Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Jan 152021
 
 January 15, 2021  Posted by at 10:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  44 Responses »


Salvador Dalí Living still life 1956

 

Trump Declassifying Trove Of FBI Memos Exposing Steele’s Motivations (JTN)
Trump Declassifies ‘Foot-High’ Stack Of Russiagate, Obamagate Documents (ZH)
After Trump Bans, Facebook, Twitter See Combined $51 Billion In Losses (JTN)
Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans (AP)
Poland Plans To Make Censoring Of Social Media Accounts Illegal (G.)
Google Refuses To Answer Questions About Removing Australian News Sites (G.)
Trump Impeached Amid Efforts to Silence Him (Lauria)
Impeachment Is More Dangerous Than Trump (Tracey)
Liberal Activist Arrested, Charged With Participating In Capitol Riot (JTN)
Biden’s Cabinet Picks Are A Missed Opportunity For Change (USAT)
Will the Senate Confirm Coup Plotter Victoria Nuland? (Benjamin)
ECB’s Lagarde Calls For Regulating Bitcoin’s “Funny Business” (R.)
Secret Service Barred From Using Ivanka Trump’s Bathrooms (G.)

 

 

I can’t unsee this picture. This is not the only one that has the same angle. The photographer knew what he was doing, and moved till he had it just right.

 

 

 

 

Special Russiagate Counsel needed.

Trump Declassifying Trove Of FBI Memos Exposing Steele’s Motivations (JTN)

Delivering in his final days on one of his last unfulfilled promises, President Trump is declassifying a massive trove of FBI documents showing the Russia collusion story was leaked in the final weeks of the 2016 election in an effort to counteract Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. The memos to be released as early as Friday include FBI interviews and human source evaluation reports for two of the main informants in the Russia case, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele and academic Stefan Halper. The president authorized the release of a foot-high stack of internal FBI and DOJ documents that detail significant flaws in the investigation and provide a detailed timeline of when the FBI first realized the Steele dossier was problematic, multiple government officials told Just the News.

Among the bombshell revelations is an admission by Steele that he violated his confidential human source agreement with the FBI and leaked information from his dossier to the news media in the final weeks of the election because he wanted to counteract new revelations in the Hillary Clinton email scandal that were hurting her election efforts. The former foreign intelligence officer made the confession in a fall 2017 interview with agents. Steele, who was hired by Clinton’s campaign law firm to compile anti-Trump dossiers attempting to link Trump to Russian influence, told agents he had two clients at the time — Clinton and the FBI — and chose the interests of the Democratic candidate over the bureau in leaking.

Steele told the bureau that then-FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the Clinton email probe in fall 2016 triggered him to leak his dossier details in what he described as a taking-the-gloves-off moment. The FBI interview summary makes clear that Steele, a British citizen, was allegiant to Clinton, did not like Trump and believed a Trump presidency would be negative for his homeland and thus made a decision to meddle in the U.S. election by leaking information to the news media. The leaks, which led to Steele’s termination as an FBI informant, have been known for more than a year, but his motivation for leaking was hidden in the classified documents. His admission that the Russia collusion narrative, later debunked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was injected into the public as a means of counteracting Clinton’s email scandal corroborates other information obtained by the CIA.

The soon-to-be-released records also expose a tantalizing connection between Steele, his primary source and one of the Democrats’ key impeachment witnesses in the Ukraine scandal, former Trump National Security Council Russia expert Fiona Hill. Steele divulged to the FBI that he was introduced by Hill to his primary sub-source of information for his anti-Trump dossier and that he later told Hill that the source had provided information for his now infamous memos. [..] The documents also will settle a long-debated question in Washington about whether the FBI’s tactics amounted to spying on the Trump campaign. Tasking instructions the FBI gave to Halper, an academic who long worked as an FBI informant, make clear he was instructed to infiltrate the Trump campaign by posing as someone who wanted to work for the GOP nominee and then targeting campaign advisers to find out what they knew about Trump or his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Solomon

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“These are the things that the FBI has tried to keep from the public for 4 years.”

Trump Declassifies ‘Foot-High’ Stack Of Russiagate, Obamagate Documents (ZH)

President Trump has declassified and authorized the release of “more than a foot-high stack of documents” related to the Obama administration’s surveillance and espionage committed against the 2016 Trump campaign, as part of a larger campaign to discredit and undermine the incoming US president. According to journalist and Trump insider John Solomon, the documents would be released as soon as Friday, but no later than Monday. “He has delivered in a big way. More than a foot-high stack of documents he has authorized to be released by the FBI and the DOJ. These are the things that the FBI has tried to keep from the public for 4 years. They have amazing, big picture revelations,” Solomon told Fox News’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” According to Solomon’s website, Just The News, the release will support claims that the entire Russia narrative was created and leaked to the news media to upstage concerns over Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.

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Dorsey and Zuckerberg have hugely overestimated their powers. Their investors will be very unhappy.

After Trump Bans, Facebook, Twitter See Combined $51 Billion In Losses (JTN)

Facebook and Twitter have lost a combined $51 billion in market cap following their bans of President Donald Trump last week as investors balked at the tech giants’ surprise censorship of Trump roughly two weeks before his term was set to end. Facebook bore the overwhelming brunt of the market plunge, according to Business Insider, seeing gargantuan losses of $47.6 billion following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Trump would remain suspended from the social media platform “indefinitely,” until at least after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.


Twitter, meanwhile, saw its market cap plunge by $3.5 billion after it permanently suspended Trump from its servers due to claims that the president was inciting violence among his supporters with his posts. In the week since the bans were announced, users have reportedly been flocking to alternative social media sites, ones that have touted a commitment to censorship-free services in contrast to the heavier hands of the mainstream social media platforms.

@jack Veritas

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People will contend this is just the Mexican president, and AP even tries to paint him off as a Trump sympathizer. But this is a global issue. Twitter and Facebook will soon be subject to strong regulations, or they will be banned from many countries.

“..the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law.”

Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans (AP)

Mexico’s president vowed Thursday to lead an international effort to combat what he considers censorship by social media companies that have blocked or suspended the accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration is reaching out to other government to form a common front on the issue. “I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” López Obrador said. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.” “How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” he asked. Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico is starting to build an international campaign around the issue.


“Given that Mexico, through our president, has spoken out, we immediately made contact with others who think the same,” Ebrard said, noting they had heard from officials in France, Germany, the European Union, Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. “The president’s orders are to make contact with all of them, share this concern and work on coming up with a joint proposal,” Ebrard said. “We will see what is proposed.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among those who have publicly criticized the action against Trump. Her spokesman said Monday the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, later called for new regulations that would govern the use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the European Union.

Tucker @jack

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“Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland..”

Poland Plans To Make Censoring Of Social Media Accounts Illegal (G.)

Polish government officials have denounced the deactivation of Donald Trump’s social media accounts, and said a draft law being readied in Poland will make it illegal for tech companies to take similar actions there. “Algorithms or the owners of corporate giants should not decide which views are right and which are not,” wrote the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, on Facebook earlier this week, without directly mentioning Trump. “There can be no consent to censorship.” Morawiecki indirectly compared social media companies taking decisions to remove accounts with Poland’s experience during the communist era. “Censorship of free speech, which is the domain of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, is now returning in the form of a new, commercial mechanism to combat those who think differently,” he wrote.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is ideologically aligned with Trump on many issues, has itself been accused of trying to limit freedom of speech in recent years. Some of its members have made a habit of posting anti-LGBT or anti-refugee rhetoric. However, government officials have long claimed that people with rightwing views in Poland and abroad have been the victims of biased decisions by international tech companies. Sebastian Kaleta, secretary of state at Poland’s Ministry of Justice, said Facebook’s decision to remove Trump’s account was hypocritical, politically motivated and “amounts to censorship”. He said the draft law prepared by the justice ministry would make it illegal for social media companies to remove posts that did not break Polish law.

“Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland,” Kaleta told Rzeczpospolita newspaper. In recent years, Facebook has moved to block content from far-right Polish organisations and politicians on numerous occasions. The MP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, aligned with the Konfederacja party, was in November shut out of his account, which had 780,000 followers, for what Facebook called repeated violations of community standards. Korwin-Mikke accused Facebook of being run by “fascists and Bolsheviks”.

Under the provisions of the Polish draft law, users would be able to file a court petition to force social media companies to restore removed content if they believed it did not violate Polish law. The court would rule within seven days and the process would be fully electronic. Morawiecki called on the EU to introduce similar regulations. Other European politicians, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, have also expressed unease at the ban on Trump by various social media outlets, and a new EU proposal, the Digital Services Act, envisions tougher regulations on tech companies, including tough fines for failure to block illegal content.

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Just an experiment…

Google Refuses To Answer Questions About Removing Australian News Sites (G.)

Google has refused to answer questions on its secret trial of removing news sites from search results in Australia, with the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, saying the company should focus on paying for news, not blocking it. Google blindsided news consumers and media outlets this week with a trial that removed Australian media outlets such as the ABC, Nine, the Guardian and others from its search results. Users were not informed of the change, or advised how to find news articles when searching, with some reporting they initially believed it was an issue only affecting them.


People affected by the trial can get around the block by searching in a private browser window, such as in incognito mode in Google Chrome. The move by Google came as a Senate committee is reviewing legislation that would force Google and Facebook to negotiate with Australian news media companies for a fair price for displaying local news content. Google has argued strongly against the code since it was first announced last year, by alerting users to the proposed changes in search and in Google Chrome.

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Joe Lauria goes through the law chapter by chapter. Excellent read.

Trump Impeached Amid Efforts to Silence Him (Lauria)

The Congressional Republicans who challenged the electoral college results last Wednesday are guilty of one transgression: wasting Congress’ time. There was no way the electoral college votes would be overturned. However those Republicans were completely within their rights to challenge the results and spur debate and a vote in both chambers. To suggest that that Constitutional right constituted incitement or support for the riot is extraordinary overreach. There have been Democratic calls for these Republicans to be unseated and even investigated for possible prosecution. During the impeachment debate on Wednesday, Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler said the rioters’ “accomplices in this House will be held to account.” Numerous corporate donors have said they will no longer contribute to these Republicans’ campaigns.

There is even wild speculation by some Democrats that some Republican members gave Capitol “reconnaissance” tours to the rioters the night before. The New York Times posted photos of all Republican members who challenged the electoral college votes as if they were on a wanted poster. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan in the impeachment debate pointed out that more Democrats in Congress objected to more states’ electoral college results in 2017’s certification than had Republicans last Wednesday. A Republican member responded that Hillary Clinton had conceded, unlike Trump, and that the objections were based on “Russian interference” in that election. He accused the Republicans, with a straight face, of engaging in “conspiracy theories” about a stolen 2020 election.

Such Democratic hypocrisy was underscored on 60 Minutes Sunday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous.” But is he any more “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous” than Democrats who joined Republicans to vote in 2003 to invade and occupy a nation that posed no threat to the United States? How would one describe Pelosi’s response in 2019 when asked why she opposed impeaching George W. Bush for that invasion, a crime of “aggression,” the worst war crime according to the Nuremberg Tribunal? Because of that invasion Bush was still a far worse and more dangerous president than even Trump.

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“..the text of the impeachment article will now be permanently embedded in the fabric of American governance.”

Impeachment Is More Dangerous Than Trump (Tracey)

The most apt parallel for the second impeachment of Donald Trump may not be any other of the three previous presidential impeachments, including his own just over a year ago. It may instead be the PATRIOT Act, which was passed in the heated emotional aftermath of the September 11 attacks, with negligible debate afforded to the long-term implications of what Congress was enacting. Reason and deliberation had given way to a collective desire for security and revenge, and thus the most sweeping curtailment of civil liberties in the modern historical record was approved. Those who departed from the swiftly assembled consensus could expect to be denounced as sympathisers to terrorists.

Likewise, if you deign to raise concerns about the implications of this sudden impeachment sequel — or any of the other extraordinary actions taken in the past week, such as an ongoing corporate censorship purge of unprecedented proportions — you can expect to be accused of defending or supporting the “domestic terrorists” who carried out the mob attack on the Capitol. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, rationalised rushing through Wednesday’s impeachment resolution at spell-binding speed — by far the fastest impeachment process ever — on the grounds that Trump posed a “clear and present danger” to the country, and needed to be removed immediately. “Imminent threats” of various stripes also have a long history of being cited to justify sweeping emergency action, such as the invasion of Iraq. Often upon further inspection, the purported “threat” turns out to have been not so “imminent”, or in fact to have never existed at all.

