News for progressives

Absolute Power Molests Absolutely

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 14 hours 32 min ago

Authored by Tim Kirby via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The Jeffrey Epstein child molestation case made big headlines because of just how close he is to many in power or at least with great pull in Washington and the fact that he had already been busted and possibly used said pull to stay out of jail certainly adds to the drama. Although many people can get photographed with celebrities who don’t really know them or claim to be “friends” with this or that person who’s on TV, most media breakdowns of this case put Epstein as, at the very least, a known associate and maybe even actual friend of Bill Clinton and Donald Trumpand others of their social rank. When someone who has abused large numbers of underage girls at his home also chit chats with the US President, this raises eyebrows and shocks the public.

But sadly the public should no longer be shocked as there is a crisis of child abuse and rape throughout the halls of power in nations across the Western World.

Breaking this cycle may be very difficult but there are certain strategies that could work.

In Britain, Operation Hydrant a police investigation into cases of non-recent child sex abuse has over 2,200 open investigations, but the one thing that unites them is that the suspects, like Mr. Epstein, are all people of “public prominence”. This seemingly large scale operation formed to search for perverts and rapists in the UK elite is sadly not a unique phenomenon.

The Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has been able to shed a lot of light onto numerous suspected pedophiles within Parliament and evaluate how the nation’s political parties dealt with (or refused to deal with) accusations of this crime being thrown at their members. Unlike Operation Hydrant these are much more recent cases that even involve some current politicians. This inquiry (“Westminster”) which deals with MPs is just one of 13 different “strands” of investigation in different areas of British society including religious organizations as well as the aforementioned governmental bodies like Parliament.

Just because someone is looking for pedophilia does not mean it is happening for sure, but many under investigation by the IICSA like Green Party member David Challenor (raping a 10 year old) have been convicted and sentenced for their crimes. These investigations are not just a witch hunt or some sort of PR stunt. There would seem to be enough pedophilia within the British halls of power that the police cannot be bribed or dissuaded from exposing it entirely, which means there is quite a mountain of molestation being hidden in London.

In Australia, Senator Bill Heffernan went forward with police documentation to expose a long list of alleged pedophiles in government which extends even up to one of the former Prime Ministers. The same sort of rumors becoming fact that happened in England are now happening across their former colony.

In America numerous Democratic politicians have been involved in abuse and pedophilia including Jacob Schwartz who was convicted in May 2017 of child pornography and Sen. Robert Menendez who is accused of having sex with underage prostitutes in 2012 and if we are to believe certain independent media sources this is just the tip of the iceberg in Washington.

In France, one cabinet minister was accused of having sex with underage boys while in Morocco. But there are many more possible names still yet to be revealed with him.

In Germany the Green Party which openly advocated for legalizing sex with children in the 1980s has not surprisingly come under investigation/scrutiny for rampant pedophilia. The party at one time had an entire “pedo-commision” working day and night to revoke Section 176 of the German Criminal Code that forbids fornicating with minors.

It would be totally unfair to say that the West is under rule by pedophiles. In the massive rows of seats of Parliament and Congress there are hundreds of people with only dozens of accusations and a handful of convictions being made, but proportionally, relative to the population at-large it would seem that today’s law makers and bureaucrats have a radically higher percentage of pedophile tendencies. Taking shots in the dark you are way more likely to hit Chester Molester in a crowd of senators than car mechanics, waiters or any other profession outside the elite.

Perhaps it is easier for the wealthy/powerful to engage in child rape and get away with it or perhaps it is some bizarre form of sexual ennui that drives the powerful to seek new sexual highs from the weakest of victims. But in the 21st century West, absolute power molests absolutely and this is very dangerous for society far beyond the individual lives that are crushed by freaks and perverts with deep pockets and the right connections to cover it up for years or maybe forever.

Strategically speaking this horrible “tendency” gives governments outside the West the perfect visceral piece of propaganda to use for years to come. “We may be poor, our police may be a little harsh, but at least we don’t *** children” is a message that could make any fumbling government of a poor nation seem tolerable. Even within the West this further undermines any faith the masses may have in their own government and this is the perfect kind of info-armament that could be by revolutionaries. Since many people want pedophiles to be castrated or executed you can see how agitators could use this “stereotype” of men in power to their advantage. These are not strong strategic weaknesses but they exist nonetheless and need to be addressed.

If the nations of the West want to set up the necessary invisible barbed wire to filter our pedophiles from crawling into the top levels of government they need to do the following…

  • Only allow people who are married with children to be in government. This is no ironclad guarantee but most pedophiles are single and if they are married their marriage is usually hollow meaning they probably do not have children. Being married with children in at least a semi-functional marriage vastly reduces the chances of the individual being a pedophile.

  • Forbid any members of secret societies and fraternities from being in government. Although you may have a constitutional freedom to be in a secret society any organization which tries to hide itself is most certainly up to no good and people who engage in these secret groups need to stay in the private sector for the sake of the nation. Child sex rings are a form of secret society all their own. No one needs to conduct charity or raise money to fix local park benches from the shadows of a secret network. Fraternities often involve bizarre sexual rituals to gain entrance which means they are filled with the type of people who may be inclined to rape children. David Cameron had sex with a dead pig to get into a fraternity (technically labeled “dining club”) after all.

  • Restrict the privacy of those in governmental power. If one wants freedom they need to stay in the private sector, if they want power and the ability to lead society they are going to have to lead by example and sacrifice any scrap of personal privacy they have as part of their mission to bring glory to the state. When politicians use their privacy it is more often than not for ill. Normal people who are unable to do much harm to society get to have privacy, those who can fund a pedophile ring and bribe their way to freedom when caught or pull strings need to have their privacy revoked in advance.

"Please Don’t Flush Your Drugs M’kay." Tennessee Police Warn Of "Meth-Gators"

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 14 hours 52 min ago

A Tennessee police department has published a warning on social media to its residents: "Folks…please don't flush your drugs m'kay," such as methamphetamine -- because this could trigger aggressive "meth-gators."

The warning was published on Facebook, with a post-dated July 13, by the Loretto Police Department who described how officers executed a search warrant on a home and found the occupant attempting to flush a big bag of meth down his toilet. Although the suspect was unsuccessful at disposing of the drugs - the police department felt compelled enough to remind residents on Facebook that flushing drugs down the drain can have environmental impacts, like "meth-gators."

"Folks…please don't flush your drugs m'kay. When you send something down the sewer pipe it ends up in our retention ponds for processing before it is sent down stream. Now our sewer guys take great pride in releasing water that is cleaner than what is in the creek, but they are not really prepared for meth. Ducks, Geese, and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds and we shudder to think what one all hyped up on meth would do," the statement read.

The post explained how meth traveling in the municipality's sewer system could find its way into Shoal Creek, down the Tennessee River in North Alabama and into the bodies of alligators.

In an edit to the post, the police department adds: "We feel the need to mention that "drugs" also includes prescription pills. These medications can be disposed of at City Hall in a designated disposal container in the lobby." Outlining the gators could also ingest prescription opioids if flushed down the drain.

Kent Vliet, an alligator biologist and the coordinator of laboratories in the department of biology at the University of Florida, told NBC News that he has never once heard of an alligator on meth.

"I've worked with alligators for 40 years, and I generally can answer any question someone gives me about them. This one's throwing me for a loop," Vliet said.

"I would guess they might be affected by it, but they tend to not react to drugs in the same way we do, and I don't know if it would take a little or a lot to get an alligator to do something on meth," he said. "I think it's a ridiculous notion. If you flush meth it's going to be diluted."

Tennessee's problem with "meth-gators" could be a significant issue for other states' ecosystems who have also been hit hard by a three-decades-long drug crisis that includes opioids, meth, and cocaine.

It's rarely reported how America's drug epidemic is affecting nature until now.

US Navy Shoots Down Iranian Drone Over Strait Of Hormuz; Iran Denies

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 14 hours 59 min ago

Update: In response to President Trump's announcement earlier in the day that a U.S. Navy ship had “destroyed” an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was not aware of any downing, according to Reuters:

“We have no information about losing a drone today,” Zarif told reporters at the United Nations before a meeting with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Of course, we wouldn't expect Iran to admit it just lost a drone, but has anyone asked Israel if it is missing one just in case?


* * *

President Trump announced on Thursday that the amphibious assault ship, the USS Boxer, shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz in a defensive action.

MORE: Trump said that the Iranian drone's actions were “the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran”

— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) July 18, 2019

Operators of the drone refused calls to stand down, after which it was "immediately destroyed," when it came within 1,000 yards of the ship according to the president, "threatening the safety of the ship and the ship's crew." 

Via Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg

Trump has called on "other nations to protect their ships as they go through the Strait. 

Downed Iranian drone from 2015 incident

The comments come as tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high over a spate of attacks on cargo ships, the downing of an American drone and the British seizure of a tanker carrying Iranian oil. Earlier in the day, the U.S. condemned Iranian naval activity in the Persian Gulf and demanded the Islamic Republic release a small tanker and its crew that its forces seized this week. A State Department official who asked not to be identified discussing the issue cited the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ “continued harassment” of vessels in and around the Strait. -Bloomberg

Oil futures jumped a bit on the news, climbing 34 cents a barrel to reel in some of the day's 2.6% loss. 

As we noted earlier in the day, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it has seized a foreign vessel with 12-crew members carrying one million barrels of oil. In an official Iranian media statement, the country's military asserted the tanker was caught "smuggling" the fuel through the Strait of Hormuz

"A foreign vessel smuggling one million liters of fuel in the Lark Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized," state run ISNA said, adding that the ship was seized on Sunday. 

This was the same day Iran had claimed to have "rescued" the UAE-owned, Panamanian-flagged Riah as it was in need of repairs due to technical problems, however, neither Iran's military nor media identified the seized vessel or its country in initial statements. 

