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Thu, 16 Sep 2021
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Trump calls Milley story 'fake news'

donald trump
Former President Trump on Tuesday blasted new reporting about Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley as "fake news" after the release of a bombshell passage from an upcoming book by veteran journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Trump said the account written by Woodward and Costa in their book "Peril," which is set to be released Sept. 21, was "concocted by a weak and ineffective General together with two authors who I refused to give an interview to because they write fiction, not fact."

His comments come after The New York Times and CNN, which obtained copies of the book, reported that Milley called his Chinese counterpart in the waning months of the Trump administration to reassure him that Trump did not have plans to attack China as part of a ploy to remain in power.

Comment: Perhaps this could be an attempt to distract from the terrible press the General is currently getting on the botched Afghanistan withdrawal - virtue signalling to the "Resistance".

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Better Earth

How China's Realpolitik approach to Venezuela, Iran & Afghanistan upends US' geopolitical game

china us flag
© AP Photo / Andy Wong
China is dealing a blow to Washington's sanctions strategy by stretching a helping hand to developing states labelled by the US as "pariahs" which have been subjected to tough restrictions. This shows that the world has reached a point of no return along with the accelerating decline of the US, says Asia Pacific commentator Thomas W. Pauken II.

The value of tough US sanctions against Venezuela's oil sector will substantially decline if China steps in to fill the void, energy observers say, citing Bloomberg's September report that China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), once a major investor in Venezuela, is sending engineers and commercial staff to the South American state.

Venezuelan Oil Sector: China is Stepping In

Venezuela's oil industry was subjected to crippling restrictions by the Trump administration. Trump started to tighten the screws on the country's energy sector in 2017 by prohibiting the trading of Venezuelan bonds in US markets. Two years later, the US slapped sanctions on the country's energy giant Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). The move came shortly after the US-backed attempted coup of 23 January 2019 aimed at toppling Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. Washington also went after key trading houses and individuals that propped up Venezuela's oil exports.

Comment: See also:

Black Magic

Kamala Harris questioned after touting steps for 'protecting the vaccinated': 'Doesn't the vax do that?'

Vice President Kamala Harris vaccine

Vice President Kamala Harris received (maybe?) her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on January 26, 2021 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
''Protecting the vaccinated' is an odd argument since the vaccinated are already, you know, vaccinated,' Joe Concha responded

Vice President Kamala Harris raised eyebrows on Sunday with her tweet urging Americans to help protect already vaccinated people in order to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

"By vaccinating the unvaccinated, increasing our testing and masking, and protecting the vaccinated, we can end this pandemic. That's exactly what we are committed to doing," Harris tweeted.

There has been widespread confusion over vaccine rhetoric from the Biden administration, as a push to protect the vaccinated has become a common talking point, despite the vaccines already providing strong protection for those who've gotten them.


Since 9/11, FBI has destroyed people based on their race, religion or country of origin

© FBI.gov
The FBI spent the last two decades targeting potential informants based on their race, religion, and ethnicity. They also mapped and collected data on entire Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities, regardless of whether they were specifically investigating a terrorism suspect in those communities.

Former FBI special agent Terry Albury is one of the very few people within the bureau, who challenged racial profiling, surveillance, and abusive informant recruitment practices.

Albury, who is a Black man, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act during President Donald Trump's administration after he provided documents to the Intercept. He accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to about four years in federal prison.

A New York Times Magazine profile by journalist Janet Reitman detailed Albury's life and career as an FBI special agent and what led to his disclosures. Albury told Reitman:
"There is this mythology surrounding the war on terrorism, and the FBI, that has given agents the power to ruin the lives of completely innocent people based solely on what part of the world they came from, or what religion they practice, or the color of their skin. And I did that. I helped destroy people, for 17 years."
Albury was the only Black agent in the regional office for most of the time that he worked for the FBI's terrorism squad in Minnesota. He was a special agent in the FBI's Minneapolis Field Office from 2012 to August 28, 2017.

It was on February 19, 2016, that Albury shared screen shots of documents from a "counter-radicalization program known as Shared Responsibility Committees" (SRCs).

Take 2

White House livestream cuts Biden mid-sentence as he goes off script

© AP/Carolyn Kaster
US President Joe Biden
An official White House livestream of President Biden's remarks was abruptly cut off mid-sentence on Monday — just days after a report revealed that some White House staffers have stopped listening to him speak in public for fear he'll veer wildly off-message.

Biden was meeting with officials in Boise, Idaho, to discuss the wildfires raging across the western United States when he turned his attention to George Geissler of the National Association of State Foresters.