But as rushed as the impeachment was, if the purported emergency conditions were truly so dire as Pelosi maintained, she could have theoretically summoned the House to convene the day after the mob attack and impeach Trump right away. Congress convened the very next day after the attack on Pearl Harbor to declare war on Japan, for example. Instead, Pelosi waited a full week, and gave everyone the weekend off in the interim. Trump, alleged to be in the process of orchestrating a violent “coup”, was allowed to remain in office unimpeded with access to the nuclear codes for seven days. Nonetheless, with a total of two hours of perfunctory debate — and no hearings, fact-finding or meditation on the relevant Constitutional Law considerations — Trump was impeached for the second time. As such, the text of the impeachment article will now be permanently embedded in the fabric of American governance.

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Both sides say Jake Sullivan belongs to the other side.

Liberal Activist Arrested, Charged With Participating In Capitol Riot (JTN)

A progressive activist has been arrested and charged with participating in last week’s U.S. Capitol riot a week after he uploaded footage of the event to YouTube. Utah resident and anti-Trump activist John Sullivan told Just the News last week that he had been present at the riot, including inside the Capitol, “specifically [as] a journalist, just to record the events that were going down.” Yet FBI agent Matthew Foulger alleged in an affidavit on Wednesday that, rather than merely act as a journalist during the riots, Sullivan “knowingly and willfully joined a crowd of individuals who forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol and impeded, disrupted, and disturbed the orderly conduct of business by the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.”


Foulger in the affidavit said that footage taken by Sullivan at the riot shows the activist accompanying and cheering on the rioting crowd by saying things such as “Let’s go. This shit is ours!” and “Let’s burn this shit down.” Sullivan has been arrested and charged pursuant to the incident, Salt Lake City station Fox 13 reported on Thursday evening. The station said the activist has been charged with “rioting and criminal mischief.”

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The details are terrible, the language is terribly polite.

“Corporate nominees are insulting against the backdrop of complete economic destruction that Americans are grappling with in the pandemic.”

Biden’s Cabinet Picks Are A Missed Opportunity For Change (USAT)

As the 2020 Democratic primaries were heating up last year, then-candidate Joe Biden assured his wealthy campaign donors in Manhattan that “nothing would fundamentally change” for their luxurious standard of living under his presidency. Based on the majority of his Cabinet picks, he wasn’t kidding. Biden will maintain a cozy relationship with corporate America by lubricating the hinges of the ever revolving door of politics. Take Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of State, as an example. In 2017, Blinken transitioned out of the Obama administration and founded a consulting firm called WestExec Advisors. The majority of its staffers — 21 out of 38 — personally donated to Biden’s campaign. WestExec co-founder Michele Flournoy alone raised more than $100,000 for the former vice president.

Was Blinken chosen for the job because he’s best suited, or is Biden trading favors based on campaign fundraisers and donations? Sure, Blinken and Biden have worked together in the past, and that could have factored into his decision. But aside from the transparent “favor for a favor” deal-making taking place in plain sight, Blinken’s opaque work at WestExec Advisors could be rife with conflicts of interest. The firm’s website boasts about selling influence to the White House by stating that its name “is derived from ‘West Executive Avenue,’ the closed street that runs between the West Wing of the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It is, quite literally, the road to the Situation Room, and it is the road everyone associated with WestExec Advisors has crossed many times en route to meetings of the highest national security consequences.”

While it’s clear that this consulting firm’s services mostly revolve around helping corporate clients and defense contractors win favorable government treatment, little is known about its client list because its staffers aren’t considered lobbyists. They’re labeled strategic advisers, which means they don’t have to disclose whom they’re working for. As The Intercept noted, the Biden team is squandering an opportunity for reform by sticking to conventional nominees like Avril Haines for director of national intelligence. While serving in the CIA under the Obama administration, Haines was an architect of the disastrous drone program that killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Later, Haines worked as a consultant for WestExec Advisors and Palantir — a controversial data mining firm that has provided the Trump administration intel to perform mass deportations.

Janet Yellen, who has been tapped to serve as Treasury secretary, is another example. When Politico reported that Yellen made $7.2 million in the past two years for giving closed-door speeches to Wall Street firms, Biden supporters brushed it off as nothing more than a misogynistic attack. However, there should be an overwhelming consensus that Americans deserve to know about any lucrative ties politicians and government officials have to bankers and hedge funds.

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By now I think she may be out.

Will the Senate Confirm Coup Plotter Victoria Nuland? (Benjamin)

Who is Victoria Nuland? Most Americans have never heard of her because the U.S. corporate media’s foreign policy coverage is a wasteland. Most Americans have no idea that President-elect Biden’s pick for Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs is stuck in the quicksand of 1950s U.S.-Russia Cold War politics and dreams of continued NATO expansion, an arms race on steroids and further encirclement of Russia. Nor do they know that from 2003-2005, during the hostile U.S. military occupation of Iraq, Nuland was a foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney, the Darth Vader of the Bush administration. You can bet, however, that the people of Ukraine have heard of neocon Nuland. Many have even heard the leaked four-minute audio of her saying “Fuck the EU” during a 2014 phone call with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

During the infamous call on which Nuland and Pyatt plotted to replace the elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, Nuland expressed her not-so-diplomatic disgust with the European Union for grooming former heavyweight boxer and austerity champ Vitali Klitschko instead of U.S. puppet and NATO booklicker Artseniy Yatseniuk to replace Russia-friendly Yanukovych. The “Fuck the EU” call went viral, as an embarrassed State Department, never denying the call’s authenticity, blamed the Russians for tapping the phone, much as the NSA has tapped the phones of European allies. Despite outrage from German Chancellor Angela Markel, no one fired Nuland, but her potty mouth upstaged the more serious story: the U.S. plot to overthrow Ukraine’s elected government and America’s responsibility for a civil war that has killed at least 13,000 people and left Ukraine the poorest country in Europe.

In the process, Nuland, her husband Robert Kagan, the co-founder of The Project for a New American Century, and their neocon cronies succeeded in sending U.S.-Russian relations into a dangerous downward spiral from which they have yet to recover. Nuland accomplished this from a relatively junior position as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. How much more trouble could she stir up as the #3 official at Biden’s State Department? We’ll find out soon enough, if the Senate confirms her nomination.

Joe Biden should have learned from Obama’s mistakes that appointments like this matter. In his first term, Obama allowed his hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republican Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and military and CIA leaders held over from the Bush administration to ensure that endless war trumped his message of hope and change. Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, ended up presiding over indefinite detentions without charges or trials at Guantanamo Bay; an escalation of drone strikes that killed innocent civilians; a deepening of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; a self-reinforcing cycle of terrorism and counterterrorism; and disastrous new wars in Libya and Syria.

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Central banks will demand control.

ECB’s Lagarde Calls For Regulating Bitcoin’s “Funny Business” (R.)

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde called on Wednesday for global regulation of Bitcoin, saying the digital currency had been used for money laundering activities in some instances and that any loopholes needed to be closed. Bitcoin has come out of its niche in recent years and is now bought by ordinary people, investment funds and even large corporations. Some have even taken out loans to buy more of the cryptocurrency, whose value has increased almost tenfold since last March. But its largely anonymous nature has raised concerns that it could be used for money laundering and other illegal activities.


“(Bitcoin) is a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity,” Lagarde said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference. Lagarde did not provide specific examples of money laundering cases but said she understood there had been criminal investigations into illegal activity. She did not elaborate. The cryptocurrency sector is still mostly lightly overseen or unregulated, although global standards on areas such as anti-money laundering (AML) have emerged. She joined a number of regulators from across the world in calling for implementing global rules for cryptocurrencies.

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The WaPo tries more smear, but the story is 100% bogus, and they are forced to correct within hours. Meanwhile, it’s been gleefully quoted by a million outlets all over the globe.

This has been the MO for over 4 years now. Question: what can they do next? Turn on Biden? Where’s my clickbait?

Secret Service Barred From Using Ivanka Trump’s Bathrooms (G.)

The dying days of the Trump administration have been plagued by yet more scandal in the form of riots, Twitter bans and impeachment. Now the Washington Post has added another: water closet gate. In a multi-bylined article one of America’s top investigative news outlets has chronicled in leg-crossing detail the apparently extreme difficulty that the Secret Service detail assigned to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have had in finding a place to go to the bathroom. According to the Washington Post the president’s daughter and her top White House adviser spouse have apparently exiled the squad of men and women assigned to keep them from harm’s way from using the toilets in their sprawling Washington DC mansion.

“Instructed not to use any of the half-dozen bathrooms inside the couple’s house, the Secret Service detail assigned to President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law spent months searching for a reliable restroom to use on the job,” the paper reported, citing neighbors and law enforcement official. It quoted one law enforcement official as saying: “It’s the first time I ever heard of a Secret Service detail having to go to these extremes to find a bathroom.” It added that Secret Service members in the couple’s detail who were desperate to relieve themselves had resorted to a porta-potty, as well as bathrooms at the homes of Barack Obama and Vice-President Mike Pence.

The solution to the problem was not a cheap one. Since September 2017, the paper reported, the federal government rented the stricken Secret Service members a basement studio with a bathroom for the purposes of them going to the loo. The cost to taxpayers? Some $3,000 a month. A White House spokesperson denied the couple restricted agents from their home. But the Post stuck by its investigative guns, saying: “That account is disputed by a law enforcement official familiar with the situation, who said the agents were kept out at the family’s request.” The Post’s story is unlikely to endear Washington citizens – or indeed many other Americans – to Ivanka Trump and her husband as they leave office after four high-profile years in Donald Trump’s administration.

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Jan 142021
 
 January 14, 2021  Posted by at 10:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  44 Responses »


Jackson Pollock Male and female 1942

 

House Votes To Impeach Trump For ‘Insurrection’ (RT)
Twitter CEO Defends Banning Trump But Says It Was A “Dangerous” “Failure” (JTN)
Putin Orders Mass Vaccination Against COVID19 With Sputnik V Jab (RT)
Moderna CEO Says The World Will Have To Live With Covid ‘Forever’ (CNBC)
WHO Team Arrives In Wuhan To Investigate Pandemic Origins (AP)
Two NYC Residents Reported To Have UK COVID-19 Variant (AMNY)
EU Leaders Demand “Standardised” Vaccine Passport For Travel (SN)
Polarization, Then a Crash – Michael Hudson (AN)
Biden To Propose Massive $2 Trillion Stimulus (ZH)
Biden Taps Veteran Interventionist Samantha Power to Head USAID (Antiwar)
As Biden Vows To ‘Defeat The NRA,’ Gun Sales Continue To Soar (JTN)
Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged For Flint Water Crisis (JTN)
Unemployment Rate Above 20% For Lowest-Paid Workers – Fed’s Brainard (CNBC)
Cancel Yourself (Michael Krieger)
New Zealand City Closes Busy Road For Weeks To Protect Sea Lions (G.)

 

 

 

 

What would need to be proven in a courtroom, does not in Congress.

House Votes To Impeach Trump For ‘Insurrection’ (RT)

Arguing he incited an “armed rebellion” against the US, the Democrat-dominated House has voted to impeach President Donald Trump again. But with his term expiring in a week, it is unclear when the trial will proceed. After several hours of debate on Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to formally impeach the president over the January 6 unrest at the US Capitol, when a group of Trump supporters broke into the building and interrupted the joint session of Congress meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 US presidential election. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Senate will reconvene on an emergency schedule to conduct the trial, however.

Reports in mainstream US media were conflicted, with some outlets citing anonymous sources to claim that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) was eager to do so and help the Democrats get rid of Trump. However, McConnell’s spokesman said on Wednesday he would “not consent” to doing so before January 19, putting the trial into Biden’s term as president. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) told CNN on Sunday that the Democrats might even give Biden a hundred days “to get his agenda off and running” before they send the articles to the Senate. The delays and calculations are at odds with rhetoric coming from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and her impeachment managers, who called Trump a danger to the country and urged his immediate removal.

Democrats have even argued that Trump and anyone supporting him ought to be barred from holding any office under the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War to punish leaders of the Confederacy. “We know that we face the enemies of the Constitution,” Pelosi said on the House floor on Wednesday. “We know we experienced the insurrection that violated the sanctity of the people’s capital – an attempt to overturn the duly recorded will of the American people. And we know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go.”

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“..those moves “over the long term … will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.”

Twitter CEO Defends Banning Trump But Says It Was A “Dangerous” “Failure” (JTN)

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday evening composed a 13-tweet-long thread on the social media platform he leads in which he defended the company’s recent permanent ban of President Donald Trump while still claiming that the ban constituted a “dangerous” “failure.” Dorsey, who helped found the microblogging platform in early 2006, said in the thread that, though banning Trump out of fears that he was promoting violence was “the right decision for Twitter,” an account ban nevertheless “has real and significant ramifications.” “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation,” Dorsey said. “And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.”