Defense Contractors Are Tightening Their Grip On Our Government

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 15 hours 12 min ago

Authored by William Hartung via,

When, in his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “unwarranted influence” wielded by the “military-industrial complex,” he could never have dreamed of an arms-making corporation of the size and political clout of Lockheed Martin.

In a good year, it now receives up to $50 billion in government contracts, a sum larger than the operating budget of the State Department. And now it’s about to have company.

Raytheon, already one of the top five US defense contractors, is planning to merge with United Technologies. That company is a major contractor in its own right, producing, among other things, the engine for the F-35 combat aircraft, the most expensive Pentagon weapons program ever. The new firm will be second only to Lockheed Martin when it comes to consuming your tax dollars—and it may end up even more powerful politically, thanks to President Trump’s fondness for hiring arms industry executives to run the national security state.

Just as Boeing benefited from its former Senior Vice President Patrick Shanahan’s stint as acting secretary of defense, so Raytheon is likely to cash in on the nomination of its former top lobbyist, Mike Esper, as his successor. Esper’s elevation comes shortly after another former Raytheon lobbyist, Charles Faulkner, left the State Department amid charges that he had improperly influenced decisions to sell Raytheon-produced guided bombs to Saudi Arabia for its brutal air war in Yemen. John Rood, third-in-charge at the Pentagon, has worked for both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, while Ryan McCarthy, Mike Esper’s replacement as secretary of the Army, worked for Lockheed on the F-35, which the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has determined may never be ready for combat.

And so it goes. There was a time when Donald Trump was enamored of “his” generals—Secretary of Defense James Mattis (a former board member of the weapons-maker General Dynamics), national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Now, he seems to have a crush on personnel from the industrial side of the military-industrial complex.

As POGO’s research has demonstrated, the infamous “revolving door” that deposits defense executives like Esper in top national security posts swings both ways. The group estimates that, in 2018 alone, 645 senior government officials—mostly from the Pentagon, the uniformed military, and Capitol Hill—went to work as executives, consultants, or board members of one of the top 20 defense contractors.

Fifty years ago, Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire identified the problem when he noted that:

the movement of high ranking military officers into jobs with defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse.… How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years away from retirement and have the example to look at of over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?

In other words, that revolving door and the problems that go with it are anything but new. Right now, however, it seems to be spinning faster than ever—and mergers like the Raytheon-United Technologies one are only likely to feed the phenomenon.


The merger of Raytheon and United Technologies should bring back memories of the merger boom of the 1990s, when Lockheed combined with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin, Northrop and Grumman formed Northrop Grumman, and Boeing absorbed rival military aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas. And it wasn’t just a matter of big firms pairing up either. Lockheed Martin itself was the product of mergers and acquisitions involving nearly two dozen companies—distinctly a tale of big fish chowing down on little fish. The consolidation of the arms industry in those years was strongly encouraged by Clinton administration Secretary of Defense William Perry, who held a dinner with defense executives that was later dubbed “the last supper.” There, he reportedly told the assembled corporate officials that a third of them would be out of business in five years if they didn’t merge with one of their cohorts.

The Clinton administration’s encouragement of defense industry mergers would prove anything but rhetorical. It would, for instance, provide tens of millions of dollars in merger subsidies to pay for the closing of plants, the moving of equipment, and other necessities. It even picked up part of the tab for the golden parachutes given defense executives and corporate board members ousted in those deals.

The most egregious case was surely that of Norman Augustine. The CEO of Martin Marietta, he would actually take over at the helm of the even more powerful newly created Lockheed Martin. In the process, he received $8.2 million in payments, technically for leaving his post as head of Martin Marietta. US taxpayers would cover more than a third of his windfall. Then, a congressman who has only gained stature in recent years, Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT), began to fight back against those merger subsidies. He dubbed them “payoffs for layoffs” because executives got government-funded bailouts, while an estimated 19,000 workers were laid off in the Lockheed Martin merger alone with no particular taxpayer support. Sanders was actually able to shepherd through legislation that clawed back some, but not all, of those merger subsidies.

According to one argument in favor of the merger binge then, by closing half-empty factories, the new firms could charge less overhead and taxpayers would benefit. Well, dream on. This never came near happening, because the newly merged industrial behemoths turned out to have even greater bargaining power over the Pentagon and Congress than the unmerged companies that preceded them.

Draw your own conclusions about what’s likely to happen in this next round of mergers, since cost overruns and lucrative contracts continue apace. Despite this dismal record, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy claims that the new corporate pairing will—you guessed it!—save the taxpayers money. Don’t hold your breath.


While Donald Trump briefly expressed reservations about the Raytheon-United Technologies merger and a few members of Congress struck notes of caution, it has been welcomed eagerly on Wall Street. Among the reasons given: the fact that the two companies generally make different products, so their union shouldn’t reduce competition in any specific sector of defense production. It has also been claimed that the new combo, to be known as Raytheon Technologies, will have more funds available for research and development on the weapons of the future.

But focusing on such concerns misses the big picture. Raytheon Technologies will have more money to make campaign contributions, more money to hire lobbyists, and more production sites that can be used as leverage over members of Congress loathe to oppose spending on weapons produced in their states or districts. The classic example of this phenomenon: the F-35 program, which Lockheed Martin claims produces 125,000 jobs spread over 46 states.

When I took a careful look at the company’s estimates, I found that they were claiming approximately twice as many jobs as that weapons system was actually creating. In fact, more than half of F-35-related employment was in just two states, California and Texas (though many other states did have modest numbers of F-35 jobs). Even if Lockheed Martin’s figures are exaggerated, however, there’s no question that spreading defense jobs around the country gives weapons manufacturers unparalleled influence over key members of Congress, much to their benefit when Pentagon budget time rolls around. In fact, it’s a commonplace for Congress to fund more F-35s, F-18s, and similar weapons systems than the Pentagon even asks for. So much for congressional oversight.

Theoretically, incoming defense secretary Mike Esper will have to recuse himself from major decisions involving his former company. Among them, whether to continue selling Raytheon-produced precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for their devastating air war in Yemen that has killed remarkable numbers of civilians.

No worries. President Trump himself is the biggest booster in living memory of corporate arms sales and Saudi Arabia is far and away his favorite customer. The Senate recently voted down a package of “emergency” arms sales to the Saudis and the UAE that included thousands of Raytheon Paveway munitions, the weapon of choice in that Yemeni air campaign. A similar vote must now take place in the House, but even if it, too, passes, Congress will need to override a virtually guaranteed Trump veto of the bill.

The Raytheon-United Technologies merger will further implicate the new firm in Yemeni developments because the Pratt and Whitney division of United Technologies makes the engine for Saudi Arabia’s key F-15S combat aircraft, a mainstay of the air war there. Not only will Raytheon Technologies profit from such engine sales, but that company’s technicians are likely to help maintain the Saudi air force, thereby enabling it to fly yet more bombing missions more often.

When pressed, Raytheon officials argue that, in enabling mass slaughter, they are simply following US government policy. This ignores the fact that Raytheon and other weapons contractors spend tens of millions of dollars a year on lobbyists, political contributions, and other forms of influence peddling trying to shape US policies on arms exports and weapons procurement. They are, in other words, anything but passive recipients of edicts handed down from Washington.

As Raytheon chief financial officer Toby O’Brien put it in a call to investors that came after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, “We continue to be aligned with the administration’s policies, and we intend to honor our commitments.” Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson made a similar point, asserting that “most of these agreements that we have are government-to-government purchases, so anything that we do has to follow strictly the regulations of the US government.… Beyond that, we’ll just work with the US government as they are continuing their relationship with [the Saudis].”


When it comes to lobbying the Pentagon and Congress, size matters. Major firms like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon can point to the jobs they and their subcontractors provide in dozens of states and scores of congressional districts to keep members of Congress in line who might otherwise question or even oppose the tens of billions of dollars in government funding the companies receive annually.

Raytheon—its motto: “Customer Success Is Our Mission”—has primary operations in 16 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. That translates into a lot of leverage over key members of Congress and it doesn’t even count states where the company has major subcontractors. The addition of United Technologies will reinforce the new company’s presence in a number of those states, while adding Connecticut, Iowa, New York, and North Carolina (in other words, at least 20 states in all).

Meanwhile, if the merger is approved, the future Raytheon Technologies will be greasing the wheels of its next arms contracts by relying on nearly four dozen former government officials the two separate companies hired as lobbyists, executives, and board members in 2018 alone. Add to that the $6.4 million in campaign contributions and $20 million in lobbying expenses Raytheon clocked during the last two election cycles and the outlines of its growing influence begin to become clearer. Then, add as well the $2.9 million in campaign contributions and $40 million in lobbying expenses racked up by its merger partner United Technologies and you have a lobbying powerhouse rivaled only by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense conglomerate.

President Eisenhower’s proposed counterweight to the power of the military-industrial complex was to be “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.” And there are signs that significant numbers of individuals and organizations are beginning to pay more attention to the machinations of the arms lobby. My own outfit, the Center for International Policy, has launched a Sustainable Defense Task Force composed of former military officers and Pentagon officials, White House and congressional budget experts, and research staffers from progressive and good-government groups. It has already crafted a plan that would cut $1.2 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade, while improving US security by avoiding unnecessary wars, eliminating waste, and scaling back a Pentagon nuclear-weapons buildup slated to cost $1.5 trillion or more over the next three decades.

The Poor People’s Campaign, backed by research conducted by the National Priorities Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, is calling for a one-year $350 billion cut in Pentagon expenditures. And a new network called “Put People Over the Pentagon” has brought together more than 20 progressive organizations to press presidential candidates to cut $200 billion annually from the Department of Defense’s bloated budget. Participants in the network include Public Citizen,, Indivisible, Win Without War,, Friends of the Earth, and United We Dream, many of them organizations that had not, in past years, made reducing the Pentagon budget a priority.

