Leonardo da Vinci Head of a Woman 1475-80
We need rapid tests and HCQ, zinc, lots of them all. The numbers are not decreasing nearly fast enough.
Taleb Fragility + Pandemic
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) September 1, 2020
The Trump administration issued an order Tuesday banning landlords from evicting tenants from properties they can no longer afford to rent due to income lost to the coronavirus pandemic. The order, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), would make it illegal to evict any individual who expects to make less than $99,000 or a joint-filing couple that expects to make less than $198,000 in 2020. The tenants would still be required to pay rent owed per the terms of the lease, but will be allowed to stay in their unit through the end of the year. “President Trump is committed to helping hardworking Americans stay in their homes and combating the spread of the coronavirus. Today’s announcement from his administration means that people are struggling to pay rent and risk further spreading of exposure to the disease, due to economic hardship,” said White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern.
The national eviction ban was issued under a federal law that gives the CDC director authority to impose measures to prevent the spread of communicable disease “as he [or] she deems necessary.” The provision specifically refers to filling the gaps left by “inadequate” state-imposed public health measures and does not directly mention financial aid or overriding contracts between citizens, raising questions about its legality. In order to qualify for the eviction protection, a tenant must declare that their 2020 income will fall below the threshold set out in the order; they’ve sought all potential sources of federal housing aid; and that they cannot afford to pay the rent due to a pandemic-related job loss or expense despite their best efforts to do so.
Trump gets the blame for the pandemic, but Fauci is the go-to guy.
President Trump on Monday questioned the value of Anthony Fauci to the White House coronavirus task force, saying in an interview with Fox News that he “inherited” the government’s top infectious disease expert. “I disagree with a lot of what he said,” Trump told Laura Ingraham when asked if he would put Fauci “front and center” in the pandemic response if he could do it again. “I get along with him, but every once in a while, he’ll come up with one that I say, ‘Where did that come from?'” Trump continued. “I inherited him. He was here. He was part of this huge piece of machine.” The president reiterated his claim that Fauci opposed his decision to restrict travel from China in January. Fauci indicated at the time he did not think it was a good idea, though he later said it had bought the U.S. time to fight the virus.
Trump has repeatedly undermined and criticized Fauci. Last month, he retweeted a message that said Fauci “has misled the American public on many issues, but in particular, on dismissing #hydroxychloroquine and calling Remdesivir the new gold standard.” He also has said Fauci is a nice man but has “made a lot of mistakes.” Other White House officials, such as trade adviser Peter Navarro, have openly attacked Fauci in public. Fauci has been among the most visible members of the White House coronavirus task force, giving frequent media interviews. However, he has largely been cut out of recent public White House events around the pandemic, as has Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the administration’s coronavirus response.
A COVID-19 vaccine could be available earlier than expected if ongoing clinical trials produce overwhelmingly positive results, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, in an interview Tuesday with KHN. Although two ongoing clinical trials of 30,000 volunteers are expected to conclude by the end of the year, Fauci said an independent board has the authority to end the trials weeks early if interim results are overwhelmingly positive or negative. The Data and Safety Monitoring Board could say, “‘The data is so good right now that you can say it’s safe and effective,’” Fauci said. In that case, researchers would have “a moral obligation” to end the trial early and make the active vaccine available to everyone in the study, including those who had been given placebos — and accelerate the process to give the vaccine to millions.
Fauci’s comments come at a time of growing concern about whether political pressure from the Trump administration could influence federal regulators and scientists overseeing the nation’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and erode shaky public confidence in vaccines. Prominent vaccine experts have said they fear Trump is pushing for an early vaccine approval to help win reelection. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he trusts the independent members of the DSMB — who are not government employees — to hold vaccines to high standards without being politically influenced. Members of the board are typically experts in vaccine science and biostatistics who teach at major medical schools. “If you are making a decision about the vaccine, you’d better be sure you have very good evidence that it is both safe and effective,” Fauci said. “I’m not concerned about political pressure.”
It’ll be mayhem. Good for the lawyers, bad for everyone else. The US will be lucky not to have a civil war.
A top Democratic data and analytics firm told “Axios on HBO” it’s highly likely that President Trump will appear to have won — potentially in a landslide — on election night, even if he ultimately loses when all the votes are counted. Way more Democrats will vote by mail than Republicans, due to fears of the coronavirus, and it will take days if not weeks to tally these. This means Trump, thanks to Republicans doing almost all of their voting in person, could hold big electoral college and popular vote leads on election night. Imagine America, with its polarization and misinformation, if the vote tally swings wildly toward Joe Biden and Trump loses days later as the mail ballots are counted.
