sitting president from office through various mechanisms – including the majority of a president’s Cabinet agreeing that the commander-in-chief is incapable of performing his duties.

Rosenstein – who is slated to leave the Justice Department in the near future, has denied the claims. Baker said McCabe was cool, calm and collected throughout the discussions, telling lawmakers: “At this point in time, Andy was unbelievably focused and unbelievably confident and squared away. I don’t know how to describe it other than I was extremely proud to be around him at that point in time because I thought he was doing an excellent job at maintaining focus and dealing with a very uncertain and difficult situation. So I think he was in a good state of mind at this point in time.” McCabe, meanwhile told “60 Minutes” in an interview set to air Sunday night that Rosenstein was concerned about Trump’s “capacity.”

According to McCabe, Rosenstein “raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort,” adding that Rosenstein was “definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity and about his intent at that point in time.” “Rosenstein was actually openly talking about whether there was a majority of the cabinet who would vote to remove the president?” asks CBS News anchor Scott Pelly, to which McCabe replied: “That’s correct. Counting votes or possible votes.”

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Inevitable, so let’s have it.

“..there do not yet appear to be enough votes to override a veto by the president.”

Trump To Veto Disapproval Of Emergency (AP)

President Donald Trump is prepared to issue the first veto of his term if Congress votes to disapprove his declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border, a top White House adviser said on Sunday. White House senior adviser Stephen Miller told “Fox News Sunday” that “the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration.” Asked if that meant Trump was ready to veto a resolution of disapproval, Miller added, “He’s going to protect his national emergency declaration, guaranteed.” The West Wing is digging in for fights on multiple fronts as the president’s effort to go around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall faces bipartisan criticism and multiple legal challenges.

After lawmakers in both parties blocked his requests for billions of dollars to fulfill his signature campaign pledge, Trump’s declared national emergency Friday shifts billions of federal dollars earmarked for military construction to the border. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told ABC’s “This Week” that his state would sue “imminently” to block the order, after the American Civil Liberties Union and the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen announced Friday they were taking legal action. Democrats are planning to introduce a resolution disapproving of the declaration once Congress returns to session and it is likely to pass both chambers. Several Republican senators are already indicating they would vote against Trump — though there do not yet appear to be enough votes to override a veto by the president.

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“The next demonstration will be staged in London on Saturday 23 March, just six days before the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU.”

Tories Under Fire For Dismissing March For 2nd Brexit Referendum (Ind.)

Senior Tories were accused of “sniping” at the huge numbers of campaigners set to take part in a march for a fresh Brexit referendum, a day after it was announced. A Brexit minister, Martin Callanan, came under fire after he branded next month’s Put It To The People march – part of The Independent’s Final Say campaign – “desperate stuff”. James Cleverly, a Conservative vice-chairman, tweeted sarcastically: “The only thing that might make me change my mind is a bloke in a blue hat with yellow stars shouting ‘Stop Brexit’. Yep, that might do it.” The reaction came despite last October’s demonstration attracting up to 700,000 people in London alone – and fuelling support for a new referendum at Westminster.

Anna Turley, a Labour supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said the two men were “sniping at the huge numbers of people in this country who want to make their voice heard”. “Ministers should listen to the calls of those who feel betrayed by broken Brexit promises, worried about the damage caused by either this deal or no deal, as well as those who just want clarity and closure about our country’s direction – rather than years more of argument and division,” she said. The next demonstration will be staged in London on Saturday 23 March, just six days before the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU.

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Meaningless without including other taxes, income, wealth, tec.

New Zealand To Target Online Giants With Digital Tax (R.)

New Zealand said on Monday that it plans to update its laws so it can tax revenue earned by multinational digital firms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, extending a global effort to bring global tech giants into the tax net. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cabinet had agreed to issue a discussion document about how to update the country’s tax framework to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share. “Our current tax system is not fair in the way it treats individual tax payers, and how it treats multinationals,” Ardern told reporters at her weekly post-cabinet news conference.