Raytheon and its arms industry allies won’t sit still in the face of such proposals, but at least the days of unquestioned and unchallenged corporate greed in the ever-merging (but also ever-expanding) arms industry may be coming to an end. The United States has paid an exorbitantly high price in blood and treasure (as have countries like Afghanistan and Iraq) for letting the military-industrial complex steer the American ship of state through this century so far. It’s long past time for a reckoning.

Billionaire Row's Condos See Price Hikes Despite Ultra-Luxury Sales Declining

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 15 hours 32 min ago

Despite an overall glut in luxury apartments in Manhattan, apartments on Billionaire's Row are rising in price regardless, according to Bloomberg.

Developer Michael Stern, who co-developed 111 W. 57th St. is hiking prices on eight units in the middle of the tower from $1 million to $1.75 million on apartments that are priced between $27 million and $30 million dollars. Changes reflect increases of between 3.5% and 5.6%.

Stern said: 

“Candidly, I think the building is a little bit underpriced. This building is really a sculpture in the sky. There’s nothing else like it, and we’re going to price it for what it deserves.”

The 60 unit project is now nearing completion and potential buyers are able to tour the property and experience its unobstructed views of Central Park from higher floors. Developer Stern says this gives the property an advantage over competitors that have less impressive views. He also conveniently declined to say how many condos have sold in the property, but one penthouse that was listed at $50 million is under contract.

The increases come months after Ken Griffin set a record by paying $238 million for a penthouse at 220 Central Park South. However, they also come at the same time that sales of ultra-luxury apartments are on the decline. In Q2, 19% of all purchases in new developments were priced at $5 million or higher - the lowest share in 10 quarters.

In the second quarter, units priced at $20 million or more offered average discounts of 14%.

At 111 W. 57th St., the condos that are getting marked up are in the middle of the tower. They all have three bedrooms, three bathrooms and about 4500 square feet of space. Inclusive of the price increases, they are now going to be priced from $6300 a square foot to $6900 a square foot.

“When they walk into this building and see and feel the proportions and understand the grandeur of the spaces -- people get it,” Stern concluded. 

Or, as one Fin Twit member put it...

Fed has to cut rates

— Hipster (@Hipster_Trader) July 14, 2019

    Railroad CEO: This Economy Is The "Most Puzzling" In My 40-Year Career

    Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 15 hours 52 min ago

    Authored by Mac Slavo via,

    Railroad CEO James Foote says that the behavior of this economy is the “most puzzling” he’s seen in his 40-year career in the railroad industry.

    “The present economic backdrop is one of the most puzzling I have experienced in my career,” Foote told Wall Street analysts on a conference call Tuesday evening.

    “Both global and U.S. economic conditions had been unusual this year, to say the least, and have impacted our volumes. You see it every week in our reported carloads,” the CSX CEO said according to Yahoo. 

    We are seeing a range of conflicting data points and economic indicators and regularly speak with customers who despite the recent downtime - slowdown, remain cautiously optimistic about the second half.

    Foote blamed the trade war for the crushing economic data. And he’s not far off, as industrial customers are a group caught smack in the middle of the trade war – much like farmers. 

    CSX shares tanked 11% on Wednesday as second-quarter earnings came in 2 cents short of analyst forecasts. Sales dropped 1% to $3.06 billion, roughly in line with projections. “Although it shouldn’t have come as a shock that CSX lowered its FY19 revenue guide (the weekly industry volume data has been telegraphing macro weakness for some time), investors balked at the shortfall in yields relative to expectations. And while negative mix did have an impact, CSX also saw a sequential deceleration in core pricing in some parts of its book,” railroad analyst Allison Landry wrote in a note to clients.

    “We expect solid cost side execution from CSX but weaker markets are a meaningful headwind to both EPS performance and the stock,” Landy said.

    In case you need a point of reference: U.S. GDP is generally viewed to have grown by 2% in the second quarter. Judging by CSX’s results, that’s not a real number. –Yahoo

    The economy has been acting odd for over a year now. 

    The Federal Reserve will likely cut interest rates during an economic expansion, the United States government is running historically high deficits while unemployment is at low levels.

    There is something else going on below the surface we aren’t being told about, and yet we’re just expected to believe the mainstream media when they say things are going great.

    Election 2016: In the Lions’ den. Jimmy Dore covers some Trump rallies, comments on his clueless followers

    Greanville Post - 16 hours 15 min ago
    Election 2016: In the Lions' den. Jimmy Dore covers some Trump rallies, comments on his clueless followers. Not that Hillary was preferable, not even acceptable as a "lesser evil". Not in 2016. That year the US electorate truly had no choices worthy of a rational and mentally healthy nation, let alone a real democracy. A compulsive lying narcissist and proto-fascist and a certifiable war criminal dripping corruption. In those days Jimmy was still part of the The Young Turks team, an org he has since left to fly with his own (reliably radical) team.

    A Bad Copyright Bill Moves Forward With No Serious Understanding of Its Dangers

    Activist Post - 16 hours 31 min ago

    By Katharine Trendacosta

    The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act, aka the CASE Act. This was without any hearings for experts to explain the huge flaws in the bill as it’s currently written. And flaws there are.

    We’ve seen some version of the CASE Act pop up for years now, and the problems with the bill have never been addressed satisfactorily. This is still a bill that puts people in danger of huge, unappealable money judgments from a quasi-judicial system—not an actual court—for the kind of Internet behavior that most people engage in without thinking.

    During the vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was once again stressed that the CASE Act—which would turn the Copyright Office into a copyright traffic court—created a “voluntary” system.

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    “Voluntary” does not accurately describe the regime of the CASE Act. The CASE Act does allow people who receive notices from the Copyright Office to “opt-out” of the system. The average person is not really going to understand what is going on, other than that they’ve received what looks like a legal summons.

    Take Action

    Tell the Senate Not to Enable Copyright Trolls

    Furthermore, the CASE Act gives people just 60 days from receiving the notice to opt-out, so long as they do so in writing “in accordance with regulations established by the Register of Copyrights,” which in no way promises that opting out will be a simple process, understandable to everyone. But because the system is opt-out, and the goal of the system Is presumably to move as many cases through it as possible, the Copyright Office has little incentive to make opting out fair to respondents and easy to do.

    That leaves opting out as something most easily taken advantage of by companies and people who have lawyers who can advise them of the law and leaves the average Internet user at risk of having a huge judgment handed down by the Copyright Office. At first, those judgments can be up to $30,000, enough to bankrupt many people in the U.S., and that cap can grow even higher without any more action by Congress. And the “Copyright Claims Board” created by the CASE Act can issue those judgments to those who don’t show up. A system that can award default judgments like this is not “voluntary.”

    We know how this will go because we’ve seen this kind of confusion and fear with the DMCA. People receive DMCA notices and, unaware of their rights or intimidated by the requirements of a counter-notice, let their content disappear even if it’s fair use. The CASE Act makes it extremely easy to collect against people using the Internet the way everyone does: sharing memes, photos, and video.

    If the CASE Act was not opt-out, but instead required respondents to give affirmative consent, or “opt-in,” at least the Copyright Office would have greater incentive to design proceedings that safeguard the respondents’ interests and have clear standards that everyone can understand. With both sides choosing to litigate in the Copyright Office, it’s that much harder for copyright trolls to use the system to get huge awards in a place that is friendly to copyright holders.

    We said this the last time the CASE Act was proposed and we’ll say it again: Creating a quasi-court focused exclusively on copyright with the power to pass judgment on parties in private disputes invites abuse. It encourages copyright trolling by inviting filing as many copyright claims as one can against whoever is least likely to opt-out—ordinary Internet users who can be coerced into paying thousands of dollars to escape the process, whether they infringed copyright or not.

    Copyright law fundamentally impacts freedom of expression. People shouldn’t be funneled to a system that hands out huge damage awards with less care than a traffic ticket gets.

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    Tell the Senate Not to Enable Copyright Trolls

    Katharine is the Manager of Policy and Activism at EFF, focusing on intellectual property, net neutrality, fair use, free speech online, and intermediary liability. Before joining EFF, Katharine spent many years as a writer and editor at the science fiction and science website io9, while also contributing occasionally to io9’s sister publications Deadspin, Jezebel, and Gizmodo. Katharine got a BA in history at Columbia University and a JD at USC Gould School of Law, doing work with the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic. It was Katharine’s experience in media that lead to her going to law school with an eye to learning more about fair use and copyright law. She’s excited to be melding both her legal and writing background together at the EFF.

    This article was sourced from

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    Categories: News for progressives

    New Hampshire Bill Creates Process to Expunge Some Marijuana Charges

    Activist Post - 16 hours 36 min ago

    By Michael Maharrey

    Last week, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill to create a process to expunge certain marijuana charges form people’s records. Passage into law would take another step toward nullifying federal marijuana prohibition in effect in the Live Free or Die State.

    A bipartisan coalition of seven representatives introduced House Bill 399 (HB399) on Jan 7. Under the law, any person arrested or convicted on or before Sept. 16, 2017, for “knowingly or purposely obtaining, purchasing, transporting, or possessing, actually or constructively, or having under his or her control, 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana or less,” can petition the court to have their arrest record and/or court record annulled.

    On Sept. 16, 2017, a law decriminalizing simple marijuana possession went into effect. Passage of HB640 changed possession “of 3/4 ounce or less of marijuana or 5 grams or less of hashish” from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. HB399 takes another step forward, allowing people arrested for or convicted of something no longer illegal to clear their records.

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    The House and Senate both passed HB399 on a voice vote. With Gov. Sununu’s signature, the law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

    In the past, there has been some opposition to marijuana legalization bills because they generally leave those previously charged and convicted unprotected. The enactment of HB399 demonstrates an important strategic point. Passing bills that take a step forward sets the stage, even if they aren’t perfect. Once the door is open, the way is cleared for additional steps. You can’t take the second step before you take the first.

