Interesting & Important News & Analysis, September 22, 2019

Big companies commit to slash emissions ahead of U.N. climate summit

Some companies in the coalition have agreed to slash their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, including Swiss food company Nestle, French building materials company Saint-Gobain, and French cosmetics maker L’Oreal .

Others have stopped short of committing to go carbon neutral but say they will align their operations with a goal of limiting the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Why would anyone stop short of committing to go carbon neutral?

I’m assuming there will be a global youth movement to boycott corporations that don’t do enough soon enough.


The over real estate:

U.S. Orders 2 Universities to Recast Tone on Israel

Too few of the Duke-UNC programs focused on “the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Yazidis, Kurds, Druze and others,” the department said.

Last year, the department reopened a case into anti-Jewish bias at Rutgers University that the Obama administration had closed with no finding of wrongdoing. In reconsidering the case, Marcus said the Education Department would be using a State Department definition of anti-Semitism that, among other things, labels “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” anti-Jewish bigotry, suggesting that it had been adopted by his office. The Education Department has not adopted that definition.

If the Duke-UNC programs don’t focus enough on “the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Yazidis, Kurds, Druze and others,” then the programs should be updated. However, the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism that includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is flawed and illegal under international law to which the US is signatory and bound under the US Constitution. The State Department’s definition is clearly used to continue and further discrimination against Arabs and non-Jews in Palestine-Israel. Ethnocracy is wrong. It is fundamentally anti-democratic, anti-American. Therefore, no federal institution should promote it regardless of the ethnic group.


Anti-Israel, Pro-Palestinian groups targeted as anti-Semitic in Germany

A famous Pakistani novelist has been denied a German literary award – over her political activism. She has been calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.


Coordinated sanctions could stop Maduro from destabilizing region-Duque

That’s rich. Columbia made a deal with the FARC of Columbia. The FARC agreed to put down its arms for peace. The deal was signed. The FARC disarmed. Columbia waited a bit and then started killing the FARC members who had disarmed. In the meantime, Columbia is still a huge illegal drug producer and exporter, especially to the US. You figure out who’s lying about Venezuela. It’s not difficult.


I’m with Nancy on this one.

Pelosi Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Accelerate Arms Sales and Deploy Troops to Saudi Arabia

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the Trump Administration announced plans to send additional U.S. forces and accelerate arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in response to the alleged Iranian attack on Saudi oil fields and refineries last week:

“President Trump’s plan to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and UAE, and to deploy additional U.S. forces to the region is the latest outrageous attempt by the Trump Administration to circumvent the bipartisan, bicameral will of Congress. These unacceptable actions are cause for alarm.

“This summer, the House and Senate passed bipartisan Resolutions of Disapproval to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE and to condemn the Saudis for their continued assault on countless men, women and children. Americans are weary of war, and have no interest in entering another Middle East conflict, particularly on behalf of Saudi Arabia. They will not stand by while the President undermines our security and jeopardizes the lives of our brave servicemembers. Congress will do our job to uphold the Constitution, defend our national security and protect the American people.

“Once again, President Trump is turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s continued violence against innocent Yemenis, as well as its horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its gross abuses of human rights, which represent a moral and humanitarian crisis. The United States cannot enable more brutality and bloodshed.”


‘Was this hearing a hot mess? Sure.’ Democrats weighing Trump’s impeachment face roadblocks at every turn

Democrats are considering whether they should introduce articles of impeachment against Trump over what they described as obstruction of justice, violations of campaign-finance laws for paying off a porn star before the election, profiting from his namesake business while in office and falling under the influence of foreign powers.

The obstruction and collusion charges won’t fly. The emoluments issue is not nearly as clear cut as those out to impeach him believe. The campaign-finance point is actually stronger than the emoluments issue. However, the Senate is controlled right now by the Republicans.

Is it worth it to impeach Trump when there are so many other pressing issues and removal from office wouldn’t happen unless the Democrats were to take the Senate in time? Plus, the Executive branch has countervailing investigations ongoing that aren’t looking good for a whole bunch of Democrats.

Frankly, why aren’t war crimes a potential charge? That’s easy. Democrats don’t want the war crimes to be held up as war crimes. Need I say why?


Bernie Sanders calls for financial relief for victims of 2008 housing meltdown

There’s much more to Sanders’ proposal than payments to those harmed by the 2008 crisis. He is also calling for the construction of 10 million units of affordable housing, a nationwide rent-control program, and massive reinvestment in existing public housing ….