Highly digitalized companies, such as those offering social media networks, trading platforms, and online advertising, currently earn a significant income from New Zealand consumers without being liable for income tax, the government said in a statement released after the announcement. The value of cross-border digital services in New Zealand is estimated to be around NZ$2.7 billion ($1.86 billion). The revenue estimate for a digital services tax is between NZ$30 million and NZ$80 million, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in the statement. Digital services taxes (DST) are generally charged at a flat rate of two to three percent on the gross revenue earned by a multinational company in that country. A number of countries including the U.K, Spain, Italy, France, Austria and India have enacted or announced plans for a DST. The EU and Australia are also consulting on a DST.

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Anything here that money won’t buy?

Facebook Labelled ‘Digital Gangsters’ By UK Report On Fake News (G.)

Facebook deliberately broke privacy and competition law and should urgently be subject to statutory regulation, according to a devastating parliamentary report denouncing the company and its executives as “digital gangsters”. The final report of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s 18-month investigation into disinformation and fake news accused Facebook of purposefully obstructing its inquiry and failing to tackle attempts by Russia to manipulate elections. “Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day,” warned the committee’s chairman, Damian Collins.

The report:
• Accuses Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, of contempt for parliament in refusing three separate demands for him to give evidence, instead sending junior employees unable to answer the committee’s questions.
• Warns British electoral law is unfit for purpose and vulnerable to interference by hostile foreign actors, including agents of the Russian government attempting to discredit democracy.
• Calls on the British government to establish an independent investigation into “foreign influence, disinformation, funding, voter manipulation and the sharing of data” in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 general election.

The committee argues that, had Facebook abided by the terms of an agreement struck with US regulators in 2011 to limit developers’ access to user data, the scandal would not have occurred. “The Cambridge Analytica scandal was facilitated by Facebook’s policies,” it concludes. The 108-page report makes excoriating reading for the social media giant, which is accused of continuing to prioritise shareholders’ profits over users’ privacy rights. “Facebook continues to choose profit over data security, taking risks in order to prioritise their aim of making money from user data,” the report states, accusing the company of covering up leaks of user data. “It seems clear to us that Facebook acts only when serious breaches become public.”

Zuckerberg is also personally criticised by the committee in scathing terms, with his claim that Facebook has never sold user data dismissed by the report as “simply untrue”. “Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies,” Collins added in a statement. Watson agreed. “Few individuals have shown contempt for our parliamentary democracy in the way Mark Zuckerberg has,” he said. “If one thing is uniting politicians of all colours during this difficult time for our country, it is our determination to bring him and his company into line.”

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I know you thought this was about the CIA. But no, it’s Russia again.

UK Must Investigate Foreign Influence And Voter Manipulation In Brexit Vote (Ind.)

Theresa May must launch an independent investigation into “foreign influence and voter manipulation” in the Brexit vote, a committee of MPs says today, amid growing evidence of lawbreaking by Leave campaigners. A highly critical report – which warns “democracy is at risk” from rogue practices on social media – turns its fire on the prime minister for the failure to probe their effect on the referendum result. No wide-ranging investigation has taken place, despite the main Vote Leave campaign, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, being found by the Electoral Commission to have broken the law. The National Crime Agency, meanwhile, has launched a separate investigation into evidence of “multiple” criminal offences committed by Arron Banks and the Leave.EU campaign.

But Downing Street has fought off calls for a “Mueller-style” inquiry, on the scale of the US probe into alleged collusion with Russia by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Now the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has insisted an inquiry must be carried out, also looking into the 2017 general election and the 2014 Scottish referendum. It would establish “what actually happened with regard to foreign influence, disinformation, funding, voter manipulation, and the sharing of data, so that appropriate changes to the law can be made and lessons can be learnt for future elections and referenda”. Damian Collins, the committee’s Conservative chair, urged the prime minister to come clean about whether “Russian interference in UK politics” was being probed.

“We want to find out what was the impact of disinformation and voter manipulation on past elections including the UK referendum in 2016, and are calling on the government to launch an independent investigation,” he said. [..] The crisis emerged after the Brexit referendum, leading to the finding against Vote Leave which has been referred to the police for busting spending limits Crucially, the cash was used to pay data firm Aggregate IQ and – a whistleblower and an Oxford professor argue – potentially enabled it to precisely target enough voters on social media to have swayed the Brexit result. Mr Banks, Nigel Farage’s ally, could receive a two-year prison sentence if he is found to have “knowingly concealed” that an Isle of Man company handed up to £8m to Leave.EU – which would have been outlawed as a foreign donation.

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Saw that headline and though: elections must be coming up. And yes.