    Enactment of HB399 not only helps those with prior marijuana arrests and convictions on their record get a new start; it also further undermines federal marijuana prohibition. As marijuana becomes more accepted and more states simply ignore the feds, the federal government is less able to enforce its unconstitutional laws.


    Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

    Decriminalization, along with New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program, removed a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

    Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

    HB399 further undermines prohibition, making it that much more difficult for the federal government to enforce it in New Hampshire.


    New Hampshire joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice.

    Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act. and Michigan passed a ballot measure legalizing cannabis for general use.

    With 33 states including New Hampshire allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

    “The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

    Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at and like him on Facebook HERE

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    Categories: News for progressives

    From Mad Cow Disease to Agrochemicals: Time to Put Public Need Ahead of Private Greed

    Off-Guardian - 16 hours 41 min ago
    Colin Todhunter The first part of this article documenting the development of BSE in Britain was written by Rosemary Mason and is taken from her new report ‘Why didn’t the UK media report the documentary on Mad Cow Disease?’ It is fully referenced and cites sources and evidence in support of her claims. Additional reporting for …

    Victory: Oakland City Council Votes to Ban Government Use of Face Surveillance

    Activist Post - 16 hours 43 min ago

    By Nathan Sheard

    Earlier this week, Oakland’s City Council voted unanimously to ban local government use of face surveillance. The amendment to Oakland’s Surveillance and Community Safety Ordinance will make Oakland the third U.S. city to take this critical step toward protecting the safety, privacy, and civil liberties of its residents.

    Local governments like those in San Francisco, CA; Somerville, MA; and now Oakland, CA are leading the way in proactively heading off the threat of this particularly pernicious form of surveillance. However, after a series of hearings by the House Oversight Committee, national and international policymakers have also begun to look closely at the technology’s threat to human rights and civil liberties.

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    On the same day that Oakland’s City Council voted to ban government use of the technology, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 3494) that would require the Director of National Intelligence to report on the use of face surveillance by intelligence agencies. David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, has also called for a moratorium on face surveillance saying, “Surveillance tools can interfere with human rights, from the right to privacy and freedom of expression to rights of association and assembly.”

    Over the last several years, EFF has continuously voiced concerns over the First and Fourth Amendment implications of government use of face surveillance. These concerns are exacerbated by research conducted by MIT’s Media Lab regarding the technology’s high error rates for women and people of color. However, even if manufacturers are successful in addressing the technology’s substantially higher error rates for already marginalized communities, government use of face recognition technology will still threaten safety and privacy, chill free speech, and amplify historical and ongoing discrimination in our criminal system.

    Even as Oakland’s face surveillance ban awaits a procedural second reading, lawmakers and community members across the country are considering their own prohibitions and moratoriums on their local government’s use. This week, the Public Safety Committee in the neighboring city of Berkeley, CA held a hearing on their own proposed ban, and lawmakers across the country took to Twitter to share news of their like intentions.

    Massachusetts residents, beyond Somerville, hoping to protect their communities from face surveillance should contact their state lawmakers in support of S.1385 and H.1538, the proposed bills calling for a moratorium throughout the Commonwealth. Outside of Massachusetts, as governing bodies across the country adjourn for their summer recess, now is an opportune time to call on your own representatives to take a stand for the rights of their constituents, by banning government use of face surveillance in your community.

    As EFF’s Grassroots Advocacy Organizer, “nash” works directly with community members and organizations to take advantage of the full range of tools provided by access to tech, while engaging in empowering action toward the maintenance of digital privacy and information security.

    This article was sourced from

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    Categories: News for progressives

    Pandering to Christian Zionism: Trump Outreach on Display in Washington

    Greanville Post - 16 hours 44 min ago
    PHILIP GIRALDI—Present at the CUFI summit were Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and US negotiator in the Middle East Jason Greenblatt. Lest there be any confusion, the White House was represented by two Christian Zionists, two Jewish Zionists and John Bolton, who has been variously described. All five have been urging a military response against Iran for its alleged “aggression” in the Middle East.

    The Best Civil War Movie Ever Made Gets Its Due

    Truthdig - 17 hours 5 min ago

    On Sunday and on July 24, Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are presenting big-screen showings in theaters nationwide of “Glory,” in honor of the 30-year anniversary of its release. The greatest movie ever made about the American Civil War, “Glory” was the first and, with the exception of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” the only film that eschewed romanticism to reveal what the war was really about.

    The story is told through the eyes of one of the first regiments of African American soldiers. Almost from the time the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, S.C., the issue of black soldiers in the Union army was hotly debated. On Jan. 1, 1863, as the country faced the third year of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, rapidly accelerating the process of putting black men into federal blue.

    During the war, governors were empowered to raise regiments for federal service. On Jan. 26, 1863, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued an order giving Massachusetts Gov. John Albion Andrew the authority “to raise such numbers of volunteers, companies of artillery for duty in the forts of Massachusetts and elsewhere, and such corps of infantry for the volunteer military service as he may find convenient, such volunteers to be enlisted for three years, or until sooner discharged, and may include persons of African descent.”

    Four days later, Andrew wrote to his old friend, Francis George Shaw, asking him to speak to his son, then-Capt. Robert Gould Shaw, about accepting command of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first regiment of black soldiers to be assembled in the North. Shaw’s father traveled to Stafford County Courthouse in Virginia, where Robert was serving in the Second Massachusetts. Shaw, 25 years old, accepted the command and the rank of colonel, which went with it.

    Around mid-February, the following ad appeared in Boston newspapers: “To Colored Men; Wanted Good Men for the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers of African Descent, Col. Robert G. Shaw (Commanding). $100 Bounty at expiration of term of service. Pay $13 per month and State aid for families.” (The $13 monthly pay turned out to be a lie; black troops were actually given just $10 a month. Eventually, the pay was restored to $13, but not before many of them had died in combat earning it.)

    Similar recruiting posters appeared in other cities. Frederick Douglass rallied to the cause in his newspaper with a headline none could ignore: “Men of Color to Arms!” He noted, “When the first rebel cannon shattered the walls of Sumter and drove away its starving garrison, I predicted that the war then and there inaugurated would not be fought out entirely by white men.” Douglass’ words cut through the storm of rhetoric about the cause of the war: “A war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the perpetual enslavement of colored men calls logically and loudly for colored men to help suppress it.”

    The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of recruits from 22 states, the District of Columbia, Nova Scotia and the West Indies swarmed into Camp Meigs, the regimental base near Boston. Among them were Douglass’ own son, 22-year-old Lewis. Toussaint L’Ouverture Delaney, 17, came from Canada; his father, Martin R. Delaney, a physician and novelist, would become the first black officer commissioned in the Union army. The officers, handpicked from prominent abolitionist families, included Garth Wilkinson James, younger brother of William and Henry James.

    Most of the regiment were free men, with a sprinkling of escaped slaves. Nearly 75% were laborers or farmers. Their officers thought that their educational level was higher than that of the average regiment in the Union army; one remarked that there was “less drunkenness in this regiment” than in others he had seen.

    On May 28, Shaw and the men of the 54th marched down Beacon Street in Boston. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recorded the moment in his diary as “[a]n imposing sight, with something wild and strange about it, like a dream. At last the North consents to let the Negro fight for freedom.” At the head of the regiment were four banners: a U.S. flag, the Massachusetts state flag, and another of white silk, with a figure representing the goddess of liberty and the motto “Liberty, Loyalty, and Unity.” There was also a blue flag with a white cross and a Latin inscription: “In Hoc Signo Vinces”—With This Sign Thou Shalt Conquer.”

    Five days after leaving Boston, the transport ship De Molay slipped quietly by Fort Sumter and carried the men of the 54th into the war. After several frustrating weeks of guard duty and manual labor, they saw their first combat when three companies of the 54th helped save the 10th Connecticut Infantry from disaster after a Confederate charge. “They showed no sign of fear, but fought as if they were very angry and determined to have revenge,” a Boston reporter wrote. A soldier of the 10th Connecticut wrote home that the men of the 54th “fought like heroes.”

    Two days later, Shaw volunteered his regiment to lead the assault on Fort Wagner, or Battery Wagner, as it was often called. Wagner was described by historian Peter Burchard as “[a] gigantic earthwork, perhaps the strongest ever built. Its position was formidable. It stretched from the Atlantic on the east to the marshes of deep, meandering Vincent’s Creek on the west, and could only be approached by direct assault along a spit of sand, narrow even at the low tide.”

    Union commanders vastly overrated the effect of land and sea bombardment on the fort. (Confederate gunners buried their guns in sandbags to protect them.) They also badly underestimated Wagner’s garrison, thinking there were perhaps 300 men behind the walls—they were wrong by nearly 1,400.

    Shaw had premonitions of death. Shortly before the assault, a friend asked him why he was so sad. “If I could only live a few weeks longer with my wife, and be home a little while, I think I might die happy, but it cannot be. I do not believe I will live through our next fight.” But on the day of the assault, July 18, the same friend recalled that “[h]e seemed happy and cheerful. All of the sadness had left him, and I am sure he felt ready to meet his fate.”

    The day of the battle, the men of the 54th joined in song, “When This Cruel War Is Over.” More than 600 of them (with perhaps a quarter or more of the regiment back at camp, wounded or sick) marched into position. Soldiers in white regiments yelled out words of encouragement, “Hoorah, boys! You saved the 10th Connecticut!” and “Well done! We heard your guns!” Shaw called out to his men, “The eyes of thousands will look upon what you do tonight.” He had no idea.

    At 7:45 p.m., Shaw ordered, “Move in quick time until within a hundred yards of the fort. Then double quick and charge!” All questions about where black soldiers should fight were then answered. By the time the other regiments were in position, the opportunity for victory, if it ever existed, was over. The 54th charged across the beach, in and out of ditches, past rows of wooden spikes and up the slope, their ranks bled by muskets and hand grenades every foot of the way. Shaw reached the top of the wall and yelled out, “Come, boys, come!” Then, apparently hit by a rifle shot, he fell into the fort, dead.

