UPDATE: Wow! They really don’t want me to upload this video!!!! Why? I’m concerned that we are moving into a time of earth changes that will not be caused by the hands of our oppressors, but rather by Mother Earth, so let’s watch carefully through the next days and weeks. If so, there isn’t much we can do about it — but I still don’t think our awareness is a bad thing. ~Jean
On Sunday morning Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) went on with FOX and Friends and dropped this bomb.
Rep. Nunes says he will move forward with a contempt resolution against DOJ AG Jeff Sessions for refusal to comply with latest House subpoena.
Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo with breaking news the Department of Justice is responding to Nunes right now. (video)
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. . . this is a great explanation of the present situation. . . ~J
Former U.S. attorney: ‘To question the integrity is unprecedented’
A federal judge blasted the special counsel investigation of Robert Mueller Friday, accusing the former FBI director of assuming “unfettered” authority and maintaining control of the Paul Manafort prosecution solely to squeeze out incriminating information about President Trump.
And a former federal prosecutor says this was an “unprecedented rebuke” of Mueller and his team, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe.
“This was a smashmouth takedown,” said Joe diGenova, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “To question the integrity, in essence, of Mr. Mueller, because of the nature of the case that he has in front of him in federal court, is truly unprecedented.”
On Friday, District Judge T.S. Ellis strongly challenged the authority Mueller and his team have to veer off into prosecuting financial crimes, such as the ones lodged against one-time Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
Ellis specifically wanted to know why Mueller’s team had no trouble referring the Michael Cohen case to the Southern District of New York but continues to handle the prosecution of Manafort on financial allegations unrelated to Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.
“I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate,” Ellis said Friday.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment,” he added.
Ellis also took aim at Mueller’s approach to the investigation.
“What we don’t want in this country, we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants,” said Ellis.
Ellis has been on the federal bench since 1987. DiGenova says Ellis has a reputation for being a conservative but calm judge, which makes his comments on Friday all the more striking.
“I was absolutely stunned in a positive way that a judge, who was so fundamentally conservative in both his approach and his demeanor in court, was so appalled by what was happening in front of him. This is a very bad sign for Mueller,” said diGenova.
“This was a remarkable dressing down for Mr. Mueller,” he added.
“What it shows is that seeping out into the federal court system and judges is a sense that not only is the Mueller investigation out of control, but the supervision of it by Rod Rosenstein is either non-existent or out of control. That is a very bad sign for Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein,” said diGenova.
In addition to the specifics of the investigation, diGenova says the comments from Ellis mark an important moment.
“What we are watching here is the slow education of the American people through a civics lesson, which is being conducted through the media. People are discussing the law and the Constitution and the threat to our constitutional order that the Mueller investigation represents, because it started with no crime being investigated,” said diGenova.
“People are beginning to see that the original sin in the Mueller investigation was the outrageous memorandum signed by Rod Rosenstein appointing him, which mentioned no crime to be investigated,” said diGenova.
DiGenova suspects the rebuke from Judge Ellis will likely quash any possibility of Mueller to subpoena President Trump.
“I don’t think he’s going to issue a subpoena because I think Bob Mueller knows he’s going to do something then which will take him down. That will be an act of suicide. But if he is arrogant enough to do it, it will destroy his investigation. It will take him down.
“This will be the kind of stupid overreach that frequently undoes constitutional officers,” said diGenova.
On Friday, Mueller’s attorney, Michael Dreeben, argued that prosecuting Manafort is within the scope of the investigation based on a letter signed by Rosenstein after the investigation began. Ellis demanded to see the letter within two weeks.
DiGenova says Ellis will likely dismiss the case against Manafort if Mueller refuses to share the Rosenstein letter. Even if Ellis gets to see it, Manafort could soon get good news, given the timing of the letter.
“Remember, that letter came to Mueller from Rosenstein after the raid on Paul Manfort’s home in Virginia. That could be a very serious legal problem for Mr. Mueller,” said diGenova.
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Shortly after minute five (below), George mentions that Trump gave Scooter Libby a Pardon. . . . Why? What is Trump’s game — really?
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. . . Apparently, Trump has legitimate reason to end the JCPOA agreement with Iran — It’s clear to me from George’s work that Iran does have nuclear weapons, but everyone who is against Trump doing so is ‘for’ the Deep State/Hillary’s pay-to-play game otherwise known now as Awan Contra to continue its role on the planet and in our Congress — since they are all profiting from it — or perhaps ‘feeding off of it’ is a better way to say it. What does Trump do? Do you think war and regime change in Iran is going to be the answer? What a mess . . . ~J 🙂
. . . How can Trump go to war in Iran and have his so-called European allies against him? Who, then, will be fore him? Is this the path to take? Apparently, all we can do is watch and allow this to play out . . . ~J
Related: ‘Europe Has to Grow Up’: German President Voices Concern Over EU-US Ties In the wake of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an interview to the ARD broadcaster expressed his deep concern over the development of the transatlantic relations.
