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Democratic presidential hopeful insists he is ‘100 percent pro-Israel’ at town hall event; says if elected he would be more sympathetic to Palestinian concerns

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders excoriated the Netanyahu government as “racist” Monday night as he participated in a CNN town hall event with Democratic voters.

Without discussing specific details, the 2020 presidential hopeful called for a change in America’s policy toward Israel, describing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach toward the Palestinians as “oppressive,” and said that his administration, should he be elected, would be more sympathetic to Palestinian concerns.

“What I believe is not radical,” Sanders said. “I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis. In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing — dare I say — racist government.”

Sanders has been a fierce critic of Netanyahu. In the run-up to Israel’s election earlier this month, he castigated the Israeli premier for supporting a deal to allow the extremist Otzma Yehudit party to join his coalition and for his promises to annex West Bank settlements.

He told NBC News: “I’m not a great fan of his, and, frankly, I hope he loses his election.”

The self-declared democratic socialist has also in the past criticized Netanyahu’s 2015 election-eve warning that Arabs were “voting in droves.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a celebratory Likud event in Jerusalem, April 16, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Asked on Monday night how he would navigate the US-Israel relationship given his history of sharp criticism against Netanyahu, Sanders said that his views on the prime minister did not reflect his feelings toward the Jewish state.

“I spent a number of months in Israel. I worked on a kibbutz for a while. I have family in Israel. I am not anti-Israel,” Sanders said. “But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.”

That line was met with loud applause by the audience of mostly college students at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The event was a rare five-hour town hall with back-to-back hourlong segments with five Democratic presidential candidates: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, California Senator Kamala Harris, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sanders.

The 77-year-old lawmaker insisted that he was “pro-Israel” but that as president he would take a vastly different approach to the intractable conflict than the current administration.

US President Donald Trump is known for his close relationship with Netanyahu, and for giving Israel several diplomatic gifts: moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, cutting aid to the Palestinians, and recognizing the Golan Heights as sovereign Israel. Since the US announced the embassy relocation and the aid cuts, Palestinian Authority officials have written off the administration and have refused to engage with Washington.

“I am 100 percent pro-Israel,” Sanders said. “Israel has every right to exist, and to exist in peace and security and not be subjected to terrorist attacks. But the United States needs to deal with not just Israel, but with the Palestinian people as well.”


Marking your tires with chalk is trespassing, not law enforcement, the federal appeals panel said in a Michigan case.

That parking officer who swipes a chalk mark on your tire to keep track of how long you've been parked is violating the Constitution, a federal appeals court panel found Monday.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reinstated a 2017 case brought by Alison Taylor, who was issued 15 parking tickets in three years in Saginaw, Michigan, by the same parking enforcement officer, who's described in the suit as the city's "most prolific issuer of parking tickets."

Taylor argued that marking tires with chalk constituted an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But a U.S. district judge in Michigan dismissed the suit in 2017, writing that even if chalking a tire is a search, it's a reasonable one, because a piece of chalk isn't an "information-gathering device" that could violate Taylor's privacy, like a GPS tracker, for example.

Two of the three members of the appeals panel on Monday agreed that chalking a tire is a search. But they disagreed that it was a reasonable search.

U.S. Circuit Judge Bernice Bouie Donald wrote that when drivers pull into parking spaces, "the city commences its search on vehicles that are parked legally, without probable cause or even so much as 'individualized suspicion of wrongdoing' — the touchstone of the reasonableness standard."

Moreover, overstaying your welcome at a parking space doesn't cause "injury or ongoing harm to the community," she wrote, meaning the city is wrong to argue that parking enforcement is part of its "community caretaking" responsibility, potentially justifying a search without a warrant.

In fact, she wrote, "there has been a trespass in this case because the City made intentional physical contact with Taylor's vehicle."

While Saginaw is entitled to regulate public parking, "the manner in which it chooses to do so is not without constitutional limitation," Donald wrote.

Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of Southern California, tweeted one suggestion: Take a picture of the car or its tires without "trespassing" on it with chalk.

Monday's ruling sends the lawsuit back to U.S. District Court in Bay City, Michigan.

Exclusive: US warns it will reject measure over language on sexual health in latest example of hardline abortion stance

The US is threatening to veto a United Nations resolution on combatting the use of rape as a weapon of war because of its language on reproductive and sexual health, according to a senior UN official and European diplomats.

The German mission hopes the resolution will be adopted at a special UN security council session on Tuesday on sexual violence in conflict.

But the draft resolution has already been stripped of one of its most important elements, the establishment of a formal mechanism to monitor and report atrocities, because of opposition from the US, Russia and China, which opposed creating a new monitoring body.

Even after the formal monitoring mechanism was stripped from the resolution, the US was still threatening to veto the watered-down version, because it includes language on victims’ support from family planning clinics. In recent months, the Trump administration has taken a hard line, refusing to agree to any UN documents that refer to sexual or reproductive health, on grounds that such language implies support for abortions. It has also opposed the use of the word “gender”, seeing it as a cover for liberal promotion of transgender rights.

“We are not even sure whether we are having the resolution tomorrow, because of the threats of a veto from the US,” Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told the Guardian.

In cases of disagreement in the security council, member states often fall back on previously agreed text, but the US has made it clear it would no longer accept language from a 2013 resolution on sexual violence.