Australia Claims Foreign Government Hacked Major Political Parties (R.)

A cyber attack on Australian lawmakers that breached the networks of major political parties was probably carried out by a foreign government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, but did not name any suspects. As Australia heads for an election due by May, lawmakers were told this month told to urgently change their passwords after the cyber intelligence agency detected an attack on the national parliament’s computer network. The hackers breached the networks of major political parties, Morrison said, as he issued an initial assessment by investigators. “Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” he told parliament.

“We also became aware that the networks of some political parties, Liberal, Labor and Nationals have also been affected.” Morrison did not reveal what information was accessed, but he said there was no evidence of election interference. Investors are still securing local networks, said Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the government department responsible for online security. “Our political institutions represent high-value targets,” MacGibbon told reporters in the capital, Canberra.

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Problem is he doesn’t stand a chance of winning anything.

Varoufakis: ECB Profits Should Be Used For A European Poverty Fund (KTG)

The enfant terrible of euro-economics and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis reloaded his gun and shot: Profits from the European Central Bank should be used for a European Poverty Fund. Speaking at an event of his party DiEM25 in Thessaloniki, he said about the “New Deal in Europe and the World”, that Europe is currently facing four crises: public-private debt, very low investment, banking system and rising poverty. Especially about poverty, Varoufakis, revealed that last year the European Central Bank had profits of €91 billion, which are distributed to the finance ministries of countries with surplus. “A Fund to Combat Poverty could be founded tomorrow morning, in order to support the poor European family and this would be an integrative move and the fight against intolerance and anti-Europeanism and fascism.”

Addressing his Greek audience, he said “in DieM25/MeRA25 we are deeply European, we are criticizing the euro, we want to upgrade it, we are the only ones that have proposals to change the architecture of the euro. We want to restructure the euro. We do not propose exit from the euro, we are not threatening to exit the euro. This is a fact. He criticized the economic policies of his former SYRIZA comrades saying ‘“It is impossible at this time to have any recovery in Greece when small and medium-size businesses pay 75% of their profits to the state. You can not have a 100% pre-payment of the tax. You do that in a country when it is to destroy it.” [..] “Every eurozone country should have a parallel payment system,” he underlined.

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Well, they did vote to recognize Guiado as head of state.

Venezuela Denies EU Lawmakers Entry Given ‘Conspiratorial Motives’ (R.)

Venezuela denied a group of European Parliament deputies entry into the country on Sunday, arguing they had “conspiratorial motives” for flying to Caracas in the throes of a political crisis. The European Parliament last month joined a slew of Western nations in recognizing Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaido as interim head of state after President Nicolas Maduro won a second term in an election last year that critics denounced as a sham. The four deputies from the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) were traveling to Venezuela to meet with Guaido, one of them said in a video distributed via social media.

“They have retained our passports, they haven’t communicated the reason for our expulsion,” Esteban González Pons said. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on his Twitter account that the lawmakers had been advised several days ago they would not be allowed entry into the South American country. Venezuela would “not permit the European extreme right to disturb the peace and stability of the country with another of its rude, interventionist actions,” he wrote.

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Wonder how much money Monsanto has paid into the report.

..new biotech production techniques not only help preserve crops but also make them more nutritious.

..opportunities for British food and farming to increase productivity ..

Virtual Fences, Robot Workers, Stacked Crops: Farming In 2040 (O.)

It is 2040 and Britain’s green and pleasant countryside is populated by robots. We have vertical farms of leafy salads, fruit and vegetables, and livestock is protected by virtual fencing. Changing diets have seen a decline in meat consumption while new biotech production techniques not only help preserve crops but also make them more nutritious. This is the picture painted in a report from the National Farmers Union which attempts to sketch out what British food and farming will look like in 20 years’ time. “The Future of Food 2040 report is a catalyst to encourage us all to start the debate about our food and our future so we can plan ahead,” said Andrea Graham, NFU’s head of policy services and author of the report, who interviewed 50 experts across Britain’s food chain to gauge their views.