War & The Imperial Presidency: Congress Offers Bipartisan Blank-Check To Trump, by Major Danny Sjursen via TomDispatch.com
It may be too late. The president of the United States is now a veritable autocrat in the realm of foreign policy. He has been since at least 1945, when the last congressionally declared war finally ended. Wars in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen (among other places) were all waged via executive fiat or feeble, open-ended congressional authorizations for the use of military force, aka AUMFs. So it has been with increasing intensity for 73 years and so, most likely, it will remain.
Along with many others, this military officer has repeatedly decried the no-longer-new normal of congressional acquiescence to presidential power to no avail. When, in September 2017, Republican Senator Rand Paul sought to repeal (and replace within six months) the existing 2001 AUMF, which had authorized the president to use force against the perpetrators and enablers of the 9/11 attacks, he could barely muster 35 votes. Given that any president, Republican or Democrat, would veto such a curtailment of the essentially unlimited executive prerogative to make war, that’s still some 32 votes short of a Senate override. In hopelessly divided Washington, that’s the definition of impossibility.
Fear not, two brave “centrist” senators, Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Tim Kaine, are riding to the rescue. Their recently announced bill to repeal and replace the existing AUMF promises to right seven decades of wrong and “establish rigorous congressional oversight,” “improve transparency,” and ensure “regular congressional review and debate.”
In reality, it would do none of those things. Though Senator Kaine gave a resounding speech in which he admitted that “for too long Congress has given presidents a blank check to wage war,” his bill would not stanch that power. Were it ever to pass, it would prove to be just another blank check for the war-making acts of Donald Trump and his successors. . . . Click article title to continue reading.
As US Military Effectiveness And Diplomacy Fade, Many Countries Start Ignoring Washington, by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation
Diplomatic work continues in some of the areas with the highest geopolitical tensions in the world. In recent days there have been high-level meetings and contacts between Turkey, Iran and Russia over the situation in Syria; meetings between Modi and Xi Jinping to ease tensions between India and China; and finally, the historic meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. The common component in all these meetings is the absence of the United States, which may explain the excellent progress that has been seen.
The last seven days have brought a note of optimism to international relations. . . . Click article title to continue reading.
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As US-led Western hostility against Moscow mounts, Vladimir Putin’s new government is bound to be a war cabinet Pepe ESCOBAR | 05.05.2018
Immediately after his official inauguration on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to announce a new government. And a bombshell is in the making. The new cabinet is bound to be a Stavka: that is, a war cabinet. [emphasis added]
In the context of the interminable Russiagate saga, increasingly harsh US sanctions, the Skripal charade (which, incidentally, has totally disappeared from the Western news cycle), and the serious escalation in Syria – in contrast to the Russia-Iran-Turkey attempt at a peace process in Astana – that’s an all but inevitable option chosen by the Kremlin.
As early as four years ago former military officer Yevgeny Krutikov, a columnist for Vzglyad, exposed what constituted Russian red lines for the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: Ukraine, Georgia, Finland, Sweden, “unfriendly actions of Lithuania and Poland” against the Kaliningrad enclave and navigation in the Baltic, and last but not least, the Arctic, “almost the ideal of all available bases for launching a first strike, both by nuclear weapons and high-precision, strategic non-nuclear arms.”
Yet the new, absolute red line is Syria – as recently delineated by the Russian Defense Ministry: Any attack on Russian assets or personnel will be met with a devastating response.
The new, absolute red line is Syria – as recently delineated by the Russian Defense Ministry: Any attack on Russian assets or personnel will be met with a devastating response
Even more crucially, Russia’s state-of-the-art missile technology, as announced by Putin in his landmark March 1 address, poses serious questions for the US naval empire.
Moscow’s military spending decreased by 20% in 2017 to US$66.3 billion, according to a report released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This happened to constitute the first annual decline in almost 20 years.
Compare it with the combined 29-nation NATO military spending in 2017: $201 billion.
Not to mention US military spending, relatively stable, for the second year in a row, at a whopping $610 billion. But SIPRI says this is bound to go up, linked to “modernization of conventional and nuclear weapons.”
