‘Obvious Sh*tshow’: Senior Trump Officials Have No Faith in Giuliani’s Election Probe, Report Claims



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The Trump campaign presented evidence of suspected voter fraud at a press event on Thursday, accusing Democrats in swing states of a coordinated, “centralized” bid to steal the election. The presser seemed to have been partially derailed by attorney Sidney Powell, who claimed the fraud was a Russiagate-style plot by Venezuela, Cuba and China.

While Donald Trump and his staff continue to pump out more evidence of suspected voter fraud, ranging from charts showing possible vote dumping to illegal coaching of poll workers in major Democrat-run cities, members of his inner circle have grown increasingly disenchanted with the prospects of the allegations going anywhere due to Rudy Giuliani’s handling of the investigation, the Daily Beast has reported, citing senior administration sources.

“The obvious thing is, this is a shitshow,” one advisor reportedly said, calling the Giuliani strategy a “dead end.” “When the Rudy show started, that was a sidelining of everyone else. At that point, it became an issue of going through the motions and the recognition of, ‘OK, this is definitely over because we don’t have a chance with…these conspiracy theories,” the advisor added.

Reverse Russiagate

The outlet did not specify which elements of the fraud investigation Trump officials considered to be “conspiracy theories.” However, one element of the Trump campaign’s Thursday press event which raised eyebrows both in the media and online was the allegation by attorney Sidney Powell that the Dominion voting machines involved in the suspected fraud “were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” the former Venezuelan president who died of cancer back in 2013.

“What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States,” Powell told reporters at the press conference, adding that the campaign had found a witness in a lawsuit filed in Georgia who was with Chavez and had been briefed how the rigged voting machines worked.


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AFP 2020 / MARIE HIPPENMEYER

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez(R) points at a giant bust of 19th century Venezuelan hero Simon Bolivar, known throughout Latin America as the “Liberator,” 07 May 1999 at the Latin American Memorial in Sao Paulo following a wreath laying ceremony.

Powell went on to allege that Dominion has an office in Toronto, Canada which it shares with an entity belonging to George Soros, the famed hedge-fund manager turned Democratic Party kingmaker who has been among the most prominent proponents of a global, liberal capitalist world order for the past three decades. It’s unclear what role if any Soros, a noted anti-communist, would have conspiring with communist and democratic socialist nations like Cuba, China and Venezuela.

Trump Remains Optimistic

A second Trump administration source told the Daily Beast that although the Thursday press conference was “one of the weirdest f*cking things we’ve ever witnessed,” staff felt they were not allowed to speak about it with the president, who was presumed to have been ‘thrilled’ by the press event.

Powell’s allegations aside, Daily Beast’s sources did not appear to comment on the other claims made by Giuliani, who said that he had nearly a dozen sworn affidavits and “hundreds of witnesses” across states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Nevada of large-scale manipulations involving mail-in ballots, vote dumping, keeping Republican observers an unreasonable distance back during vote counting ‘due to coronavirus regulations’, etc.

Democratic officials, most US media and even some Republicans have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud allegations, pulling coverage, flagging tweets and accusing the president of undermining the American democratic process and demanding his immediate concession. Courts in multiple states have also thrown out multiple lawsuits by the campaign, sometimes prompting it to launch new, amended suits.





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More Australian social housing is the obvious answer to more than one question | Greg Jericho | Business


The latest building activity data highlights that the construction sector was falling well before the coronavirus hit and that the government is failing to respond as occurred during the GFC, when massive stimulus both sustained employment and also provided much needed social housing.

No one should be surprised that the latest building activity figures show that both work done and buildings commenced have all fallen in June quarter.

The 6% annual fall in private sector building work was never going to be enough, in this year of massive economic collapse, to cause any shock:


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And yet these figures are unsurprising not only because we are in the middle of a recession but because private sector building work has been falling for so long now that we now just expect these figures.