In addition to fragmenting the public conversation, Dorsey said, such a ban “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.” Referring to the recent purge of the social media app Parler from multiple digital platforms, Dorsey argued that those moves “over the long term … will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.” “Everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together,” Dorsey said in the thread.

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“move from large-scale vaccination to mass vaccination.”

Putin Orders Mass Vaccination Against COVID19 With Sputnik V Jab (RT)

President Vladimir Putin has instructed the Russian government to begin rolling out a coronavirus vaccine for the entire population from next week, with more than 1.5 million people having already received the jab.
In a meeting with ministers on Wednesday, Putin said that the time had come to “move from large-scale vaccination to mass vaccination.” He added that the Sputnik V formula, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, was “the best in the world.” While comparisons between different vaccines are hard to draw, given the unique circumstances under which they have been developed, he insisted that “no others demonstrate this level of protection and such a degree of safety.”

However, the president expressed concern over the global fight against Covid-19, saying that “we see across the world, unfortunately, that it is not yet possible to strangle this disease, and we cannot prevent all the negative consequences associated with it.” Responding to the new directive, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova reported that the mass immunization program will begin next week, from 18 January. While 1.5 million people in the country have already received their first jab, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which financed Sputnik V, the list of those eligible was still subject to a number of restrictions.

Doctors, teachers, factory workers, municipal officials and those working in finance and the media were initially offered appointments first. However, there was speculation that, in practice, few checks were put in place before people were given their injection. It is still unclear how the mass-immunization program will be administered, and whether all Russians will be offered shots at once, or staggered based on their age group. Putin added that Sputnik V was particularly well-suited to being made available across the entirety of the world’s largest country because “thank God, our vaccine does not require any unusual conditions for transportation,” and can be stored at ordinary refrigerator temperatures.

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A good thing if you’re a vaccine maker?!

Moderna CEO Says The World Will Have To Live With Covid ‘Forever’ (CNBC)

The CEO of Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna warned Wednesday that the coronavirus that has brought world economies to a standstill and overwhelmed hospitals will be around “forever.” Public health officials and infectious disease experts have said there is a high likelihood that Covid-19 will become an endemic disease, meaning it will become present in communities at all times, though likely at lower levels than it is now. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel appeared to agree Wednesday that Covid-19 will become endemic, saying “SARS-CoV-2 is not going away.” “We are going to live with this virus, we think, forever,” he said during a panel discussion at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.


Health officials will have to continuously watch for new variants of the virus, so scientists can produce vaccines to fight them, he said. Researchers in Ohio said Wednesday they’ve discovered two new variants likely originating in the U.S. and that one of them quickly became the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio, over a three-week period in late December and early January. Pfizer researchers said its vaccine developed with BioNTech appeared to be effective against a key mutation in the U.K. strain as well as a variant found in South Africa. Moderna’s vaccine has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use in Americans who are 18 years old and older. Additional studies still needed to be completed in children, whose immune systems can respond differently to vaccines than those of adults.

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Two have already been refused entry because of positive PCR tests.

WHO Team Arrives In Wuhan To Investigate Pandemic Origins (AP)

A global team of researchers arrived Thursday in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into its origins amid uncertainty about whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries. The 10-member team sent to Wuhan by the World Health Organization was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of the WHO. Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the disease to spread, says the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but scientists reject that.


CGTN, the English-language channel of state broadcaster CCTV, reported the WHO team’s arrival. The members include virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam. A government spokesman said this week they will “exchange views” with Chinese scientists but gave no indication whether they would be allowed to gather evidence. They will undergo a two-week quarantine as well as a throat swab test and an antibody test for COVID-19, according to a post on CGTN’s official Weibo account. They are to start working with Chinese experts via video conference while in quarantine. China rejected demands for an international investigation after the Trump administration blamed Beijing for the virus’s spread, which plunged the global economy into its deepest slump since the 1930s.

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In Holland, with 5,000 new cases on Tuesday, a warning yesterday that in February B.1.1.7 could cause 150,000 new cases per day.

Two NYC Residents Reported To Have UK COVID-19 Variant (AMNY)

Two New York City residents, one from Manhattan and the other from Queens, have contracted the mutated COVID-19 strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom—leading to a second nationwide lockdown of the country—Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. Both people were originally diagnosed in late-December using genetic sequencing — a method used to identify the new strain — which returned results “within the last few hours,” according to city Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. Over 30 countries have reported cases of a new COVID variant, known as B.1.1.7, first identified in the UK last fall. In response, several countries have shut their doors to travelers from the United Kingdom in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.


Earlier this week, Washington announced that all international travelers will be required show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight starting Jan. 26 in response to the variant’s spread. But on Wednesday, de Blasio said that the measure fell short of what is needed to control the virus and again called for the federal government to issue a travel ban from Britain. “That’s not good enough,” de Blasio told reporters. “Here is proof positive that someone who was in the UK has brought the variant back here. We need that stopped. All flights from the United Kingdom should be canceled immediately by the federal government.” State officials reported the first case of the new variant on Jan. 4. Since then, officials have reported a total of 12 people in New York state have contracted the B.1.1.7.

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“..so called ‘immunity’ passports “pose extremely high risks in terms of social cohesion, discrimination, exclusion and vulnerability.”

EU Leaders Demand “Standardised” Vaccine Passport For Travel (SN)

EU leaders are demanding that the Commission should ‘standardise’ a vaccine passport across all member countries, and that it should be required for people to travel throughout the area. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has penned a letter to EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, outlining that “Persons who have been vaccinated should be free to travel.” The letter calls for a “standardised certificate, which will prove that a person has been successfully vaccinated.” While it stops short at advocating mandatory vaccination, the letter further urges that “It is urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all member states.”

Mitsotakis has pledged to raise the issue during an upcoming EU summit on January 21, declaring that “there is an urgent need for a high-level EU-wide mobilization to move things forward.” Vaccine passports have previously been touted by the EU, with officials suggesting back in April that visa applicants would also be required to be vaccinated. EU countries including Spain, Estonia, Iceland, and Belgium have all indicated that they are open to some form of vaccine passports, as well as sharing the data across borders. This week, it was also revealed that Denmark is the latest country to announce that it is rolling out a ‘Covid passport’, to allow those who have taken the vaccine to engage in society without any restrictions.

However, the EU’s data protection chief Wojciech Wiewiorowski recently labeled the idea of an immunity passport “extreme” and has repeatedly said it is alarming, and ‘disgusting’. The spectre of so called ‘immunity passports’ is looming globally. Having left the EU, Britain would not be part of any standardised European scheme, however it has now confirmed that it is rolling out vaccine passports, despite previous denials that it would do so. Recently, the government in Ontario, Canada admitted that it is exploring ‘immunity passports’ in conjunction with restrictions on travel and access to social venues for the unvaccinated. Last month, Israel announced that citizens who get the COVID-19 vaccine will be given ‘green passports’ that will enable them to attend venues and eat at restaurants.

A litany of other government and travel industry figures in both the US, Britain and beyond have suggested that ‘COVID passports’ are coming in order for ‘life to get back to normal’. Anna Beduschi, an academic from Exeter University, commented on the potential move toward vaccine passports by EU, noting that it “poses essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights.” Beduschi added that the vaccine passports may “create a new distinction between individuals based on their health status, which can then be used to determine the degree of freedoms and rights they may enjoy.” A report compiled last year by AI research body the Ada Lovelace Institute said so called ‘immunity’ passports “pose extremely high risks in terms of social cohesion, discrimination, exclusion and vulnerability.” Sam Grant, campaign manager at the civili liberties advocacy group Liberty has warned that “any form of immunity passport risks creating a two-tier system in which some of us have access to freedoms and support while others are shut out.”

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“..the city let the landlords keep all of the gains in land value. And they just raised the income taxes and went into debt to pay for the subway.”

Polarization, Then a Crash – Michael Hudson (AN)

[..] ever since the Bronze Age you had the temples and the palaces providing basic needs. Because if you leave this to the private sector, then you’re going to have a situation where the private supplier has a chokehold on the economy and can say: your money or your life. There are certain things that governments are supposed to supply and which industrial capitalism wanted government to supply. Because they didn’t want employers or their employees to have to pay for them. These are a number of things. Governments obviously have to supply military defense. You can’t leave that private people but also healthcare, for instance. The conservative party in England, Benjamin Disraeli said: health is everything; we have to spend on health.

And you don’t want to, in principle, make money off crime. But in America we’re privatizing the penal system, the jail system. So you have increasing pressure on government, on governors, to arrest people, put them in jail especially on drug use, where you can employ them at 10 cents an hour. And lease them out to companies as low priced labor. But most of all, government is supposed to provide the infrastructure: the transportation, the communication, the telephone system. And the idea is that if you leave like cable TV to private suppliers, they are natural monopolies. The idea throughout history from classical Greece and Rome, medieval times in Europe is that natural monopolies should be in the public domain.

Because you don’t want to provide opportunities for monopoly rent. Because monopoly rent, like land rent and natural resource rent, is not a necessary cost to production. You want the necessary cost of production to be the material costs and normal profit. Because obviously you need people to have some incentive to do things. But the incentive is supposed to be normal profit, not super profits, not just a free lunch. And so if you let transportation become privatized, then it is going to cost the workforce much more money to get to work and to get to a job. If you let the oil industry be privatized and the profits from the natural resource, and that’s the patrimony of mineral rights, oil and gas is all going to go to the private financial sector not to be used as the tax base.

And if you have the land rent, essentially if the government, for instance, in New York City, they spent let’s say a billion dollars on extending the second Avenue subway line up along the wealthy Upper East Side. That increased land values for landlords all by about twice the amount by about $2 billion. Because people now were closer to the subway station, they didn’t have to walk. They had better transport. All of this increase in land prices could have financed the extension of the subway and still been able to lower the subway fares for the rest of new Yorkers. Instead, the city let the landlords keep all of the gains in land value. And they just raised the income taxes and went into debt to pay for the subway.

So, you have a privatization of wealth that is not created by landlords, not created by individuals. Certainly the oil companies don’t create the oil in the ground. And the mining companies don’t create the mineral resources. All of these things are given away freely. The United States lets forestry logging companies and mining companies get whatever they can take from the public domain for free instead of getting the results of this publicly owned land to finance the public budget. Taxes in the United States could be drastically reduced on wages and on profits, if you would just tax the unearned monopoly rent, the economic rent that is not necessary for production.

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How to spook markets.

Biden To Propose Massive $2 Trillion Stimulus (ZH)

Last week, Goldman sparked a buying frenzy in the market (and selling in treasuries) when the bank said it expects the Biden admin would unveil a “modest” $750 billion fiscal stimulus plan, including some $300 billion in “stimmy” checks to Americans. However, as bank after bank tried to upstage Goldman and threw around stimulus estimates as high as $1 trillion or even more, the market barely noticed when late this afternoon, incoming Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer reportedly “pressed” (in Bloomberg’s words) Joe Biden to propose more than $1.3 trillion in spending for his initial round of Covid-19 relief.

According to Bloomberg, “the two have discussed Biden’s plans ahead of the president-elect’s announcement on his economic-rebuilding proposals… Biden is set to speak at 7:15 p.m. Thursday to outline “his vaccination and economic rescue legislative package,” his transition team said in a statement.” But if markets ignored the Schumer report, they sure as hell noticed the CNN report which hit just after 9pmET, which prompted traders to take a double take because apparently Schumer “pressed” Biden so hard to expand the next stimulus round, he literally squashed the president-elect, who is now “expected to unveil a major Covid-19 relief package on Thursday and his advisers have recently told allies in Congress to expect a price tag in the ballpark of $2 trillion,” CNN reported citing two people briefed on the deliberations.

The Biden team is taking a “shoot for the moon” approach with the package, one lawmaker in close contact with them told CNN, though they added that the price tag could still change. The proposal, which is just shy of the Democrats’ demand late last year when they sought a $2.2 trillion stimulus, only to agree on a $900 billion enacted last December, “will include sizable direct payments to American families, significant state and local funding – including for coronavirus vaccine distribution and other emergency spending measures – to help those struggling during the pandemic.”

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Why does the US have so many neocon women in high places?

Biden Taps Veteran Interventionist Samantha Power to Head USAID (Antiwar)

On Wednesday, Joe Biden announced that he will nominate Samantha Power to head the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Power served as ambassador to the UN for President Obama from 2013 to 2017. Before that, she worked on Obama’s National Security Council, where she played an instrumental role in pushing for US intervention in Libya in 2011. Power argued in favor of US intervention in Libya under the guise of protecting human rights and preventing genocide. She was joined in her crusade by then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Susan Rice, who served as the UN ambassador at the time. Reports from 2011 say the pressure from Power, Rice, and Clinton is what led Obama to intervene militarily in Libya, even though his other top advisors were against it.