"Can I ask you a question?" Biden asked.

"Of course," Geissler answered.

"One of the things that I've been working on with some others is — " Biden said before the audio and video coverage stopped without warning.

The livestream — which also included translation by an American Sign Language interpreter — was replaced by a message that said "THANK YOU FOR JOINING," according to a clip posted on Twitter by the research arm of the Republican National Committee.

The incident marked the latest example of the White House cutting short its online coverage of Biden, 78, who's publicly admitted being a "gaffe machine" throughout his long political career.

Stock Down

Endgame begins: Evergrande hires bankruptcy advisors as furious investors protest imminent default

© Greg Baker/AFP
Evergrande name/logo seen at the construction site of a housing complex in Beijing.
It took Evergrande less than a day to go from denying "rumors" of bankruptcy (as per a statement posted on its website earlier today), to confirming that a bankruptcy is imminent.

In a filing on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Tuesday, Evergrande which was busy trying to convince angry Chinese mobs that they will get their money and/or apartments and that it has no plans of default, the company all but conceded that a bankruptcy is imminent when it said it has hired notable bankruptcy advisors Houlihan Lokey and Admiralty Harbour Capital as joint FAs to "assess the firm's capital structure", a well-known euphemism of "prepare to file for bankruptcy." And just so there was no doubt as to what is coming next, the company said if it's unable to repay debts on time or get creditors to agree to extensions or alternative arrangements, it may lead to cross-default.

It quickly went downhill from there, with the company saying that it expects "significant continuing decline" in contract sales in September, resulting in "continuous deterioration" of cash collection, according to the statement. That will place "tremendous pressure" on the group's cashflow and liquidity.

Finally, guaranteeing that a default is just a matter of days if not less, the company admitted that it has failed to make "material progress" on the sale of stakes in China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd. and Evergrande Property Services Group Ltd., while the sale of its office building in Hong Kong hasn't been completed within the expected timetable.

In short a total disaster, and all this is happening a tens of thousands of Chinese are starting to feel insurrectiony - the real thing, not that January 6 tourist trap - and if they suffer losses, and in a company with $300BN in debt they will suffer major losses, their protests which have been largely peaceful to date will turn quite violent.

Comment: Folding under pressure, Evergrande could be a lynchpin to further disaster in China's economy:
Embattled Chinese property giant Evergrande on Tuesday conceded it is under "tremendous pressure", a day after insisting it will avoid a bankruptcy that many fear could have a huge impact on the world's number-two economy.

The group was downgraded by two credit rating agencies last week while its shares tumbled below their 2009 listing price, as a battery of bad headlines and speculation of its imminent collapse ran out across Chinese social media.

Shares in the firm fell nine percent Tuesday, and are down almost 80 percent since the start of the year.

An estimate by Capital Economics says that Evergrande has some 1.4 million properties that it has committed to complete — around 1.3 trillion yuan (US$200 billion) in pre-sale liabilities, as of the end of June.

Its plight has raised fears of a contagion across the debt-laden Chinese property sector — which accounts for more than a quarter of the economy — with a knock on for banks and investors.

Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital economics, offered comment:
"Evergrande's collapse would be the biggest test that China's financial system has faced in years, yet markets don't seem concerned about the potential for financial contagion at the moment. That would change in the event of large-scale default. The most likely endgame is now a managed restructuring in which other developers take over Evergrande's uncompleted projects in exchange for a share of its land bank."
Evergrande has already sold stakes in some of its wide-ranging assets and offered steep discounts to offload apartments, but still reported a 29 percent slide in profit for the first half of the year.

The developer was founded in 1996 by Xu Jiayin, who went on to become China's richest man during the country's property boom of the 1990s. He poured money into mass developments in new cities, raising US$9 billion in its 2009 IPO in Hong Kong.

Evergrande started to falter under the new "three red lines" imposed on developers in a state crackdown in August 2020 — forcing the group to offload properties at increasingly steep discounts.
See also: Chinese regulators summon Evergrande property developer execs, warn debt poses systemic risk


German doctor treating Navalny makes new disclosures

Philipp Jacoby, the only German doctor treating Alexei Navalny for alleged poisoning to have testified publicly, has given a new press interview to alter the interpretation of the evidence he gave last week. "People close to Navalny", he now says, "warned me about John Helmer".

In two telephone interviews on September 6, Jacoby revealed that the planning of his medical evacuation flight to Russia began in Shannon, Ireland, on August 19, 2020, the day before Navalny fell ill on a flight between Tomsk and Moscow on the morning of August 20, 2020.