Nationwide rent-control wouldn’t be necessary if housing subsidies were high enough.


Trump May Get Much of the World’s Manufacturing Out of China, but It Won’t Be Coming Back to the U.S.

“Chimerica” is a term originally coined by the historian Niall Ferguson and economist Moritz Schularick to describe the growing economic relationship between the U.S. and China since the latter’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. In the words of Ferguson: “The Chinese did the saving, the Americans the spending. The Chinese did the exporting, the Americans the importing. The Chinese did the lending, the Americans the borrowing.” Much of the pre-crisis boom in global trade was driven by this economic symbiosis, which is why successive American presidents tolerated this marriage of convenience despite the increasing costs to the U.S. economy. The net benefits calculation, however, began to change after 2008, and the conflict has intensified further after the 2016 presidential election result. Today, the cumulative stress of Donald Trump’s escalating trade war is leading to if not an irreparable breach between the two countries, then certainly a significant fraying. The imminent resumption of trade talks notwithstanding, the rising cost of the tariffs is already inducing some U.S. manufacturers to exit China. But in most instances, they are not returning to home shores.

It may have taken Trump to point out the pitfalls of the Chimerica link, but coming up with a coherent strategy to replace it is clearly beyond the president’s abilities. America is likely to remain a relative manufacturing wasteland, as barren as Trump’s own ill-conceived ideas on trade. At the same time, it’s not going to be an unmitigated victory for China either, as Beijing is increasingly suffering from a large confluence of internal and external pressures.

Well, at least Xi is weakened and might end up being toppled along with his dictatorial party.


Co-Living, Micro Units: Multifamily Real Estate Reimagined

… operators long-term master lease a portion or all of an apartment building, and sublease rooms. Individual tenants lease a furnished bedroom within a two (or more) bedroom apartment, with a common living area and kitchen. The third party operator screens and prequalifies all tenants, maintains the building and common area, furnishes the units, pays utilities, and may provide cleaning and linen services.


Fine with me:

Bernie Sanders Calls for Eliminating Americans’ Medical Debt

Bernie Sanders has long wanted to remake the health care system so no one will have to pay directly for medical care again. Now, he also wants to go back and cancel all the medical debts of people who have been billed under the current system.

In a plan released Saturday, Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator and presidential candidate, proposes wiping out an estimated $81 billion in existing debt and changing rules around debt collection and bankruptcy. He also calls for replacing the giant credit reporting agencies with a “public credit registry” that would ignore medical debt when calculating credit scores.


A New Generation of Activists Put Their Bodies on the Line to Defend California’s Forests

The deforestation of the Amazon is recognized around the world as a catastrophe for global climate change. Far less recognized is the threat of deforestation of temperate rainforests, such as the enormous coastal forest that stretches from Northern California to Alaska. By some estimates, temperate rainforests sequester from 2 to 7 times as much carbon per acre as tropical rainforests like the Amazon. Keeping these ecosystems healthy and intact is an imperative part of avoiding a future of cataclysmic global warming.

In Humboldt County, California, activists have been fighting for decades to preserve the forests and have embraced direct action tactics aimed at physically preventing logging companies from felling redwoods, Douglas firs, madrones, and other trees by using their own bodies as blockades. They have built platforms 100 feet in the air in the canopies of trees and lived on them for weeks, months, or even years at a time. They have erected tripods to block logging roads and sat atop them, so that if the tripods were dismantled, they would face injury or death. They have chained themselves to bulldozers and other earth-moving equipment.

The tradition in the region stretches back to the legendary activism of Judi Bari, Julia “Butterfly” Hill, and many less well-known but no less committed radical environmental activists. Today, a new generation of activists has taken up the cause, using direct action tactics to confront logging companies such as Sierra Pacific Industries, Green Diamond Resource Company, and the Humboldt Redwood Company (the latter is the company that used to be Pacific Lumber, which was the target of Earth First!’s activism in the “Timber Wars” of the 1980s and ’90s). Our short documentary, produced by Adamant Media, tells their story.