Then-Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates would later say that in a “51 to 49” decision, Obama decided to bomb Libya. The US-NATO intervention in Libya that led to the brutal murder of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi was an absolute disaster. Destabilizing Libya turned the country into a haven for al-Qaeda-linked militants, resulted in targeted killings of black Africans, sparked a refugee crisis in North Africa, and even led to the creation of slave markets. For her efforts in convincing Obama to destroy Libya, Power was promoted. As the US ambassador to the UN, Power advocated for US intervention in Syria and stood by as the Obama administration backed the Saudis in their brutal war against Yemen’s Houthis.

While Powers has since taken a public stance against the war in Yemen, she omitted her early role in supporting the vicious war from her memoir that was published in 2019. In the book, Power defended her decision to intervene in Libya and argued that more intervention in Syria could have prevented some of the war’s atrocities. While it’s not exactly a national security position, Power will have a lot of influence on foreign policy from her future role as the head of USAID. The agency is often used to fund US regime change efforts. For example, in September 2019, USAID announced it would be providing $52 million to Juan Guaido, who the US recognizes as president of Venezuela, despite the fact that Nicolas Maduro holds the office. Earlier in 2019, the US supported Guaido in a failed coup attempt.

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Peaceful protests coming.

As Biden Vows To ‘Defeat The NRA,’ Gun Sales Continue To Soar (JTN)

The FBI’s firearm statistics show that 2020 was a record-breaking year in the firearm industry with a 39.9% increase in FBI firearm background checks. With a worldwide pandemic, a summer of violence in cities across the country, the U.S. presidential election and now the transitioning of administrations, 2020 was no ordinary year. With a total of 39,695,315 completed background checks – up from 28,369,750 in 2019 – the year marked the most firearm checks in history, based on FBI data as far back as 1998. Since 1998, nine out of the top ten highest firearm-check weeks occurred in 2020, with the highest check weeks being in the middle of March and the beginning of June.


December, in the midst of election irregularity claims by Trump, saw the highest month of background checks. At over 7.4 million, Illinois saw the most background checks in the country. The fear of the unknown and what’s to come continue to drive sales through the roof. Since the breaching of the Capitol on Jan. 6, gun stores have seen an increase in sales from a fairly even mix of Republicans and Democrats, according to research from TMZ. Gun shops reported increased sales up 400% this past week compared to the week before, with many stores being sold out of guns and ammunition. As Inauguration Day draws closer, sales could continue to stay high with Biden recently saying he will “defeat the NRA.”

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Abominable.

Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged For Flint Water Crisis (JTN)

Former Republican governor of Michigan Rick Snyder has been charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with an investigation pertaining to the Flint, Michigan water crisis, which received much national attention at the time. The Associated Press reported that, according to the state archivist, there has never before been a sitting or former governor charged with wrongdoing connected to their tenure as Michigan governor. “Flint was in chronic financial trouble in 2014 when a Snyder-appointed manager who was running the majority Black city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction,” the outlet noted.


“The corrosive water, however, wasn’t treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst manmade environmental disasters in U.S. history,” the wire service reported. As reports have shown, such as from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General, there was plenty of blame to go around. CNN reported that the IG report “strongly criticizes the local, state and federal government’s response to the Flint water crisis in 2015 and 2016.”

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So what has the Fed done to help?

Unemployment Rate Above 20% For Lowest-Paid Workers – Fed’s Brainard (CNBC)

Unemployment for the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. is above 20%, a figure that Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said underscores the importance of policy help for the economy. The figure indicates how uneven the recovery has seen since efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the biggest quarterly GDP drop since the Great Depression. “The damage from COVID-19 is concentrated among already challenged groups,” Brainard said in a speech Wednesday. “The K-shaped recovery remains highly uneven, with certain sectors and groups experiencing substantial hardship.”


At a time when the national unemployment rate has come down from the pandemic peak of 14.7% to the current 6.7%, Fed economists estimate the jobless rate for the lowest quartile of earners is “likely above 20%,” Brainard said. That comes as the Black unemployment rate is 9.9% and the Hispanic rate is at 9.3% while the rate for Whites is 6%. Fed officials have made “inclusive” employment gains a priority and have adjusted policy to try to make that happen. A new approach will allow inflation to run higher than the central bank’s 2% goal and the unemployment rate to fall beneath what had traditionally been an indicator of higher inflation before the Fed will raise interest rates.

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“We can’t run and hide hoping to be the last one hauled off to the abattoir. It’s time to step up.”

Cancel Yourself (Michael Krieger)

There’s no reason to rehash what happened over the last several days, but the gist of it is that significant components of internet infrastructure were weaponized for ideological and political purposes. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all knew this day was coming. We just didn’t want to admit it or confront it, because it’s not a comforting or easy thing to admit or confront. But the day has arrived and we’re no longer in a position to ignore it. The most concerning aspect isn’t that it happened, but that it could happen at all. The internet is clearly broken, possibly dying, and if we want to digitally associate freely again at some point in the future, we have no choice but to fix it.

Although I have no team in the parochial political fight, I’ve chosen one in the broader ideological battle. The wielding of such concentrated and unaccountable power over human communication has crossed a very serious line and sets us up for a future world I’m uninterested in participating in. As such, we have no choice but to confront the issue head on. People who think this is about Trump for me are the most ridiculous people. I never voted for him, supported him or took him seriously. While I recognize the role he played in the greater scheme of this massive historical cycle, the best thing that can happen is for him to disappear as a political force and be understood as the spectacle and distraction he was. I’m not here to lecture anyone about who they voted for, but I’m here to connect with people of all political persuasions ready to become serious and admit that a real strategy is needed to address the unaccountable power of the national security state oligarchy. Conventional political avenues are a dead end at this point.

I recognize that tens of millions of frustrated, angry and concerned minds are trying to make sense of it all and reorient themselves. This presents a giant opportunity, but also very real danger. All the emotion being felt currently can be channeled into negative avenues such as violence, aimless spectacles, Trump martyrdom or a futile search for the next political savior guaranteed to disappoint, or it can be channeled in productive ways. That’s why I’m here writing this post at this moment. Enough people are finally motivated to respond, but what really matters is the nature of this response. The dominant aggregate reaction is what will determine the future.

Most of us eagerly, or more likely lazily, embraced the current insipid and dull paradigm in the name of convenience, low prices, and free shipping, but we never stopped to consider the sacrifices made along the way. We swallowed it whole, became comfortable fat and happy, and now the facade’s about to be slowly stripped away unless we bend the knee to an ever narrowing Overton Window of speech and behavior parameters. It begins with social media purges, but it won’t end there. All the special things we sacrificed from the prior era are gone, yet the consequences are here to stay. We can’t run and hide hoping to be the last one hauled off to the abattoir. It’s time to step up.

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This should be the most normal thing in the world. Instead, it’s news.

New Zealand City Closes Busy Road For Weeks To Protect Sea Lions (G.)

The second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island has closed a popular road for an entire month in order for a sea lion to nest safely with its pup. Dunedin City council said in a Facebook post it would close John Wilson Drive above the city’s St Claire beach for a month to allow “some special residents to use the road safely”. “A New Zealand sea lion and her pup have taken up residence at the golf course next door and are regularly crossing the road to get to the beach,” the council said. “You can still visit the area by foot or bicycle, but please give the sea lions lots of space (at least 20m) … New Zealand sea lions are endangered and one of the rarest sea lion species in the world.”


The harbour city, home to 120,000 people, regularly shuts roads during the summer months to allow wildlife to cross safely, but typically only for a day or two at most. The month-long closure has been applauded by locals, many of whom urged the council the make it permanent to protect vulnerable wildlife. Sea lions are threatened in New Zealand and are often attacked by dogs or chase humans if they get too close. The animals, which can weigh up to 200kg, have been giving birth in and around Dunedin since 1993, and since protection efforts have ramped up – both official and otherwise – the sea lion breeding season has become a fixture of the summer months, with at least 20 pups expected in the city this year.

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Jan 132021
 
 January 13, 2021  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  61 Responses »


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis entering the Warwick 1956

 

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)
Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)
China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)
Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)
How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)
Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)
Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)
Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)
Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)
Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)
Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

 

 

“There is nothing the matter with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right: It is the ideal American who is all wrong.”
– G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

 

“..a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December..”

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)

And when I say “insane infection numbers” I mean a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December, where the R number – the basic reproductive rate of the disease – went from something around 1.2 to something around 3. Where you suddenly went from a few hundred new Covid cases every day to more than six thousand cases every day. All in a country the size of Alabama (which, btw, currently has about 4 thousand cases every day). [..] I believe there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will experience a rolling series of “Ireland events” over the next 30-45 days, where the Covid effective reproductive number (Re not R0) reaches a value between 2.4 and 3.0 in states and regions where a) the more infectious UK-variant (or similar) Covid strain has been introduced, and b) Covid fatigue has led to deterioration in social distancing behaviors.

A single Ireland event is a disaster. A series of Ireland events on the scale of the United States is catastrophic. If this were to occur, I’d expect to see a doubling of new Covid cases/day from current levels in the aggregate (today’s 7-day average is 240k/day), peaking somewhere around 500,000 new daily cases before draconian economic shutdowns (more severe than anything we’ve seen to date) would occur in every impacted major metro area. Hospital systems across the country would be placed under enormous additional strain, leading to meaningfully higher case fatality ratios (CFRs) as medical care was rationed. Most critically, this new infection rate would far outpace our current vaccine distribution capacity and policy. Assuming that vaccines are preferentially administered to the elderly, aggregate infection fatality ratios (IFRs) should decrease, but the overall burden of severe outcomes (death, long-term health consequences) would shift to younger demographics.

Current US government policy rejects the possibility of an Ireland event, largely because of what I believe is a politically-motivated analysis by the CDC that models more than 100 million Americans already possessing Covid antibodies, prior to any vaccination effort. Using data from flu monitoring programs in prior years, the CDC models project that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested. I am not making this up. Add in another 10 million or so Americans who the CDC models as having already had asymptomatic Covid, add in the 23 million Americans who we know have had Covid, and voila! – per the CDC, one-third of the American population is already effectively immunized against getting Covid in the future. And obviously enough, if >30% of Americans are already effectively immunized against Covid because they’ve already gotten sick, then it’s very difficult to hit the Re numbers of 2.4 – 3.0 that Ireland is currently experiencing.

I think this model is wrong, and I think the CDC knows that it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong because the 2021 behavior of someone who thinks they might have Covid is very different from the 2015 behavior of someone who thought they might have had the flu, but the CDC assumes it is the same in their models. You don’t ignore Covid. You don’t just brush it off. I’d say that no one just brushes off Covid symptoms the way they might have brushed off flu symptoms in the past, but of course that’s not true. I’m sure there are millions of Americans who have, in fact, had symptomatic Covid and ignored it, particularly in spring and early summer when our national testing capability was pathetic. But 70 MILLION Americans? Twenty percent of ALL Americans? More than three times the number of known Covid cases? C’mon, man.

I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true – if they actually thought that one-third of Americans were already effectively immunized by having Covid antibodies – this would be an ENORMOUS factor in determining vaccination policy. Otherwise, you are going to be wasting one-third of your precious supply of vaccines on people who don’t need it. I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true, how do you make sense of Covid hospitalization rates?

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Soon to come in a country near you.

Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)

The Japanese government plans to suspend the entry of all foreigners as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world. Japan halted all new arrivals of non-nationals last month after new strains of the coronavirus that are believed to be highly transmissible were confirmed in the UK and elsewhere. But it continued to allow entry by businesspeople from 10 Asian countries and Taiwan. The government plans to suspend the entry of travelers, regardless of whether a coronavirus variant has been detected in their country, as part of its tighter entry restrictions following the declaration of a state of emergency.


No foreigners will be allowed to enter Japan, except for special reasons, such as a relative’s funeral or childbirth. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said last week he plans to ban travel to and from countries and territories where a new strain of the coronavirus has been confirmed. But members of his party and others described the measure as confusing.

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China’s nervous.

China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)

China has recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID cases in more than five months, despite four cities in lockdown, increased testing and other measures aimed at preventing another wave of infections in the world’s second biggest economy. Most of the new patients were reported near the capital Beijing, but a province in northeast China also saw a rise in new cases, official data showed on Wednesday, amid a resurgence that has seen more than 28 million people under home quarantine. The National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported in the mainland compared with 55 a day earlier. This was the highest daily increase since July 30.