“They are threatening to use their veto over this agreed language on comprehensive healthcare services including sexual and reproductive health. The language is being maintained for the time being and we’ll see over the next 24 hours how the situation evolves,” Patten said.

“It will be a huge contradiction that you are talking about a survivor-centered approach and you do not have language on sexual and reproductive healthcare services, which is for me the most critical.”

In a draft of the resolution seen by the Guardian, the contentious phrase is only mentioned once, in a clause that “urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the specific needs of persons with disabilities.”

A spokeswoman for the US mission said it “does not comment on draft resolutions that are under active negotiation”.

European states, led by Germany, the UK and France, have been resisting abandoning the language on access to family planning and women’s health clinics, as they believe it would mean surrendering the gains of recent decades in terms of international recognition of women’s rights.

“If we let the Americans do this and take out this language, it will be watered down for a long time,” a European diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said. “It is, at its heart, an attack on the progressive normative framework established over the past 25 years.”

“Until the Trump administration, we could always count on the Americans to help us defend it. Now the Americans have switched camp,” the diplomat said. “Now it’s an unholy alliance of the US, the Russians, the Holy See, the Saudis and the Bahrainis, chipping away at the progress that has been made.”

Diplomats at the security council expect a long night of negotiations on the wording.

The latest version of the draft resolution recognises the work of the informal expert group on women, peace and security, but Patten had argued that the current system does not provide a consistent channel to bring violations on sexual violence to the attention of the security council.

A formal mechanism, with a panel regularly assessing compliance and recommending sanctions, would have given her more leverage on states and non-state groups.

“In the current draft as it stands, the formal mechanism is gone,” she said. “It’s very, very weak.”


Days 6 and 7 of International Rebellion (Sat 20 – Sun 21 Apr)

As spring now spreads its (record-breaking) warmth across the global north, London’s International Rebellion is entering a new phase of its own. After leaving four of five locations in good order, rebels will meet at Marble Arch on Monday to decide where they go next.

Being Easter, it’s a time for renewal and rebirth. The past few days have brought their share of sadness, as we’ve left behind spaces so lovingly cultivated and so bravely defended, each with its own story and style: the serene Parliament Square, the giddy Piccadilly, the joyous Oxford Circus and, the flourishing garden bridge. These spaces were amazing creations – but let us not forget: we came here to transform not London, but the world.

‘Phase One’ has been a huge success. Holding the locations brought enormous attention to our cause: from press to politicians to punters. As all of these examples show, we’ve succeeded in getting our message across – even to our critics.

This success can be expressed in numbers: at the most conservative estimate we’ve welcomed 30,000 new members, and have received almost £300,000 in crowdfunding, the great majority of donations being around of £10. And if it’s a metric you’re into, we’ve had almost 1,000 brave people arrested.

But our deeper success is something past the quantitative: the innumerable moments of love, empowerment and belonging fostered in and between our lovely London spaces; car-streaked streets converted to oases of calm; friendships made and strengthened in a common struggle; and the international solidarity brought about by acting in unison with brothers and sisters all over the planet.

And that’s just Phase One.

Where we go with Phase Two is up to us. A proposal has been circulated for entering a “negotiations” phase. Despite being presented otherwise in the media, this idea remains only a proposal – and is entirely subject to the feedback and consideration of the countless members who’ve done so much to get us to where we are now. The primary forum for this feedback will be a people’s assembly held on Monday between 3pm and 5pm at Marble Arch. There will be food after this. If you’d like to understand more about how the decision process looks as things stand, please watch this short video.

As XR UK begins a moment of reflection (however long or short!), rebellions across the world continue to thrive. To give just a taste: we’ve seen a disco in Denver, glue-ons in Chicago, the exciting arrival of XR Pakistan and XR Austria, and outreach events in Uganda and Ghana. Like in London, XR Australia has also made space to take stock, and XR New Zealand remains as subversively/submersively creative as ever.

Before any other news, we would first like to pay our sincere condolences and respects to the family and friends of Polly Higgins, who recently passed away. Our cause is her cause. She remains an inspiration to us all.

very long with pictures from around the world


You might have heard that Social Security checks are going up 2.8% this year, the biggest rise in seven years. That translates into an average benefit of $1,461 a month, up $39.

While welcome, it’s necessary to remember that the increase is tied to inflation. Higher payouts will simply enable retirees to keep up with the rising cost of living. It doesn’t mean that anyone’s standard of living will go up—as if an extra $1.28 a day will do much in the first place. Think of a treadmill: You’re not going anywhere.

In fact, retirees and those who are eyeing retirement risk going in a different direction: backward. A study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School finds that about 40% of middle-class Americans will live close to or in poverty by the time they reach age 65. “Golden years?” For millions, it’s doubtful.

Since more people retire at 62 than any other age (because that’s the earliest they can tap into Social Security), let’s use that as a benchmark.

If you’re an average, single middle income earner and retire at that age now, you’ll get $17,532 from Social Security next year. That’s well above what the federal government considers the official poverty level for a single person: $12,060.

But here’s the thing: the federal poverty thresholds are so absurdly low, that many economists double them to get a more realistic level. So that $12,060 that the government calls poverty? It should really be $24,120, says economics professor Teresa Ghilarducci, one of the study’s authors.

Read our recent cover story: How Your Kids Can Ruin Your Retirement — and How to Make Sure They Don’t

“We base it on what we call the level of ‘economic deprivation,’” she says. And when you double it, it’s clear that millions of older Americans could slide into poverty when they retire.