Note: We were not able to secure interviews with spokespersons from Green Diamond Resource Company and Humboldt Redwood Company in time for publication, but a representative of the Humboldt Redwood Company claimed that its “hack and squirt” technique for clearing the forest of hardwood trees is environmentally sustainable and that the company seeks to eventually phase out the use of chemical herbicides. The representative further stated that the company cut the resupply lines of a tree-sitting activist only in order to prevent supporters on the ground from sending materials that presented fire dangers up into the tree.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets that aims to strengthen coverage of the climate crisis.


Interesting & Important News & Analysis, September 21, 2019

Well, the kids are getting some decent MSM coverage. If you’re watching/reading the MSM, you’re seeing that. Frankly, I don’t think the MSM had a choice.

Kids on Strike: Thousands Flood New York City Streets to Demand Climate Action (PHOTOS)


Freedom of religion is a great thing when the religion is nonviolent, etc., but Trump to snub climate summit for religious freedom meeting at UN is an unwise political choice, let alone a terrible scientific one. Frankly, Donald Trump claims to be a Christian. He should consider that God is watching him promote the greedy of the carbon-fuel industries and the extreme damage the unbridled greed has caused and is still causing.

Who’s destroying the earth, and what does Trump’s religion have to say about it?

The people of the world were angry, but now is the time for your anger. Now is the time for the dead to be judged. It is time to reward your servants, the prophets, and to reward your holy people, the people, great and small, who respect you. It is time to destroy those people who destroy the earth! (Revelation 11:18 ERV)


Documentary “Blowout” Follows Climate Cost of Oil Boom from Fracking to Exports

The new film follows the U.S. oil supply chain, covering health, climate and environmental justice impacts. And it points to the president who was central to creating the current reality: Barack Obama.

Did you think it was going to say Donald Trump?


When stories were put forth that Trump “colluded” with Putin and was Putin’s puppet, the Obama administration, which included the Justice Department (FBI, etc.), looked into it. The question was never whether that was proper. The question has always been whether the investigation went too far based upon unsubstantiated allegations. Now we have the Trump administration asking Ukraine whether anything illegal happened concerning Joe Biden and Ukraine concerning Joe’s son’s financial dealings in Ukraine. If there’s no there, there, then so be it. Looking into the allegations is not in itself wrong. In fact, it’s exactly what should have happened when the story first surfaced, even during the Obama administration.

Therefore, I couldn’t disagree more with Elizabeth Warren issuing the most scathing call for impeachment yet.

Trump says ‘it doesn’t matter’ if he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden

Trump aides have promoted news stories saying that, in 2016, then-Vice President Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid if Ukraine’s government did not dismiss its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin.

At the time, Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukraine oligarch who was being investigated by the prosecutor, who was accused by U.S. officials of ignoring corruption in his own office.

The Ukrainian Parliament eventually voted out the prosecutor.


Trump announces sanctions but says won’t strike Iran is very poor foreign policy. His administration first said Iran did it. Then they walked that back. Now they say Iranian equipment was used, but they haven’t provided proof of it. Besides, US forces have been attacked with US equipment. Does that prove the US did it? It does not. In addition, the Saudi war on Yemen is, and has been, a humanitarian crisis (the worst in the world right now). Why is the US backing the Saudis, who hate democracy and freedom of religion. Isn’t Trump going to the UN for freedom of religion? Saudi money from oil sales is more important to Trump.

Proper foreign policy is to wait for the evidence. It’s also to not back anti-democrats and religions that demand no freedom of religion against democrats and those who allow freedom of religion.

The U.S. has not provided any hard evidence that Iran was responsible for the attacks, while insisting the investigation continues, but Esper on Friday said the drones and cruise missiles used in the attack were produced by Iran.

(Source)

Prove that, and explain how it would show Iran is backing the wrong side anyway.


Instead of threats, Trump can easily defuse Iran crisis he created

The Trump administration continues to threaten Iran after blaming it, without evidence, for the recent bombing of Saudi oil facilities. Instead of beating the war drums, Trita Parsi argues that President Trump has an easy path to resolve the standoff: rejoin the Iran nuclear deal that he abandoned and negotiate additional issues with Tehran.

Guest: Trita Parsi, Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute and the author of “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.”


Home flippers see lowest returns in 8 years as costs rise


Statement Regarding Repurchase Operations

Steady as she goes.


Excellent analysis and commentary by Tim Duy: What The Fed Did Right And What The Fed Did Wrong


Fed Injects Cash for Fourth Day as Funding Markets Stabilize


Repo Rate Spike: A ‘Tail’ Of Low Liquidity | PIMCO

… funding costs have remained elevated, which suggests that additional steps are likely to be considered, including term funding facilities.