The commission said 107 of the new cases were local infections. Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, accounted for 90 of the cases, while northeastern Heilongjiang province reported 16 new cases. [..] Hebei has put three cities – Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang – into lockdown as part of the efforts to keep the virus from spreading further, while Beijing city authorities have stepped up screening and prevention measures to prevent another cluster from developing there. Heilongjiang province on Wednesday declared a COVID-19 emergency. The city of Suihua, which borders the provincial capital Harbin, put its 5.2 million people under lockdown.

Most of the cases in Heilongjiang have been found in Wangkui county, under Suihua’s jurisdiction, which had already been put into a lockdown earlier this week. Tieli, a city of about 300,000 people that borders Suihua, said on Wednesday it will not allow any people or vehicles to leave for three days as part of new COVID-19 prevention measurs.

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An 85-year old apostle for peace. Boy, you guys screwed up.

Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)

We have been discussing the chilling crackdown on free speech that has been building for years in the United States. This effort has accelerated in the aftermath of the Capitol riot including the shutdown sites like Parler. Now former Texas congressman Ron Paul, 85, has been blocked from using his Facebook page for unspecified violations of “community standards.” Paul’s last posting was linked to an article on the “shocking” increase of censorship on social media. Facebook then proceeded to block him under the same undefined “community standards” policy. Paul, a libertarian leader and former presidential candidate, has been an outspoken critics of foreign wars and an advocate for civil liberties for decades. He wrote: “With no explanation other than ‘repeatedly going against our community standards,’ @Facebook has blocked me from managing my page. Never have we received notice of violating community standards in the past and nowhere is the offending post identified.”

His son is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted, “Facebook now considers advocating for liberty to be sedition. Where will it end?” Even before the riot, Democrats were calling for blacklists and retaliation against anyone deemed to be “complicit” with the Trump Administration. We have been discussing the rising threats against Trump supporters, lawyers, and officials in recent weeks from Democratic members are calling for blacklists to the Lincoln Project leading a a national effort to harass and abuse any lawyers representing the Republican party or President Trump. Others are calling for banning those “complicit” from college campuses while still others are demanding a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to “hold Trump and his enablers accountable for the crimes they have committed.” Daily Beast editor-at-large Rick Wilson has added his own call for “humiliation,” “incarceration” and even ritualistic suicides for Trump supporters in an unhinged, vulgar column.

After the riots, the big tech companies moved to ban and block sites and individuals, including Parler which is the primary alternative to Twitter. Also, a top Forbes editor Randall Lane warned any company that they will be investigated if they hire any former Trump officials. The riots are being used as a license to rollback on free speech and retaliate against conservatives. In the meantime, the silence of academics and many in the media is deafening. Many of those who have spoken for years about the dark period of McCarthyism and blacklisting are either supporting this censorship or remaining silent in the face of it. Now that conservatives are the targets, speech controls and blacklists appear understandable or even commendable. The move against Paul, a long champion of free speech, shows how raw and comprehensive this crackdown has become. It shows how the threat to free speech has changed. It is like having a state media without state control. These companies are moving in unison but not necessarily with direct collusion.

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“..exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country…”

How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)

Critics of Silicon Valley censorship for years heard the same refrain: tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter are private corporations and can host or ban whoever they want. If you don’t like what they are doing, the solution is not to complain or to regulate them. Instead, go create your own social media platform that operates the way you think it should. The founders of Parler heard that suggestion and tried. In August, 2018, they created a social media platform similar to Twitter but which promised far greater privacy protections, including a refusal to aggregate user data in order to monetize them to advertisers or algorithmically evaluate their interests in order to promote content or products to them. They also promised far greater free speech rights, rejecting the increasingly repressive content policing of Silicon Valley giants.

Over the last year, Parler encountered immense success. Millions of people who objected to increasing repression of speech on the largest platforms or who had themselves been banned signed up for the new social media company. As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.

It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules. But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country.

If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.

Tucker Greenwald
https://twitter.com/i/status/1349174579105656833

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They smell blood, this won’t stop them.

Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)

Dear Madam Speaker:

Every American was shocked and saddened by the attack on our Nation’s Capitol last week, and I am grateful for the leadership that you and other congressional leaders provided in reconvening Congress to complete the people’s business on the very same day. It was a moment that demonstrated to the American people the unity that is still possible in Congress when it is needed most. But now, with just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment. I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution. Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.

As you know full well, the 25th Amendment was designed to address Presidential incapacity or disability. Just a few months ago, when you introduced legislation to create a 25th Amendment Commission, you said, “[a] President’s fitness for office must be determined by science and facts.” You said then that we must be “[v]ery respectful of not making a judgment on the basis of a comment or behavior that we don’t like, but based on a medical decision.” Madam Speaker, you were right. Under our Constitution, the 25th Amendment is not a means of punishment or usurpation. Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.

After the horrific events of this last week, our Administration’s energy is directed to ensuring an orderly transition. The Bible says that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to heal, … and a time to build up.” That time is now. In the midst of a global pandemic, economic hardship for millions of Americans, and the tragic events of January 6th, now is the time for us to come together, now is the time to heal. I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment. Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. I pledge to you that I will continue to do my part to work in good faith with the incoming administration to ensure an orderly transition of power. So help me God.

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Last chance for lots of things.

Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)

President Trump’s last days in office offer a final opportunity to declassify critical information on the Russia investigation that engulfed his lone term. Already voluminous public records – including investigative reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general – have established that Trump and his associates were targeted with a baseless Russian collusion allegation. The fraudulent claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, was fueled by a torrent of false or deceptive intelligence leaks, and was improperly investigated by the FBI, potentially to the point of being criminal. Despite these disclosures, key questions remain about the origins and the spread of the conspiracy theory.


And with a Biden administration set to take office and Democrats taking control of both chambers of Congress, there are no guarantees that the ongoing probe of Special Counsel John Durham will fill in the remaining gaps. Both the CIA and FBI have been slow to produce much material that Trump reportedly wants declassified. They argue that disclosure would reveal sources and methods vital to national security. Such claims arouse skepticism because they have been used in the past to cover up malfeasance – as the public learned when deceptive FISA warrant applications used to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were finally released.

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What’s striking here is that it’s CNN covering it.

Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)

Israel is no longer a democracy but an “apartheid regime” devoted to cementing the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, the country’s best-known human rights group said in a report published Tuesday. B’Tselem, which until now has confined its work to scrutiny of human rights issues in the Palestinian territories, has now also decided to look at what it calls Israel’s “regime” between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. “More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule,” B’Tselem said in a new analysis titled: “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”


The human rights group says that the traditional view of Israel as a democracy operating side-by-side with a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories “imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects … has grown divorced from reality.” “Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians,” B’Tselem said in its controversial analysis. Years of injustice against Palestinians, culminating in laws that have entrenched discrimination, mean that “the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met,” B’Tselem said. The allegation that Israel is an “apartheid state” has often been dismissed by rightwing Israelis and their support groups as anti-Semitic. But this argument will be harder to make now that Israel has been labelled this way by such a well-respected Israeli institution, albeit one that enjoys only minority support in its home country.

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“..build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption…”

Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)

While the political gridlock and alarmist headlines out of Capitol Hill as well as a dramatic Democratic move to impeach look to define Trump’s final week in office, Bloomberg notes that China’s President Xi Jinping is sounding “unusually upbeat”. According to the publication he issued an unusually upbeat assessment about China’s future, noting that “time and the situation” were on the country’s side in a new year marked by domestic turmoil in the U.S. The purpose of the speech before a top-level meeting of government officials in Beijing on Monday was to lay out the Communist Party vision over the next three decades, which included the presence of the Politburo Standing Committee, Beijing’s highest decision-making body.

“The world is in a turbulent time that is unprecedented in the past century,” Xi said, striking a tone which many pundits observed stood in contrast to recent more dire sounding warnings. “But time and momentum are on our side. This is where we show our conviction and resilience, as well as our determination and confidence.” And further according to the Monday remarks in the closed-door meeting: “At the same time, we must see clearly that, for now and until this upcoming period of time, while our country is at an important period of strategic opportunity for development, there will always be changes to our opportunities and challenges,” Xi was quoted as saying. “The extensiveness of these opportunities and challenges is unprecedented but, all in all, the opportunities we face outweigh our challenges,” he added, calling for unity, diligence and flexibility to achieve the party’s goals.

The cautious optimism continued, as South China Morning Post writes, while he made vague or remote references to both the pandemic and political turmoil and uncertainty afflicting the United States: In his speech, Xi also again emphasised Beijing’s new “dual circulation” economic strategy first announced in May amid global challenges brought by the pandemic and China’s slowing growth. “Only by being self-reliant and developing the domestic market and smoothing out internal circulation can we achieve vibrant growth and development, regardless of the hostility in the outside world,” Xi said. Elsewhere in the speech he continued urged that self-reliance would in part come through rapid technological innovation in order to build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption.

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Scum.

Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)

An investigation has been launched in England after images shared online showed “woefully inadequate” free school meal parcels sent to families. One mum criticised the free school meals scheme after she claimed she was sent just a few pounds worth of food to feed her children for 10 days. It was claimed the image of a £30 parcel contained just over £5 worth of food. Posting the image on Twitter, user Roadside Mum said: “2 days jacket potato with beans, 8 single cheese sandwiches, 2 days carrots, 3 days apples, 2 days soreen, 3 days frubes. “Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad. “Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest.”


Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford tweeted another picture and wrote: “3 days of food for 1 family… Just not good enough. “Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home. “Not to mention the parents who, at times, have to teach them who probably haven’t eaten at all so their children can… We MUST do better.” England children’s Minister Vicky Ford said she would be “urgently” look into the matter. England’s Department for Education wrote on Twitter: “We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. “Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.” Chartwells, the company which the mum in England said provided the parcel, said it will investigate.


The hamper received in Caerphilly (left) compared to the hamper received by a mum in England

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Paul Ehrlich. Long time no see.

Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises. The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood. “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.


The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.” The report warns that climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken. “Ours is not a call to surrender – we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future,” it adds. Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 122021
 


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis 1956

 

New Covid “Super Strain” is a Game-Changer for Schools and More (Parramore)
WHO Warns Of ‘Highly Problematic’ New Covid-19 Variants (F.)
An Epidemic of COVID Positive Tests (John Hunt)
Lockdown ‘Ineffective’ Against Spread Of Covid-19, May Even Increase Risk (RT)
French Government “Shocked” at Twitter Banning of Trump (SN)
Twitter Has Suspended More Than 70,000 Accounts Since Friday (ZH)
The Big Tech Backfire (Miller)
We Need a New Media System (Taibbi)
Insurrection Versus Insurrection (Kunstler)
The Rise and Fall of the ‘Steele Dossier’ (Maté)
Assange Is Still In Prison. And America’s Principles Are Still At Stake. (NBC)
50 Countries Commit To Protection Of 30% of Earth’s Land and Oceans (G.)
Economic Failures of the IPCC Process (Steve Keen)
Dutch Officials Seize Ham Sandwiches From British Drivers (G.)
‘Let’s All Remain Peaceful,’ Says Trump In Clear Incitement To Violence (BBee)

 

 

The B.1.1.7 COVID variant is starting to look as scary as the social media giant censorship.

 

 

A call on the US to close its borders to the UK. At present, dozens of flights arrive from London every day.

“I’ve never seen an epi curve like this. The B.1.1.7 variant is spreading like wildfire in the UK and Ireland. If it spreads here, it will make an already-bad situation even worse.”

 

 

Lynn Parramore taks to Phillip Alvelda, a former NASA & DARPA technologist.

New Covid “Super Strain” is a Game-Changer for Schools and More (Parramore)

LP: New, fast-spreading “super strains” are raising a lot of concerns, such as more infection among young people. You’ve been studying the U.K. variant, which has shown up in the United States. What do we need to know?

PA: We saw the U.K. strain coming for some time. All of a sudden there began to be dramatic upticks in infection rates, even without material changes in individual behavior en masse or the abatement measures enacted and observed. England has not been the most Johnny-on-the-spot responder to the coronavirus, and there has been a lot of confusion about what abatement measures should be observed, in which areas, etc. Of the developed nations, the U.S. and the U.K. have struggled the most as societies to communicate, plan and observe reasonable measures that other countries have more successfully applied. The U.K. variant, which has now spread across Europe and into several U.S. states, has what appear to be a couple of important mutations in the spike protein, which allows the virus to attach to the receptors in the lungs. Apparently, the new variant is stickier – better at binding to the receptors. That means that it takes less of the virus to get you sick, or the same viral load gets you sicker.

A big change is that the U.K. variant appears be somewhere between 40 and 70% more infectious. For a person who has this variant, they’re likely to infect 40% to 70% more people. If you think about what we have done to reduce the effectiveness of transmission, getting people to wear masks has been a successful campaign. But some masks are better at protecting people than others. A well-fitted N95 and KN95 masks will filter 95% of the virus particles from coming into your lungs, but there are also terrible masks that don’t protect people much at all. If you average mask-wearing over the population, it seems that the mask mandates reduce the infectiousness of the virus by about 40 to 50%. To put the U.K. variant in perspective, with its faster spread, we are effectively put back to where we once were without masks — even when we’re now wearing masks!

