AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1793529 times)

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David Koch, billionaire conservative activist and philanthropist, dies at 79
« Reply #13815 on: August 23, 2019, 05:47:56 AM »
He and his brother, Charles Koch, helped to build a massive conservative network of donors to support libertarian-leaning economic policies.

David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries, attends an Economic Club of New York event in New York.

David Koch, billionaire conservative activist and philanthropist, has died. He was 79.

He and his brother, Charles, co-owned Koch Industries, a Nebraska-based energy and chemical company, since 1983. David stepped down from running the Koch organization last year due to declining health.

The Koch brothers helped to build a massive conservative network of donors for organizations that work to mobilize voters and sway elected officials in support of libertarian-leaning economic policies.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Man dies unable to afford his insulin prescription; states tackle the rising cost
« Reply #13816 on: August 23, 2019, 05:51:43 AM »
1 1/2 minute video

According to new data from the CDC, more than 13 percent of adults don’t take their insulin as prescribed because it’s too expensive and 25% ask for a cheaper version. One mother describes how her son died after changing his medication because he couldn’t afford it, even with insurance. Now states are considering laws to rein in prices.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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'Skeleton Lake' mystery deepens with strange DNA discovery
« Reply #13817 on: August 23, 2019, 05:58:38 AM »
In 1942, hundreds of human skeletal remains were discovered at a lake deep in the Himalayas, baffling experts. Dubbed "Skeleton Lake," the site has been shrouded in mystery for decades, sparking new DNA analysis of the bones. The research, however, has yielded surprising results.

Roopkund Lake is 16,499 feet above sea level in the Indian Himalayas and the skeletons found there were long thought to have been victims of an ancient catastrophic event, say scientists.

The research findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.


“Little is known about the origin of these skeletons, as they have never been subjected to systematic anthropological or archaeological scrutiny, in part due to the disturbed nature of the site, which is frequently affected by rockslides, and which is often visited by local pilgrims and hikers who have manipulated the skeletons and removed many of the artifacts,” the international team of researchers explain in their study.

Skeletal remains scattered around the Roopkund Lake site.

The grisly site has also become part of local legend. “Local folklore describes a pilgrimage to the nearby shrine of the mountain goddess, Nanda Devi, undertaken by a king and queen and their many attendants, who—due to their inappropriate, celebratory behavior—were struck down by the wrath of [nearby mountain] Nanda Devi,” the scientists explain. “It has also been suggested that these are the remains of an army or group of merchants who were caught in a storm. Finally, it has been suggested that they were the victims of an epidemic.”

Scientists sequenced genomes from 38 skeletons at Roopkund Lake, revealing surprising results. While 23 had ancestry typical of South Asia, 14 were from the eastern Mediterranean. One individual was found to have Southeast Asian ancestry.


"We were extremely surprised by the genetics of the Roopkund skeletons," said lead author Éadaoin Harney of Harvard University, in a statement released by Germany's Max Planck Institute, which was also involved in the research. "The presence of individuals with ancestries typically associated with the eastern Mediterranean suggests that Roopkund Lake was not just a site of local interest, but instead drew visitors from across the globe."

Dietary analysis also confirmed the skeletons’ diverse origins. “Stable isotope dietary reconstruction of the skeletons also supports the presence of multiple distinct groups,” explained the Max Planck Institute.

Additionally, radiocarbon dating found that the remains are from very different eras. All of the remains with South Asian ancestry were dated to around 800 B.C., while the other skeletal remains analyzed were dated to around 1800 B.C. “These findings refute previous suggestions that the skeletons of Roopkund Lake were deposited in a single catastrophic event,” the scientists explain, in Nature Communications.

"It is still not clear what brought these individuals to Roopkund Lake or how they died," said Niraj Rai of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow, India, in the Max Planck Institute's statement. “We hope that this study represents the first of many analyses of this mysterious site."

Roopkund Lake and its surrounding mountains.

Grisly sites in other parts of the world are also revealing their secrets. A medieval burial pit in Lebanon, for example, is shedding new light on the Crusader era in the Middle East.

Workers preparing to lay new water pipes recently discovered a gruesome ancient burial site in the U.K. Some 26 human skeletons from the Iron Age and Roman periods were found at the site in Childrey Warren, Oxfordshire, some of which are believed to be ritual burials.

Experts in Peru recently revealed the gruesome details of a 15th-century ritual sacrifice site that contained the remains of more than 140 children.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Re: David Koch, billionaire conservative activist and philanthropist, dies at 79
« Reply #13818 on: August 23, 2019, 06:00:05 AM »
Ding, Dong, the Demon is Dead!  :icon_sunny:

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One down, one to go.