That is what this group, Hawkfish, which is funded by Michael Bloomberg and also does work for the Democratic National Committee and pro-Biden Super PACs, is warning is a very real, if not foreordained, outcome.Hawkfish CEO Josh Mendelsohn calls the scenario a “red mirage.” “We are sounding an alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump,” he said. “When every legitimate vote is tallied and we get to that final day, which will be some day after Election Day, it will in fact show that what happened on election night was exactly that, a mirage,” Mendelsohn said. “It looked like Donald Trump was in the lead and he fundamentally was not when every ballot gets counted.”
Under one of the group’s modeling scenarios, Trump could hold a projected lead of 408-130 electoral votes on election night, if only 15% of the vote by mail (VBM) ballots had been counted. Once 75% of mail ballots were counted, perhaps four days later, the lead could flip to Biden’s favor. This particular modeling scenario portrays Biden as ultimately winning a massive victory, 334-204.
These things need much more scrutiny.
By his own admission, ex-CIA Director John Brennan chafed at being questioned earlier this month by federal prosecutor John Durham about the Obama administration’s intelligence assessment that Russia’s meddling in 2016 election was designed to help Donald Trump. Brennan “questioned why the analytic tradecraft and the findings of the ICA are being scrutinized by the Department of Justice, especially since they have been validated by the Mueller Report and the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Review,” a statement issued by his spokesman Nick Shapiro said. The answer, according to multiple officials familiar with the evidence, is that the House intelligence committee in 2018 sent a secret report to the CIA inspector general that called into question the tradecraft used in the Brennan-led assessment.
Specifically, the officials said, it highlighted dissent and doubts by some intelligence community analysts about Vladimir Putin’s intentions in intervening in the 2016 election. Some believed it was to help Trump; others believed it was simply to sow chaos without picking a winner, and still others saw evidence Putin might have preferred Hillary Clinton, the officials said. In other words, an assessment that was portrayed as unanimous when it was made public in early January 2017 was anything but at the analyst level, according to Fred Fleitz, a longtime intelligence officer who was briefed on the House intelligence committee’s concerns when he served as chief of staff in the National Security Council.
“When I was briefed on the House Intelligence Committee report on the January 2017 ICA, I was told that John Brennan politicized this assessment by excluding credible intelligence that the Russians wanted Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 election and ordered weak intelligence included that Russia wanted Trump to win, Fleitz told Just the News. “I also was told that Brennan took both actions over the objections of CIA analysts. I am concerned about what happened to these analysts and worry that they may have been subjected to retaliation by CIA management,” he added.
“These analysts are true whistleblowers, and they should come to the congressional intelligence committees to tell their stories and set the record straight on the ICA.” Officials said the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, who was a member of the House Intelligence Committee before joining the Trump administration, is considering declassifying parts or all of the House Intelligence Committee report to the inspector general. Ratcliffe hinted Sunday new releases of information are imminent. “I’m optimistic that I’ll be declassifying additional documents soon,” Ratcliffe told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.
And Trump knew.
The conservative watchdog Judicial Watch says it has received more than 300 pages of emails between former FBI official Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page that includes records of the FBI discussing an investigation into tweets sent by President Trump in early 2017 about the agency spying on him at the behest of former President Obama. In a March 2017 exchange, Strzok emails several of his colleagues, including Page, about several tweets the President Trump had sent earlier in the month commenting on suspected wire tapping at Trump Tower during the 2016 election. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” wrote POTUS on March 4.
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” Trump continued. “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” He concluded the March 4 tweet storm with: “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate Bad (or sick) guy!” On March 29, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey’s chief of staff emailed Strzok, Page and several of their colleagues saying that the director would like a briefing on a “sensitive matter.”
A followup email says that Comey requested the briefing so that he would be able to brief then-acting U.S. Attorney General Dana Boente. One week after the email exchange and director’s briefing, the second renewal and order of the FISA warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was filed. The new emails also detail exchanges between FBI officials and reporters at CNN and the New York Times pertaining to the Russia investigation. [..] “These astonishing emails, which have been hidden for years, show the Comey FBI was investigating President Trump over his critical tweets of the agency and Obama’s spying abuse and misconduct,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These emails also show that Comey was intimately involved with illegal and dishonest FISA spy op against President Trump.”