LP: The idea of young people under 20 getting infected at high rates is alarming, though there have been conflicting reports as to why those numbers are higher, such as behavior patterns. What’s your take?

PA: There is no doubt that the U.K. strain is infecting more young people than any prior variants. I think the conflicting reports may have more to do with where that variant is prevalent and where it is not. It would not be true to say that all of the hospitals in the U.K. are being overrun by younger patients. But in those regions where the new variant is prevalent, the hospitalization and case data now show that more than ever before, young people are having almost as many cases and hospitalizations as the older people. That is a substantial change. With older variants, symptoms were usually not bad enough to even bring the kids in to test — and we know there were a lot of asymptomatic carriers that were never tested or acknowledged.

With the new variant, symptoms are bad enough that kids need the testing and they’re being hospitalized. It’s probably premature to speculate on the lethality. There is some hope, for example, that the U.K. variant could be more infectious but less lethal. But we just don’t know. It’s likely going to be weeks before the case trend that is now beginning to translate into the hospitalization trend will translate into the mortality trend. Unfortunately, given what we’ve seen in the past from the virus, it’s our expectation that if the case data is showing more young people infected, and the hospitalization data is showing more of them hospitalized, in a matter of weeks we will see more deaths.

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They’re talking again about “immunity” provided by vaccines. But have we seen any proof of that?

WHO Warns Of ‘Highly Problematic’ New Covid-19 Variants (F.)

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday issued a dire warning about the new variants of Covid-19 that are emerging across the globe, noting that because those variants can be more contagious, the surge in cases they’re likely to cause could further stress hospitals and health workers already stretched to the brink. During a press briefing Monday, Ghebreyesus said that more contagious variants of the coronavirus “can drive a surge of cases and hospitalizations, which is highly problematic for health workers and hospitals already close to the breaking point.” The added strain on hospitals puts other essential health services at risk, he added, meaning that critical surgeries or procedures may become more difficult because hospital resources are more limited.

While these variants have been found to be more contagious, experts say they don’t appear to cause more severe sickness or increase the risk of death. Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned last week that the U.S. is “close to a worst-case scenario” because of the rapid spread of a new, highly contagious strain of Covid-19. New variants of Covid-19 have been found in the United Kingdom, the United States (where 63 cases have been detected), Canada, South Africa, and Nigeria, among other countries, the CDC says. Japan’s health authorities announced over the weekend that they had detected a new variant of the virus in four travelers from Brazil, Reuters reported.

Scientists are keeping track of new mutations as they emerge and studying how they will impact the effectiveness of vaccines. “I’m quite optimistic that even with these mutations, immunity is not going to suddenly fail on us,” Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the healthcare publication STAT. “It might be gradually eroded, but it’s not going to fail on us, at least in the short term.” A recent study from the University of Texas and pharma giant Pfizer found that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is still effective in protecting against new variants of the virus.

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Excellent analysis: “The more it is used wrongly, the more misinformation ensues.”

An Epidemic of COVID Positive Tests (John Hunt)

How does this same 95% sensitive/95% specific test work in this screening setting? The good news is that this test will likely identify the 5 people out of every 1000 with Relevant Infectious COVID! Yay! The bad news is that, out of every 1000 people, it will also falsely label 50 people as COVID-positive who don’t have Relevant Infectious COVID. Out of 55 people with positive tests in each group of 1000 people, 5 actually have the disease. 50 of the tests are false positives. With a Positive Predictive Value of only 9%, one could say that’s a pretty lousy test. It’s far lousier if you test only people with no symptoms (such as screening a school, jobsite, or college), in whom the up-front likelihood of having Relevant Infectious COVID Disease is substantially lower.

The very same test that is pretty good when testing people who are actually ill or at risk is lousy when screening people who aren’t. In the first scenario (with symptoms), the test is being used correctly for diagnosis. In the second scenario (no symptoms), the test is being used wrongly for screening. A diagnostic test is used to diagnose a patient the doctor thinks has a reasonable chance of having the disease (having symptoms like fever, cough, a snotty nose, and shortness of breath during a viral season). A screening test is used to check for the presence of a disease in a person without symptoms and no heightened risk of having the disease.

A screening test may be appropriate to use when it has very high specificity (99% or more), when the prevalence of the disease in the population is pretty high, and when there is something we can do about the disease if we identify it. However, if the prevalence of a disease is low (as is the case for Relevant Infectious COVID) and the test isn’t adequately specific (as is the case with PCR and rapid antigen tests for the COVID virus), then using such a test as a screening measure in healthy people is forcing the test to be lousy. The more it is used wrongly, the more misinformation ensues. Our health authorities are recommending more testing of asymptomatic people. In other words, they are encouraging the wrong and lousy application of these tests.

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“The proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher” under tough restrictions “rather than under less restrictive measures.”

Lockdown ‘Ineffective’ Against Spread Of Covid-19, May Even Increase Risk (RT)

A Stanford University study claims mandatory stay-at-home orders and business closures have “no clear, significant beneficial effect” on Covid-19 case growth and may even lead to more frequent infections in nursing homes. Researchers at Stanford University in California aimed to assess how tough lockdowns influence the growth in infections as compared to less restrictive measures. They used data from England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the US, collected during the initial stages of the pandemic in the spring 2020. They compared the data from Sweden and South Korea, two countries that did not introduce tough lockdowns at that time, with that from the other eight countries.

They found that introducing any restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions’ (NPIs) such as reduced working hours, working from home and social distancing helped curb the rise of infections in nine out of 10 study countries, except for Spain, where the effect was “non-significant.” However, when they compared epidemic spreads in places that implemented less restrictive measures with those opting for a full-blown lockdown they found “no clear, significant beneficial effect” of the latter on the number of cases in any country. The research goes on to suggest that empirical data from the later wave of infections shows that restrictive measures fail to protect vulnerable populations. “The proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher” under tough restrictions “rather than under less restrictive measures.”

It also says that there’s evidence suggesting that “sometimes under more restrictive measures, infections may be more frequent in settings where vulnerable populations reside relative to the general population.” The research admits that lockdowns in early 2020 were justified because the disease was spreading rapidly and overwhelming health systems, and scientists or medics did not know what the mortality data of the virus was. However, it points at the potential harmful health effects of tough restrictions, such as hunger, health services becoming unavailable for non-Covid diseases, domestic abuse and mental health issues, and the effects of these on the economy mean that the benefits of the tough restrictions might be overrated and need to be studied carefully.

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“..social media giants shouldn’t have the power to decide who has the right to free speech…”

French Government “Shocked” at Twitter Banning of Trump (SN)

The French government has echoed Angela Merkel’s sentiment in saying it is “shocked” at Twitter’s banning of President Trump, asserting that Big Tech is a threat to democracy. Junior Minister for European Union Affairs Clement Beaune said the decision to silence Trump proved the need for Big Tech platforms to be tightly regulated. “This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO,” he told Bloomberg TV on Monday. “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said that “the digital oligarchy” was “one of the threats” to democracy and should be reigned in by the state. As we highlighted earlier, the German government also warned that Big Tech’s deplatforming of Trump set a very dangerous precedent.

Communicating via a spokesman, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the move “problematic,” adding that social media giants shouldn’t have the power to decide who has the right to free speech.

“This fundamental right can be intervened in, but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators — not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms,” said the statement. While Republicans were completely toothless in their efforts to control Big Tech during Trump’s administration, Poland could be set to pass a law that would fine social media companies $2.2 million a pop for censoring lawful free speech. “In the event of removal or blockage, a complaint can be sent to the platform, which will have 24 hours to consider it. Within 48 hours of the decision, the user will be able to file a petition to the court for the return of access. The court will consider complaints within seven days of receipt and the entire process is to be electronic,” reported Poland In.

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Anyone setting up a better alternative will be crushed.

Twitter Has Suspended More Than 70,000 Accounts Since Friday (ZH)

In a Monday night blog post, Twitter lays out all the latest details of a historic purge that started with the suspension of president Trump and has escalated into the ban of tens of thousands of conservative voices, or as Twitter puts it, “steps taken to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome.” Odd how none of those considerations emerged during the summer when US cities were literally burning as a result of countless violent protests and frequent riots, but we digress. In any case, In twitter’s own delightfully ironic words, “It’s important to be transparent about all of this work as the US Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021, approaches.” Which is a probably a good idea in the aftermath of the biggest censorship purge in twitter history, one which sent Twitter stock tumbling. So this is what how twitter justifies “the purge”:


We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon. And with tens of thousands of accounts suspended (most of them permanently), banned, or merely disappeared, it will hardly be a surprise that according to Tiwtter, “more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended”. What is the justification? “These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service.”

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“Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant as a way of fighting radicalization.”

The Big Tech Backfire (Miller)

Some are excusing Big Tech’s foray into massive censorship by arguing that these are private companies and can choose who they provide service to. Anyone who has a problem with their behavior, they reason, should just create their own platforms. But that is exactly what Parler did, and it was subsequently crushed. Unfortunately, because Big Tech companies have grown so large and monopolistic, the only real way to have a viable competitor is to create an entirely new internet. Amazon’s hypocritical justification for banning Parler shows that these companies will do basically anything in order to destroy the competition. Amazon claimed that Parler is responsible for the content that it allowed users to publish, which is the exact same argument made by people who wish to remove Section 230 protections for social media companies.

Amazon thus introduced a moral and legal standard for a potential competitor that it would resist tooth and nail if applied to itself. The company notably used Section 230 as a defense in a recent court case to try to avoid liability for selling defective products. It’s worth noting that many conservatives do not believe that social-media companies should do away with all content moderation. The problem is that platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and now Amazon, do not enforce their policies equally. After suspending Trump, Twitter was still hosting virulent anti-Semites, Chinese Communist party propaganda, vaccine conspiracists and antifa glorification accounts like the New York Times. If these companies only enforce policies against accounts with certain political leanings, it will radicalize a base of the population even more.

The people who are targeted online by Twitter and Facebook’s increasingly wide nets will simply find deeper and darker holes to communicate. Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant as a way of fighting radicalization. Deleting the account of someone with a radical opinion does not stop that person from holding that opinion; in fact, it may cause them to dig in even deeper in retaliation. Meanwhile, people who are unfairly targeted by social media platforms may start to sympathize with the radicals.

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“Drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

We Need a New Media System (Taibbi)

The moment a group of people stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday, news companies began the process of sorting and commoditizing information that long ago became standard in American media. Media firms work backward. They first ask, “How does our target demographic want to understand what’s just unfolded?” Then they pick both the words and the facts they want to emphasize. It’s why Fox News uses the term, “Pro-Trump protesters,” while New York and The Atlantic use “Insurrectionists.” It’s why conservative media today is stressing how Apple, Google, and Amazon shut down the “Free Speech” platform Parler over the weekend, while mainstream outlets are emphasizing a new round of potentially armed protests reportedly planned for January 19th or 20th.

What happened last Wednesday was the apotheosis of the Hate Inc. era, when this audience-first model became the primary means of communicating facts to the population. For a hundred reasons dating back to the mid-eighties, from the advent of the Internet to the development of the 24-hour news cycle to the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the Fox-led discovery that news can be sold as character-driven, episodic TV in the manner of soap operas, the concept of a “Just the facts” newscast designed to be consumed by everyone died out. News companies now clean world events like whalers, using every part of the animal, funneling different facts to different consumers based upon calculations about what will bring back the biggest engagement kick.

The Migrant Caravan? Fox slices off comments from a Homeland Security official describing most of the border-crossers as single adults coming for “economic reasons.” The New York Times counters by running a story about how the caravan was deployed as a political issue by a Trump White House staring at poor results in midterm elections. Repeat this info-sifting process a few billion times and this is how we became, as none other than Mitch McConnell put it last week, a country: “Drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

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Jim holds on to the last straws.

Insurrection Versus Insurrection (Kunstler)

Mr. Trump is still president, and you’ve probably noticed he has been president for four years to date, which ought to suggest that he holds a great deal of accumulated information about the seditionists who have been playing games with him through all those years. So, two questions might be: how much of that information describes criminal acts by his adversaries — most recently, a deeply suspicious national election based on hackable vote-tabulation computers — and what’s within the president’s power to do something about it? I guess we’ll find out. Or, to state it a little differently, it is impossible that the president does not have barge-loads of information about the people who strove mightily to take him down for four years.