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A New Mexico farmer is dumping 12,000 gallons of milk a day. Here's why
« Reply #13819 on: August 23, 2019, 06:00:32 AM »
In towns and cities across the United States, Americans' tap water is contaminated with so-called forever chemicals -- and some are forced to live off bottled water.
PFAS -- short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals -- are the man-made heat- and water-resistant chemicals used for decades to make everyday items like nonstick pans, food containers and fabric protectants. Studies have linked PFAS to kidney and liver cancer, thyroid problems, high cholesterol, birth defects and pregnancy complications. They're called "forever chemicals" because they don't easily break down in the environment or the human body.
A tally by the clean water advocates at the Environmental Working Group shows 712 locations in 49 states have been discovered to be contaminated -- including public water systems, military bases and airports.
Federal government scientists believe PFAS chemicals are in the bloodstreams of nearly all Americans, and the Food and Drug Administration warns the contamination crisis threatens the US food supply.

There's growing alarm, including from health advocates and members of Congress, that federal regulators have not acted aggressively enough to protect the public.
The Obama administration created only an advisory level with no enforcement teeth and the Trump administration has promised to soon determine a maximum safe level for drinking water. Public health advocates, however, have been dissatisfied with the administration's action plan -- saying they had expected the administration to unveil actual actions rather than promises on paper.
"I think they're solely devoted to deregulating, to repealing public health protections, not putting any new ones on," Betsy Southerland, a former Environmental Protection Agency employee who oversaw the water office, told CNN. "We have a hope that Congress will actually force EPA to act and act quickly."
'This will be what ultimately kills me'
Sandy Wynn-Stelt lives in Belmont, Michigan, where the groundwater has some of the highest levels of PFAS in the nation.
She showed CNN documentation that indicates blood tests have revealed very high levels of the chemicals in her body. In 2017 she learned the groundwater that flowed to her private well was contaminated with PFAS.
"There's a good chance this will be what ultimately kills me," Wynn-Stelt said.
The groundwater was contaminated by a nearby shoe factory, Wolverine Tannery, which dumped waste materials covered with Scotchgard for years, according to state officials.
Now Wynn-Stelt says she uses bottled water for nearly everything.
She is suing Wolverine, and 3M, which makes Scotchgard, over her contamination and the death of her husband, Joel. He died of liver cancer in 2016, a year before she found out the water was tainted. (The state of Michigan is also suing Wolverine, but not 3M.) Unlike Sandy's, Joel's blood was never tested for PFAS, so no one knows how much of the chemical was in his body and whether the chemicals in their water caused his liver cancer.
"Every night, you try to fall asleep and you wonder, is that what did it?" she said. "Should I not have had him drink so much water?"
In a statement to CNN, the company said: "Wolverine has been sued by some area residents and is vigorously defending against these claims, many of which include misleading and unsupported allegations made by plaintiff's attorneys. Nevertheless, Wolverine's commitment to helping our friends, family and neighbors address water quality issues in the area has never wavered, and we have dedicated over $35 million to providing water solutions and conducting remediation."
In addition, Wolverine is suing 3M, which it says "knew for years that PFOA and PFOS posed environmental risks."
A spokesperson for 3M told CNN that it "regularly and proactively examines the environmental impact of our products" and has "invested more than $200 million globally on PFAS remediation efforts."
"Technological advancements in the late 1990s made it possible to detect certain PFAS compounds more accurately and at much lower levels than ever before. We understood that these levels had the potential to build up in the environment, people and animals over time. In response to this evolving knowledge, we phased out of PFOS and PFOA production globally in the 2000s, long before any of our competitors," the company said. "Our materials today do not carry the same potential to build up as our former products."
Michigan state officials say they are aggressively working to identify all the contamination sites. They're testing waterways and fish with the goal of setting legal limits for allowable amounts of these chemicals in the environment. Michigan's Department of Environment anticipates that limits on seven PFAS compounds for water will be set by April 2020.
States like Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont are moving ahead to set their own standards, over frustration that the EPA has not moved aggressively to regulate PFAS.
An underground threat
New Mexico dairy farmer Art Schaap has been milking his 1,800 cows every day for nearly a year -- and every day he dumps it all down the drain.
His milk is contaminated with PFAS, according to Food and Drug Administration tests. Because the chemicals are present, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture suspended his milk license.
"We have no income. For our family it's been devastating," he said. "I've been in the dairy business for 30 years and I worked my whole life for this."
Schaap says he dumps about 12,000 gallons of milk daily.
He says military officials first found the contamination on his property.
Tests show an underground "plume" has moved to his wells 2 miles southeast from the base, he said.
Firefighting foam used in training exercises at the nearby Cannon Air Force Base contaminated the groundwater with PFAS.
In a statement, a Defense Department spokeswoman said: "The department is committed to taking a strong stance to address the effects arising out of any releases of PFAS from all defense activities," adding that the department has established a "PFAS task force to ensure that it is approaching the problem in an aggressive and holistic way."
A nationwide problem
PFAS contamination sites are everywhere.
Manufacturers like 3M and DuPont have stopped making two of the chemicals in the class, but they're still shipped in on products from overseas.
Meanwhile, health and environmental advocates are dissatisfied with the pace of government action.
In 2002 and 2007, the Bush administration placed restrictions on some PFAS chemicals, many of which were no longer in use at the time.
The EPA under President Barack Obama then issued a guideline limit for safe exposure to PFAS that some saw as a precursor to a legally binding and enforceable limit. The Obama EPA also proposed requiring that any new use of PFAS-type chemicals and PFOA-related chemicals be approved by the EPA, but the Trump-led EPA has not put this rule into effect.
The agency did put out an action plan outlining how it would deal with the issue in February.
"To imply members of EPA leadership are not committed to addressing PFAS is just ridiculous and completely false," the EPA said in a statement to CNN. "Taking action to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is a top priority for the Administrator, EPA leadership and the entire agency."
Earlier this year, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was asked at a Senate hearing whether he could commit to establishing a drinking water standard for PFAS in the next two years.
"I can't make that commitment because it's in interagency review at this point," he said, referring to the action plan, which was then undergoing review by other parts of the executive branch.
Southerland, the former EPA official, said the action plan is a "huge disappointment" and that the agency wasted time when it could have taken action -- such as setting enforceable limits -- instead of creating the plan.
"I think right now they're just not moving forward. It is just not a priority for action," she said.
Internal government emails, obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists, show the Trump administration wanted to suppress a government study that indicated the chemicals were dangerous even at levels the EPA had deemed safe.
A White House aide wrote in an email that they could not get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be."
After mounting public and congressional pressure, the study was released in February. The CDC report showed the safe limit for the chemicals should be seven to 10 times lower than what the EPA said was safe, according to the Environmental Working Group, which analyzed the data.
Despite that, there is bipartisan frustration with EPA on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle saying the agency is not moving with enough urgency on this issue.