This was the fifth quarter in a row in which total private sector building work was below what it had been 12 months earlier, and the sixth consecutive case for residential building work.

That is a time that goes back long before the pandemic.

Since 1980 there have only been five times when building activity in each state and territory was below what it had been the year previous – the 1980s and 1990 recession, after the introduction of the GST, in 2011 when the RBA began cutting rates from 4.75%, and in December last year.


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So we cannot say the collapse of building work has taken us by surprise, nor can we say it is due to the pandemic.

The big issue has been the fall in residential building work – and especially apartments and flats:


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The fall began in early 2018, and was observed across the board. In every state and territory the fall in construction of apartments from the 2018 peaks has been much greater than the fall in housing construction:


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Western Australia has had the biggest collapse, but its fall began in 2015, when the mining boom came to an abrupt end.

In New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, what has occurred is more the end of the housing boom that began back in 2011 when the Reserve Bank started cutting rates. That boom drove house prices but not so much house construction. The big boom was apartment building.

And it came to an end in 2018:


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And so we found ourselves entering a recession with building construction already falling – not a good state of affairs.

And of course we also entered the recession with interest rates already at record lows and with little space left to cut them.

During the GFC the RBA cut rates by 3.25% pts in the space of eight months. In response to the slow recovery after the GFC, the RBA cut rates by 2.25% pts over 18 months.

At the start of this year the cash rate was already 0.75%. With the rate now at 0.25% there is little else to cut to encourage people and developers to build homes and apartments.

But the private sector is not the only sector that can build residences.

During the GFC, the Rudd government undertook a social housing initiative under its “Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan”.

This involved spending $5.6bn on building social housing in 2010 and 2011.

A look at the share of residential building done by the public sector over the past 50 years reveals how significant the expenditure was – lifting the public share of residential building work from 2.4% to 10%:


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A report on the program by KPMG found that the work generated an extra $0.30 of activity for every dollar spent, created approximately 9,000 fulltime equivalent (FTE) positions during the period of stimulus, and added approximately 0.1% of Australian GDP in 2011-12.

And just in case you think it is all about economics, the report also found that the work “injected 19,669 dwellings into the social housing system” and “almost 12,000 dwellings” were able to be returned to the social housing stock “through the repairs and maintenance program.”

It exceeded its production targets by 13% and the average costs of the buildings were below the “target of $300,000 per dwelling”.

It was a GFC stimulus success story (and so is barely referred to among the ongoing plethora of misinformation about fires from pink batts).

It was both good economic and social policy.

But the KPMG report had a crucial conclusion. “The future effectiveness of homelessness programs” it noted, “could be limited in the absence of further increases in housing stock.”

Since this time the share of public sector housing construction has continued fall to below 2%.

At a time of falling private sector building work, a need for economic stimulus, and a sector crying out for help, social-housing stimulus is very much needed.

And the government doesn’t even need to think for itself – there is already a successful policy it can copy.





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TikTok tit-for-tat? Beijing has no obvious answer to Trump’s app ban


Tit-for-tat retaliation has colored the U.S.-China feud in recent years. The U.S. closes a Chinese consulate? Beijing can do that, too. The Trump administration cracks down on employees of China’s state-run media and Beijing expels U.S. journalists from the mainland. The trade war was a months-long exercise in the two superpowers hurling tariffs back and forth. But when it comes to the U.S.’s potential ban of Chinese-owned TikTok, Beijing is running low on means of payback.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S. would “immediately” ban the video sharing app TikTok from the U.S. due to data security concerns. The U.S. argues that TikTok presents a national security risk because it could funnel American user data directly to the Chinese government, an allegation that TikTok and its Beijing-based owner ByteDance deny.

Over the weekend, the Trump administration appeared to walk back the threat of a ban, as top government officials met with Microsoft as Microsoft considered a takeover of TikTok. At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that a potential ban could extend to other Chinese apps like WeChat, the messaging app owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.