At least two pillars of the Intel Community — the CIA and the FBI — have been actively and visibly working to undermine and gaslight him, but you can be sure that the president knows where the gas has been coming from, and these agencies are not the only sources of dark information in this world. Also consider that not all the employees at these agencies are on the side of sedition. By its work this weekend, starring Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Zuck (Facebook), Tim Cook (Apple), and Jeff Bezos (Amazon and The WashPo), you know exactly what you would be getting with The Resistance taking power in the White House and Congress: unvarnished tyranny. No free speech for you!

They will not permit opposing voices to be heard, especially about the janky election that elevated America’s booby-prize, Joe Biden, to the highest office in the land. Now there’s a charismatic, charming, dynamic, in-charge guy! He’s already doing such a swell job “healing America.” For instance, his declaration Tuesday to give $30-billion to businesses run by “black, brown, and Native American entrepreneurs” (WashPo). Uh, white folks need not apply? Since when are federal disbursements explicitly race-based? What and who, exactly, comprise the committee set up to operate Joe Biden, the hypothetical, holographic President?

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If anything calls for a Special Counsel, it’s Russiagate. But with the Dems back in power, the chances are zero.

The Rise and Fall of the ‘Steele Dossier’ (Maté)

On January 10, 2017, BuzzFeed News published the “Steele dossier,” the collection of DNC-funded reports alleging a high-level conspiracy between Trump and Moscow. The catalyst had come four days earlier, when then–FBI Director Jim Comey personally briefed Trump on the dossier’s existence. Their meeting was then promptly leaked to the media, giving BuzzFeed the news hook to publish the Steele material in full. Despite its outlandish assertions and partisan provenance, Steele’s work product somehow became a road map for Democratic leaders, media outlets, and, most egregiously, intelligence officials carrying out the Russia investigation.

According to Steele, Trump and the Kremlin engaged in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation.” Russia had, Steele alleged, been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years,” dating back to the time when Trump was merely the host of The Apprentice. Russia, Steele claimed, handed Trump “a regular flow of intelligence,” including on “political rivals.” The conspiracy supposedly escalated during the 2016 campaign, when then–Trump lawyer Michael Cohen slipped into Prague for “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.”

This purported plot was not just based on mutual nefarious interests but, worse, outright coercion. To keep their asset in line, Steele alleged, the Russians had videotaped Trump hiring and watching prostitutes “perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show,” in a Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel room. This “kompromat” meant that the leader of the free world was not only a traitor but also a blackmail victim of his Kremlin handlers. If the Steele dossier’s far-fetched claims were not enough reason to dismiss it with ridicule, another obvious marker should have set off alarms. Reading the Steele dossier chronologically, a glaring pattern emerges: Steele has no advance knowledge of anything that later proved to be true, and, just as tellingly, many of his most explosive claims appear only after some approximate prediction has come out in public form.

Despite his supposed high-level sources inside the Kremlin, it was only after Wikileaks published the DNC e-mails in July 2016 that Steele first mentioned them. When Steele made the headline-consuming claim that “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” in exchange for Russian help, he did so only after a meaningless Ukraine-related platform change at the RNC was reported (and mischaracterized) in The Washington Post. When Steele claimed that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was offered up to a 19 percent stake in the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft if he could get Trump to lift Western sanctions, it was only after the media had reported Page’s visit to Moscow.

In short, far from having access to high-level intelligence, Steele and his “sources” only had access to news outlets and their own imaginations.

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Support that comes way too late.

Assange Is Still In Prison. And America’s Principles Are Still At Stake. (NBC)

The Justice Department’s case against Assange raised serious press freedom concerns from the outset. This is partly because so much of the indictment is devoted to describing activity that journalists engage in routinely — like cultivating government sources, communicating with them confidentially, protecting their identities and publishing classified secrets. In defending the indictment, Justice Department spokespeople have insisted that the case does not implicate press freedom because Assange himself is not a journalist and because WikiLeaks, which Assange founded, is not a media organization. But this defense misses the point. The point is that Assange is being prosecuted for activities that national security journalists engage in every day — and that they need to engage in if they are to serve as a meaningful check on government power.

Of particular concern are three counts in the indictment that charge Assange with having violated the Espionage Act merely by publishing classified information. As the Justice Department knows, publishing government secrets is an important part of what American news organizations do. The Washington Post disclosed classified information when it revealed the CIA’s network of black sites. The New York Times disclosed classified information when it exposed the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The truth is that there is no way that American news organizations could report responsibly about war, foreign relations or national security without sometimes disclosing classified information. Max Frankel of The New York Times famously made this point in an affidavit filed 50 years ago in the Pentagon Papers case, and the point is even more true today.

The ruling issued in London on Monday by Judge Vanessa Baraitser will forestall the Justice Department, at least for now, from pursuing Assange’s prosecution in U.S. courts. This is a significant thing. While the indictment certainly has a chilling effect on national security journalism, a successful prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act would be even more oppressive — indeed, it would likely compel U.S. news organizations to radically curtail some of the most important work they do. The problem with Baraitser’s ruling, from the perspective of press freedom, is that it rejected the extradition request only because of concerns relating to Assange’s mental health and the conditions in which he would be imprisoned were he handed over to the United States. This aspect of Baraitser’s ruling appears to be well supported by the evidence, but, significantly, its protection does not extend beyond Assange.

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Really? The UK goverment will protect the planet? And Prince Charles makes a cameo? Fool me once, shame on you.

50 Countries Commit To Protection Of 30% of Earth’s Land and Oceans (G.)

A coalition of 50 countries has committed to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife. The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which includes the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans before the One Planet summit in Paris on Monday, hosted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
Scientists have said human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, and agricultural production, mining and pollution are threatening the healthy functioning of life-sustaining ecosystems crucial to human civilisation.

In the announcement, the HAC said protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water. The commitment is likely to be the headline target of the “Paris agreement for nature” that will be negotiated at Cop15 in Kunming, China later this year. The HAC said it hoped early commitments from countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan and Canada would ensure it formed the basis of the UN agreement. The UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith said: “We know there is no pathway to tackling climate change that does not involve a massive increase in our efforts to protect and restore nature.

“So as co-host of the next Climate Cop, the UK is absolutely committed to leading the global fight against biodiversity loss and we are proud to act as co-chair of the High Ambition Coalition. “We have an enormous opportunity at this year’s biodiversity conference in China to forge an agreement to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. I am hopeful our joint ambition will curb the global decline of the natural environment, so vital to the survival of our planet.”

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A feature not a bug?!

Economic Failures of the IPCC Process (Steve Keen)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the premier international body collating the scientific assessment of climate change, and proposals for mitigation. A joint creation of the United Nations agencies the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it brings together scientists from myriad disciplines to assess and summarize the current research on climate change, collating knowledge that is then used to inform governments and politicians. The scientists work on a volunteer basis. The IPCC relies upon its member governments and “Observers Organizations” to nominate its volunteer authors. This means that, subject to their willingness to volunteer, the most prestigious individuals specialising in climate change in each discipline become the authors of the relevant IPCC chapter for their discipline.


They then undertake a review of the peer-reviewed literature in their field (and some non-peer-reviewed work, such as government reports) to distil the current state of knowledge about climate change in their discipline. A laborious review process is also followed, so the draft reports of the volunteer experts is reviewed by other experts in each field, to ensure conformity of the report with the discipline’s current perception of climate change. The emphasis upon producing reports which reflect the consensus within a discipline has resulted in numerous charges that the IPCC’s warnings are inherently too conservative. But the main weaknesses with the IPCC’s methodology are firstly that, in economics, it exclusively selects Neoclassical economists, and secondly, because there is no built-in review of one discipline’s findings by another, the conclusions of these Neoclassical economists about the dangers of climate change are reviewed only by other Neoclassical economists. The economic sections of IPCC reports are therefore unchallenged by other disciplines who also contribute to the IPCC’s reports.

Given the extent to which economists dominate the formation of most government policies in almost all fields, and not just strictly economic policy, the otherwise acceptable process by which the IPCC collates human knowledge on climate change has critically weakened, rather than strengthened, human society’s response to climate change. This is because, commencing with “Nobel Laureate” William Nordhaus, the economists who specialise on climate change have falsely trivialized the dangers that climate change poses to human civilization. In his 2018 Nobel Prize lecture, William Nordhaus described a trajectory that would lead to global temperatures peaking at 4°C above pre-industrial levels in 2145 as “optimal” because, according to his calculations, the damages from climate change over time, plus the abatement costs over time, are minimised on this trajectory.


He estimated the discounted cost of the economic damages from unabated climate change — which would see temperatures approach 6°C above pre-industrial levels by 2150 — at $24 trillion, whereas the 4°C trajectory had damages of about $15 trillion and abatement costs of about $3 trillion. Trajectories with lower peak temperatures had higher abatement costs that overwhelmed the benefits. In a subsequent paper, Nordhaus claimed that even a 6°C increase would only reduce global income by only 7.9%, compared to what it would be in the complete absence of global warming.

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“Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

Dutch Officials Seize Ham Sandwiches From British Drivers (G.)

Dutch TV news has aired footage of customs officers confiscating ham sandwiches from drivers arriving by ferry from the UK under post-Brexit rules banning personal imports of meat and dairy products into the EU. Officials wearing high-visibility jackets are shown explaining to startled car and lorry drivers at the Hook of Holland ferry terminal that since Brexit, “you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff.” To a bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil who asked if he could maybe surrender the meat and keep just the bread, one customs officer replied: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

The ban came into force on New Year’s Day as the Brexit transition period came to an end, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) saying travellers should “use, consume, or dispose of” prohibited items at or before the border. “From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (eg a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU,” the Defra guidance for commercial drivers states. The European commission says the ban is necessary because meat and dairy products can contain pathogens causing animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth or swine fever and “continue to present a real threat to animal health throughout the union”.

Dutch customs also posted a photograph of foodstuffs ranging from breakfast cereals to oranges that officials had confiscated in the ferry terminal, adding: “Since 1 January, you can’t just bring more food from the UK.” The customs service added: “So prepare yourself if you travel to the Netherlands from the UK and spread the word. This is how we prevent food waste and together ensure that the controls are speeded up.”

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“Let’s all remain peaceful,” he said, which clearly meant, “Go burn down the Capitol Building.”

‘Let’s All Remain Peaceful,’ Says Trump In Clear Incitement To Violence (BBee)

A review of Trump’s statements last week made it clear that he was inciting violence, as he very clearly told people to “remain peaceful” and not carry out any violence. The dangerous cult leader encouraged his followers to protest at the Capitol, but to remain peaceful, which is an obvious instance of inciting violence, according to leading language experts and journalists. “Let’s all remain peaceful,” he said, which clearly meant, “Go burn down the Capitol Building.” “No violence!” added the deranged lunatic, which, according to the New York Times, was a dog whistle for “Minions, attack!” “Go home,” he added, which meant, “Keep pressing the attack! We will not be defeated! Blow stuff up!” At publishing time, Trump had said, “I’ve always encouraged peaceful protesting,” which meant he wanted his followers to go ransack an Arby’s.

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Jan 112021
 


René Magritte Youth 1924

 

A Fond Farewell To Donald Trump’s Twitter Feed (Stone)
A Masterclass In Media Control For Dictators Around The World (Dockery)
The “Crisis” is Corporate Liberal Authoritarianism (Tracey)
PGA Strips Major Golf Championship From Donald Trump’s Bedminster Course (G.)
Payment Processor Stripe Cuts Ties With Trump Campaign (Hill)
Whispers In The Wind (Robinson)
Trump Said ‘Cheer On Congress… Peacefully’ At Morning White House Rally (NP)
House Democrat’s Resolution To Expel Republicans Who Challenged Election (JTN)
War Of The -Financial- Worlds (Nomi Prins)
25 Organizations Say Victoria Nuland Should Be Rejected (CN)
Britain Set To Outlaw Chinese Imports With Links To Human Rights Abuse (Sun)
Vietnam And China Buy Indian Rice For First Time In Decades (ZH)
Does Vitamin D Combat Covid? (G.)

 

 

We’ll have to live through the mudslinging for a while longer. Will it stop on the 20th? Not very likely. The crowds smell blood.

 

 

Arnold

 

 

Hotep

 

 

“..his first ever tweet on May 4, 2009 was “Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman as he presents the Top Ten List tonight!”

A Fond Farewell To Donald Trump’s Twitter Feed (Stone)

The president has lost both the Oval Office and his beloved Twitter account. His posts were hilarious, mad, and occasionally dangerous – but, God, it’s been a helluva ride. @realDonaldTrump, we’ll miss you. Donald Trump governed by social media. Tweeting from bed in his teddy bear pyjamas or on his sofa in front of a huge TV screen, sometimes from a buggy on his golf course. It was never gonna end well, and now it’s all over. Twitter permanently suspended his account yesterday, and he has been indefinitely hoofed off Facebook and Instagram. There are only so many teenage temper tantrums you can have until an adult takes away your smartphone.

