Claude Monet The house at Yerres 1876
The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.
– Julian Assange
“He’ll be great in the war room, I’m sure.”
The hypothetical Biden Administration is shaping up to be something like a four-year-long séance, a conjuring of apparitions wailing out talking points in a darkened room. The actual location of the inaugural event remains a mystery, or even if it will be an event, maybe just a pre-recorded video concoction of Mr. Biden’s greatest hits of 2020. Check and see if he’s wearing the same necktie from beginning to end. If a hologram is inaugurated, does that make the land-mass between Montauk and Santa Barbara a post-structural figment? The “president-elect,” made an ectoplasmic appearance Sunday talking up “science,” the Democrat’s mental life-preserver, and then shuffled offstage in an apparent fog of confusion as the Ritalin wore off. He’ll be great in the war room, I’m sure.
The mystery surrounding DNI John Ratcliffe’s long overdue report on foreign interference in the election cleared up only a little with the release of a letter sent January 8th to the Senate Intelligence Committee. In it, citing a side report from Intel Community Ombudsman Barry Zulauf, Mr. Ratcliffe refers to “undue pressure being brought to bear” on analysts by CIA management to craft their conclusions according to political loyalties. In other words, once again the CIA appears to be playing games with the American people and can’t be trusted. Isn’t that reassuring?
Meanwhile, The New York Times, CNN, and MSNBC have turned into a nonstop gloat-fest anticipating the punishments to be dished out by progressive Wokesterdom against anyone who ever entertained a thought about or uttered the phrase “stolen election.” They can kiss their livelihoods goodbye. Their college degrees will be revoked by such bastions of free thinking as Harvard. Their websites will be liquidated. Senators and congresspersons must be thrown out of their seats. They’ll be reduced to squatting on filthy blankets at the entrance of the Walmart begging for spare change, or hauled off to re-education camps where NPR lawyers with riding crops preside over their therapeutic struggle sessions, beating the wrongthink out of their hides. For Democrats, vengeance is a dish to be served piping hot. Would you like flies with your shit sandwich?
Ha ha ha. CNN doesn’t like competition. “There are people on YouTube for example that have a larger audience than daytime CNN.” Note the link to ISIS ingested into the conversation. Dangerous people.
Former Facebook insider Alex Stamos tells @brianstelter: "We have to turn down the capability of these Conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences… There are people on YouTube for example that have a larger audience than daytime CNN." pic.twitter.com/gP0XtnjhCQ
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 17, 2021
Obama is very closely behind Biden.
Twelve years after Joe Biden was sworn in as the vice president of hope and change, hope is in short supply and the need for change is even more acute. Progressives have a rare opportunity to enact their agenda—but they will need to play the kind of hardball they have backed away from in the past, because Biden continues to send conflicting messages. For every promise of transformational change, he signals a desire to appease a Republican Party intent on destroying his presidency. The stakes could hardly be higher: One out of every thousand Americans has died from a lethal pandemic, with no end yet in sight. The economy is officially still humming along, but millions face eviction, bankruptcy and hunger. Even U.S. democracy is under unprecedented siege by an insurrectionist movement encouraged by the outgoing president and his loyalists in Congress.
The path forward is difficult to envision amid the fog of culture war, political war and the threat of actual, real-life civil war. But it is clear that Biden is at a crossroad and still unsure which way to go. He can follow his boss, Barack Obama, who pursued bipartisanship, comity and compromise—accommodating corporate power. Or he can break toward the path of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did battle with oligarchy, stood down fascism and welcomed the hatred of the rich. One thing he cannot do is try to go in both directions. The lesson of the Obama administration is that you can have appeasement or transformative progress, but you almost certainly cannot have both.
The boys are back in power.
The top two Senate leaders are nearing a power-sharing agreement to hash out how the evenly divided chamber will operate, with Democrats in charge of setting the schedule but both parties likely to hold an equal number of seats on Senate committees, according to sources familiar with the talks. The negotiations between Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have been built largely around how the Senate operated the last time the body was split 50-50: When George W. Bush initially became president in 2001. Final details are still being sorted out between the two leaders, sources said.