    The 54th lost perhaps half its number, killed or captured. Overall, losses on the Union side were horrendous, with more than 1,500 casualties, most from white regiments. The Confederates suffered just 181. Battery Wagner was never taken by storm. On Dec. 7, the fort was found to be deserted and was then occupied by Union soldiers.

    Historian James McPherson summed up the assault on Battery Wagner in “Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies”: “If the attack was a failure, in a more profound way it was a success of historical proportions. The unflinching behavior of the regiment in the face of an overwhelming hail of lead and iron answered the skeptics’ question, Will the Negro fight?”

    Shaw was buried with his men in a field outside Fort Wagner. Company C’s Sgt. William Carney had picked up the Stars and Stripes from a fallen flag-bearer and carried it to the top, sustaining wounds in his chest, arms and legs. As he staggered back into camp after the retreat, his wounded comrades cheered him; he told them that he had done no more than his duty, and that “the dear old flag” had never touched the ground. Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor, but had to wait until 1897 to receive it, at the Memorial Day ceremony in Boston for the unveiling of a monument to Shaw and his men.


    “Can movies teach history?” asked McPherson. “For ‘Glory,’ the answer is yes. Not only is it the first feature film to treat the role of black soldiers in the American Civil War, but it is also one of the most powerful and historically accurate movies ever made about that war.”

    The idea for the greatest Civil War film ever made came to producer Freddie Fields on a windy day in Boston, when he couldn’t get a cab to his hotel. He decided to walk, cutting across the Boston Common. About halfway, he stopped to stare at a monument he had scarcely noticed before, a bronze relief by the great New York sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, which depicted Shaw leading his black soldiers of the 54th Regiment down Beacon Street on May 28, 1863.

    Fields had produced and worked on such films as “Crimes of the Heart,” “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” and “American Gigolo”; now the idea for something very different began to take shape in his head. “I knew the 125th anniversary of the war was coming up and thought right away that this would make a great movie, the unknown story finally told.”

    As it turned out, the director Fields wanted for the project, Edward Zwick, also knew nothing about the subject. “In my case that was inexcusable,” Zwick said. “As a student at Harvard I must have crossed the Common and passed the monument several hundred times. I’m ashamed to confess that I had never heard of the 54th Mass until I got involved in making ‘Glory.’ ”

    Neither had some of actors who emerged from “Glory” as stars. Andre Braugher, who played Thomas Searles, told me, “I had read a lot about American history and the Civil War, but I never came across anything about African American soldiers in the Civil War and the 54th Mass. When I read their story, I couldn’t wait to be in this film.”

    Most of “Glory” was filmed at Sea Island, Ga., 60 miles south of Savannah, with the cooperation of the Georgia State Film Commission and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. It was the first feature film set in the Civil War to use thousands of re-enactors, nearly 6,000. Crews working with the natural resources department labored for three months to recreate Fort Wagner with 30-foot walls—or, rather, three sides of it, with the fourth side left open for cameras.

    Fields was so concerned with authenticity that he invited Richard Snow, editor of American Heritage magazine at the time, to read the script and come on set to offer advice. Thirty years later, Snow recalls, “It was a great thing to be a consultant, in that you have no responsibility whatever and can quack away at your heart’s content. … But I did call for one change that I pride myself on. In the initial script, the 54th was simply hurled against Battery Wagner with no preparation, which made it seem as if Shaw’s men were deliberately being sent to be slaughtered. I protested that a Union fleet had been shelling the works for a good long time before the assault, and that the commanders truly felt that the guns had been silenced and the defenders demoralized, if not killed. They were wrong, of course, but similar mistakes have been made in every war since then.”


    “Glory” was a critical hit. Some writers, particularly the revered New Yorker film reviewer Pauline Kael, overlooked some minor faults and focused on the picture’s undeniable power. “Glory,” she wrote, “is based on fiery, spirit-stirring material that has never before been tapped for the movies.” She gave particular emphasis to “the three black powerhouse actors [who] get to display something besides dignity.” Kael also mentioned another important reason the film touched so many: “ ‘Glory’ shows the high cost of war, and yet finds meaning in the sacrifice.”

    The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning three—Denzel Washington for best supporting actor; cinematographer Freddie Francis for the lovely, elegiac tone of his color photography; and the best sound award. James Horner won a Grammy for his soulful, stirring score.

    The unsung and forgotten hero of “Glory” was writer Kevin Jarre, whose screenplay got Golden Globes and Writers Guild of America nominations for best screenplay. Jarre, son of actress Laura Devon and stepson of composer Maurice Jarre, was, as he told me, “electrified” by the process of researching and writing the screenplay. “A subject like this falls into your lap once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky. Imagine one of the most important moments in the Civil War, in all of American history, and it has been practically forgotten.”

    Jarre started the project “almost in a fever. I jumped right in and absorbed every available source on black soldiers in the Civil War and on the 54th Mass in particular.” These included James McPherson’s history on the Union army’s black troops; the book “The Sable Arm”; Shaw’s letters, which are housed at Harvard’s Houghton Library; Lincoln Kirstein’s hugely affecting photo album of the Saint-Gaudens memorial, titled “Lay This Laurel”; and Peter Burchard’s history of Shaw and the 54th, “One Gallant Rush” (its title taken from an editorial by Frederick Douglass that urged young black men to join the regiment: “The iron gate of our prison stands half open. One gallant rush … will fling it wide”).

    He kept two poems, framed, on his office wall for inspiration. One was “The Unsung Heroes,” by 19th-century African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, which reads in part:

    <blockquote>A song for the unsung heroes who rose in the country’s need,

    When the life of the land was threatened by the slaver’s cruel greed.</blockquote>

    The other framed poem included lines from Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead,” the poet’s reflections on Shaw and the monument: “He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man’s lovely, peculiar power to choose life and die.”

    Besides Shaw, Jarre’s three main characters were Private (and later Sergeant) Rollins, played by Morgan Freeman, a laborer who went from burying Union soldiers to fighting alongside them; Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher), an educated free man who grew up with Shaw; and Private Trip (Denzel Washington), an escaped slave who, finally, chooses to fight for his country.

    Some historians noted that Jarre took liberties with the facts. For instance, his script depicts more of the former slaves than of the free men who composed most of the 54th’s roster; Shaw’s wife is not mentioned at all; and Shaw is killed in the charge up the hill to Fort Wagner, rather than at the top of the parapet, where he actually died.

    Jarre defended his choices, explaining, “I thought we were obligated to represent all the black men who volunteered for service, both slave and free. There were Union regiments of blacks formed in the South comprised only of slaves, but who knew if anyone would ever make a movie about them? I figured this was the chance to tell their story.”

    He chose to leave Shaw’s wife out of the story because “[w]e don’t know much about Anna Shaw. They had only been married a short time, so there wasn’t much correspondence to draw on. I felt it was more important to include Shaw’s mother, who was a big influence on him. We took a dramatic liberty with Shaw’s death because we wanted to impress that the men of the 54th were capable of motivating themselves up that hill.”

    Jarre’s own story turned out to be one of unfulfilled promise. After “Glory,” he wrote only two other screenplays of significance: “Tombstone,” (1993) with Kurt Russell playing Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer playing Doc Holliday, and “The Devil’s Own,” about an Irish Republican Army gunman in America, starring Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford. (Jarre was also hired to direct “Tombstone” but was fired after a few weeks, when producers decided the project was moving too slowly.)  He died of heart failure in 2011, at age 56.

    He ensured, however, that future generations of moviegoers would remember his face, writing himself a small part in “Glory” as the white soldier who almost picks a racially charged fight with Denzel Washington, and then later, as the regiment marches off to assault Fort Wagner, yells out, “Give ‘em hell!”

    What isn’t so well remembered is that “Glory,” in the year of its release, was far from the overwhelming box office smash that its later reputation would indicate. According to the internet movie database IMDb, “Glory” was 45th in box office receipts among 1989 films, taking in just under $27,000,000. The 1980s were a time for escapism in American movies, and among the year’s biggest hits were “Batman,” “Look Who’s  Talking” and a much more comfortable depiction of race in America, “Driving Miss Daisy,” for which Morgan Freeman was nominated for best actor for his role as a longtime chauffeur.

    The reason “Glory” did not do better at the box office is hard to pin down, but according to professor Bruce Chadwick, author of “The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film,” “Few people knew the actual story of the 54th Massachusetts, so when the movie came out, they were quite surprised.” Chadwick adds that “Glory could never have been made prior to the 1960s and the Civil Rights movement. That was the foundation for movies about racism, and in Glory the filmmakers gave us both racism, redemption, and heroism at the same time.”

    Andre Braugher says, “Frankly, I don’t know why ‘Glory’ wasn’t a bigger hit. But I can tell you this—everyone working on it always knew we were doing a very important film.”

    Zwick went on to direct such feature films as “Legends of the Fall,” “Courage Under Fire,” “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond,” and won an Oscar for producing “Shakespeare in Love.” “But no film I’ve been associated with made me prouder than ‘Glory.’ People still come up to me after all these years and say, ‘That movie gave me goose bumps.’ And that gives me goose bumps.”


    Saving the Vaquita Porpoise

    Truthdig - 17 hours 33 min ago

    Crossing the border into Mexicali is like entering a mosh pit of battered vehicles. There are no lanes, no order, drivers seem to merge on faith. My friend Vero and I are searching for an address to pick up something that we are to deliver to the crew of Sea Shepherd, the notorious defenders of the world’s oceans. But our GPS is not up to speed; it’s only telling us where to go after we’ve passed our turnoff. A man pushing a food cart motions for me to back up—I’m going down a one-way street the wrong way!