Congress is now pushing toward legislation that would force the EPA to set legally binding limits on these chemicals in drinking water in two years.
Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) introduced legislation that passed the Senate. The House passed a similar measure, and a version could be added to the 2020 Defense Department authorization bill.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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"Something Drastic Has To Happen" Roger Hallam ( 25 minute video )
« Reply #13820 on: August 23, 2019, 06:04:48 AM »
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Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Hail Satan?: The Satanists battling for religious freedom
« Reply #13821 on: August 23, 2019, 06:14:42 AM »

Lucien Greaves (far-right) uses several aliases to protect his family

Everything you know about Satanism is wrong.

At least that's what a new documentary about the Satanic Temple could be about to prove.

Despite the similarity of the name, the Temple is different to The Church of Satan, established in 1966 by chat show circuit celebrity Anton LaVey in San Francisco, California.

Human sacrifice? Wrong. Blood drinking? Wrong. Black Mass? Well, sort of right.

The Temple was founded in 2013 with a mission statement "to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will".

Hail Satan? directed by US film-maker Penny Lane, follows the Temple's attempts to curtail what they see as the encroachment of Christianity on US life through its growing political influence.

That creeping theocracy results in a monument to the Ten Commandments being offered pride of place at the Oklahoma State Capitol building in Oklahoma City.

The Temple's response is to ask for a space for their own statue of the Satanic deity Baphomet in a bid to restore some kind of cosmic religious balance, all the while preaching a doctrine in support of social justice and human rights.

"We want people to evaluate the United States being a Christian nation," the Temple's spokesman Lucien Greaves says in the film's trailer. "It's not".

"I had heard about the Satanic Temple when they were doing their campaign in Oklahoma," says Lane.

The Temple members say they are fighting to keep the US a secular country

"I thought it was a very funny joke from afar, that they were sort of pretending to be Satanists, but I discovered they had at that point 50,000 members.

"The more I looked into it, the more rich and confusing and provocative and interesting it became."

The film follows the eloquent, intelligent Greaves as he and his fellow Satanists encourage people to give blood, collect socks for the homeless, clean public beaches (using small pitchforks - a cute touch) and hold Satanic after-school clubs for children who are taught about the Temple's tenets which include:

    One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
    People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.

And although there is a certain theatrical, horror movie side to their Black Mass rituals in which they do invoke Satan, they freely admit none of them actually believe in Satan as an actual spiritual entity, leaning instead on the accurate translation of the Hebrew word Satan, which means "adversary".

"I didn't find it that complicated or that hard to get that they had organised their religion around abstract and essentially fictional concepts," says Lane.

"It is not a gimmick, you know, but it is a kind of acknowledgment that religion is fundamentally about things that are deeply believed, but not provable.

"I came to understand that you don't need to literally believe in something to believe that it's important. I think human rights are fundamental, and I would die to protect human rights for other people. But I don't think human rights are some literal thing that exists in the world.

"It doesn't work like that, like all the things that we believe, actually, as human beings are the most important thing, love and rights and freedom and justice, equality. These kinds of things are fair like made up things, they're just ideas."

While the documentary's energies largely focus on the Temple's attempts to have their beautifully sculpted bronze statue of Baphomet (with a torso modelled on Iggy Pop no less) erected on federal grounds, it also touches on the "Satanic Panic" wave of moral panic which swept across America during the 80s and 90s - driven by music, video games - even bizarrely, the Dungeons & Dragons board game.

Far-right Christian organisations and authorities saw examples of Satanism everywhere.

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"It was this 10 to 15-year period, where there was a basic idea that there was a kind of organised, underground, secret conspiracy of Satanists that were kind of running around, doing evil things like murder and torturing animals and raping children and doing it in the name of Satan," explains Lane.