The same ratios could apply for couples if both worked. But one partner could also collect a mere “spousal benefit” that’s just 50% of the other person’s.

All these numbers can be confusing. Let me give you the bottom line: you’re not going to get much from Uncle Sam, and remember, depending on a variety of factors, parts of that Social Security can be taxed. In the end, many retirees will wind up sending a portion of their income right back to the government.

This is where other sources of retirement income, like pensions and personal savings, play a big role. That is, they WOULD play a big role, if people had them. As we’ve mentioned before, 91% of workers in their 50s don’t have a pension, and nearly half—46%—don’t participate in a retirement plan at work—not an IRA or 401(k), nothing.

The absence of assets in these two critical categories places added stress on Social Security. In millions of cases, it may prove to be the biggest source of income that some retirees have. This is a huge problem. Social Security was never meant to be a principal source of income—but merely a supplement to pensions and personal savings.

You’re probably aware that there’s a terrible Catch-22 here. But it bears repeating. If you’re anxious to grab into Social Security as soon as you can because you need the money, you can do so at 62. But your monthly checks will be smaller. If you can afford to wait a few years, you get more—a lot more. Here’s what the Social Security Administration says:

If you were born in 1960 your full retirement age is 67.

If you begin taking Social Security at age 62, you’ll get 70% of the monthly benefit—because you retired five years before your full retirement age.

If you begin taking Social Security at age 65, you’ll get 86.7% of the monthly benefit—because you retired two years before your full retirement age.

If you wait until age 67—the full retirement age—you’ll get 100% of the monthly benefit.

If you have a spouse, there’s another set of numbers to consider, which you can read here.

Since you don’t want to slide into poverty, like the Schwartz Center predicts for many people, which path is best of for you? Most financial advisers would urge you to keep working as long as you can. Squeeze every last nickel and every last benefit out of your employer, and leave at 67, when your Social Security has fully blossomed. Meanwhile—and sorry to be a Scrooge here—slash your living expenses and save as much as you can. And recognize this: your living standards might not be what you once dreamed of or assumed.

There’s also this wildcard: What happens if Social Security is slashed 21% come 2034, like the government has warned? Do you want a 21% cut of the smaller, age 62 Social Security check, or a 21% cut of the bigger age 67 check? There’s always a chance that Social Security could be propped up—if you have confidence that our politicians, who can’t agree in anything, can agree on a solution. Me, I don’t have that confidence,

So many complications, and you should discuss them with an experienced financial adviser. But this much is clear: Avoiding poverty is your goal. How will you do it?


This upper mandible was found in Nikiti, northern Greece

 A brand-new analysis of fossils recovered in the 1990’s in the village of Nikiti, northern Greece, supports the controversial idea that the apes which gave rise to humans evolved in south-eastern Europe instead of Africa.

The 8 or 9-million-year-old fossils had first been linked to the extinct ape called Ouranopithecus. However, a team led by David Begun from the University of Toronto’s Department of Anthropology has recently analyzed the remains and has determined that they likely belonged to a male animal from a potentially new species.

Charles Darwin proposed in 1871 that all hominins, including both modern and extinct humans, descended from a group in Africa, and this is the most widely accepted theory today.

On the other hand, Darwin also speculated that hominins could also have originated in Europe, where fossils of large apes had already been discovered, and the new analysis supports this theory.

While Begun does not believe the Nikiti ape was a hominin, he speculates that it could represent the group from which hominins directly evolved.

The research team led by Begun had determined in 2017 that a 7.2-million-year-old ape called Graecopithecus, which also lived in what is now Greece, could possibly be a hominin. In this case, the 8 to 9-million-year-old Nikiti ape would have directly preceded the first hominin, Graecopithecus, before hominins migrated to Africa 7 million years ago.

According to a report in the journal New Scientist, Begun foresees that this new concept will be rejected by many experts who believe in African hominin origins, but he hopes that the new scenario will at least be considered.

Begun presented the research last month at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.


Melting glacier and feedback loop.

When the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its dire report in October warning of humanity’s fast-approaching reckoning with global warming, one factor adding to the urgency was a new estimate about how much additional carbon dioxide was being added to the atmosphere as a result of the warming of Arctic permafrost.

With rising Arctic temperatures setting free a vast amount of carbon previously locked beneath permafrost, the additional greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere would speed up warming, the report concluded — and that, in turn, would further melt the permafrost.

It is “feedback loops” like that one that make climate change unpredictable and represent a threat of global warming spiraling out of control.

“It’s already begun,” Thomas Crowther, professor in the Department of Environmental Systems Science of ETH Zurich, told Yahoo News. “The feedback is in process.”

Crowther estimates that carbon dioxide and methane emissions from thawing soils are “accelerating climate change about 12 to 15 percent at the moment,” and said past IPCC reports that left out the feedback “were way more optimistic than they should have been.”

Almost every scientist studying the effects of climate change is worried about the extent to which feedback loops will hasten global warming. One of the most serious concerns is the “albedo effect,” the amount of the sun’s radiation the planet reflects back into space, mostly from the polar ice sheets. The warming that has already occurred has begun melting the ice caps, leaving the relatively dark ocean and land exposed to absorb solar radiation — further warming the planet and leading to more ice melt.