Similar to those rules, set in January 2001, Schumer and McConnell aides are discussing allowing bills and nominations to advance to the Senate floor even if they are tied during committee votes, something that could become common given that each party is expected to have the same number of seats on committees. Democrats will hold the chairmanships of the committees, giving them power to set the agenda, and Schumer will be granted the title of majority leader since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast tiebreaking votes on the floor. The full chamber still has to ratify these procedures, but that is expected to occur once Schumer and McConnell have finalized their agreement.
No DC without pork. Tons of it.
Critics of President-Elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-related spending plan say the proposal goes far beyond coronavirus relief into subsidizing teachers’ unions and prioritizing taxpayer money to be spent on non-white, non-male-owned businesses rather than taking a color- and gender-blind approach. Biden’s proposal comes in addition to the $900 billion passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last month, and on top of the $2.9 trillion stimulus package passed in the spring of 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described “democratic socialist” called Biden’s plan just a “first installment.”
In an interview with the “Just the News AM” television program, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) called the plan “another multitrillion dollar liberal wishlist” that she opposed. “I just hope that President-Elect Biden looks to work with Republicans, rather than just really bowing to the far left, the AOC wing of the party where I think there’s gonna be a lot of pressure to do that,” Stefanik said, alluding to the bloc led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Though the Biden plan carves out $70 billion for COVID-related vaccines, therapies and testing (this is on top of the $42 billion passed last month), critics of the plan say that the vast majority of the rest of the funding is more focused on income redistribution to advance long-term Democratic social policies.
It’s a disease. There’s no cure.
Failed Trump challenger Hillary Clinton said she would “love” to see President Donald Trump’s phone records to see “whether he was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol” on January 6, making the remarks during a bonus episode of her podcast You and Me Both released Monday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appeared as the featured guest on the bonus episode and discussed the series of events that occurred on January 6 — the day protesters breached the U.S. Capitol as Congress gathered to certify the electoral vote. Clinton, one of the central champions of the debunked Trump-Russia collusion narrative that dominated the first years of Trump’s presidency, revealed her own suspicion that Trump could have been in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the day of the protest.
“We learned a lot about our system of government over the last four years with a president who disdains democracy and, as you have said numerous times, has other agendas,” Clinton said. “What they all are, I don’t think we yet know. I hope historically we will find out who he’s beholden to, who pulls his strings. I would love to see his phone records to see whether he was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol,” Clinton continued, also placing blame on Trump’s “enablers,” “accomplices,” and “cult members” — a likely reference to his supporters, whom she famously referred to as “deplorables” during her 2016 campaign. “Do you think we need a 9/11-type commission to investigate and report everything that they can pull together and explain what happened?” Clinton asked the speaker, who responded, “I do.”
“To your point of who is he beholden to, as I’ve said over and over, as I said to him in that picture with my blue suit as I was leaving, what I was saying to him as I was pointing, rudely, at him: ‘With you, Mr. President, all roads lead to Putin,’” Pelosi told Clinton, referring to the January 6 events as a “gift to Putin” as he “wants to undermine democracy in our country and throughout the world.” “And these people, unbeknownst to them, maybe, are Putin puppets. They were doing Putin’s business when they did that at the incitement of an insurrection by the president of the United States,” she added.
Hillary Pelosi Putin
.@SpeakerPelosi and I agree:
Congress needs to establish an investigative body like the 9/11 Commission to determine Trump's ties to Putin so we can repair the damage to our national security and prevent a puppet from occupying the presidency ever again. pic.twitter.com/yR7LQmXm5Z
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 18, 2021
What does Hillary think?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday joined calls from European Union officials to reign in the censorship power of Big Tech. In a Moscow news conference, Lavrov characterized the tech giants as extra-governmental entities that impose their own rules on public discourse. “Let’s hope that American society will not let its elites use blatant censorship, flagrant infringement of the Constitution and international commitments in its struggle against one other,” Lavrov said in the Jan. 18 news conference. “If it fails to cope with this problem, we all should be ready to face the consequences of such a failure of the American state, and these consequences would be very serious for the global arena.”