"Many people had their lives ruined and in the most extreme example, went to prison for a very long time.

"If you do any research into it, you would quickly see that there were no Satanists, there was no secret underground. As Lucien says in the film, he learned the real evil was in the witch hunt itself. And it's something that we have to remember as a society that we are capable of doing.

"And there's been no attempt publicly, to come to terms with that period. It's like it just happened. And then it ended, and no one talks about it anymore. And I think the Satanic Temple really does want people to remember and to know more about what happened during that period."

Greaves (not his real name, he goes by several aliases to protect his family) himself receives life threats during the group's campaign and wears a bullet-proof vest to his statue's unveiling.

"It was very clear that he was very concerned about protecting the identity of his family," says Lane. "I don't think that is some kind of nefarious mystery. There's so many people that are perfectly happy to terrorise your family for fun.

"I was very worried and am very worried for the safety of the people who appear in my film. They certainly, by agreeing to be in my film, expose themselves to far more risk in the world. And I am very aware of that and very concerned about that."

Whilst she is not a card carrying member of the Temple herself, it is clear Lane's sympathies lie with them and their aims.

"I would say that my whole life I've been exceptionally confused by religious people," she adds. "I just always thought... I know how bad it sounds, so I'm going to say it now. I really honestly thought that religion was basically some kind of like mental illness that needs to be treated better. I didn't understand it. I always just fundamentally kind of came out of the womb an atheist."

Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Re: David Koch, billionaire conservative activist and philanthropist, dies at 79
« Reply #13822 on: August 23, 2019, 05:33:41 PM »
Ding, Dong, the Demon is Dead!  :icon_sunny:

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One down, one to go.


A man went to a newspaper stand, scanned the front page, and then angrily threw the paper away. This went on every morning for years. Finally, the paperboy said, "Sir, what are you looking for?"
"The obituaries," replied the man.
"But sir," squeaked the paperboy, "those are on page B-35!"
"When the bastard I'm looking for dies," replied the man, "it'll be on the front page."
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Keystone XL Pipeline Plan Is Approved by Nebraska Supreme Court
« Reply #13823 on: August 23, 2019, 06:16:56 PM »

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline protested in Omaha in 2017.

Nebraska’s highest court approved the Keystone XL oil pipeline’s planned path through that state on Friday, resolving a permitting battle that has stretched on for more than a decade as the project became a proxy for a national debate between environmentalists and the energy industry.

Keystone XL, which would carry crude oil from Canada to southern Nebraska, has been the subject of political maneuvering and litigation since it was proposed in 2008. The project, which was rejected by the Obama administration, was revived under President Trump.

Many Republican politicians and labor groups see Keystone XL as an economic boon, a way to create jobs and satisfy the world’s demand for oil. But for environmentalists and some Native Americans and farmers along the planned route, the pipeline is seen as a grave threat to the warming climate and to fertile land it would run through.

“At some point in our country’s history, the property rights of farmers and the sovereign rights of tribal nations have to trump big oil land grabs,” said Jane Kleeb, the longtime leader of the Keystone XL opposition in Nebraska and the chairwoman of the state’s Democratic Party.
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The Nebraska Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday was not the final word on the pipeline. A federal lawsuit in Montana still seeks to block construction, and several landowners along the route have refused to sign easements. Protesters, including from Native American tribes in Nebraska and South Dakota, have promised to mobilize if construction begins.

The ruling was significant nonetheless.

“This comprehensive decision not only clears a big legal hurdle for this particular pipeline — it signals that a workable process exists in Nebraska for the approval of future major energy infrastructure projects,” said Dave Lopez, who defended the pipeline route before the State Supreme Court in his former role as Nebraska’s deputy solicitor general.

For years, Nebraska, a deeply conservative state, has been the surprising center of opposition to Keystone XL. It was in Nebraska that a politically diverse array of farmers, Native Americans and environmentalists first elevated the pipeline into the national spotlight. Willie Nelson and Neil Young held a concert in a Nebraska cornfield to rally opposition to the project. In Nebraska, opponents pushed for changes to the route and slowed construction with efforts in the courts and in the government regulatory process.

Critics of pipelines in other places have used similar tactics in the years since.

Opponents of the Keystone XL project have voiced hope of delaying construction until after the 2020 presidential election. Some Democratic candidates have vowed to oppose the pipeline if they unseat Mr. Trump.
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    Donald Trump never should have issued permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. As president, I'd halt construction immediately. Proud to sign the #NoKXL Pledge.
    — Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) August 16, 2019

    When tribal concerns have conflicted with corporate profits or resource extraction, tribes lose. This has to change. When I’m president, energy projects that impact Indian Country won’t proceed without consent. That means revoking Trump’s KeystoneXL and DAPL permits.
    — Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 16, 2019

The latest ruling came after opponents challenged a route approved by Nebraska regulators in 2017. Though those regulators narrowly voted to allow construction, they rejected the pipeline company’s preferred route and approved an alternate path through the state that had received far less examination. A lawsuit asserted that the route had been approved in error.