Yet the heart of the matter from now on is not the enormous discrepancy between the Russian and NATO/American military budgets; it’s the fact that Moscow can churn out serial hypersonic missiles – fast and cheap – compared with the Pentagon’s capacity to build multibillion-dollar aircraft carriers.
Eurasianists vs Atlanticists
Russian analysts have confirmed to Asia Times that a Stavka is in the making – translated as a tight, cohesive collective bent on devising pragmatic solutions in a war-economy setting, on all fronts. That implies extremely close coordination among the Kremlin, the Defense Ministry, the General Staff, all the agencies in the security apparatus and the Russian military-industrial complex.
Sergey Sobyanin, currently the mayor of Moscow, stands a pretty good chance of being the next prime minister. The ideal candidate for the military-industrial complex would have been Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, or even current Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. But it’s practically sure that Putin, for complex internal-competition reasons, will choose Sobyanin.
US sanctions are a decisive factor. Rogozin was hit by sanctions in 2014. Both Shoigu and Sobyanin are sanctions-free – for now. In consequence, current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s fortunes are waning.
It’s no secret that at the highest circles of power in Russia an epic battle has been raging for more than a decade between the Eurasian sovereignists – backing Putin – and the Atlantic integrationists – backing Medvedev. The Eurasian drive is toward a multipolar world and Eurasian integration (New Silk Roads, Eurasian Economic Union). The Atlanticist drive is for Russia to be accepted by the West as an equal partner – now a virtually impossible prospect. [emphasis added]
For all practical purposes the Russian economy is run by the Washington Consensus. From the perspective of Eurasian sovereignists, this is the biggest threat to a stable, nationalist system with an extremely popular Putin on top
Atlanticists totally control Russian banking and finance, including the central bank. For all practical purposes, the Russian economy is run by the Washington Consensus. From the perspective of Eurasian sovereignists, this is the biggest threat to a stable, nationalist system with an extremely popular Putin on top.
Putin, in public, constantly supports the Central Bank of Russia and the Medvedev-related economic team. This should not be taken at face value. Analysts tell Asia Times of a recent barrage of serious criticism against them on all main Russian TV channels.
So the definitive test, after the announcement of the Stavka, is whether there will be a sort of political crackdown on the Central Bank of Russia and Medvedev allies. It’s not far-fetched to say expectations are running as high as for the World Cup in June.
Take it to the (Crimea) bridge
In parallel to Moscow tightening its geopolitical game, the drive for Eurasian integration could not but remain top of the bill, as illustrated by the latest Valdai Club discussion in late April in Shanghai, centered on how Russia and China should coordinate their strategies toward building a “Greater Eurasia.”
That includes, of course, bypassing the US dollar in bilateral trading; strengthening the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; and solidifying the symbiosis of China as a consumer and Russia as a producer of goods.
Analysts Sergey Karaganov and Yu Bin, for instance, agree on what Karaganov defined as “the West’s unilateral war against China and Russia.” A consensus is emerging that the crunch time for shaping a multipolar new world order is during the next 10 to 15 years.
Virtually at the same time, and also totally under the radar of Western corporate media, representatives of no fewer than 71 nations met in Crimea at the fourth annual Yalta International Economic Forum.
This is one of Russia’s top business meetings, along with the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, the Sochi Investment Forum and the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, to be held in late May.
Back in February 1945, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin met in Yalta to design the post-World War II world – which ended up being framed by the Cold War. Now, in a Cold War 2.0 environment, Russia is repositioning Crimea as a debate hub on global cooperation – complete with a brand-new, billion-dollar international airport and the Crimean Bridge, spanning 19 kilometers across the Kerch Strait, and open for traffic in late May, six months ahead of schedule.
That’s what “Russian aggression” feels like. [emphasis added]
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As recent events in Syria suggest, Russia has found an effective way of keeping aggressive Western powers at bay with state-of-the-art missile systems and electronic warfare methods – much of it reportedly developed by young scientists and on the cheap.
War is rarely a pleasant topic, and even less so when it is known that particular conflicts – most regrettably in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, for example – were triggered due to the shameless machinations of foreign players and mercenaries.
Now the world is being held captive audience to yet another predictable Western rerun starring the usual suspects – the US, UK and France. These NATO members, willfully ignoring bona-fide terrorist groups in Syria, are blaming the ‘Assad regime’ for a series of chemical attacks against civilians – without evidence and formal investigation. To quote Thomas Paine, speaking on a different matter from a much earlier age, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
These are also the times, we might add, that challenge men to find ways to address the threat. After all, how many more sovereign states must fall to the Western regime-change fanatics? How long before the regime change juggernaut arrives at Russia’s front door? With NATO forces moving inexorably towards Russia’s border, these are no idle questions. Thus it was with no small amount of enthusiasm and optimism that an April 13th assault on Syria by the US, UK and France was met with surprisingly successful resistance: According to the Russian military, Syrian government forces, using Soviet-era surface-to-air missile systems, including the S-200 and Buk, shot down 71 of 103 missiles launched by the Western powers.
