Dorothea Lange Depression refugee family from Tulsa, Oklahoma 1936
Say what you will, but that virus is not sitting still, got to give it that. And as for us, we’re either not sitting still enough, or we’re making the wrong moves.
And I still can’t decide what I find scarier, that or the fast deteriorating political and media climate stateside.
Worldometer reports new cases for June 25 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 179,718.
New cases past 24 hours in:
• US + 41,317
• Brazil + 40,673
• India + 17,720
This is where you say all bets are off, I guess.
At least 20 million people in the US may already have been infected with Covid-19, according to the latest estimate by health officials. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the true number of cases is likely to be 10 times higher than the reported figure. It comes as the state of Texas halted its reopening as infections and hospitalisations surged. The US has recorded 2.4m confirmed infections and 122,370 deaths. Some southern and western states have been reporting record numbers of cases in recent days. The University of Washington predicts 180,000 US deaths by October – or 146,000 if 95% of Americans wear masks.
“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections,” CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield told reporters. This was because testing was restricted to people with symptoms and asymptomatic carriers were not tested, he said. “We probably recognized about 10% of the outbreak by the methods that we use to diagnosis between the March, April and May,” he said. Dr Redfield said that between 5% and 8% of the population had been exposed to the virus and urged Americans to keep social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands. “As we go into the fall, in the winter, these are going to be really, really important defence mechanisms,” he said.
[Texas], which has been at the forefront of moves to end lockdown measures, has seen thousands of new cases, prompting Republican Governor Greg Abbott to call a temporary halt to its reopening. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business,” he said. Texas confirmed a record 5,996 new cases on Thursday. There were also 47 new deaths, the highest daily toll for a month. The state has also seen record number of people requiring hospital treatment for 13 days in a row. Elective surgery has been suspended in the Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio areas to free up beds. More than 10% of the tests carried out over the past week have come back positive. All but 12 of the state’s 254 counties have reported cases.
Yeah, Europeans can’t wait to invite a bunch of infected Usaians to their homes.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down concerns Thursday that the European Union might refuse to allow Americans into the 27-nation bloc as it considers lifting restrictions on overseas travelers starting next week, due to the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. “It’s a challenge for all of us to decide how and when to open up our economies and our societies. Everybody’s trying to figure that out,” Pompeo said during a videoconference organized by the German Marshall Fund think tank. “We’re working with our European counterparts to get that right.” European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1. Their envoys to Brussels are debating what virus-related criteria should apply when lifting entry restrictions on travelers from outside the EU that were imposed in March.
As the criteria are narrowed down, a list of countries whose citizens might be allowed in is being drawn up. The list would be updated every 14 days based on how the coronavirus is spreading around the world. The EU’s executive commission recommends that “travel restrictions should not be lifted as regards third countries where the situation is worse” than the average in the 27 EU member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. That is likely to rule out people living in the United States, where new coronavirus infections have surged to the highest level in two months, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Beyond epidemiological concerns, any country being considered would first be expected to lift its own travel restrictions on visitors from all 31 European nations. This would also rule out the US. In a March 11 decree, President Donald Trump suspended the entry of all people from Europe’s ID check-free travel area. More than 10 million Europeans usually visit the United States each year.
The war party has two wings.
The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the annual defense policy bill seeks to put roadblocks on withdrawing U.S. troops from Africa and South Korea. The so-called chairman’s mark of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – the version of the bill drafted by Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) – would require the Pentagon to report to Congress on the effects, implications and costs of a troop drawdown in Africa on military, diplomatic, development and humanitarian efforts. It would also require a report on the effects of a drawdown within 90 days if the number of troops dips below 80 percent of current force posture.
Reports first surfaced earlier this year that Defense Secretary Mark Esper was eying slashing the number of U.S. troops in Africa as part of a global review of U.S. force posture to redirect troops to counter Russia and China. He later confirmed he was considering a reduction but insisted it would not be a full withdrawal. The plan received bipartisan backlash from lawmakers who argued the troops are needed not only to fight terrorism, but also to serve as a buttress against Russian and Chinese efforts to increase their influence in Africa.
More recently, President Trump announced he plans to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Germany. Trump has framed the drawdown as a punitive measure in response to Germany not meeting NATO’s defense spending goal, while national security advisor Robert O’Brien argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed the forces are needed in the Indo-Pacific region.