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On Monday, ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming said in a leaked email to his employees that ByteDance was involved in “preliminary discussions with a tech company” in the U.S. but didn’t know “exact details” of the potential “end solution.”

At this point, TikTok seems destined for ownership by a U.S. company or to be subject to an outright U.S. ban. Either way, the Trump administration’s action against the company marks an escalation in already deteriorating U.S.-China relations. Ordinarily, Beijing has met such measures with an equal, proportionate response. But China’s ‘Great Firewall’ already blocks nearly all American social media platforms from operating on the mainland’s Internet, meaning Beijing has a limited arsenal as it considers how to retaliate.

Tit-for-tat relations

In its souring relations with the U.S., “China has a clear strategic line of resistance without escalation—as long as that remains possible,” said Greg Austin, a senior fellow for cyber, space, and future conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.

The trade war, for example, began in July 2018 when the U.S. placed 25% tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing immediately responded with its own 25% tariffs on $34 billion worth of American imports. More recently, Beijing responded to U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials alleged to have committed human rights violations with its own sanctions against several prominent U.S. lawmakers.

But with tech, and especially a social media platform like TikTok, Beijing seems to have few options for a proportionate response because it’s long banned major U.S. social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from operating within its borders.

“China frankly has limited firepower in its response [to the TikTok ban] economically,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Beijing.

Some American tech companies like Apple and Microsoft derive some revenue from the Chinese market. Apple, for example, relies on China to both make and sell its computers and iPhones. Microsoft’s LinkedIn is one of the few America social media platforms that is not banned in China since its site there is separate from its U.S. platform; it operates as a separate joint-venture company called LinkedIn China.

Rein doesn’t expect Beijing to go after Apple or Microsoft because “the leadership of both companies have followed the law and been respectful of the government.”

He said that Beijing’s response to a TikTok ban could instead target the operations of tech firms like Google, Amazon, eBay, or Cisco that have relatively small operations in China.

Google’s platform, for example, is blocked in China, but the company still operates research and data centers in China, and Chinese companies advertise on its platform abroad. And while Amazon recently shut down its marketplace to third-party Chinese sellers, the company still has a website in China that allows Chinese consumers to purchase goods from abroad.

At least in the short term, Beijing is focused on its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and “wants to show it is still open for investment from American firms,” Rein said. In fact, China’s vice president for commerce last week reassured U.S. companies that they are still welcome in China. “China doesn’t want to punish American companies,” Rein said, but it “won’t back down” from the U.S. either.

Under the surface

Ultimately, Beijing could deliver its reprisal by accelerating its shift away from American tech, an initiative that’s already underway.

Austin says firms like Microsoft and IBM “occupy a central place” in China’s tech infrastructure. He says that U.S. backlash against Chinese tech has already prompted China to speed up efforts to reduce its reliance on these firms over the last six months. The TikTok episode could further incentivize Beijing to pursue technological independence. That, in and of itself, could “hurt the ability of U.S. tech companies to sell into China,” Rein said.

More must-read international coverage from Fortune:



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Nightmare scenario looms for higher education with no obvious solution


Closed borders and a pressured quarantine method are indicators of a devastating time forward for universities dependent on overseas students.

(Impression: Unsplash/Eriksson Luo)

Australia faces main losses from its $38 billion export income bigger education and learning sector except if the government and college leaders can take care of a diabolical dilemma created by the Melbourne lockdown and the require to further more curb what is now just a trickle of foreign arrivals at airports throughout the state.

And with all intercontinental flights to Melbourne suspended, options to allow for at least a little range of overseas college students to return to Victoria have been place on hold.

But with significant troubles exposed in the Victorian quarantine procedure for incoming travellers, and other states warning their devices had been struggling, the federal authorities is going to reduce down on inbound intercontinental vacation — which at the second is nearly fully Australians returning from abroad.





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