“The impact that it has on making the earth darker by removing all the snow and ice is estimated by some to be 25 to 40 percent of the warming that we’ve experienced,” Jennifer Francis, research professor at Rutgers University’s Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, told Yahoo News. “In other words, global warming is that much worse. There’s a lot of ways these things are totaled all together.”

Feedback loops are not a root cause of the climate change problem, but they make the problem that much worse. When climatologists began seriously studying global warming in the 1970s, there was some doubt about how the feedback loops would operate. Scientists theorized there might also be negative feedback loops, which would slow global warming — for instance, by increasing cloud cover. But so far it has all gone in the opposite — wrong — direction.

“I’m not optimistic. It’s not just because of those feedbacks, it’s because we’ve already put so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that carbon dioxide lasts a very long time,” Francis said. “A molecule of carbon dioxide, on average, lasts about 100 years in the atmosphere. So, we haven’t yet felt the impacts of the carbon dioxide that we’ve already put in the atmosphere. Even not thinking about feedbacks, we’re already got a lot more climate change built into the system just because it takes awhile for the climate system to adjust itself to this new level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. All the feedback that [happens is] just making that response even bigger than it would be otherwise.”

Francis has been researching how rising Arctic temperatures have been weakening the jet stream, causing shifts in weather and ocean current patterns that, in yet another feedback loop, warm the earth and further destabilize the jet stream.

“What we’re seeing is that the Arctic is warming much faster than the planet is farther south, making that north-south temperature difference much smaller and so there’s less of that fuel driving the jet stream wind,” Francis said. “That should cause the jet stream to take more of these big north-south swings. And the reason that’s important is because those waves in the jet stream are actually what create high- and low-pressure systems that we see on a weather map on TV and when you get those really big waves in the jet stream, they tend to move much more slowly, so those highs and lows we see on a weather map also tend to move much more slowly and so the weather conditions we see on the surface associated with those weather systems are much more persistent.”

Persistent weather patterns, such as periods of rain or drought lasting months, can have potentially devastating consequences, Francis said.

Harold Wanless, director of the University of Miami’s geological sciences department and a leading expert on sea level rise, has studied the rate at which the oceans have risen and retreated over millennia. He fears that a variety of feedback loops will contribute to a dramatic increase in sea level in the coming decades.

“My work on ancient climate shows we have these rapid pulses of rise that are rather dramatic, up to 10 meters of sea level rise certainly within a century, and that’s a really rapid disintegration of ice,” Wanless said. “We’re just seeing the beginning of ice melt and the beginning of the warming of the waters reaching up to the Arctic, in what is most certainly going to be the beginning of one of these rapid pulses.”

To Wanless, the evidence is clear that we’ve already reached a tipping point when it comes to the cascading impacts of climate change on sea level rise.

“Once you start adding up these different feedbacks, because that’s the only thing we have to go on in the modern era, well, there are all these things that are speeding up ice melt, some of which we’re just becoming aware of, like the collapse of the high ice sheets. We’re just trying to figure out how fast and how dramatic that will be,” Wanless says. “A lot of them work together. The warm water getting in under the outlet fjords of Greenland and Antarctica that ends up detaching the ice from the substrate and once that happens, you can have this sort of automatic fracturing of the detached ice like a stack of books starting to splay out off a table.”

It’s sobering to realize the extent to which the planet’s ecosystem is interconnected. For years, relatively little was known about the vital role the Arctic played in keeping the world stable. As the permafrost has begun to thaw, however, the global ramifications have become unavoidable.

“The permafrost acts like a giant freezer. The reason we have freezers in our kitchen is you put organic carbon in the form of food in your freezer and it doesn’t decompose,” said Charles Koven, research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “The same thing happens in these Arctic ecosystems. Plants grow and then die and form organic layers, kind of like compost on the surface of the soil and then over time, that carbon gets mixed down deeper into the soil where it gets locked into these deeper layers where it gets frozen and can stay for thousands of years.”

Koven is the author of a 2015 study that found that every 1 degree Celsius of warming releases from the permafrost the equivalent of 1.5 to two years of human-generated global carbon dioxide emissions.

“When you have warming, it causes the layer of soil that thaws every summer to thaw a bit deeper. It’s like taking stuff that’s been in your freezer and putting it into your fridge. It doesn’t last as long and it decomposes, and then you end up releasing greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane.”

Yet Koven stressed that emissions from thawing permafrost were not, in and of themselves, necessarily catastrophic.

“The carbon that’s released from the permafrost isn’t such a strong feedback loop,” Koven said. “It’s more just that because you get this additional amount of carbon in the atmosphere with every additional bit of warming, that makes it that much more difficult to meet the kinds of climate targets that we’d like to.”

Roisin Commane, assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, has also been studying the thawing permafrost and was the lead author on the first study to show that Alaskan tundra was now a net emitter of carbon dioxide.

“Christmas Day last year the North Pole wasn’t frozen. The sea ice isn’t freezing, the soils aren’t freezing,” Commane told Yahoo News. “This past year, 2017-2018, a lot of Alaska’s North Slope and into Siberia never froze through. They had a very early snow, which provided an insulating layer and those soils never froze and the amount of CO2 and methane coming out was quite high.”

Unlike Wanless, who has witnessed firsthand the deterioration of the ice sheet in Greenland over decades, Commane has only recently begun traveling to the Arctic. Still, she has struggled with what she’s found there and fears that feedback loops will only exacerbate the metamorphosis of that landscape.