Picked this from Felix Salmon for this crazy stat:
“..pre-coronavirus Apple was buying 50 business class seats per day just from San Francisco to Shanghai…”
Another area where there’s no sign of any recovery is in the movement of workers across borders, especially when it comes to movement in and out of the U.S. Why it matters: Multinational U.S. corporations are built on international travel. Apple spends $150 million a year on air travel, for instance, and pre-coronavirus was buying 50 business class seats per day just from San Francisco to Shanghai. That level of investment in cross-border ties helped to create a company that’s now worth $1.6 trillion. Driving the news: U.S. borders remain shut to travelers from China and Europe. There are only eight flights per week between the U.S. and China; the United Airlines SFO-SHA route where Apple used to spend $35 million a year currently has no flights at all. The EU is almost certain to ban U.S. travelers when it reopens on July 1. And Donald Trump has banned thousands of nonimmigrant workers from entering the country this year.
Because it only supports member banks.
The program is too complicated on purpose: the banks all have legal departments that have no trouble deciphering it.
When the coronavirus pandemic locked up capital markets and pulled the economy into recession, the Federal Reserve took aim with a $2.3 trillion bazooka to try to help. Thus far, though, the central bank has only fired off surprisingly few rounds. In the three months since a slew of programs were announced, the Fed has loaned out just $143 billion, or a mere 6.2% of its total firepower. The most ambitious initiative, the Main Street Lending Program, has yet to make a loan, according to the most recent Fed balance sheet data, though officials expect that to change in a matter of days.
As for the rest of the measures, from municipal lending to corporate credit to the Fed’s role in the Paycheck Protection Program, there are several likely explanations for why what was supposed to be an infusion of cash into the economy instead has been a comparative trickle. One is simply that the programs, particularly in the case of Main Street, are complicated and have proven difficult to launch as the Fed gathers feedback and works through logistics. Another is that there is simply less demand from entities that are finding other ways to make do. And on that same point, the notion that the U.S. economy is recovering more quickly than expected from a recession that began in February has negated the need for the arsenal that the Fed launched starting in March.
“The economy is getting better, so you’re not seeing as many firms short of cash as you’d seen in March and April,” said Yiming Ma, an assistant finance professor at Columbia University Business School. “Some of the terms are just not very attractive to firms who potentially do need the funds.”
Newsflash: we don’t all have the same kind of humor. But this goes very far.
The parents of two toddlers featured in a manipulated video posted on social media by President Donald Trump plan to file a lawsuit against the president, his campaign and the creator of the video, pro-Trump meme creator Carpe Donktum, escalating the fallout from the doctored video, which was taken down by Facebook and Twitter. Lawyers representing the parents of the children featured in the video are drafting a lawsuit alleging the video was altered and shared as an “advertisement and political propaganda” without permission or parental consent. Logan Cook, who goes by the username Carpe Donktum, altered footage of the two children in which one, who is Black, is running away from the other, who is white, and added a fake CNN chyron reading “Terrified toddler runs away from racist baby.”
The original clip, which went viral last year, actually shows the two toddlers running up to each other and hugging. (The edited video appears to be a satirical attempt criticize how the media takes statements out of context and reports on race.) Both Facebook and Twitter took the video down after the parents of the children filed a copyright complaint, and before that Twitter labeled the video “manipulated media.” Twitter late Tuesday permanently banned Cook for repeated copyright violations.
“The fact that Twitter and Facebook disabled this fake video within 24 hours of President Trump and his campaign tweeting it, coupled with Twitter permanently banning Cook, is very strong evidence that a jury will likely find that all of these people broke the law by using this video as advertisement and political propaganda,” said Ven Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the parents. Cook’s work is frequently shared by Trump, and the president reportedly called him a “genius” when he visited the White House last year. Twitter previously suspended Cook for eight days after he posted an edited video showing Trump as a cowboy attacking CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
Facebook and Twitter usually leave controversial posts from world leaders online, though Twitter has taken to labeling tweets with misinformation or those that “glorify violence” in recent weeks. But there’s one rule even world leaders can’t break: copyright. In October last year, another video posted by Trump featuring a Nickelback song was taken down after a copyright notice was filed. And earlier that year Twitter took down another video that included music from the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises without permission.
It’s going to be an absolutely crazy election.