The minute order filed by Judge Emmet Sullivan outlines a protracted time-frame for the next sequence of events in the case against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. As noted in the order, Sullivan is now telling the DOJ and Flynn defense to file a joint status report outlining their “recommendation for further proceedings” by September 21, 2020. From there a briefing schedule which will require both parties to respond to Sullivan’s personal amicus (Gleeson), and additionally respond jointly to any other amicus not ordered by the court. Lastly, Sullivan is requesting three dates for oral arguments. In essence, despite his ability to quickly convene the parties to settle all matters before the court; which includes the unopposed motion by the DOJ and defense to drop the case; Sullivan intends to drag this case out as long as possible and use the amicus as a tool forcing responses from both parties (DOJ and Flynn). So much for the “quick dispatch” outlined within the DC Circuit opinion, this case is going on for several more months.
Before juxtaposing the U.S. and alternative responses to the coronavirus’s economic effects, I would like to step back in time to show how the pandemic has revealed a deep underlying problem. We are seeing the consequences of Western societies painting themselves into a debt corner by their creditor-oriented philosophy of law. Neoliberal anti-government (or more accurately, anti-democratic) ideology has centralized social planning and state power in “the market,” meaning specifically the financial market on Wall Street and in other financial centers. At issue is who will lose when employment and business activity are disrupted. Will it be creditors and landlords at the top of the economic scale, or debtors and renters at the bottom?
This age-old confrontation over how to deal with the unpaid rents, mortgages and other debt service is at the heart of today’s virus pandemic as large and small businesses, farms, restaurants and neighborhood stores have fallen into arrears, leaving businesses and households – along with their employees who have no wage income to pay these carrying charges that accrue each month. This is an age-old problem. It was solved in the ancient Near East simply by annulling these debt and rent charges. But the West, shaped as it still is by the legacy of the Roman Empire, has left itself prone to the massive unemployment, business closedowns and resulting arrears for these basic costs of living and doing business.
Western civilization distinguishes itself from its Near Eastern predecessors in the way it has responded to “acts of God” that disrupt the means of support and leave debts in their wake. The United States has taken the lead in rejecting the path by which China, and even social democratic European nations have prevented the coronavirus from causing widespread insolvency and polarizing their economies. The U.S. coronavirus lockdown is turning rent and debt arrears into an opportunity to impoverish the indebted economy and transfer mortgaged property and its income to creditors. There is no inherent material need for this fate to occur. But it seems so natural and even inevitable that, as Margaret Thatcher would say, There Is No Alternative. But of course there is, and always has been. However, resilience in the face of economic disruption always has required a central authority to override “market forces” to restore economic balance from “above.”
How not to do a Jubilee.
Nearly $7 Trillion in Securities, $2 Trillion Mortgages. As of August 26, 2020 the Fed’s Balance Sheet is nearly $7 trillion total of which $3.7 trillion are notes or bonds, and nearly $2 trillion in mortgages (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae).
Bloomberg reports No End in Sight to Fed’s Mortgage Buying Spree. • The Fed has snapped up $1 trillion of mortgage bonds since March. It bought around $300 billion of the bonds in each of March and April, and since then has been buying about $100 billion a month. • The Fed now owns almost a third of bonds backed by home loans in the U.S. • Buying the securities has pushed mortgage rates lower, with the average 30-year rate falling to 2.91% as of last week from 3.3% in early February. • Morgan Stanley analysts pointed out in late March that the buying was running at eight times the pace seen in prior episodes of Fed purchasing under programs known as quantitative easing. • Just before this latest round, principal payments from its mortgage bond holdings had whittled that down to 21%, but it has now increased back to 30%. • If the Fed maintains its current buying pace, it will again own 34% of the mortgage universe by year’s end.
It was always just lip service.
Big money from Big Oil and industry-tied unions has helped to kill a legislative effort to create environmental protections for communities living near oil and gas operations in California. On August 5, a 5-4 Senate committee vote struck down consideration of legislation calling for a 2,500-foot setback between future oil wells and homes, schools, and playgrounds. Only one of those votes came from a Republican. It was the second time in as many years that the bill, Assembly Bill 345, failed to pass, and it failed to do so even after several rounds of significant amendments had watered down the legislation. With that, a years-long activist-led legislative movement went up in smoke for 2020.
And then came the historically large wildfires. Within a matter of days, the state’s northern half caught fire at an epic scale, wildfires made worse from climate change and fueled by unfettered fossil fuel drilling. California oil is some of the dirtiest, from a climate change perspective, in the United States. Drilling for oil in the state also has major public health repercussions, an impetus driving AB 345. Recent studies have linked oil drilling in California to health impacts, including low birth weight and small gestational age, as well as preterm births. Research has also linked higher levels of industrial pollution to higher contraction rates of COVID-19. Despite these impacts, the bill attracted a core group of Democratic legislators who ultimately oversaw the bill’s demise.