“All of our preconceived notions of what should be happening, they’re gone,” she said. “I didn’t grow up in the Arctic, so everything I’ve been learning about it is from what I’ve been reading. But then I go there and it’s a completely different place.”


Gene-editing technology has been known to treat many diseases effectively, but this time scientists have taken it a step ahead by treating a lethal disease even before birth.

A team from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Penn Medicine has used CRIPSR gene-editing tech to kill a fatal lung disease, in which the disease causes death within hours of birth, in a mice model while still in womb.

“We wanted to know if this could work at all,” said study co-leader Edward Morrisey. “The trick was how to direct the gene-editing machinery to target cells that line the airways of the lungs.”

The team injected mice with the fatal lung disease with the gene editors late in gestation and found distinct changes in the quality of their lungs. The team demonstrated that accurately timed in-utero delivery of CRISPR gene-editing reagents to the amniotic fluid during fetal development led to targeted changes in the lungs of mice.

They introduced the gene editors into developing mice four days before birth – similar to third trimester in humans, reported Penn Medicine News. “The developing fetus has many innate properties that make it an attractive recipient for therapeutic gene editing,” said study co-leader William Peranteau.

“The ability to cure or mitigate a disease via gene editing in mid- to late gestation before birth and the onset of irreversible pathology is very exciting. This is particularly true for diseases that affect the lungs, whose function becomes dramatically more important at the time of birth,” he continued.

The use of CRISPR resulted in a survival rate of 22% for mice born with a mutation causing lung disease that previously killed all mice, as per the study published in Science Translational Medicine. For future, more studies will be directed towards increasing the efficiency of gene-editing in various parts of lungs, and also look at various mechanisms to deliver gene-editing tech to lungs.

US President Donald Trump has decided to end exemptions from sanctions for countries still buying oil from Iran.

The White House said waivers for China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey would expire in May, after which they could face US sanctions themselves.

This decision is intended to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the government its main source of revenue.

Iran insisted the sanctions were illegal and that it had attached "no value or credibility" to the waivers.

Mr Trump reinstated the sanctions last year after abandoning a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for sanctions relief.

The Trump administration hopes to compel Iran to negotiate a "new deal" that would cover not only its nuclear activities, but also its ballistic missile programme and what officials call its "malign behaviour" across the Middle East.

The sanctions have led to a sharp downturn in Iran's economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors, and triggering protests.
Why aren't the waivers being renewed?

In November, the US reimposed sanctions on Iran's energy, ship building, shipping, and banking sectors, which officials called "the core areas" of its economy.

However, six-month waivers from economic penalties were granted to the eight main buyers of Iranian crude - China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece - to give them time to find alternative sources and avoid causing a shock to global oil markets.

Three of the eight buyers - Greece, Italy and Taiwan - have stopped importing Iranian oil. But the others had reportedly asked for their waivers to be extended.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Mr Trump's decision not to renew the waivers showed his administration was "dramatically accelerating our pressure campaign in a calibrated way that meets our national security objectives while maintaining well supplied global oil markets".

"We stand by our allies and partners as they transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives," he added.

Donald J. Trump
‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump

Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC will more than make up the Oil Flow difference in our now Full Sanctions on Iranian Oil. Iran is being given VERY BAD advice by @JohnKerry and people who helped him lead the U.S. into the very bad Iran Nuclear Deal. Big violation of Logan Act?
6:37 AM - 22 Apr 2019


"We have had extensive and productive discussions with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other major producers to ease this transition and ensure sufficient supply. This, in addition to increasing US production, underscores our confidence that energy markets will remain well supplied."
Oil pressure adds to US friction

By Barbara Plett Usher, BBC state department correspondent

In recent weeks, Japan and South Korea have either halted or sharply decreased Iranian oil imports. Both are heavily dependent on foreign oil and Mr Pompeo said the administration had been trying to find alternatives. But Monday's move could strain relations - already tested over issues of trade and US policy towards North Korea - with these close allies.

It's an even bigger problem for India, which is also under American pressure to cut oil purchases from Venezuela. Iran is one of Delhi's main oil suppliers. But India also has deep cultural and political ties with Tehran, which make it difficult to join US efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic.

China is Iran's other big customer: it has slammed the US decision, saying its trade is perfectly legal, and the US has no jurisdiction to interfere. The question is whether Beijing will try to skirt sanctions through companies not tied to the US financial system.

Turkey was most outspoken in lobbying for a waiver extension. Ankara argues that it badly needs the oil, that as a neighbour it can't cut ties with Iran, and that the pressure campaign won't work anyway.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said his country would co-ordinate with fellow oil producers to ensure "the global oil market does not go out of balance".

Iranian exports are currently estimated to be below 1 million barrels per day (bpd), compared to more than 2.5 million bpd before Mr Trump abandoned the nuclear deal last May.
What has been the impact on oil prices?

The price of global benchmark Brent crude rose by 3.33% to $74.37 a barrel in trading on Monday - the highest since 1 November.

US oil - known as West Texas Intermediate - was meanwhile up 2.90% at $65.93.

In recent months, the price of oil has risen due to an agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) cartel and its allies, including Russia, to cut their output by 1.2 million bpd.
How have the countries affected reacted?

A spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry dismissed Mr Trump's decision, saying the country "did not and does not attach any value or credibility to the waivers".

But Abbas Mousavi added that because of the sanctions' negative effects, Iran was in "constant contact" with its international partners and would act accordingly.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that the US move would "not serve regional peace and stability, yet will harm Iranian people".

"Turkey rejects unilateral sanctions and impositions on how to conduct relations with neighbours," he added.

China said earlier that it opposed unilateral US sanctions.

"China-Iran co-operation is open, transparent and in accordance with law. It should be respected," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying there should be no "negative effect on the operations of Japanese companies". Its refineries reportedly halted Iranian imports in March.

India's government was studying the implications of the US announcement, the PTI news agency cited sources as saying. The country had reportedly hoped to be allowed to continue to reduce its Iranian oil imports gradually.

South Korea stopped buying Iranian oil for four months in response, but resumed in January. In March, it imported 284,600 bpd.


Dr. Jeffrey Clemons, a pelvic reconstructive surgeon, holds a sample of transvaginal mesh used to treat pelvic floor disorders and incontinence in women in Tacoma, Wash.

SEATTLE (AP) — On the eve of trial, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $9.9 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Washington state accusing it of misrepresenting the risks of pelvic mesh implants.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the New Jersey-based health-care giant in 2016, saying that it and its subsidiary Ethicon Inc. violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by failing to tell patients and doctors about the risks and occurrences of dire, sometimes irreversible complications. Those include urinary dysfunction, loss of sexual function, constipation and severe pain.

Tens of thousands of patients have sued Johnson & Johnson and other companies over the products. Ferguson said the money from the settlement would be used to help Washington women who had mesh implanted.

Johnson & Johnson did not admit wrongdoing. Trial had been due to start Monday in King County Superior Court.


Capitalist productivity, the most powerful source of economic and social advancement in human history, is now becoming capitalist financialization. The result? A zombiefication of our economy and an oligarchification of our society.

Financialization is profit margin growth without labor productivity growth.

That sounds like a small thing, but I tell you it is EVERYTHING.

Financialization is squeezing more earnings from a dollar of sales without squeezing at all, but through tax arbitrage or balance-sheet arbitrage.

Financialization is the zero-sum-game aspect of capitalism, where profit-margin growth is both pulled forward from future real growth and pulled away from current economic risk-taking.

Financialization is the smiley-face perversion of Adam Smith’s invisible hand and Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction.

Financialization is a global phenomenon. In China, it’s transmitted through the real-estate market. In the U.S., it’s transmitted through the stock market.

This is a 30-year chart of total S&P 500 earnings divided by total S&P 500 sales. It’s how many pennies of earnings S&P 500 companies get from a dollar of sales … earnings margin, essentially, at a high level of aggregation. So at the lows of 1991, $1 in sales generated a bit more than $0.03 in earnings for the S&P 500 SPX, +0.16%  . Today in 2019, we are at an all-time high of a bit more than $0.11 in earnings from $1 in sales.

It’s a marvelously steady progression up and to the right, temporarily marred by a recession here and there, but really quite awe-inspiring in its consistency. Yay, capitalism!

It’s a foundational chart for this note because I believe that the WHY of earnings-margin growth in the 1990s and early 2000s is fundamentally different than the WHY of earnings- margin growth since then.

WHY do we get three times as much in earnings out of a dollar of sales today than we did 30 years ago, and twice as much than we did 10 years ago?

The common-knowledge answer is technology.

I used to believe this. I used to believe that corporate management was getting better and smarter over time, that they were making constant process improvements and technology-based productivity enhancements to squeeze more and more profits out of the same sales dollar.

And I think this used to be true. I think that during the 1990s and early 2000s — the so-called Great Moderation of the Fed’s Golden Age — when we actually had significant advancements in labor productivity year after year after year, corporate management was, in fact, able to drive earnings margins higher for the right reasons. I think the driver of profit margin growth over this period was actual technology, as opposed to the meme of technology!.

But I don’t believe this is true anymore. I don’t believe that technology and productivity advancements have been responsible for earnings-margin improvements for the past decade … for some years before the Great Financial Crisis, in fact.

Here, take a look for yourself.

See, the Fed was convinced that an easy-money policy would lead to corporate management investing more in technology and plant and equipment … you know, all of those things you need to drive productivity. All of those things you need to drive a 1990s-style recovery, with earnings-margin accretion for the right reasons.

Instead, corporate management took the quick buck.

They always do. It’s the smart move.

his is a chart of labor productivity growth in the U.S. for the past 30 years. It’s how much more stuff we make or services we provide from a unit of labor. It’s how much we’re growing for the right reasons, by applying capital investment in plant and equipment and technology to work smarter and more efficiently. It’s how we generated earnings efficiency and margin growth for the right reasons in the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s how we’ve been reduced to squeezing wages and ZIRP-supported balance sheets for earnings efficiency ever since. (Zirp is zero interest-rate policy.)

This chart IS the failure of monetary policy for the past decade.

This chart IS the zombiefication and oligarchification of the U.S. economy.

Why do I rail at the Fed? THIS.

Trillions of dollars in quantitative easing, or QE, and all we got for it was this lousy T-shirt. Yes, I’m going to get this productivity chart put on a T-shirt.

But wait, there’s more …

This is a chart of the S&P 500 price-to-earnings ratio in yellow, the belle of the narrative ball, together with its forgotten cousin, the price-to-sales ratio in blue.