“It is no longer acceptable in our view that platforms take some key decisions by themselves alone without any supervision, without any accountability, and without any sort of dialogue or transparency for the kind of decisions that they’re taking,” said Agarwal, who leads a commission e-commerce unit. “Freedom of expression is really a key value in this.” [..] “Recent events, including those in the United States, [pertain] to a situation when half a dozen people who have created their technological empires do not even want to know what rights they have in their countries,” Lavrov said. “They themselves define their rights on the basis of so-called corporate norms and they don’t care a bit about the constitutions of their nations. We have clearly seen this in the United States, and this, of course, causes serious concern.”
Took just one year.
Germany is weighing up following Austria and Bavaria’s lead in making it compulsory to wear full protective filter masks on public transport and in shops, as the country remains on high alert about the impact of possible coronavirus mutations. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced on Sunday that wearing single-use filtering facepiece respirator, or FFP2, masks would become mandatory on public transport and in shops from 25 January, as the Alpine state moves to extend its national lockdown until 7 February.
In Germany’s largest and southernmost state, Bavaria, a similar requirement for trains, trams, buses and supermarkets came into force on Monday, though the new rule will not be policed until 24 January and allows for exemptions for bus drivers, ticket inspectors and children under the age of 15. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the heads of the country’s 16 federal states are expected to discuss following the Bavarian blueprint at a summit on Tuesday in spite of a recent reduction of infection rates. A night-time curfew and new remote-working requirements could also accompany an expected extension of the lockdown into February.
When fitted properly, FFP2 masks promise to filter out at least 94% of particles but are also more expensive, usually retailing at between €2 and €5 per mask. If FFP2 masks were made mandatory before suppliers are unable to meet the new demand, prices are expected to rise further. Some virologists warn a new compulsory mask rule could end up being counterproductive. “In theory, the move to more professional masks is welcome,” said Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a German virologist and Professor of Arbovirology at the University of Hamburg. “But I’d be wary of simply copying the Bavarian model without considering the possible downsides.
Antibodies evolve along with virus mutations.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has infected 78 million individuals and is responsible for over 1.7 million deaths to date. Infection is associated with development of variable levels of antibodies with neutralizing activity that can protect against infection in animal models. Antibody levels decrease with time, but the nature and quality of the memory B cells that would be called upon to produce antibodies upon re-infection has not been examined. Here we report on the humoral memory response in a cohort of 87 individuals assessed at 1.3 and 6.2 months after infection. We find that IgM, and IgG anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) antibody titres decrease significantly with IgA being less affected.
Concurrently, neutralizing activity in plasma decreases by fivefold in pseudotype virus assays. In contrast, the number of RBD-specific memory B cells is unchanged. Memory B cells display clonal turnover after 6.2 months, and the antibodies they express have greater somatic hypermutation, increased potency and resistance to RBD mutations, indicative of continued evolution of the humoral response. Analysis of intestinal biopsies obtained from asymptomatic individuals 4 months after the onset of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), using immunofluorescence, or polymerase chain reaction, revealed persistence of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids and immunoreactivity in the small bowel of 7 out of 14 volunteers. We conclude that the memory B cell response to SARS-CoV-2 evolves between 1.3 and 6.2 months after infection in a manner that is consistent with antigen persistence.
Testimony to the lack of organization in the US? Or just Corporatism 2.0?