    After much circling, reversing and dropped phone calls, someone’s tio nods at us, then scans the sidewalk before slipping us a sealed envelope. We speed off down Highway 5 to San Felipe.

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    We drive through miles and miles of Baja California’s barren desert, bordered by plains of white salt flats, a remnant of when the Colorado River used to flow into the Gulf of California. Back then, it was a lush wetland, but in 1963, the U.S. stopped the flow with the Glen Canyon Dam. That was a big upset to the marine habitat, although not the biggest one.

    The indigenous people of this area, the Cocopah, fished and lived sustainably for 3,000 years, but by the 1920s they were teetering on extinction from the ravages of war and disease. Around that time, Mexican laborers were venturing north in pursuit of the mighty totoaba drum fish, specifically it’s buche, a gas-filled swim bladder that regulates a fish’s buoyancy. There was a big Chinese market for that little organ—fish maw soup is made from it. Like other endangered species’ parts, such as rhino horn, shark fins and tiger testicles, the Chinese believe the totoaba maw has curative powers. But scientists and environmentalists call bullshit.

    In 1940, fishermen accelerated their productivity by abandoning hook and line methods and implementing gill nets. The incidental capture—the “bycatch”—in these nets included rays, sharks, sea turtles, birds, corals and a certain cetacean local fishermen called vaquita, meaning “little cow.” I didn’t get a clear explanation on why it’s called that, but it is Mexico’s national marine animal and the most endangered sea mammal on earth. Not until 1958 did biologists officially recognize it as a species, endemic to the upper gulf. Vaquita have been around for 3.5 million years, but with the advent of gill nets, their numbers began declining at an alarming rate.

    By 1975, the totoaba fishery was collapsing, so the Mexican government shut it down. Still, people kept on fishing. In 1986, the totoaba was listed as endangered, and in 1996, critically endangered. At that time, the first survey ever done revealed there were only 567 vaquita porpoises in existence. The vaquita is a shy little creature, not flashy like a dolphin. They don’t jump and play, so they are rarely seen. In fact, some people even deny their existence. When vaquita corpses are found, it’s always because they struggled and drowned in gill nets. In 1990, vaquita were listed as endangered, yet in 1991, 128 dead vaquita were pulled out of gill nets. They never survive that entanglement.

    In 1993, a biosphere was established where the majority of vaquita have been sighted. Gill nets with a 10-inch or larger mesh were banned, but there was no serious enforcement. Laws don’t hold much power over the people’s will in this part of the world. The refuge is near San Felipe, a poor fishing village. What are they supposed to do? By 2008 the vaquita population had dropped to 245.


    On the outskirts of San Felipe, we whiz by a gated community called El Dorado Ranch—a benign haven for ex-pats drawn to cheap and sunny Mexico. But crime has diminished their quality of life and the value of their homes. I read that they are short on security guards because not enough locals can pass the drug tests.

    San Felipe sits close to the top of the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. We pass burnt-out houses, junked cars in garbage-strewn lots, abandoned buildings and barbed wire barricades around concrete fences spiked with broken glass. The village center has beautiful bones, but the flesh is scorched and malnourished. On the surface, it seems like it wouldn’t take much to restore it to a wonderful seaside idyll, but there are big, systemic problems here.

    The totoaba buche is referred to as the “cocaine of the sea,” and, like that drug, it has a serious criminal underbelly. In 2012, the Sinaloan cartel ramped up operations in the gulf. Because it is illicit, the buche’s price has skyrocketed, fetching up to $100,000 in China. The cartel was paying poachers—bucheros—anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 per bladder, a hell of a lot of money considering that one haul could bring in dozens of totoaba.

    We arrive at our motel, grateful that there is an all-night security guard. The last time Vero was in town, she kept finding the tires on her car punctured. She warns me to be low-key and not talk too loudly about why we’re here. You can’t be sure where people’s allegiances lie. Sea Shepherd arrived in 2015 to patrol the vaquita refuge area, and the crew spends most of its time hauling up illegal gill nets and freeing any marine life that might still be alive. If crew members find a dead totoaba, they slice up the buche so it can’t be sold. Then they destroy the nets, which cost fishermen $3,000 apiece. Sea Shepherd’s confrontational methods have garnered some hostility in these parts. Shit happens on the frontline.

    The town center of San Felipe. (Veronique Vial)


    In 2015, bending to pressure from conservationists, then-President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government started paying fishermen to switch their gear to “safer” gill nets and keep outside of the refuge. Some took a lump sum to get out of fishing altogether and started other businesses, with varying degrees of success. It was a windfall to those who were good at playing the system; others, not so much. Fishermen who work for owners of small, motorized boats called pangas were not compensated directly. Instead, their share often went to family members of the panga owners. Some fishermen received as little as $200 a month, while a handful of them were able to haul in up to $100,000 a month. And the poaching continues.

    Many poachers conceal their totoaba nets with weights below the surface of the water and fish under the cover of night. This is a dangerous practice that has led to many mishaps and several drownings.

    Fishermen come to shore in their pangas. (Veronique Vial)


    At the crack of dawn the next day, we make our way to the marina where the White Holly is docked. This 1944 U.S. Coast Guard cutter once served in Pearl Harbor and now flies Sea Shepherd’s skull-and-crossbones flag. It is one of the 12 ships in Sea Shepherd’s international fleet. The secret envelope that we intercepted back in Mexicali contains the key to a panga used for commuting back and forth to the White Holly when she’s anchored at sea.

    When Vero was on the Sea Shepherd in February, the crew had to turn high-powered water hoses on angry fishermen who were throwing Molotov cocktails and trying to climb aboard to sabotage their equipment. Totoaba season is over, so there shouldn’t be any fireworks, but the crew has two Mexican marines and two federal police officers on board just in case.

    Jack, the drone operator, says, “Today we’re just glorified garbagemen, picking up trash and hauling out ghost nets”—these are defunct nets that have broken loose or been abandoned but still threaten marine life. Jack is a charismatic 22-year-old who sports a mohawk and multiple tattoos. He tells me about the dead vaquita he found two months ago in a ghost net. “I can’t get the smell out of my shoes,” he says. It’s not surprising to learn that he’s from Northern Ireland: He’s used to conflict and has a take-no-prisoners attitude. He points out the 5- by 10-mile vaquita refuge on the radar. “This is where we get shot at; all the madness happens here.” Jack is featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced documentary thriller, “Sea of Shadows,” which traces the black-market trail of the totoaba buche to China.

    The only American on board—and the only person who has no visible tattoos—is Capt. Shannon, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard who gained his sea time working on luxury yachts. He’s a quiet man who seems to be most comfortable gazing over the sea’s horizon.

    Per-Erik is the chief engineer. He and Shannon are the only paid crew members. He’s a tall, strong Swede who’s sailed many seas. When he’s not on the water, he splits his time between Sweden, where his seven children live, and Cuba. He reminds me a little of my dad, a salty dog with a million stories. He navigates the ship with an easy grace, occasionally barking out orders to the less experienced engineers.

    The first mate, Blair, is a fit and trim practitioner of yoga who hails from Melbourne. He points out a little black blur on the radar screen—a ghost net. That will be the day’s catch.

    A panga comes up starboard; one of the fishermen flips us the bird. Vero aims her camera and he pulls his hoodie over his face as the boat zooms off.

    The rest of the crew consists of a cross section of dedicated volunteers. Elven, the media director, is in charge of producing the web series for Sea Shepherd’s “Milagro 5” campaign. Each of the five years they’ve been in the gulf has been a Milagro campaign. Elven is a cinematographer who gave up lucrative jobs to join this crew. “I’ve done many things I won’t put my name on,” he says, “but this I’m proud of.” His mother introduced him to Sea Shepherd. “You plant a seed and it grows.”

    Like him, his assistant, Nina, is French. She tells me her family are travelers—her mother was born in the Congo and her grandfather lives in La Paz, Mexico. He always told her, “There is no worse fight than the one you don’t do.”

    Richie grew up in a working-class family in Mexico City. Though his parents would have preferred he be a lawyer, they supported his studies in hydrobiology and his work with Sea Shepherd. He feels more indigenous than Spanish, because he strives to be in harmony with the earth. The normalization of corruption and the violence in his country are a source of shame and suffering for him. “People are exploited and have no options” he laments. He hopes to work with his fellow Mexicans to create, empathy, solidarity and respect. “I am a citizen of the world first, then a citizen of Mexico,” he says.

    Lucas, the chef, is a fresh-faced Belgian who I guess to be in his 20s; turns out he’s 40. He became passionate about Sea Shepherd from watching “Whale Wars” and studied vegan cooking to gain entrance. Not everyone on board is strictly vegan, but they are when on the ship. Lucas believes the way to change the world is through diet. He doesn’t care if he’s paid or not. He says he is “paying his rent to the world.”

    This is a sentiment shared by most of the crew. We are overfishing our oceans, and fisheries are in collapse in every part of the world. On the Sea Shepherd, limited food options and humble accommodations are not seen as a sacrifice, but as a righteous way to live.

    Back on land, we go to a recommended restaurant. A baseball game is playing on several screens. A sun-withered American couple in flip-flops drink margaritas and argue out loud. We guiltily order fish tacos because nothing else on the menu appeals. It’s hard to give up old habits.

    The next day is a placid one on board the ship, the highlight being the retrieval of a wayward birthday balloon. Nonetheless, the crew is hard at work, swabbing the deck, cutting up ghost nets, removing hooks and weights. Some of the booty gets recycled into Sea Shepherd bracelets and an upcoming line of sneakers—making a small dent in the mass of fishing gear that makes up half of the plastic that clogs the world’s oceans.


    Carolina is the chief of operations and the one everyone refers to as “the boss.” She is distressed. There is concern that the number of vaquita might have dropped to below six. If that is the case, this sweet little snub-nosed creature with coal black markings under its eyes might never recover.