Three of those who spoke out the most strongly against AB 345 at the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water hearing on August 5 before voting against it — senator Ben Hueso, senator Andreas Borgeas, and Senate majority leader Bob Hertzberg — have received high dollar contributions and other support from oil interests that lobbied against AB 345. The lobbying and influence campaign efforts waged by the oil industry and labor against AB 345 illustrates the difficulty in crafting climate policy and environmental protections — even in a state with a supermajority Democratic Party legislature that bills itself as a global leader on fighting climate change.
Merkel needs to wake up.
German conservative newspaper Die Welt reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to provoke a military incident with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean in order to survive politically.In a report entitled “Erdogan’s calculated war,” the news paper said that “if it depended on the Turkish President, his navy would have sunk a Greek ship in the Mediterranean a long time ago.” Citing Turkish military sources, Die Welt wrote that Erdogan had asked Turkey generals a few days ago to sink a Greek ship and that they should do so securing that no one is killed in the process.
When the generals refused, someone else suggested shooting down a Greek fighter, and the pilot could use the launch pad to save himself. But Turkish generals again refused. Turkish and Greek Navy ships have been at standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea since Ankara sent seismic vessel Oruc Reis for hydrocarbon research in the Greek continental shelf beginning of August. Fighter jests of the two countries are often engaged in “dog fights” over the Aegean Sea because Turkey sends its F-16s to violate Greek air space.
“He is the modern equivalent of a severed head on a pike displayed at the city gates.”
Court hearings in Britain over the US administration’s extradition case against Julian Assange begin in earnest next week. The decade-long saga that brought us to this point should appall anyone who cares about our increasingly fragile freedoms. A journalist and publisher has been deprived of his liberty for 10 years. According to UN experts, he has been arbitrarily detained and tortured for much of that time through intense physical confinement and endless psychological pressure. He has been bugged and spied on by the CIA during his time in political asylum, in Ecuador’s London embassy, in ways that violated his most fundamental legal rights. The judge overseeing his hearings has a serious conflict of interest – with her family embedded in the UK security services – that she did not declare and which should have required her to recuse herself from the case.
All indicators are that Assange will be extradited to the US to face a rigged grand jury trial meant to ensure he sees out his days in a maximum-security prison, serving a sentence of up to 175 years. None of this happened in some Third-World, tinpot dictatorship. It happened right under our noses, in a major western capital, and in a state that claims to protect the rights of a free press. It happened not in the blink of an eye but in slow motion – day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. And once we strip out a sophisticated campaign of character assassination against Assange by western governments and a compliant media, the sole justification for this relentless attack on press freedom is that a 49-year-old man published documents exposing US war crimes.
That is the reason – and the only reason – that the US is seeking his extradition and why he has been languishing in what amounts to solitary confinement in Belmarsh high-security prison during the Covid-19 pandemic. His lawyers’ appeals for bail have been refused. While the press corps abandoned Assange a decade ago, echoing official talking points that pilloried him over toilet hygiene and his treatment of his cat, Assange is today exactly where he originally predicted he would be if western governments got their way. What awaits him is rendition to the US so he can be locked out of sight for the rest of his life.
There were two goals the US and UK set out to achieve through the visible persecution, confinement and torture of Assange. First, he and Wikileaks, the transparency organisation he co-founded, needed to be disabled. Engaging with Wikileaks had to be made too risky to contemplate for potential whistleblowers. That is why Chelsea Manning – the US soldier who passed on documents relating to US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for which Assange now faces extradition – was similarly subjected to harsh imprisonment. She later faced punitive daily fines while in jail to pressure her into testifying against Assange.
The aim has been to discredit Wikileaks and similar organisations and stop them from being able to publish more revelatory documents – of the kind that show western governments are not the “good guys” managing world affairs for the benefit of mankind, but are in fact highly militarised, global bullies advancing the same ruthless colonial policies of war, destruction and pillage they always pursued. And second, Assange had to be made to suffer horribly and in public – to be made an example of – to deter other journalists from ever considering following in his footsteps. He is the modern equivalent of a severed head on a pike displayed at the city gates.
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Taleb Being Lebanese
— Smiljana Skiba (@MasaSkiba) September 1, 2020
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