In the 11th century, Pope Urban II formalized the use of indulgences, which could be purchased to forgive sins. A papal bull of the Crusade accompanied those who fought in the Holy Land and committed atrocities in the name of a higher order. The practice was defended as essentially drawing from the “treasury of merit” created by Jesus Christ, the saints and the faithful. Now the 2020 election has become the ultimate crusade, and President Trump’s critics seem to be enjoying indulgences in tossing aside moral and ethical considerations. The freedom that is Biden is nowhere more evident than in a recent column by The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, who wrote about the allegations of sexual assault made by former Biden staffer Tara Reade.
Pollitt dispensed with any struggle over feminist or moral qualms, declaring, “I would vote for Joe Biden if he boiled babies and ate them.” As Pollitt explained, “We do not have the luxury of sitting out the election to feel morally pure or send a message about sexual assault and #BelieveWomen.” Otherwise, Pollitt would have to deal with her column during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, in which she denounced “some of his defenders [who] seem to be saying that even if the allegations are true, it shouldn’t really matter.” For years, critics have expressed disgust at Trump’s statement that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters.”
Yet they now afford Biden the same immunity even if he turns into the ancient god Cronus and starts snacking on boiled babies. The same indulgence has been claimed by politicians and commentators in dealing with other Biden allegations of sexual assault. Many of them demanded during the Kavanaugh controversy that all women must simply be believed when alleging sexual harassment. Those who questioned the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford were denounced for insensitivity, if not complicity, in the abuse of women. Today, some of us have said that Biden has the stronger case thus far, but we still support an investigation.
Yet many Kavanaugh critics quickly declared Biden to be innocent and opposed any search of his records — including those under lock and key at the University of Delaware — for any allegations of sexual abuse. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) simply cut off questions by testily declaring, “I don’t need a lecture” when confronted with her prior statements. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) declared she sees no need for an investigation because she knows Biden and believes him, adding that she resented being asked about it as a victim of sexual assault. She cut off questions from CNN’s Jake Tapper by saying, “And you know what? That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
They sponsor a legal panel that absolves them from most future claims. How sick is that?
The headlines Wednesday in the mass tort litigation over Bayer’s Roundup weedkiller were all about the company’s decision to pay as much as $9.6 billion – a lot of money! – to settle about 94,000 suits alleging that Roundup is associated with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. But the bigger news, at least for this case’s impact on mass tort litigation, may be in a novel proposal to address all future claims against Bayer. If the mechanism – a class action to determine threshold issues of causation while preserving plaintiffs’ individual rights to sue – ends up winning court approval, it’s going to change the way defendants buy global peace in these sprawling cases.
The Roundup future claims settlement is via a newly-filed prospective class action on behalf of everyone who was exposed to Roundup but has not hired a lawyer to bring a tort claim. (There are subclasses for people who already have cancer and those who don’t.) In a simultaneously-filed motion for preliminary approval of the settlement of the new class action, Bayer and plaintiffs lawyers from Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, Audet & Partners and The Dugan Law Firm agreed to establish a panel of five scientific experts to decide the threshold questions of whether Roundup can cause cancer and, if so, at what levels of exposure. (For the true class action nerds: The settlement calls for the certification of an issues class to resolve the predominant common question of causation.)
The panel, which Reuters described Wednesday as “a calculated gamble” for Bayer, has at least four years to reach a determination, which is binding on all class members. After the panel’s decision, class members will be free to bring individual tort claims, with the caveat that those threshold causation and exposure questions have already been decided.
In the meantime, Bayer will put up $1.1 billion for diagnostic services for the class and for assistance to class members who develop cancer during the years before the scientific panel’s decision. The proposed settlement features an incredibly elaborate notice program to get the word out to prospective class members, taking into account that the class includes agricultural workers who may not speak English or have permanent residences. Class members have 150 days from the launch of the notice program to opt out of the class. As part of the settlement, future claimants will give up the right to seek punitive damages and medical monitoring fees in individual suits following the scientific panel’s causation decision.
The shame of our generation.