Jacoby also testified that Maria Pevchikh, one of Navalny's staff, had been the first to mention Novichok when they were talking together at the intensive care unit of Omsk Emergency Hospital Number 1, where Navalny was being treated, after his flight had been diverted for an emergency landing at Omsk. Later, Jacoby added, Pevchikh and Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny's wife, had asked him — and he had agreed with them — to conceal their backpack containing water bottles from Navalny's hotel room in Tomsk on to the German medevac aircraft, making it appear to be his own luggage and thereby avoid Russian detection at Omsk airport.

In a fresh interview for almost ninety minutes on Thursday evening, September 9, conducted in German, Jacoby did not claim his earlier interviews had been misquoted or misinterpreted. Instead, he revealed how close he has been to Navalnaya, corresponding by email with her after Navalny arrived in Germany for treatment.

Jacoby also issued the first personal attack by a German doctor or German government official on the medical expertise and truthfulness of the Russian doctors treating Navalny at Omsk. "The doctors in Omsk told us a cock and bull story [die Ärzte in Omsk haben mir einen Bären aufgebunden]," Jacoby now says, claiming they didn't tell him the full truth. He adds that handwritten records of Navalny's clinical tests he was shown by the Omsk hospital doctors "were unprofessional and could easily have been faked." Jacoby did not acknowledge the papers he was shown were handwritten in English because the Omsk Hospital doctors believed Jacoby could not understand computer printouts in Russian.

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Prosecution witness in Netanyahu trial killed in plane crash in Greece

© Wikimedia Commons
A Cessna 172 aircraft (illustrative). Haim Garon, a former deputy director at the Communications Ministry, was a prosecution witness in the Netanyahu trial
One of the two people who were killed when their Israeli light aircraft crashed into the sea near the eastern Aegean island of Samos on Monday evening was to be a prosecution witness in the trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Haim Garon, a former deputy director of the Communications Ministry, was not considered a key witness, and his death will not prevent the case from proceeding.

The plane, a Cessna 172, reportedly departed from Israel and "encountered a problem on approach to the island's airport," crashing nearby, Greek media reported.

Garon and his wife, Esti, left on Monday afternoon on a flight from Haifa. The accident occurred at around 7:45 p.m.

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The digital elite: Some high-profile Facebook users 'allowed to break platform's rules'

© TechCrunch
Facebook gives high-profile users special treatment, which includes immunity from its rules for some, and allowed Brazilian footballer Neymar to post nude pictures of a woman who had accused him of rape, according to a report.

The XCheck or "CrossCheck" system steers reviews of posts by well-known users such as celebrities, politicians and journalists into a separate system, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal. Under the programme, some users are "whitelisted" - not subject to enforcement action - while others are allowed to post material that violates Facebook rules, pending content reviews that often do not take place.

People are placed on the XCheck list - where they are given special scrutiny - if they meet criteria such as being "newsworthy", "influential or popular" or "PR risky". Names on the XCheck programme included Donald Trump, US senator Elizabeth Warren and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, although the report does not state whether those names were whitelisted at any point. By 2020 there were 5.8 million users on the XCheck list, the Wall Street Journal said.

In one example cited by the WSJ, Brazilian football star Neymar responded to a rape accusation in 2019 by posting Facebook and Instagram videos defending himself, which included showing viewers his WhatsApp correspondence with his accuser. The WhatsApp clips included the accuser's name and nude photos of her. Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook.

Instead of immediately deleting the material, which is Facebook's procedure for "nonconsensual intimate imagery", moderators were blocked for more than a day from removing the video, according to the WSJ.


Biden in SoCal: 'You either keep Newsom as your governor or you'll get Donald Trump - not a joke'

Protesters carrying "F*ck Biden" signs greeted Joe Biden at all of his stops in Idaho and California on Monday.

More than 1,000 Trump supporters carrying "F*ck Biden" signs lined up out outside of Long Beach City College where Biden is campaigning with Governor Gavin Newsom on the eve of the recall election.

Biden's motorcade was booed by a mob of angry patriots as he pulled into the venue.

A desperate Joe Biden told the paltry crowd in Long Beach that if they don't vote in favor of Newsom on Tuesday, they will end up with Donald Trump.

"I'm gonna make this as simple as I can," said Biden. "You either keep Gavin Newsom as your governor or you'll get Donald Trump. It's not a joke."


Comment: The American progressives really don't like Larry Elder.

Maybe that explains why the Newsom recall election is showing all the signs of being rigged to high heaven. Conservative voters are reporting being told they already voted; ballots are misprinting; non-residents received ballots; and other voters received multiple ballots.

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