When we grow profits through productivity growth — when our “supply” of earnings is directly connected to the same operations that generate sales — P/E and P/Sales multiples go up and down together. When we extract excess earnings through financialization — when our “supply” of earnings increases for no operational reason connected with sales — the P/E multiple becomes depressed relative to the P/Sales multiple. As the kids say, it’s just math.

Why is this important? Because a P/E multiple deflated by financialization doesn’t mean what you think it means.

How many times in the past 10 years have you heard that the market is not expensive on a valuation basis? And what you’ve heard is right, as far as it goes.

Because the market narrative of valuation is completely dominated by the vocabulary of earnings, not the vocabulary of sales.

Sure, the S&P 500 P/Sales ratio is near an all-time high, but who cares about that? The S&P 500 P/E ratio today is right at 19 … neither crazy low nor crazy high … and we ALL care about that. But here’s the thing:

Without financialization, my guess is that the S&P 500 P/E ratio today would be 28.

Good luck selling that to a value investor, Wall Street.

But wait, still more …

This is a chart of S&P 500 buybacks per share (in blue) imposed over the ratio of S&P 500 earnings-to-sales in green. You’ll see that share buybacks spike after profit margins spike. You’ll see that share buybacks spike before and during recessions.

When do stock buybacks accelerate dramatically?

In 2006 and 2007, when management is rolling in record profits and profit margins, despite meager productivity growth.

In 2018 and 2019, when management is rolling in record profits and profit margins, despite meager productivity growth.

This is not an accident.

Here’s the past five years so you can see the temporal relationship more clearly.

Stock buybacks are what you DO with the excess earnings you’ve made from financialization.

Why? Because stock buybacks are part and parcel of the financialization Zeitgeist. They’re part and parcel of the tax-advantaged issuance of stock to management, which is then converted into tax-advantaged income for management through stock buybacks.

What does Wall Street get out of financialization? A valuation story to sell.

What does management get out of financialization? Stock-based compensation.

What does the Fed get out of financialization? A (very) grateful Wall Street.

What does the White House get out of financialization? Re-election.

What do YOU get out of financialization?

You get to say “Yay, capitalism!”

    Globalization’s critics are wrong when they say trade agreements have been unfair to the United States and Europe, says Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
    But globalization’s advocates are also wrong when they say that trade deals played no role in stagnant incomes in much of the developed world.
    The problem, Stiglitz says, is that trade agreements advanced corporate interests at the expense of workers in both developed and developing countries.

Joseph Stiglitz

Globalization sits at the center of America’s economic crisis. On one side, critics of globalization blame it for the plight of America’s suffering middle class. According to President Trump, our trade negotiators got snookered by those smart negotiators from other countries. We signed bad trade deals that led to the loss of American industrial jobs. This criticism of globalization has found enormous resonance, especially in the parts of the country that experienced deindustrialization.

By contrast, globalization’s advocates claim that all of this is sheer nonsense. America has benefited from globalization. Protectionist policies put at risk all that has been gained through trade. In the end, they say, protectionism will not help even those who’ve lost their jobs due to globalization or seen their wages collapse. They, the U.S., and the entire world will be worse off. Globalization’s advocates shift the blame for deindustrialization and the American malaise elsewhere: the real source of job loss and low wages for unskilled workers has been improved technology, and globalization is getting a bum rap.
It might seem that President Trump and I are on the same side of this battle against globalization, but that is wrong. Fundamentally, I believe in the importance of the rule of law — of a rules-based system for governing international trade.
Joseph Stiglitz
Nobel-winning economist

For more than twenty years, I’ve been criticizing the way that globalization has been managed — but from a completely different angle. From my perch as chief economist at the World Bank, it was obvious that the global rules of the game were tilted — not against, but in favor of the United States and other advanced countries at the expense of developing countries. The trade agreements were unfair — to the benefit of the U.S. and Europe and to the detriment of developing countries.

The idea that our trade negotiators got snookered is laughable: we got almost everything we wanted in late-twentieth-century trade negotiations. Over the opposition of those from developing countries, we secured strong intellectual property protections — which protected the intellectual property of the advanced countries, but not that of developing countries. We’ve succeeded in forcing countries to open up their markets to our financial firms — and even to accept those highly risky derivatives and other financial products that played a central role in our own financial collapse.

Following the reveal of Pres. Trump’s “Fake News Awards,” we have the results of a more scientific study into the public’s perception of the news media.

The good news, according to the Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy, Americans believe the news media have an important role to play in society, with more than eight in 10 U.S. adults believing the news media are critical or very important to our democracy. But they say it’s harder (58 percent) rather than easier (38 percent) to be informed with the sheer about of information and news sources available.

And Americans still have a more negative (43 percent) than positive (33 percent) perception of the media.

Fox News ranks as the most objective information source (24 percent) followed by CNN (13 percent), and NPR (10 percent). When broken down by political affiliation, 60 percent of Republicans say Fox is most objective, but just 3 percent of Democrats say that. CNN is most objective with 21 percent of Democrats and just 4 percent of Republicans. Fox is deemed most objective among older Americans (65+) garnering 35 percent, while CNN found that millennials, with 15 percent, believe it is most objective.