A US federal grand jury has unveiled a new superseding indictment against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange. However, the filing brings no new charges. A journalist told Sputnik that what Assange does is no different from other reporters and the indictment is an attempt to sour Assange’s name in the media again. “It’s a continuation of the smear campaign against this man, to turn public opinion against him,” Joe Lauria, the editor in chief of Consortium News and author of the book “How I Lost, By Hillary Clinton,” told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Thursday. “It’s started to turn for him in certain instances recently, so the timing of this is interesting.” Lauria characterized the new accusations as “window dressing,” noting much of the document is simply a recapitulation of the previous charges against Assange.
According to the US Department of Justice’s Wednesday news release announcing the indictment, the new accusations “broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged,” alleging he worked with hacker groups like Anonymous and LulzSec to gain access to classified files that WikiLeaks then published. “This is new: they write negatively about him helping [former NSA analyst-turned-whistleblower Edward] Snowden to get out of Hong Kong and that Assange had booked various other flights for Snowden to provide a diversion, so that he could get out on the one he did,” Lauria noted. “But there’s no charge of ‘aiding a fugitive to get away’ or anything like that, so that’s just thrown in there. We don’t know why.”
“The real essence is, as you say, the details to broaden this first indictment against him, which was for computer intrusion. And, essentially, it says that Assange directed hackers to get material. For example, one example is the recordings of high-level NATO officials, telephone calls that he wanted; also members of parliament of a NATO nation that is apparently Iceland.” Lauria said that to understand if this is a crime or not, he turns to investigative journalist Robert Parry, who founded Consortium News. Lauria noted a piece Parry wrote in 2010, anticipating Washington’s line of attack against Assange, in which he said that what Assange had done was no different than what he did as an investigative reporter, including encouraging sources to give information, and even to commit a small crime in order to prevent a larger one.
“This is key, because here we have in this expanded, superseding indictment, that Assange somehow committed a conspiracy with these hackers to get this information,” Lauria said. “Now, first of all, he’s not being accused of doing the hacking himself; he is accused of encouraging or directing – but not for money, by the way – these hackers to get documents and other materials that he wanted. So maybe two crimes are being committed there: one being the hack, and two, the unauthorized release of information. But Assange is not directly involved, so he’s doing what Bob Parry said he did as a reporter, and that was to get your source to commit a small crime [in order] to prevent a larger one. An example of that is Assange getting from [former US Army analyst Chelsea] Manning the ‘Collateral Murder’ video … the idea being to try to end the illegal war in Iraq,” Lauria told Sputnik.
But doctors are not lawyers.
Doctors have warned that UK officials could be held accountable for the torture of Julian Assange in an open letter published in The Lancet on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The 216 undersigned physicians and psychologists from 33 countries have accused UK and U.S. government officials of intensifying Julian Assange’s psychological torture in spite of the world’s leading authorities on human rights and international law calling for his immediate release from prison. Clinical Psychologist and Australian co-author of the publication, ‘The ongoing torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange’, Dr Lissa Johnson said the failure to properly treat Mr Assange may amount to an act of torture in which state officials, from parliament to court to prison, risk being judged complicit.
“Our letter is published just two days after the US Department of Justice announced a new superseding indictment against Assange representing yet another escalation in psychological torture tactics,” said Dr Johnson. “Introducing extra charges at this late stage, right before the defence evidence deadline and over a year after the indictment deadline, when documents given to the prison generally take two weeks to be passed on, when he has not been supplied with a computer and when he is unable to meet with lawyers under Coronavirus lockdown, serves to ramp up his helplessness jn the face of threat and is a key psychological torture tactic,” she said.
The doctors note that torture is prohibited under UK law, warning that UK officials could be judged “complicit”, including for their “silent acquiescence and consent”. They write that Assange at medical risk due to escalating abuses of his “fundamental human and legal rights at the hands of judicial, prison, and contracted security authorities”. The letter follows Julian Assange’s failure to attend four court hearings in a row on medical grounds. The authors charge UK and US authorities with “collective persecution and judicial harassment” in which “Mr Assange has been unable to engage in his own defence or even participate in his own hearings.”
A copy of the Lancet letter has been sent to the UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland. It coincides with two open letters to Buckland from 36 members of the European Parliament and 11 current and former politicians from 9 nations, calling for Julian Assange’s immediate release on bail in light of Covid-19, which places him “at grave medical risk” given his medical history, including persistent respiratory issues, the doctors warn. In a 60 Minutes Australia interview on Sunday night, Julian Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, stressed that Julian Assange is “very unwell”, expressing her fears that he may not survive.
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