“It is also a reminder for government, at a critical time in British history, to make domestic food production a strategic priority in all policy making.” While some of the predictions may seem a long way off, others are already in their infancy. “Even now, there are technologies being developed that can care for crops on a plant-by-plant basis or control the grazing of cattle without physical fences, and by 2040 this technology will be commonplace in farming,” Graham said. The British farming sector will need to be more efficient if it is to meet a key NFU goal of producing net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. “Over the next 20 years we will face potentially seismic changes in all aspects of society,” Graham added. “An increase in the global population and the need to mitigate climate change will provide opportunities for British food and farming to increase productivity and reduce its impact on the environment.”

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Food must come from sterile enviroments. No life allowed.

Return Of Wolves To Germany Pits Farmers Against Environmentalists (G.)

More than a century ago, wolves were hunted to extinction in Germany. These days, they’re back – and their presence is a source of political strife. Wolf attacks on livestock increased drastically in 2017, according to government statistics released at the weekend: they carried out 472 attacks, an increase of 66% over the previous year. The number of killed, injured or missing livestock – mostly sheep and goats – rose 55%, to 1,667. The issue of how to deal with wolves is pitting farmers who want to protect their livestock against environmentalists who prioritise the protection of vulnerable species. Julia Klöckner, the agriculture minister, said the latest figures proved the government needed to act.

Germany should shift its regulations to make it legal to remove individual wolves from a pack, she told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. For more than a century, wolves were extinct in Germany. In recent years, however, especially since the country’s reunification in 1990, the animals have been reintroduced and are slowly making a comeback. They are especially prevalent in the former East German states, since many have crossed the border with Poland. Though environmentalists have lauded the return of the wolf, not everyone is happy that they are back – or that they have been awarded protected status. EU regulations outlaw the killing of wolves, allowing exceptions only when there is “no satisfactory alternative” or if people are in danger.

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Instead of simply saying don’t make the stuff anymore. London must think Brits are incredibly stupid people.

UK Plans To Make Plastic Packaging Producers Pay For Waste Disposal (R.)

Britain is to set out plans to overhaul its recycling system on Monday, including making plastic packaging producers pay the full cost of dealing with their waste and introducing a deposit return scheme for cans and bottles. The plans, which also aim to make household rubbish collections more consistent around the country, will be introduced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove and go out for consultation for three months. “We will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging, make producers foot the bill for handling their packaging waste, and end the confusion over household recycling,” Gove said in a statement. The tax will be payable by producers who fail to use enough recycled material.

At present, producers pay only around 10 percent of the cost of dealing with plastic packaging waste, the environment ministry said. Under an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system, the industry will pay higher fees if its packaging is harder to reuse or recycle. EPR for packaging will raise between 800 million and one billion pounds a year for recycling and disposal, the ministry said. Government will seek views on two options for how a deposit return scheme might work for cans and glass or plastic bottles, it added. The first would target a large amount of drinks on the market, irrespective of container size. The second, known as the “on-the-go” model, would concern smaller container sizes – those most often sold for consumption outside the home.

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These birds spend most of their lives feeding at sea, returning to their nests only to breed.

Plastic Chemicals Discovered Inside Bird Eggs From Remote Arctic (Ind.)

Chemicals from plastics have been found inside the eggs of seabirds living in remote Arctic colonies, in the latest sign of pollution contaminating the furthest reaches of the planet. Scientists were concerned by the traces of phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals that have been banned from children’s toys due to their potential “gender-bending” effects. These substances are routinely applied to many plastic products, and probably came from the bottle tops and cigarette butts these seabirds often eat after mistaking them for food. The eggs were taken from northern fulmars living on an island in Lancaster Sound, more than 100 miles away from the nearest human settlement.

In a preliminary study, Dr Jennifer Provencher of the Canadian Wildlife Service tested the eggs of five fulmars and found phthalates in one, but warned the problem is likely to be far more pervasive. “These are some of the birds who have the lowest levels of accumulated plastic,” explained Dr Provencher. If fulmar colonies were tested in the North Sea, where levels of plastic consumption are far higher, she said the results could be far more dramatic. “Now the thing is to look at other populations and to see if they have the same chemicals, or other chemicals,” she said. In another study, Dr Provencher and her colleagues examined the eggs of both fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes, and found traces of more chemicals known as UV stabilisers and antioxidants. “We are finding multiple plastic-derived contaminants that are maternally transferred to the egg,” she said. “It’s really tragic.”


Scientists studied the eggs of northern fulmars from an Arctic island in Canada’s Lancaster Sound (Getty/iStock)

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