Church members on Sunday tackled a woman carrying a baby and handgun, as she threatened to blow up the church during Easter service, San Diego Police said.
The incident occurred as law enforcement and houses of worship were on heightened alert following deadly Easter Sunday bombings in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.
San Diego Police arrived within two minutes of the first call and took the woman into custody, the department said in a statement.
The woman, in her late 20s or early 30s, walked into the auditorium of Mt. Everest Academy around noon, San Diego Police Officer Dino Delimitros said.

Church Tsidkenu, a non-denominational church, leases Mt. Everest for church services.
The woman walked onto the auditorium's stage and waved the handgun while she "made threats that she was going to blow up the church," police said.
"She was saying stuff that was kind of delusional. I was more worried about getting my family out of there," churchgoer Ronald Farmer said.
Churchgoers were able to take the baby from the woman's arms and pry the gun from her hands before tackling her to the ground, Delmitros said.
A bomb-sniffing dog found nothing in a sweep of the building and the suspect's car, police said. Police said her gun was not loaded.
Authorities later found the woman's 5-year-old daughter "healthy and unhurt," police said. The two children are in protective custody.
Earlier Sunday, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit announced that the department was stepping up patrols while it monitored the situation in Sri Lanka.
"At this time, there is nothing to indicate a connection to San Diego. However, in an abundance of caution, you will see extra patrols at houses of worship," Nisleit said on Twitter.

More than 200 people were killed in coordinated bombing attacks in Sri Lanka.
Though it's not clear who's behind the eight explosions that forced the country of 21 million people into lockdown, they are "certainly acts of terror," said Manisha Gunasekera, high commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK.

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine entered uncharted political waters on Monday after near final results showed a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies had dramatically up-ended the status quo and won the country’s presidential election by a landslide.

13 min video

The emphatic victory of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, is a bitter blow for incumbent Petro Poroshenko who tried to rally Ukrainians around the flag by casting himself as a bulwark against Russian aggression and a champion of Ukrainian identity.

With 95 percent of votes counted, Zelenskiy had won 73 percent of the vote with Poroshenko winning just under 25 percent, the central election commission said.

Zelenskiy, who plays a fictitious president in a popular TV series, is now poised to take over the leadership of a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Declaring victory at his campaign headquarters to emotional supporters on Sunday night, Zelenskiy promised he would not let the Ukrainian people down.

“I’m not yet officially the president, but as a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union look at us. Anything is possible!”

Zelenskiy, whose victory fits a pattern of anti-establishment figures unseating incumbents in Europe and further afield, has promised to end the war in the eastern Donbass region and to root out corruption amid widespread dismay over rising prices and sliding living standards.

But he has been coy about exactly how he plans to achieve all that and investors want reassurances that he will accelerate reforms needed to attract foreign investment and keep the country in an International Monetary Fund program.

“Since there is complete uncertainty about the economic policy of the person who will become president, we simply don’t know what is going to happen and that worries the financial community,” said Serhiy Fursa, an investment banker at Dragon Capital in Kiev.


The United States, the European Union and Russia will be closely watching Zelenskiy’s foreign policy pronouncements to see if and how he might try to end the war against pro-Russian separatists that has killed some 13,000 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump phoned Zelenskiy and pledged to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, while European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated the Ukrainian people on what he called a show of democratic maturity.

Zelenskiy said on Sunday he planned to continue European-backed talks with Russia on a so far largely unimplemented peace deal and would try to free Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia, which is holding 24 Ukrainian sailors among others.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who only last week signed a decree limiting exports of some Russian coal, crude oil and oil products to Ukraine, said Moscow and Kiev now had a chance to improve what he called their destroyed economic relationship, but said he was not harboring any illusions that it would necessarily happen.

Writing on social media, Medvedev asked what was needed to achieve better relations between the two countries. “Honesty. And pragmatism and a responsible approach,” he said.

Zelenskiy has pledged to keep Ukraine on a pro-Western course, but has sounded less emphatic than Poroshenko about possible plans for the country of 42 million people to one day join the European Union and NATO.

Poroshenko, who conceded defeat but said he planned to stay in politics, said on social media he thought Zelenskiy’s win would spark celebrations in the Kremlin, which has yet to comment on the comedian’s victory.

Critics accuse Zelenskiy of having an unhealthily close working relationship with a powerful oligarch called Ihor Kolomoisky, whose TV channel broadcasts his comedy shows.

Zelenskiy has rejected those accusations and promised not to be unduly influenced by Kolomoisky.

One of the most important and early tests of that promise will be the fate of PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest lender, which was nationalized in 2016.

The government wrested PrivatBank from Kolomoisky as part of a banking system clean-up backed by the IMF, which supports Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar loan program.

But its fate hangs in the balance after a Kiev court ruled days before the election that the change of PrivatBank’s ownership was illegal.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly denied he would seek to hand PrivatBank back to Kolomoisky if elected or help the businessman win compensation for the ownership change.

The IMF will be watching closely too to see if Zelenskiy will allow gas prices to rise to market levels, an IMF demand but a politically sensitive issue and one Zelenskiy has been vague about.

Zelenskiy’s unorthodox campaign traded on the character he plays in the TV show, a scrupulously honest schoolteacher who becomes president by accident after an expletive-ridden rant about corruption goes viral.

He has promised to fight corruption, a message that has resonated with Ukrainians fed up with the status quo in a country that is one of Europe’s poorest nearly three decades after breaking away from the Soviet Union.

(Election graphic -

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