The company behind the project, TC Energy, which until recently was called TransCanada, has been stuck in a holding pattern for years. Company officials have insisted they remained committed to Keystone XL’s construction even as delays continue to mount and as another construction season has come and gone.

“The Supreme Court decision is another important step as we advance towards building this vital energy infrastructure project,” said Russ Girling, TC Energy’s president and chief executive, in a statement. A company spokesman did not answer a list of questions about the project’s status and a potential construction timeline.

Supporters of Keystone XL, including some political leaders and business groups in Nebraska, have focused on construction jobs the pipeline would create and have noted that transporting oil by pipeline is safer than by rail or truck.

Opponents have questioned the wisdom of building another oil pipeline given the effects of climate change, and have voiced concern about the danger a spill — such as one in 2017 on a pipeline operated by the same company — would pose to farmland and groundwater.

“I find this loss devastating as a landowner,” said Jeanne Crumly, a farmer on the route in northern Nebraska. She added: “We will remain united and vigilant in our resistance.”
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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China said Friday it will impose new tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods and resume duties on American autos.

The Chinese State Council said it decided to slap tariffs ranging from 5% to 10% on $75 billion U.S. goods in two batches effective on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. Those dates happens to be when President Donald Trump’s latest tariffs on Chinese goods are to take effect.

It also said a 25% tariff will be imposed on U.S. cars and a 5% on auto parts and components, which will go into effect on Dec.15. China had paused these tariffs in April.

Stocks tumbled and bond yields fell following the announcement.

The retaliatory tariffs came after Trump earlier this month surprisingly ended a trade war cease-fire by threatening to impose 10% tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese goods. Some of those tariffs have been delayed to December to avoid any impact on holiday shopping season and some items were removed from the list.

“In response to the measures by the U.S., China was forced to take countermeasures,” the state council said in a statement. “The Chinese side hopes that the U.S. will continue to follow the consensus of the Osaka meeting, return to the correct track of consultation and resolve differences, and work hard with China to end the goal of ending economic and trade frictions.”

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had reached the truce at the G-20 summit last month in Osaka, Japan. The two sides held talks in Shanghai last month and are scheduled to resume negotiations early next month in Washington.

The trade battle between the world’s two largest economies has dragged on for more than a year and a half. Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural products remain a big sticking point. Trump claimed China didn’t follow through on Xi’s promise to resume purchases of farm products.

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said last week there are still many “structural issues” the U.S. needs to settle with China before they can reach a deal. These issues include cyber intrusion into U.S. business networks, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft and currency manipulation, he said.|twitter&par=sharebar
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Negative interest rates are coming and they are downright terrifying
« Reply #13825 on: August 23, 2019, 06:27:42 PM »
What if I said I wanted to borrow $100 from you and pay you back $99 five years later? Would you do it?

Hell no!

And yet this is exactly what’s happening right now in the banking systems of Japan, Germany, France, and other European countries.

Negative interest rates — where the lender gets paid back less than they’ve loaned — now add up to 30%, (and counting), of the global tradable bond universe, according to JPMorgan (JPM). You may have seen for instance that Germany just sold the first negative yielding 30-year bond issue.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is crazy.

“It’s really unusual and really distorting the global financial system,” says Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities (DB). “I spend all my time talking about it.”
This is not going to end well

Negative rates are counterintuitive, unprecedented — and to my mind — mind-bendingly insane and downright scary. They are like a parallel universe where everything you’ve ever learned about finance and human behavior is turned upside down.

Worse, negative rates are being normalized by economists, bankers, and commentators.

Worst, I have a funny feeling this will end badly. Negative interest rates have all the hallmarks of serious trouble for the financial markets; an anomaly growing in scale which seemingly came out of nowhere that is under-recognized, poorly understood and dismissed as not consequential. (Flashing red lights here.)

In the U.S. we aren’t particularly aware of negative rates because they haven’t made their way to our shores ... perhaps yet.

Yes, the U.S. ten year Treasury yields 1.59%, not close to 0%, but negative rates seem to be creeping ever closer. For instance, negative interest rates haven’t come to U.S. corporate debt, but Euro-denominated bonds issued by the likes of blue-chips Apple (AAPL), McDonald’s (MCD), and Pepsi (PEP) carry negative yields.

And in Europe, it was postulated that negative rates would never fly in the consumer sphere in terms of banks paying back depositors less than they put in their savings accounts, but that’s now changing. Banks in Denmark and Switzerland are now charging customers to hold deposits. And on the flip side, and also in Denmark, mortgages with negative rates are available. That’s right, you get a mortgage from the bank, and the bank essentially pays you each month. A three-year adjustable rate mortgage priced at negative .28% there recently.

“Helt vildt,” as the Danes might say. Translation: “Totally nuts.”

‘I don’t think the U.S. can resist the pull’

None of this gives Timothy Duy, an economics professor at the University of Oregon, a warm and fuzzy feeling. “The issue right now is the rest of the world seems to be going deeper and deeper into negative interest rates, and I don’t think the U.S. can resist that pull,” he says.

By now, if you are like me, your head is swimming with questions:

-How, when, and why did negative rates come about?