Costs came down. The Fed isn’t freaking out, nor should it.


Surprisingly Good News at the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Early this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took an unusual turn in the spotlight thanks to two consecutive scandals. First, in April, it emerged that the commission had allowed the company Britax to avoid recalling its BOB jogging strollers, despite reports that the malfunctioning front wheel had resulted in almost 100 injuries and the commission staff’s finding that the product was not safe. Then, just over a week later, the CPSC issued a recall for Fisher-Price’s Rock ’n Play inclined sleeper, following an analysis by Consumer Reports showing that over 30 infants had died in the product since its introduction in 2009. As reporters dug more into the recall, it became clear that the CPSC had long been aware of evidence that the Rock ’n Play and other inclined sleepers might not be safe. They had failed, however, to take swift action.


Unstoppable Negative Yields Suddenly Become Stoppable

Volatility is still very high. We have to wait to see all sorts of things before knowing much at all. Will Trump cave on tariffs? If he doesn’t, will the Fed be fast enough? If it isn’t, will the Congress step up with enough of the right kind of fiscal stimulus? Wille the US finally stop foolishly borrowing to issue money in the first place? What other headwinds will show up: wars and more wars?


Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Explodes to $6.5 Trillion/Day

Some derivatives can be explosive, such as the credit default swaps (CDS) that brought Lehman Brothers and AIG to their knees in the last crisis, and which still remain a threat today, especially with the U.S. government this week bowing to Wall Street pressure to dilute regulation that had been designed after the crisis to reduce the risks of these instruments.

What good does it do?


I called years ago for not just the return of rooming houses but also boarding houses (which also serve meals).

Atlanta Startup Sees Single-Room Rentals as Future of Low-Cost Housing

LeBlanc got into the low-income rental business in 2007, when the housing crisis flooded Atlanta’s black neighborhoods with foreclosures. “It was almost as if a bomb had gone off in Southwest Atlanta, and no one was talking about it,” he says. Starting with a $70,000 line of credit, $230,000 from family and friends, and high-interest “hard money” loans, he bought 100 single-family homes and 450 apartments. Most of his own rentals, then and now, were part of Section 8. He got $750,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program in 2009 but found the program cumbersome and slow. Then he began looking for another approach to affordable housing.

LeBlanc got the PadSplit idea from a man who was being kicked out of a shabby, illegal rooming house next door. The man wanted to rent a single room in LeBlanc’s house and pay by the week. Some PadSplit renters may never afford anything else, he says. Others move on, as did security guard Tiffany Ellis, who came to PadSplit from a dicey cheap motel. “It felt so safe there,” she says of the PadSplit. She paid off two credit cards, bought a used car, saved a security deposit, and then found her own place.

The concept is catching on with landlords. PadSplit has 300 more rooms in development, up from 100 in the works in July. Atlanta real estate agent Josh Stanton is buying homes to convert with partners in New York and London, and says he’s out to persuade other investors to buy homes to turn into PadSplits. “When you boil this down, it’s simply an amazing bottom line,” he says.


The Future Looks Like Salt Reactors. I hope not.


Andrew Yang Wants Thorium Nuclear Power. Here’s What That Means.

… while thorium might avoid some of the long-term challenges in waste management, combining it with uranium-233 in the short term would actually be more radioactive than current plants.

Thanks, but no thanks, Andrew.


Goodbye, Three Mile Island: Remaining reactor shuts down.

It never should have been started. Now it will take decades to clean up, and that won’t end the dangerous radio-active-waste issues.


The Last Days of Netanyahu?

Clearly, this election is no victory for the Israeli peace camp, or even for the center-left. Whatever government emerges will not resuscitate the all-but-dead two-state solution, and will most likely launch a massive military campaign against Hamas in Gaza – something on which the two largest parties concur. It is also likely to engage with the United States regarding President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” aimed at strengthening the Palestinian economy – a plan that the Palestinians are expected to ignore altogether.

Nonetheless, the election result comes as a relief, and one is right to sense a breath of fresh air. Israeli voters have stopped the country’s slide toward xenophobic theocracy (one hopes not just temporarily). Moreover, halting Netanyahu, with his imperial ways and his divisive politics of hate and incitement, was no small achievement.