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Mon, 20 Mar 2023
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Eye 1

'Hostile, authoritarian' UK downgraded in civic freedoms index, follows move by gov't to restrict public protest

police uk lockdown
© Ray Tang/Xinhua
FILE PHOTO: Police officers are seen on a street during an anti-lockdown protest in London, Britain, on Nov. 28, 2020. More than 60 people were arrested as anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police in central London on Saturday, local media reported.
The UK has been downgraded in an annual global index of civic freedoms as a result of the government's "increasingly authoritarian" drive to impose restrictive and punitive laws on public protests.

The Civicus Monitor, which tracks the democratic and civic health of 197 countries across the world, said the UK government was creating a "hostile environment" towards campaigners, charities and other civil society bodies.

The UK's willingness to clamp down on civic freedoms such as the right to peaceful assembly means it is now classified as "obstructed" - putting it alongside countries such as Poland, South Africa and Hungary.

Comment: In France just a few weeks ago, 2 million people protested and went on strike, meanwhile just yeseterday in the UK, 500,000 people from a variety of professions - including doctors, the civil service, and lawyers - went on strike over deteriorating working conditions; it's likely one of the reasons a number of European countries are ramming through these anti-protest bills is because they know much more serious civil unrest is up ahead: France enters stage 2 of its multi-nation war games - troops staging mock battles on real city streets & amongst civilians in ominous urban warfare training scenario

Light Saber

Dutch farmers' protest party celebrate shock win: 'What the f--- happened?'

dutch farmer political party caroline van der Plas
© Sem van der Wal/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Caroline van der Plas’s Farmers-Citizen Movement is projected to win 15 seats in the senate, from none before the vote
Farmers-Citizen Movement is projected to become the equal largest party in the senate, in a blow to Mark Rutte's four-party coalition

A farmers' protest party angered by new green laws triumphed in shock Dutch election results, prompting its leader to ask: "People, what the f--- happened?"

Caroline van der Plas's Farmers-Citizen Movement (BBB) is projected to become the equal largest party in the senate, taking 15 seats from none before the vote.

The Left-wing GroenLinks/PvdA is also expected to win 15 seats, in the wake of months of turbulent farmer protests against government plans to cut nitrogen emissions.

Mark Rutte, the centre-Right Dutch prime minister, insisted his coalition government would survive, after its four member parties lost eight of their combined 32 seats in the 75-seat senate



Transneft reports explosive devices found at Russian pipeline

russia oil pumping station transneft
© Igor Grussak / picture alliance via Getty Images
The oil transport company says it has uncovered evidence of a plot to attack the connector supplying oil to western European markets

Workers at the Russian oil pipeline transport company Transneft have reportedly found several explosive devices at the Novozybkov oil-pumping station of its Druzhba pipeline in the Bryansk region near Ukraine, according to company spokesperson Igor Demin.

Speaking to TASS, he stated that on Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning, the devices were found in destroyed plastic cases of "non-industrial production" with a striking warhead in the form of steel balls.

"Presumably, the destruction of the cases occurred after hitting the ground when falling from drones," Demin suggested. He added that on Wednesday afternoon another explosive device was seen being dropped from a UAV, "likely similar to the other two [devices]."

Eye 1

Trans-identified biological male daycare worker charged with sexual abuse of infant in Kentucky

post millenial
Kentucky transgender daycare worker Maria Childers is accused of sexually abusing a baby while changing the child's diaper, according to official documents obtained by WPSD Local 6.

The Paducah Police Department got a complaint of the alleged abuse on February 8 from the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services after an anonymous tip came in about trans-identified male Childers, 25, who was employed at the Explore Learning Academy in November when the crime allegedly took place.


Power transformer shortage is wreaking havoc in the U.S.

© Virginia Transformer
Massive Grid Transformer
The New Scientist carries a story dated 11 March 2023 with this headline:

A nationwide shortage of power grid transformers is causing delays across the US for everything from infrastructure for electric vehicles to new homes.
Across the US, new houses sit unfinished - construction can't be completed until they are connected to the electricity grid. Utility companies worry about how quickly they can restore power after damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters. And nationwide efforts to modernize aging electrical grids face delays of months or even years.

Comment: Supplying wind turbines with transformers may be a task too large and expensive to achieve:
Orders for distribution transformers, they said, now take an average of one year or more to arrive. The backlog for distribution transformers continues to grow. The problem has been growing for years, with federal agencies sounding the alarm under both the Trump and Biden administrations. Demand for the $4 million large power transformers is expected to climb from 700 in 2019 to 900 in 2027, DOE reported.

Power line capacity nationally would have to double or triple. U.S. manufacturers say that's a major challenge. High schools don't train students in the welding, coil winding and transformer testing necessary, and few universities offer programs for engineers in power electronics, electrical design and quality assurance.

"The cost is the issue. We have to be able to compete with the rest of the world" in materials and labor. U.S.-based manufacturers supply less than 20 percent of the annual demand for transformers."

China, India, Taiwan and South Korea have manufactured transformers far more cheaply.
America is increasingly inept at solving its problems and meeting its challenges. The Biden administration is a 'negative transformer'.