As states across the U.S. struggle to administer enough coronavirus vaccines, Washington has picked an unusual partner to help speed up the process: Starbucks. Starbucks, which is based in Seattle, will assign several employees to work on “operational efficiency, scalable modeling and human-centered design expertise and support,” Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday. Starbucks locations will not serve as vaccination sites, but the company said it will use its technology and logistical “expertise” to help with site selection and “optimize vaccination sites with design principles and solutions focused on efficiency to thruput.” Starbucks is part of a larger public-private partnership announced Monday to help Washington’s vaccine distribution, which includes Microsoft for technology assistance, Costco pharmacies for vaccine delivery and local unions to help staff and train volunteer vaccinators.
The goal of the partnership is to boost its distribution efforts, which like many states has been moving slowly amid logistical and supply challenges. States are already partnering with private companies with pharmacies, such as Walmart, Kroger, CVS and Walgreens, for vaccine distribution, but the Starbucks partnership is unique to Washington, and it’s among the first to involve a company without a clear link to healthcare. “Starbucks is not a healthcare company, but we do operate 33,000 stores at scale, serving 100 million customers per week,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson at a press conference. “And we have a world-class team of human-centered design engineers who are working under the direction of the state and healthcare providers, like Swedish, Kaiser Permanente and others, with Microsoft and many other businesses to help support the creation of vaccination centers that can scale.”
Ironically, the banning of Trump by the Silicon Valley Kings will play a large role in these relations.
EU-US relations will not return to how they were before Donald Trump came to power, according to the European Commission’s top trade official. Sabine Weyland, the EU’s director-general for trade, was speaking at a videoconference for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the US’ 46th president on Wednesday. “There will be no nostalgia. We are not going to go back to the global order of previous days. The world today is not the same as it was ten or even five years ago,” Weyland said. Weyland’s words suggest four years of hostility towards Europe from Donald Trump’s administration have left a mark.
Nevertheless, Brussels is looking for closer cooperation with the US. It wants to focus on core priorities, like fighting the pandemic and its economic fallout, tackling climate change, and finding common ground on digital and trade policies. Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said that even with Trump out of the picture, American interests are still what counts most in Washington. “The Biden administration somewhat disappointingly is not just going to reverse all the tariffs,” Posen explained. “They will certainly stop escalating them and they will stop some of the more ridiculous tariffs that were put on allies with national security excuses. But there will be some attempt by the Biden administration to extract things in return for reducing the tariffs.”
Not the Onion.
President Donald Trump announced the names on Monday of more than 200 statues to be built as part of his plan for a new “National Garden of American Heroes.” He said the new garden will demolish the “reckless attempt to erase our heroes” that occurred during last year’s protests and riots that occurred following the death of George Floyd, according to the Washington Times. The list of names is headlined by author Harper Lee, actor Jimmy Stewart, abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, baseball star Roberto Clemente and explorer Christopher Columbus. “In the peace and harmony of this vast outdoor park, visitors will come and learn the amazing stories of some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived,” Trump said in a new executive order, which lists all of the names.
The announcement came on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Both King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, made Trump’s list. Trump left himself off of the list despite being nominated by several people as part of the selection process, government officials said last year. He first announced the list of names to be honored last summer as Black Lives Matter protests were occurring across the nation and statues recalling American history, such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, were being torn down. Trump’s decision to implement this “National Garden of American Heroes” was a counter to the statues of “American heroes” being destroyed and removed last summer.
His original list of 31 names received criticism for being too short and lacking diversity, as it consisted mainly of white men. Trump’s new list is much longer and much more diverse, including Native Americans, women and other minority groups. Whether this idea will be moved forward rests in the hands of President-elect Joe Biden as he takes office this week. He could completely eliminate Trump’s proposed list, alter the list of names or push it forward as is.
Dear President Trump,
You are right in many ways that the news media have become the enemies of the people and the friends of the powerful who treat the people as enemies. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” The role of the press is to keep powerful officials accountable to the electorate. The one journalist who has achieved this above all in recent years is the Australian Julian Assange. He is languishing in a British prison for exposing the powerful in the interests of the people. It is within your power to set him free. Please pardon him, Mr. President.
Tucker Assange Kiriakou
— Don't Extradite Assange (@DEAcampaign) January 19, 2021
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