-Are negative rates bad?

-How will this end?

Let’s tackle the first couple of questions first. It appears that negative interest rates are a modern phenomenon that was first implemented to spur sluggish economies that couldn’t get traction coming out of the Great Recession. (Yes, brought to you by central bankers.) Denmark’s Nationalbank, (the Danes again) in July 2012 was one of the first, followed by the European Central Bank in 2014, the Bank of Japan, and now much of the rest of Europe.

These negative rates were “paid” (or levied really) on banks’ deposits in central banks. The point was to penalize banks from keeping too much money in central banks and thereby encourage them to lend. Negative rates then spread to government bonds — especially in Europe — and to corporate bonds, as well. That’s because prices for these financial instruments (which move in the opposite direction of rates) went higher and higher as investors were willing to pay more and more for safe places to park their money. Rates turned negative on these bonds when investors were so anxious for safety they would even accept less than 100% of their investment back.

Paul Davies of the Wall Street Journal put it succinctly when he wrote: “It is a stark illustration of how ultra loose monetary policies have turned debt investing into a choice about how to lose the least amount of money.”

I know, it’s all whack.
Negative rates could ‘break things’ in the U.S.

Exactly how big is the negative rates universe now? According to Deutsche Bank’s Slok, there’s some $15 trillion of negative yielding bonds in the world (out of a total of some $115 trillion), up from zero five years ago. All German government bonds are negative yielding now. And if you exclude the U.S., some 45% of the worlds’ bonds have negative yields. So not chicken feed.

The same financial talking heads who say negative rates can’t come to the U.S. remind me of the people who said Boris Johnson would never be Prime Minister of the UK and Donald Trump would never be President. And speaking of President Trump, in case you haven’t noticed, he engendered a trade war and has been relentless in calling for lower rates, both of which have slowed global growth and pushed rates down. Mike Davis, an economics professor at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, notes that President Trump is “creating massive amounts of uncertainty in markets,” which he thinks has companies questioning whether they should make investments. Again, that puts downward pressure on rates.

Also keeping a lid on rates are aging populations that don’t spend, as in Japan, for instance. Plus a lack of investment by companies. In this post-industrial world, where expensive property is contracted out or in the case of internet giants, not needed at all, there is much less need for capital spending. The result is that many corporate giants have massive cash troves; such as Facebook (FB) with $48 billion, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) with $112 billion and Apple with a staggering $245 billion.

What would happen if rates go negative in the U.S.? Who knows. Allianz Chief Economic Adviser Mohamed El-Erian, for one, says he would sound the alarm if treasury yields dip into negative territory. “If we do I’m going to be really worried because negative yields in the U.S., the world’s biggest financial market, will break things,” he told Yahoo Finance.


The serious negative effects of negative rates

So if negative rates were a policy tool put in place by bankers, how do we assess their work? Have negative rates been a success or a failure?

The answer is a bit complicated. You sure can’t argue that negative rates have greatly boosted the economies of Japan or Europe. (Maybe you could make the case that they would be in worse shape without negative rates, but that’s sheer speculation.)

On the other hand, I think it’s clear there are some pretty serious negatives, certainly from the standpoint of uncertainty. A recent note by JPMorgan lays out nine unintended consequences; including lower bank profitability, lower credit creation, paradoxically higher rates in some instances (banks need to make up for lower income), reduced liquidity and functionality of credit markets, increased deficits in pension funds, and even exacerbation of wealth and income inequality.

But wait, there’s more.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) postulates that, “...if banks ever start passing negative rates onto retail depositors, the effect would be similar to inflation — cash today would be worth more than cash tomorrow. Consumers might respond by consuming more and saving less, boosting GDP growth in the short run. But this “substitution effect” could be offset by what economists call a negative “income effect”: expected erosion of savings could actually make households more conservative, pulling back on consumption both today and in the future.”

I would add to that an even bigger problem: The unknown and the uncertainty that comes with it.

Here’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch again: “Government yield curves and credit spread curves are losing their information content. In our opinion, the fact that the 3m10y or 2y10y UST spreads have inverted is less of a reflection of U.S. recession risks and more of a reflection of the desperation for yield by foreign investors flocking into USD denominated bonds as bond yields turned more negative in Europe and Japan.”

Translation: Trying to interpret the U.S. Treasury yield curve becomes meaningless.

So regardless if negative rates ever come to the U.S., there’s already an impact. Expect more to come.

What about that last question: How will this end? As you can tell, my take is, badly. But I’m not sure what form the ugliness will take or, more vexing, what we should do about it.

One thing is I think governments will have to turn away from monetary policy and rely more on fiscal policy, not just tax cuts, but government spending on much needed infrastructure to stimulate the economy and drive rates back up. Those cash rich companies may need to unlock their coffers, too.

But that may be after governments are forced into action in the wake of some sort of meltdown or crises. I hope not not. But I wouldn’t bet against it.

“At what point are interest rates so low, a financial system predicated on positive returns doesn’t work anymore?” asks Duy of the University of Oregon.