The Pentagon has denied the claim.. . . Click article title to continue reading.
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Many EU countries are concerned about one-way traffic along the new trade routes Beijing is trying to set up to Europe
It came out as a sort of minor scandal – considering the ’24/7 post-truth news cycle.’ Of the 28 EU ambassadors in Beijing, 27, with the exception of Hungary’s, signed an internal report criticizing the New Silk Roads as a non-transparent threat to free trade, allegedly favoring unfair competition by Chinese conglomerates.
The report was first leaked to respected German business newspaper Handelsblatt. EU diplomats in Brussels confirmed its existence to Asia Times. Then the Chinese Foreign Ministry calmed the turbulence, saying that Brussels had explained what this was all about.
In fact, it’s all about nuances. Anyone familiar with how dysfunctional Eurocrat Brussels is knows there’s no EU common policy towards China – or Russia for that matter.
The internal report does mention how China, via the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is “pursuing domestic political goals like the reduction of surplus capacity, the creation of new export markets and safeguarding access to raw materials.”
That’s a self-evident Chinese rationale inbuilt in BRI from the start – and Beijing never denied it. After all, the concept itself was first floated inside the Ministry of Commerce, way before the official announcements by President Xi Jinping in Astana and Jakarta in 2013.
Perceptions of the BRI vary across myriad latitudes. Central and Eastern Europe are mostly enthusiastic – as BRI is synonymous with badly needed infrastructure projects. So are Greece and Italy, as Asia Times reported. Northern ports such as Hamburg and Rotterdam are actually configured as BRI terminals. Spain is very much interested in the days when the Yiwu to Madrid cargo train will move to high-speed rail.
Essentially, it all boils down to companies from specific EU nations deciding their degree of integration with what Raymond Yeung, ANZ’s chief economist for greater China, describes as “the biggest economic experiment in modern history.”
Watch those Chinese engineers
The case of France is emblematic. President Emmanuel Macron – now on a massive geopolitical PR offensive to crown himself the unofficial King of Europe – actually praised the BRI when he visited China earlier this year.
But nuance, once again, applies: “After all, the ancient Silk Roads were never only Chinese,” Macron said in Xian at the Daming Palace, the residence of the Ancient Silk Road stalwart Tang dynasty for more than two centuries. “These roads”, added Macron, “cannot be those of a new hegemony, which would transform those that they cross into vassals.”
So Macron was already prepositioning himself to steer EU-China relations away and beyond the number one EU grievance; how the Chinese play the foreign trade/investment game.
Macron has been very vocal in prodding the European Commission bureaucracy to toughen anti-dumping rules against Chinese steel imports and forcing EU-wide screening of takeovers in strategic sectors, especially from China.
In parallel, virtually every EU nation – not only France – wants more access to the Chinese market. As much as Macron has touted an optimistic mantra – “Europe is back” – in terms of EU competitiveness, that barely masks the primordial European fear; the fact that it’s China that may be getting too competitive.
The BRI, for Beijing, is all about geopolitical but most of all geo-economic projection – including the promotion of new global standards and norms that may not be exactly those practiced by the EU. And that brings us to the heart of the matter, not annnounced by the leaked internal report; the intersection between BRI and Made in China: 2025.
Beijing is aiming to become a global high-tech leader in less than seven years. Made in China: 2025 identified 10 sectors – including AI, robotics, aerospace, green cars and shipping and shipbuilding – as priorities [emphasis added]. . . . Click article title to continue reading.
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A growing spider web of evidence suggests a credit reckoning may be near.
For years, the naysayers have been warning about the precariousness of the corporate credit market. In an environment where balance sheets have become more and more bloated from excess borrowing stoked by the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policies, shrinking bond yield premiums don’t make sense. At some point, they argue, there will have to be a reckoning.
Could we be nearing that point?
On the surface, it’s hard not to like corporate bonds, despite yields being at some of their lowest levels relative to U.S. Treasuries since before the financial crisis. After all, corporate earnings are booming, thanks to an expanding economy and tax cuts, and the default rate is miniscule at less than 3 percent. On top of that, the number of companies poised for an upgrade at S&P Global Ratings is the highest in a decade.