    While Sea Shepherd is the vaquitas’ only protector, the ship casts a big shadow, literally and figuratively. It repels their predators, but it also must disturb the vaquitas. In a few weeks, fishing season will end and the upper gulf will not be plagued with nets. The campaign will take a break, and hopefully the calm will encourage some porpoises to hook up and make babies.

    Sunshine Rodriguez, former leader of the local fishermen’s federation, would be happy to see the vaquita vanish. He blames the state of his community on the gill-netting ban and thinks the vaquitas’ demise is due to the loss of its breeding habitat in the wake of the diversion of the Colorado River. If the vaquita were finally gone, fishermen could go back to their old ways. But gill-netting is a hazard to all marine life in the Sea of Cortez. What Jacques Cousteau called “the aquarium of the world” is in dire peril.

    Javier is a fisherman who has accepted that the old ways are unsustainable. He created a chango, a shrimp trawling net with safety features that prevents bycatch but, unfortunately, reduces the catch significantly. He took a lump sum to get out of the fishing business and is dedicated to finding alternative methods of fishing. But he gets no support from the government. Fishermen who use alternative gear have been shunned, maligned and intimidated. They have endured threats, burnt-up trucks, angry mobs in the night and fights at sea. In March, the government discontinued its compensation program, sparking a riot in San Felipe. The cartel exploited the fishermen’s desperation, slashing what it pays for a buche, while the price in China only goes up.

    We are sitting on the beach, waiting to hear from Javier, who is traveling from La Paz, where he’s been at a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference. A mild breeze coming off the ocean makes the hot sun intoxicating. We lie back and try to luxuriate, in spite of the mounds of garbage along the tide line. But every few minutes, needy peddlers solicit us with their wares.

    Javier’s son texts to say that Javier is tired and all talked out.

    A toddler is chasing seagulls. His glee is infectious, and we laugh with his family, which is picnicking beside us. A mariachi band has started playing, and suddenly people are streaming down the malecón. The smell of grilled meat and sweet corn tortillas fills the air. Such a good life, if only the people could solve the fundamental problem their community faces.

    Dr. Pablo Chee Rodriguez believes the solution is compromise. On our return from San Felipe, we stop by his hospital in Mexicali. He has a warm and humble demeanor, and is eager to share his ideas. “Compromise is conservation,” he says. His Chinese ancestors came to Mexico in 1905 as merchants. Though trained as an anesthesiologist, he is primarily a businessman, who founded this hospital and another here. He recently saved the life of a poacher who had been shot in the head while trying to flee with a totoaba. His hospital just co-sponsored a hook-and-line fishing tournament in San Felipe to attract tourists. All the proceeds went toward an aquaponic facility that is training locals how to raise fish for release into the wild. He wants to make the tournament an annual event. He wants to put totoaba on the menu of restaurants and private homes. He wants to create a trust for the fishermen of San Felipe. He wants to starve out the Mexican cartel and the Chinese mafia.

    In an attempt to ease tensions and discuss options, he has brought together the poachers and the ocean defenders, but even if they find common ground, navigating the systemic corruption in Mexico is overwhelming. Nevertheless, he has made it his mission to bring health and prosperity to San Felipe.

    Some scoff at his promotion of aquaculture. It takes seven years for totoaba to reach maturity, and the presence of hatchery fish will not only increase the craze for wild totoaba, but weaken the fish stocks. In the meantime, the vaquitas’ fate hangs in the balance.

    A man considers his options from atop a border fence. (Barbara Williams)

    On our approach to the border, there is a man straddling the top of the barbed wire fence that divides Mexico and the U.S. He gazes down sadly at the officials on either side, weighing his options. Like all the characters we met this week, he knows what he wants. He just can’t see a way to get it.

    BBC claims to be ‘neutral’ by refusing to call Trump’s words racist and airing his lies

    Canary, The Other - 17 hours 56 min ago

    The BBC has openly refused to call Donald Trump’s latest vile words out as racist. On 18 July, host Evan Davis claimed it was for the audience to “debate” whether Trump’s racism is “a matter of fact or is just an opinion”. Many listeners were outraged because the BBC also played two minutes of Trump’s “chilling and horrifying” speech and failed to counter any of his xenophobic lies.

    Fact or opinion?

    On 14 July, Trump issued a series of undeniably racist tweets. He told four progressive congresswomen of colour to “go back” to their “broken and crime infested” countries.

    Since then, his fans have pushed the racist attacks against congresswoman Ilhan Omar further. Pumped up by another racist and nationalist attack from Trump, supporters chanted “send her back” at a rally.

    Yet on Radio 4‘s PM show, Davis said:

    Quite few of you have asked us to describe his [Trump’s] behaviour as racist, as a matter of fact rather than as a matter of opinion. In the end, we just strive to be as neutral as we possibly can be. You can debate what neutrality means and whether we meet that standard. You can debate whether the assertion of Trump’s racism is a matter of fact or is just an opinion. But whichever it is, the most important thing is that we report on what is going on in the US for you to frame your own judgement.

    Evans then said he’d play a “slightly longer” extract from Trump’s rally on 17 July.

    Barack Obama’s former speechwriter, Jon Favreau, called this rally “one of the most chilling and horrifying things I’ve ever seen in politics”.


    The crowd at Trump’s rally chanting “send her back” after the President viciously and dishonestly attacked Ilhan Omar is one of the most chilling and horrifying things I’ve ever seen in politics.

    — Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) July 17, 2019

    Yet the BBC gave this same vicious, “chilling” attack two minutes of uninterrupted airplay. “No comment,” Evans said, “no need for comment.”

    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”

    Many people were outraged by the BBC broadcast.

    Some explained why failing to counter Trump’s lies about Omar, or offer any additional commentary, was so hugely problematic:

    I just heard #BBCradio4 #BBCradio4PM #BBCPM @BBCPM broadcast 2 minutes of a Trump rally in which he demonises Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, without any commentary or correction of untruths – why was this allowed? Where is the Congresswoman's right to reply? #IStandWithIlhan

    — Peter Dewhurst (@peterddewhurst) July 18, 2019

    Cowardly of #bbcpm to play 2 mins of Trump (so we can make up our own minds if he’s a racist or not) without pointing out that he is LYING about #Omar.
    That’s pretty relevant, don’t you think @EvanHD ? Need all the facts to make up our minds.

    — (((Louise Cooke))) (@CookeLouise) July 18, 2019

    #BBCPM disgraceful really for @EvanHD to subject listeners to 2 minutes of Trump at rally attacking @IlhanMN culminating in crowd chanting "Send Her Back, Send Her back" without Evan making any attempt to identify Trump's distortions. Even @piersmorgan now admits Trump racist.

    — susannah tarbush (@starbie99) July 18, 2019

    And this is vitally important. Because as Politico reported, before the chant went up:

    the president tore into Omar specifically, mischaracterizing past controversial statements by the congresswoman related to the 9/11 terror attacks and Al Qaeda that conservatives have seized upon.

    Trump also said Omar – a critic of Israeli crimes against Palestinians – had “a history of launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds” and presented a total distortion of her position on the crisis in Venezuela. He’s since claimed he “was not happy” with the crowd’s response. But for “roughly 15 seconds”, he was silent and simply watched. And he’s yet to apologise for his original racist tweets.

    Others, meanwhile, pointed out that claiming to have ‘no position’ is actually taking a very clear position:

    I would suggest to #bbcpm that by not taking a position on whether Trump/Trump's statements are racist as a matter of fact, you are taking a position. If it you believed in their inherent racism you would report it as such.

    — Lizzie

    Israel shoots boy in head and lies about it

    Electronic Intifada - 18 hours 56 min ago

    Abd al-Rahman Shtaiwi, 9, critically injured while sitting in his village.

    Iran Releases Dramatic Footage Showing IRGC Seizing Foreign Oil Tanker

    Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 19 hours 4 min ago

    On a day that's witnessed serious escalation amid already soaring tensions in the Persian Gulf, Iran has confirmed the vessel it earlier said its IRGC forces seized for "smuggling" oil is in fact Panamanian-flagged oil tanker MT Riah which had disappeared near Iranian waters starting last weekend. State TV aired dramatic footage showing multiple IRGC fast-boats swarming the clearly marked vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. 

    First video of ‘a foreign fuel-smuggling tanker’ seized by #Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in the Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. #StraitOfHormuz #PersianGulf #tanker #IRGC

    — Press TV (@PressTV) July 18, 2019

    #IRGC releases footage showing seizure of ship smuggling fuel in Persian gulf#StraitOfHormuz #PersianGulf #tanker

    — Press TV (@PressTV) July 18, 2019

    On Tuesday international reports described the Riah as a tanker based in the United Arab Emirates and cited US intelligence officials to say Iran's navy had forced the vessel into waters near Iran's coast starting late Saturday night. Iran had initially denied the accusations that it had detained the vessel. 

    But now Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has acknowledged the vessel is now being detained by Iran for "smuggling":

    “We do this (inspecting ships) every day. These are people who smuggle our oil,” Iran's Press TV quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying, adding: “It was a small ship used to smuggle 1 million litres - not 1 million barrels - of crude oil.”

    It's clear that Tehran is attempting to ramp up the pressure on Washington and drive up global oil prices, while also potentially in the beginning phase of making good on its long time threat to cut off global shipping through the vital oil passageway

    State run ISNA had earlier in the day described, "A foreign vessel smuggling one million liters of fuel in the Lark Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized," and said its navy detained it starting Sunday. 

    Video released by #IRGC shows the foreign fuel tanker's main deck #StraitOfHormuz #PersianGulf #tanker #Iran

    — Press TV (@PressTV) July 18, 2019

    Iran's Press TV had previously issued the following details

    The incident took place to the south of the Iranian Lark Island on Sunday.

    IRGC naval forces, which were patrolling the waters on an anti-smuggling mission, acted against the vessel in a “surprise” operation upon ascertaining the nature of its cargo and securing the required legal approval from Iranian authorities.