Good question. I sure hope we don’t find out.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Hong Kong protesters form 28-mile human chain demanding democracy
« Reply #13826 on: August 23, 2019, 06:32:16 PM »
Inspired by the 1989 "Baltic Way," Hong Kongers held hands across the city in protest of the government.

HONG KONG — Hand-in-hand, protesters formed a 28-mile human chain across 39 train stations in Hong Kong on Friday.

The demonstrators sang songs as they held small signs that said, "Thank you for supporting freedom and democracy."

The latest demonstration in the 11-week movement that stemmed from outrage over a proposed extradition bill was inspired by 1989 protests across Baltic states.

On Aug. 23, 1989, the so-called Baltic Way involved 2 million Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians protesting Soviet domination of the region.

"I joined the Hong Kong Way because it’s peaceful," protester Peter Cheung, 27, told Reuters, referring to the campaign's name. "This is the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way. I hope there will be a bigger chance to make an international noise."

Dozens were also shining lights from the top of Kowloon's Lion Rock, visible from the main island of Hong Kong, in an act of defiance after warnings from Communist Party leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam about violence.

The Hong Kong protesters' demands have expanded from the original request in June to scrap the extradition bill, which many feared would give Beijing greater control over the territory by allowing suspects to be handed over to mainland China.

With mounting fears that their rights are being eroded, protesters are now demanding greater democratic freedoms, the resignation of Lam, and an investigation into claims of excessive use of force by police as demonstrations have turned violent.

China's Hong Kong affairs office has condemned the mayhem as "near-terrorist acts" — but that hasn't slowed the momentum of protesters.

The human chain — intended to "be a show of solidarity ... and a plea for international support," according to organizers — was the second show of force by protesters Friday. Earlier, hundreds marched in a demonstration led by accountants. Lawyers, teachers and medical workers have previously rallied in support of the protests.

The former British colony became a special administrative region of China in 1997. Unlike those living on the mainland, the territory's 7 million residents can freely surf the internet and participate in public protests.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Bernie Sanders' plan for handling the climate crisis is a genuine revolution
« Reply #13827 on: August 23, 2019, 06:34:30 PM »
Earlier this week, Governor Jay Inslee announced that he was ending his presidential campaign. Inslee’s presence in the race was welcomed because of how he centered his campaign around the climate crisis, but at this point a climate plan has become an essential ingredient for every serious Democratic contender. Both Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden have released lengthy plans. So has Beto O’Rourke. Both Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders have been strongly supportive of the Green New Deal, but on Thursday Sanders went further, releasing his own extensive plan for dealing with this critical issue.

As The Washington Post reports, Sanders’ plan is enormously ambitious, enough so that it even outdoes Inslee’s when it comes to the scope and timeline of the actions. Sanders is not the first candidate to compare the effort to fight climate change to that of mobilizing for World War II, but he may be the first who is recommended a scale and intensity of effort that would achieve massive goals in a single decade. With an average expenditure of $1.6 trillion dollars a year, the plan would actually exceed the entire annual budget of the U.S. to replace the entire electrical grid with a 100% clean base by 2030.

The last two decades have demonstrated that the way America produces energy can change much more rapidly than most experts expected. Coal, which generated more than half of the nation’s electricity just fifteen years ago, is rapidly heading toward extinction in the marketplace. However, coal still commands about a quarter of all electrical production and much of the space it has surrendered over that time has gone to natural gas, which was suddenly made much cheaper and more available due to fracking. Other plans, such as those of Warren and Biden, had envisioned phasing out the remaining fossil fuels over a period that stretched out as far as 2050. To put in place sufficient wind and solar power by 2030 represents an effort whose scale many find simply overwhelming. And the Sanders plan makes the effort even greater by being the only one that would explicitly phase out nuclear power, which currently makes up about one-fifth of the market.

In addition to remaking the electrical power grid, Sanders would invest heavily in transportation, both to replace gas-powered vehicles with electric and to create an extensive network of public transportation both local and national. That network, like the electrical grid, would not be left to corporations, but would be folded into an overall nonprofit system under much more direct control from the government.

In his two runs at the White House, Sanders has often talked about, or been talked about, as offering a revolution. But nothing he has previously suggested is as anywhere close to as revolutionary as this.

A plan that dwarfs the entire federal budget and which would leave the government in control of a system that provides power, transportation, and tens of millions of jobs isn’t just an energy plan. It’s something that would fundamentally change the role of the government. Such a system would be far from unique—many democratic nations have energy grids that are either directly or indirectly controlled by the national government—but this plan alone would represent a scale that easily exceeds everything rolled into the original New Deal. The $2.37 trillion that the plan dedicates to renewable energy is energy that would be publicly owned. Sanders’ plan wouldn’t just replace the coal and gas plants now in the mix at utilities companies, it would replace the companies.

In many ways, Sanders’ plan is exactly what the Green New Deal has suggested all along—a massive overhaul of the contract between citizen and nation that encompasses not just an energy plan, but an understanding of how corporate interests and short-term thinking generated the crisis in the first place while leaving individuals and communities hostage to fossil fuel extraction. But Sanders’ vision of how the GND is executed on the ground is significantly different from those of Inslee, Biden, Warren, or O’Rourke. Significantly more like … democratic socialism.