US arrests Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui, who backed Trump advisor Bannon

© Twitter
Guo Wengui meeting with Steve Bannon.
A Chinese tycoon wanted in China and closely tied to president Donald Trump's former political advisor Steve Bannon was arrested in New York Wednesday and charged with bilking some US$1 billion from supporters of his anti-Beijing activities.

The US Justice Department accused Guo Wengui and still-at-large British co-conspirator Je Kin Ming of stealing funds from participants in an investment scheme so they could buy luxuries, including a yacht, a 50,000 square foot (4,645 square meter) mansion and a US$3.5 million Ferrari.

A court official said late Wednesday that Guo pleaded not guilty but consented to detention in an initial arrest hearing.

Hours after his 6:00 am arrest at his Manhattan penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park, a fire broke out in his building, raising suspicions the two could be linked.


Tyson to close 2 chicken plants, cutting 1,700 jobs

© April L. brown/AP
Tyson Headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas
Tyson Foods Inc. plans to shut down two of its poultry plants and lay off nearly 1,700 workers as it tries to improve its chicken operations that produce about one-fifth of the U.S. supply.

Tyson notified the nearly 1,000 employees at its Van Buren, Ark., chicken plant on Monday that it would close on May 12, the company said. About 700 workers at Tyson's plant in Glen Allen, Va., also found out on Monday that its plant would close in May, according to the local United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents employees at the Virginia plant.

The Springdale, Ark.-based meat company said production would be shifted to other Tyson plants. The company said the closures were part of a broader plan in its chicken division to improve operations and use full available capacity at each plant.

"The current scale and inability to economically improve operations has led to the difficult decision to close the facilities," a company spokesman said in a statement.

People 2

Sexual politics is damaging young men

cartoon male is over
Masculinity has been in crisis for as long as anyone can remember. The usual explanation is that post-industrial society doesn't much care for brawn. We're all office dwellers now, mutely churning out spreadsheets for other spreadsheet producers. The theory makes sense as far as it goes. But something else has changed much more recently: a rejection of the very concept of masculinity.

The polling company YouGov found that just 8 per cent of people have positive views of white men in their twenties, by far the lowest of any ethnicity or age group. Males are routinely presented as inherently dangerous, aggressive and animalistic, incapable of controlling their own instincts. You can see it on public transport, where government adverts announce that staring is sexual harassment. Us blokes can't even be trusted to use our eyes properly.

Teenage boys are routinely disciplined by their schools for even the most minor infractions of an insurgent sexual politics. A friend's son at a smart English day school was recently hauled up for the crime of unprompted communication with a girl. The boy had sent a message introducing himself to a student from another school. There was, according to the friend, no sexual element to the message. It was a simple greeting. No matter. That kind of behaviour is unacceptable.

Comment: See also:

Stock Down

BlackRock's tyrannical ESG agenda

larry fink black rock esg policies
© Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Larry Fink owes investors an apology.
Is Larry Fink a threat to democracy?

As February turns to March, the finance world is waiting with bated breath for one of its most dubious annual traditions: The Larry Fink Annual Letter to CEOs. Since 2012, when the BlackRock chief executive wrote his first letter, the occasion has come to symbolise the growing threat both to shareholder capitalism and American democracy posed by investment houses' crusade to force the principles of ESG, or "environmental, social, and governance" investing, down the throats of companies, investors, and the public.

ESG first entered the investment and banking mainstream as a survival strategy. In 2009, BlackRock had acquired Barclay's Global Investors Ltd, making it the largest investment firm in the world with almost $3 trillion in assets under management (AUM), a sum larger than the total revenue of the US federal treasury. Politically speaking, BlackRock's emergence as an investment superpower could hardly have come at a worse time. Amid the wreckage of the 2008 Financial Crisis and then the ululations of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, public suspicion of big banks and corporations was at an all-time high. Finance, in particular, became a morality play: financial institutions were the greedy villains, while policymakers played the heroic civic advocates reining them in. For BlackRock, the chances of continuing to grow freely in such a hostile policy climate seemed remote.

Comment: It is heartening to see than within the ever-narrowing parameters of free-choice investing, that common sense is able to prevail. May the trend continue.

Bad Guys

Beware: Oscar-winning 'Navalny' documentary is packed with misinformation

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny, opening credits of the
"Navalny" is a slick production full of highly dubious claims, misinformation, and enough new Cold War propaganda impact to win an Oscar for best documentary.

The Oscar-winning 2022 documentary film Navalny tells the story of the opposition figure who has become the West's favorite Russian activist. Despite having garnered the support of about 2% of Russian voters, according to the polling firm Levada, Alexei Navalny is presented in the film as a national hero whose anti-corruption work made him such a threat to Vladimir Putin that he had to be targeted for elimination.

The film's authors are Canadian Daniel Roher, who admits to having never visited Russia or speaking Russian; Bulgarian Christo Grozev of Bellingcat, an "open source" media organization openly hostile to the Russian government, and which acknowledges financing by governments of the US, UK and EU. The production team also includes the Russian opposition activist Maria Pevchikh, who has worked for Navalny's organization but has lived mostly outside Russia since 2006 and in 2019 obtained a British passport. CNN and Der Spiegel, which have put their names on the findings put forward by the film, acknowledge they collaborated on an investigation with Bellingcat. This fact severely undercuts the film's credibility as an independent production.