All that said, there’s mounting anecdotal evidence of possible cracks in the credit facade. One place you can see them is in the latest monthly survey put out by the National Association of Credit Management. This organization surveys 1,000 trade credit managers in the manufacturing and service industries across the U.S. Like most surveys of its kind lately, the main index number was down a bit from its recent highs. But some Wall Street strategists are focusing on a more alarming data point showing a collapse in a category called “dollar collections.” The index covering that part of the survey – which measures the ability of creditors to collect the money they are owed from their customers – tumbled to 46.7 in April from 59.6 in March, putting it at its lowest level since early 2009, the height of the financial crisis.
How China Became The World’s Number One International Financial Donor, by Valentin Katasonov via The Strategic Culture Foundation
At the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB), the head of the US Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, touched upon a delicate subject: the financing of IMF and WB members by China and several other developing countries.
He called these countries “non-transparent creditors” that do not coordinate their operations with the IMF, thereby destabilising the international loan market.Mnuchin noted that this practice creates problems for the debtor countries when it comes to the debt restructuring process.
These arguments are a cover for the US official’s barely disguised irritation at the fact that China is going against Washington’s usual way of doing things on the international loan market, where it has reigned supreme for many years and directed the market using the US-controlled International Monetary Fund.
Steven Mnuchin then implied that Washington expected Beijing to coordinate its loan decisions for certain countries with the IMF.
Here are a few figures to give you some idea of just how worried Washington is by Beijing’s active involvement in the international arena as a financial donor: . . . Click article title to continue reading.
. . . If you are unaware of how devastating a trade war can be, then this article will surely rectify any misconceptions you may have!
In April we told you about how some of the “unintended consequences” of Trump’s steel tariffs, such as an Illinois farmer who put the brakes on a $71,000 grain mill, but had to hold off on the purchase because the seller raised the price 5% to account for the rising price of steel, or Iowa grain mill producer Sukup Manufacturing, which had to hike their prices for grain storage bins.
The Wall Street Journal now reports that the US-China “trade spat” is now affecting US exporters of soybeans, pork and other commodities.
Since early April, when China announced tariffs on some U.S. agricultural goods and threatened to target others, Chinese importers have canceled purchases of corn and cut orders for pork while dramatically reducing new soybean purchases, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Chinese importers’ new orders of sorghum, a grain used in animal feed, have dwindled while cancellations increased.
The chill in agricultural trade is sending jitters through the U.S. Farm Belt, which for years has dispatched farmers on trade missions to cultivate the Chinese market. –WSJ
“As the summer persists and if nothing’s been resolved, it will start showing up as a pretty big hole in U.S. exports,” warned Soren Schroder, CEO of Bunge Ltd., one of the world’s largest soybean processors and traders.
Last Thursday, a ship bound for China carrying over 58,000 tons of American sorghum was diverted to South Korea after Beijing said it would levy a hefty deposit on U.S. shipments of the grain amid an anti-dumping probe.
Importers now facing losses of millions of dollars on their cargoes are trying to resell the grain to buyers elsewhere but are being forced to offer steep discounts.
Four cargoes have been resold to Saudi Arabia and Japan, and another is heading to Spain. If the ‘Peak Pegasus’ unloads in South Korea, it would be first of the Chinese cargoes to be resold in that country. –Reuters
No date has been set in stone for the various tariffs China has threatened to impose, however senior US officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing this week for negotiations. That said, even if they reach an agreement, the uncertainty created by the threatened tariffs has already done quite a lot of damage in the commodities sector. . . . Click article title to continue reading.
Growth in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector slowed to a crawl, hitting its lowest level in at least nine years, as the kingdom’s businesses keep feeling the impact of the government’s struggle with low oil prices.
In April, the headline Emirates NBD Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 51.4 in April from 52.8 in March – the worst figure since the series began in August 2009.
However, a reading above 50 still means expansion in the sector on a monthly basis, while anything below indicates contraction. PMI, an indicator of the economic health of a sector, is based on data compiled after monthly surveys are sent to purchasing executives at nearly 300 corporations.
China’s Sinopec will cut its June imports of crude from Saudi Arabia by 40 percent for the second month in a row because of unjustified high prices, an official from the top Asian refiner, Unipec, told Reuters.
Saudi Arabia raised the price for its Arab Light to a four-year high, and according to the Unipec official, the grade is now considerably overvalued compared to other Middle Eastern crudes.
Last month, a Unipec official told Reuters, “Our refineries think these are unreasonable prices as they do not follow the pricing methodology.” Besides Sinopec, a source from another two refineries in northern Asia said they will be cutting their imports from Saudi Arabia by ten percent as oil buyers have a hard time grasping how the Kingdom is calculating the price for its most popular grade.