The challenges implicit in the deadlines set within Sanders’ plan are daunting. So are the numbers. All of it may be literally impossible.

It’s certainly eye-opening. If you want to know what Sanders means to do, there may be no better glimpse into where he would steer the United States than the contents of his climate plan. And honestly, that’s probably true of every candidate. This is the defining crisis of our age, so it shouldn’t be surprising that how a candidate chooses to address it … defines them.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Central Bank CEO buys prized Kentucky ham for $1M
« Reply #13828 on: August 24, 2019, 07:18:36 AM »
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The CEO, president and chairman of Central Bank has purchased the Kentucky State Fair’s Grand Champion Ham for $1 million.

The Courier Journal reports Luther Deaton’s winning bid is enough to buy several luxury cars, but doesn’t break the record of the most paid for a champion ham. Last year’s ham sold for $2.8 million and was paid for by Central Bank and Dr. Mark Lynn.

Deaton says the purchase is less about the ham and more about giving back to the community. The annual breakfast and auction by the Kentucky Farm Bureau has raised about $13 million for charity since it started in 1964.

Blake Penn, of Penn’s Country Hams, produced the grand ham, which was presented at the auction by this year’s Miss Kentucky, Alex Francke.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Hong Kong riot police beat protesters at anti-surveillance rally
« Reply #13829 on: August 24, 2019, 07:26:53 AM »
Teargas thrown at masked protesters angry over lamp posts equipped with sensors

Riot police have thrown teargas at thousands of protesters and beat many of them after a tense stand-off in Hong Kong.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators were holding an anti-government rally on Saturday, marking the city’s 12th week of protests.

As protesters reached a police station in mid-afternoon, several of them built barricades with bamboo rods and plastic traffic barriers and faced off with riot police for a couple of hours.

At about 4.40pm, hundreds of officers charged at the protesters, throwing teargas and beating them as they fled. At one point, objects on the ground were on fire as police chased protesters along the streets and into nearby buildings.

“Protesters are simply not able to defend themselves. Police are abusing their powers,” said a man watching the scene.

It was difficult for protesters to leave because the nearest metro station had closed, along with several others on the line.

The clearing operation lasted around 15 minutes, after which the street was left eerily empty. A message spray painted on the road said: “Hopes are in the people, transformation begins in struggles.”

Saturday’s rally – in Kowloon’s Kwun Tong district – was sanctioned by the police but many demonstrators still covered their faces with medical masks and many wore balaclava-style scarves and dark glasses covered with tin foil.

The key theme of the march was to oppose the government’s installation of smart lamp posts equipped with sensors, closed-circuit cameras and data networks. The government said the lamp posts would only collect air quality, traffic and weather data, although many at the protests said they had covered up out of privacy concerns.

Some handed out medical masks while others handed out tin foil to cover phones, credit cards with smart pay functions and smart identity cards that Hongkongers are mandated to carry.

“We feel unsafe, that’s why we have to speak up,” said Harry Yip, a school leaver, who said he wore a hat, reflective dark glasses and a black scarf over his face to avoid government surveillance.

“Oppose surveillance, save Hong Kong!”, shouted some, while others cried: “Free Hong Kong!”, “Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our era!”

People also called on fellow protesters to open their umbrellas to shield their faces from surveillance cameras.

“Even though this is a police-approved march, you just never know what the police might do later,” said Chris Lam, in full protective gear.

The fear of surveillance comes amid reports that many Hong Kong residents have been interrogated upon entering mainland China, taken into rooms to have their messages and photos on their phones and computers checked. A member of the British consulate in Hong Kong, Simon Cheng, was released on Saturday after being detained in China for 15 days while there on business.

More broadly, the city’s demonstrations are aimed at pressuring the Hong Kong government into responding to protesters’ political demands, including the complete withdrawal of the now suspended extradition bill – under which individuals can be sent to China for trial – the setting up of an independent body to investigate police violence, and the free election of Hong Kong’s leaders and legislature.

On Friday night, a human chain stretched for kilometres across both sides of Hong Kong harbour as people turned out for a peaceful demonstration inspired by anti-Soviet protesters in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1989 that became known as the Baltic Way.

Hong Kong’s metro company MTR on Saturday made the unprecedented decision to stop operating trains along a large stretch of a line from 12pm in an apparent move to stop protesters from reaching the protest in Kwun Tong.

The move comes after state media accused the metro company of helping protesters avoid the police by putting on extra train services at Yuen Long on Wednesday night, after a clash between protesters and police.

The MTR Corporation has previously stopped services to stations in areas where violence has broken out, but local media noted that it had not stopped trains running before a protest before.

Numerous violent confrontations between the police and protesters have erupted during weeks of protests in Hong Kong, a regional financial hub once known as one of the world’s safest cities, in the past two and a half months.

Resentment against the government and police have reached a dangerous level among the Hong Kong population. Although largely peaceful, hardcore protesters have thrown rocks, bricks and slingshots at the police, who have used tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and severe beatings to disperse the crowds.

Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'