    The ship had loaded the fuel from Iranian dhows and was about to hand it over to other foreign vessels in farther waters. The vessel, which had 12 foreign crewmembers aboard at the time of the mission, is capable of carrying two million liters of fuel.

    The statement hailed the naval forces’ “perceptiveness” in frustrating the smuggling effort. It added that the crime had invoked due legal proceedings.

    Days ago Iran vowed to "answer" the UK's seizure and detention of the 'Grace 1' which had been transporting 2 million barrels of Iranian oil to Syria. The Royal Marines had boarded it in the Strait of Gibraltar and arrested its crew. 

    Tehran condemned it as an act of "piracy" and warned the UK it would respond in kind. Thursday's so far mysterious vessel seizure announced by the IRGC could be the start of the promised coming retribution. 

    Meanwhile, late in the day Thursday President Trump announced that the amphibious assault ship, the USS Boxer, shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz in a defensive action.

    But strangely, Iran's FM Zarif claimed not be aware of any drone downing following Trump's announcement, according to Reuters. “We have no information about losing a drone today,” Zarif told reporters at the United Nations.

    "Liquidating Before Your Eyes" - PG&E's Clock Is Ticking

    Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 19 hours 12 min ago

    Grant's Almost Daily, submitted by Grant's Interest Rate Observer

    On Tuesday, California governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1054, establishing a $21.5 billion wildfire relief fund and setting a June 30, 2020 deadline for fallen utility PG&E Corp. (PCG on the NYSE) to emerge from bankruptcy in order to participate. PG&E, which was found liable for a series of 2017 and 2018 blazes including the Camp Fire (which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise), entered Chapter 11 on Jan. 29. Investors have kept their hopes up for a swift return to business as usual, as the company still commands a $9.8 billion market cap.

    There is reason for that optimism. The new legislation will allow utilities to choose between accessing designated liquidity and insurance funds which allow for fire cost coverage. While PG&E cannot participate in the scheme until it emerges from bankruptcy, analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence note today that PG&E shareholders “would face significantly less downside” if the company can achieve various safety certifications and make the necessary payments to buy in to the insurance fund post-bankruptcy.

    As noted by The Mercury News yesterday, “as much as some legislators may have wanted to roundly punish bad actors among California’s electricity providers, they were mindful that even a slap on the wrist to utilities could have the unintended impact of a punch in the nose to consumers.”

    But will PG&E investors avoid the proverbial knuckle sandwich? In its most recent 10-Q filing on March 31, the company disclosed $14.2 billion in existing wildfire-related liabilities. In testimony concurrent with the filing, CFO Jason Wells estimated that figure could end up topping $30 billion.

    The clock is ticking for future liabilities, as claims from any new wildfire damages would take precedence over existing liabilities.  A study released Sunday by the journal Earth’s Future finds that: “During 1972–2018, California experienced a five-fold increase in annual burned area, mainly due to more than an eight-fold increase in summer forest-fire extent.”

    Media scrutiny continues apace. Last Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that company executives were aware of problems with transmission lines that were eventually responsible for the Camp Fire, yet “repeatedly failed to perform the necessary upgrades.”  In addition, PCG estimated in 2017 that its transmission towers were 68 years old on average (already above the mean life expectancy of 65 years), with some as old as 108.

    The company is no stranger to bad press surrounding environmental disaster and big payouts. In 1996, PG&E was forced to pay $333 million to settle claims it dumped more than 350 gallons of chemically-poisoned water into ponds near Hinkley, Calif., an episode memorialized in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich.

    It might be harder to shake the wildfire legacy costs than the bulls reckon. In a bearish analysis of PG&E in the Feb. 22 edition of Grant’s, Angelo Thalassinos, the deputy managing editor at Reorg Research, Inc., noted that the Camp Fire may act as a millstone around PCG for years to come.

    The thing that jumps out at me, and the distinction here from other mega cases, is the damages and liabilities from the wildfires. It most harkens back to old Chapter 11 cases that had asbestos liabilities. . . . There is potential for continuing damages from that respect throughout the bankruptcy case and even post-emergence.

    In the five months since our report, PCG shares have treaded water, lagging the 8.3% total return from the S&P 500 Utilities Index over that period.  But the company’s debt has fared well, with the senior unsecured 6.05% notes of 2034 rallying to 111 cents on the dollar (from 93 in February), for a 283 basis point pickup over Treasurys.

    That performance disparity seemingly reflects the unfolding political situation. On Friday, The Journal reported that creditors led by Elliott Management Corp. petitioned California lawmakers for bondholder-friendly tweaks to the bill, including allowing PG&E to issue debt to pay future wildfire claims but not existing liabilities, such as from the Camp Fire. As noted by the WSJ: “Legislators ultimately sided with bondholders on the issue.”

    Victory in court for that Elliott-led bondholder group would likewise spell trouble for shareholders. Creditors have proposed injecting up to $18 billion into PCG, in return for control of the company.  A court hearing at which Elliott et al. will present their arguments is scheduled for July 23.

    With PCG continuing to sport a substantial market cap, investors may be underestimating the risks. That Feb. 22 Grant’s analysis broke down the pertinent numbers, concluding:

    To the equity holders, it’s a daunting figure. Wildfire claims of just $10 billion (around a third of the CFO’s estimate) would impair the equity— assuming that PG&E’s asset base is not overstated through overly long depreciation schedules.

    Even prior to the recent disaster, PCG’s shareholder economics looked less than compelling. From 2013 to 2018, the company generated $25.5 billion in operating cash flow, well shy of the $31.9 billion in capital expenditures over that period. In his Jan. 31 affidavit, CFO Wells forecast that cash from operations will lag capex by an additional $1.6 billion per year in 2019 and 2020. Even after suspending its dividend in December 2017, post-2013 disbursements to shareholders foot to $4.4 billion, a sum which PCG borrowed to pay.

    The utility increased operating earnings to $3 billion in 2017 from $2.3 billion in 2008, while capital employed jumped to $62 billion in 2018 from $30 billion in 2008. James S. Chanos, founder and managing partner of Kynikos Associates L.P. and a PG&E bear, noted to Grant’s in February:

    It’s a 2% return on incremental capital. That is below their cost of capital. They are liquidating. The utility is in effect liquidating before your eyes before any wildfire liability.

    Boeing Takes $4.9 Billion Charge As 737 Max Fiasco Drags On, Stock Jumps

    Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 19 hours 15 min ago

    In a long-overdue step that suggests Boeing is eager to put the 737 MAX debacle behind it, the Seattle airplane company announced it would take a $4.9 billion charge in Q2 related to the grounding of the 737 Max aircraft, which represents that troubled aircraft maker’s first estimate of the cost of compensating airlines for schedule disruptions and delays in aircraft deliveries. The charge will result in a $5.6 billion hit to pre-tax earnings when the company reports earnings on July 24, the company said in a statement issued on Thursday.

    There is just one problem: there is no assurance Boeing's 737 MAX woes will end in Q2, with media reports suggesting the grounding of the jet may last into 2020. That scenario is not being contemplated by the world’s largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, which said it assumes regulatory approval will be granted for the Max to return to global skies in the fourth quarter of this year.

    "This assumption reflects the company’s best estimate at this time, but actual timing of return to service could differ from this estimate," the company said.

    To address the possibility of an extended grounding, Boeing said that although the charge equal to $8.74 per share, would be taken in the second quarter, the company said it expects “potential concessions or other considerations” would come “over a number of years”. As the FT notes, "concessions in such circumstances often take the form of price cuts on aircraft orders rather than cash payments."

    More importantly, and the reason why the company finds itself in this spot, Boeing said it is raising its estimated costs to produce the aircraft by $1.7bn in the second quarter, primarily due to higher costs associated with a reduced production rate (and hopefully with safety equipment that is sold as standard instead of options). While Boeing cut production to 42 per month in April from 52 per month, and is parking the grounded plane in car-lots...

    ... Boeing said it expects to ramp up to 57 a month in 2020.

    Addressing Boeing's shareholders, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said that “we remain focused on safely returning the 737 Max to service. This is a defining moment for Boeing."

    Boeing chief financial officer Greg Smith added: “We are taking appropriate steps to manage our liquidity and increase our balance sheet flexibility the best way possible as we are working through these challenges. Our multiyear efforts on disciplined cash management and maintaining a strong balance sheet, in addition to our strong and broad portfolio offerings, are helping us navigate the current environment.”

    Boeing suspended financial guidance after the grounding and said it will issue new guidance in future, but for now investors liked the fact that over half a billion dollars would be paid out, sending Boeing stock higher after hours.

    'Gendered' Terms Like "Manhole", "Policemen", & "Chairmen" To Be Banned In Berkeley, CA

    Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 19 hours 32 min ago

    Today in "the entire world is steadily losing its mind" news, there will no longer be terms like "manhole", "policeman" or "chairman" in Berkeley, California city codes, according to CNN.

    Words that "imply a gender preference" will soon be removed from the city's codes and replaced with gender-neutral terms, according to recently adopted ordinances. Berkeley voted on Tuesday to replace "gendered" terms in its municipal codes. 

    Words like "manhole" will be replaced with words like "maintenance hole".

    "Manpower" will be replaced with "human effort". 

    The item passed without comment or discussion and wasn't controversial, according to Berkeley City Council member Rigel Robinson, the bill's primary author.

    Robinson said:

    "There's power in language. This is a small move, but it matters". 

    Gendered pronouns like "he" and "she" will also be replaced with words like "they". The office of the city manager said that the city's municipal codes currently "contain mostly masculine pronouns". 

    Robinson concluded: 

    "Having a male-centric municipal code is inaccurate and not reflective of our reality. Women and non-binary individuals are just as entitled to accurate representation. Our laws are for everyone, and our municipal code should reflect that."

    When will this idiocy end?