Plenty of people say the dumbest things on social media, but they’re not usually the 74-year-old president of the most powerful country in the world, with more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and 1.3 million active duty troops ready to go. Their words don’t rock stock markets. Trump’s Twitter journey all started in pretty limp fashion; his first ever tweet on May 4, 2009 was “Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman as he presents the Top Ten List tonight!” Just some bland, promotional pap selling the Trump brand. Seven years later, and he was about to be elected president – who’d have thought? That chubby orange-faced dude off ‘The Apprentice’, that serial bankrupt who erected gaudy apartment blocks and casinos and had a steady stream of pneumatic looking wives?

Nah. Don’t be ridiculous. That’s never gonna happen. His first tweet as president was: “I am honered to serve you, the great American people, as your 45th President of the United States!” The typo proved it was really him, and not some public relations drone. He later explained: “My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.” Righto. He has sent thousands of tweets – and retweets such as “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” Which, uncharacteristically, he deleted. In early June 2020, during the police brutality protests, he sent exactly 200 tweets and retweets in a single day. This being Donald Trump, he didn’t get the irony that this tweet storm came shortly after he’d signed an executive order to regulate the platform after it fact checked one of his tweets. His previous record had been 142, during his impeachment trial in January 2020.

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The risks of censorship.

A Masterclass In Media Control For Dictators Around The World (Dockery)

Cutting off an opponent’s access to the media is step one in the regime change playbook, and the US government would know, having written several of them. When US-sponsored protesters deposed Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, the first building they seized after parliament was a TV station. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan avoided a communications blackout by using FaceTime to address the public during an attempted coup against him in 2016. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak cut off internet access as protesters organized against him in 2011. Every coup or counter-coup hinges on media control, and the only difference between the deplatforming of Trump and the examples above are that for the first time, foreign regime-change strategies are being openly deployed by Americans, against Americans, in America.

As the country’s most despicable journalists and pundits cheer for the unaccountable tech tyrants, budding dictators abroad are surely taking notes. Building relationships with the tech titans is the modern equivalent of seizing a television studio, and popular movements can be easily suppressed with their cooperation. If the world’s loudest and proudest democracy is doing it, why can’t they? And who’s to say Silicon Valley’s giants themselves would stop at the US border? What is to stop them taking a dislike to some politician overseas and snuffing them out like Donald Trump? After all if the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth can be deleted, what chance do the rest of them have?

Back in the US, Trump has far more supporters than the mob who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday. He has 75 million of them, more than the population of the UK. Denied the opportunity to speak freely online and with their views branded as “extremist,” would anyone be surprised if they decided to take more drastic action? After all, the regime change manual closes with a warning: an attempted coup only ever addresses “immediate issues and short-term, rather than longer-term, interests.” For the US, these long-term consequences could have the political class pining for a return to Wednesday’s hooliganism.

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I’m not in favor of big words like that.

The “Crisis” is Corporate Liberal Authoritarianism (Tracey)

The mob that barged into the Capitol Building on Wednesday accomplished a few things. First, it cemented the electoral demise of Donald Trump, whose termination from the presidency was merely delayed for a few hours by the chaos. Second, it put forward a public perception of Trump’s most ardent supporters as a collection of conspiracy-addled violent loons. Third, it humiliated and discredited Trump, who meekly conceded defeat the following day. There was no real “coup attempt,” despite incessant politician and media histrionics to that effect. Just a pitiful outburst that was quickly dispersed. It was clear within about ten minutes of the intrusion that the most severe consequences would stem not from the incident itself, but the deliberately-stoked over-reaction.

The bipartisan political and media class, whether cynically or sincerely, is broadcasting their steadfast conviction that this was something like a “MAGA Terrorist Insurrection” — which is literally how it’s being described on CNN. Under such allegedly extreme circumstances, of course extreme remedial action is going to be demanded. Few entities capitulate to upswells of political hysteria more reliably than the tech companies. Knowing that there will soon be a Democratic presidential administration and Congress to appease, they launched this week what is the most drastic corporate censorship offensive in modern history. Not only was Trump banished from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — the latter being his primary communications platform (for better or worse) — multiple high-profile Trump allies were likewise purged.

Steve Bannon was nuked from YouTube. Trump and his supporters are being neutralized online not because he currently poses any kind of bonafide “threat” to the Republic, but because his enemies are desperate for revenge. And they have been gifted with a perfect “crisis” that will justify their getting it. The expulsion of Trump from Twitter was celebrated rapturously by journalists whose conception of the job has markedly shifted away from anything to do with the preservation of protected speech. Instead, they are far more interested in asserting their political and cultural dominance, punishing those perceived to be undesirables, and functioning almost like a collective Human Resources social pressure department. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter — collectively more powerful than most nation states — have become willing partners in this endeavor.

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The rats and the ship.

PGA Strips Major Golf Championship From Donald Trump’s Bedminster Course (G.)

The PGA of America has announced that it has moved the 2022 PGA Championship from Donald Trump’s Bedminster course in the wake of the invasion of the US Capitol. “The PGA of America Board of Directors voted tonight to exercise the right to terminate the agreement to play the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster,’’ said Jim Richerson, president of the PGA of America. Bedminster, located in New Jersey, had been awarded the tournament in 2012, before Trump’s run for the presidency. It was the first time one of his courses had been chosen to host a men’s major although Bedminster hosted the women’s PGA in 2017. The tournament is due to be played in May 2022, and alternative venues include Bethpage Black, Southern Hills and Valhalla.


“We find ourselves in a political situation note of our making,’’ said Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, in an interview with the Associated Press. “We’re fiduciaries for our members, for the game, for our mission and for our brand. And how do we best protect that? Our feeling was given the tragic events of Wednesday that we could no longer hold it at Bedminster. The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave.” The Trump Organization said they were disappointed with the decision. “This is a breach of a binding contract and they have no right to terminate the agreement,” a spokesperson told ABC on Sunday. “As an organization we have invested many, many millions of dollars in the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster. We will continue to promote the game of golf on every level and remain focused on operating the finest golf courses anywhere in the world.”

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Can’t catch a break.

Payment Processor Stripe Cuts Ties With Trump Campaign (Hill)

Payment processing company Stripe cut ties with President Trump’s campaign after his supporters rioted at the Capitol last week, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill on Sunday. Stripe, a San Francisco-based company that manages online card payments for several businesses, will stop processing payments to the campaign, saying the campaign violated its policies against encouraging violence after a pro-Trump mob stormed and vandalized the Capitol. The company requests that users not collect payments for “high risk” activities, including for any business or organization that “engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property,” according to its website.

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“Neither Trump of Biden would save that baby and the many others like it. The Saudi kingdom, is a profitable friend.”

Whispers In The Wind (Robinson)

Millions of humans lead their lives despite the petty and often pathetic self importance of US partisan politics and yet somehow, the American empire finds them. Whether it is a drone hovering high above, visiting with random murder or a blockade of warships enforcing an almost ancient embargo, it is the American prevalence in all of our lives that seems to be destroying not only the US itself, but the wider world. And when a victor emerges, the world still gets war. Mostly American wars. These are not civil riots protests that waved a fist against state led bigotry, nor are they anti conscription riots over government forcing individuals to fight overseas in another war. Such past riots, have had limited impact in quelling the growth of government or in tempering its destructive might.

Journalist Julian Assange is held captive in legal purgatory, punished for revealing the crimes of war mongers and lifting the up the skirt of many governments. Ross Ulbricht a prisoner because he created a website, the details of his conviction would make for an unbelievable fiction and yet it was all too real. Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning are pariah patriots, believers in the religious texts that most Americans claim to uphold and yet most of the voting public and voted for rulers disregard the details of such a constitution and Bill of Rights. And millions of poor and desperate foreigners live and die in the frontiers of foreign policy, their homes and day to day ruined so that macho sounding politicians can profit by propping up tyrannies of maniacal madness. Inside the prisons of the US itself are thousands of convicts punished for victimless crimes, the prohibitions and regulations of a cancerous government that claims to be for freedom, when in fact it dissolves it at every chance. The protests are not for any of them.

A small child, perhaps now dead, coiled in infant agony, starved as its innocent eyes bulged in anguish fronted recent articles covering the desperate situation in Yemen. A situation that would be impossible if not for the aid and assistance of the US and it’s imperial allies. Neither Trump of Biden would save that baby and the many others like it. The Saudi kingdom, is a profitable friend. The protesters that support the two coins of US partisan politics do not care about the children of Yemen either. One needs not look too far to find the victims of foreign policy, recent and distant to see the true outcome of such actions, but it seems few actually care to. And should they be presented with such facts and terrible images, a religious fog washes across their eyes, allowing them to either dismiss or contextualize the murder and suffering. But a slob tweeting from the toilet or a hair sniffing buffoon are both credible enough to lead, and be despised because they are not the other.

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Not a popular POV these days.

Trump Said ‘Cheer On Congress… Peacefully’ At Morning White House Rally (NP)

Despite insistence from the mainstream media, Democratic Party, and establishment Republicans that President Trump incited violence at the U.S. Capitol, his morning speech at the White House did precisely the opposite.
As the final speaker of the Save America March in Washington, D.C., President Trump insisted his supporters would “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” at the Capitol following his speech. “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women,” he outlined – never calling for protestors to breach the building or use physical force. In full his remarks read:

“And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down anyone you want, but I think right here. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. Today we will see whether Republicans stand strong for integrity.”

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Even if it’s true that the challenges contributed to the riots, don’t they have the right to challenge?

House Democrat’s Resolution To Expel Republicans Who Challenged Election (JTN)

A freshman House Democrat is preparing a resolution to introduce Monday to expel Republican lawmakers who supported challenges to the 2020 election results. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), said Sunday in a tweet she believes the election challenges contributed to the deadly riot inside the Capitol on Wednesday. “Tomorrow, I’m introducing my resolution to expel the members of Congress who tried to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist coup attempt that has left people dead,” Bush tweeted. “They have violated the 14th Amendment. We can’t have unity without accountability,” she wrote.

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Robber barons.

War Of The -Financial- Worlds (Nomi Prins)

In The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells evokes a species — humanity — rendered helpless in the face of a force greater than itself and beyond its control. His depiction of the grim relationship between the Martians and the humans they were suppressing (meant to remind readers of the relationship between British imperialists and those they suppressed in distant lands) cast an eerie light on the power and wealth gap in Great Britain and around the world at the turn of the twentieth century. The book was written in the Gilded Age, when rapid economic growth, particularly in the United States, bred a new class of “robber barons.” Like the twenty-first-century version of such beings, they, too, made money from their money, while the economic status of workers slipped ever lower.

It was an early version of a zero-sum game in which the spoils of the system were increasingly beyond the reach of so many. Those at the top ferociously accumulated wealth, while the majority of the rest of the population barely got by or drowned. A crisis of inequality had been sparked by the Industrial Revolution itself, which started in England and then crossed the Atlantic. By the late nineteenth century, America’s “robber barons” were insanely wealthy. As economist Thomas Piketty wrote, there was a steeper increase in wealth inequality during the Gilded Age than ever before in American history. In 1810, the top 1% of Americans held 25% of the country’s total wealth; between 1870 and 1910 that share leapt to 45%. Today, the top 1% of Americans possess more wealth than the whole of the middle class, a phenomenon first true in 2010 and still the reality of our moment.

By 2018, about 75% of the $113 trillion in aggregate U.S. household assets were financial ones; that is, tied up in stocks, ETF’s, 401Ks, IRAs, mutual funds, and similar investments. The majority of nonfinancial assets in that mix was in real estate. Even before the pandemic, only the richest 20% of American households had recovered fully (or, in the case of the truly wealthy, more than fully) from the financial crisis. That’s mostly because since that crisis, fewer households had participated in the stock market or owned real estate and so had no chance to capitalize on increases in the values of either. Much of the appreciation in stock market and real-estate values has been directly or indirectly related to the Fed’s actions. By the end of December 2020, its balance sheet had increased by $3.164 trillion, reaching a total of $7.35 trillion, 63% more than its book at the height of the decade following the 2008 disaster.

Read more …

Shill.

25 Organizations Say Victoria Nuland Should Be Rejected (CN)

Victoria Nuland, former foreign policy adviser to vice president Dick Cheney, should not be nominated for undersecretary of state [for political affairs], and if nominated should be rejected by the Senate. Nuland played a key role in facilitating a coup in Ukraine that created a civil war costing 10,000 lives and displacing over a million people. She played a key role in arming Ukraine as well. She advocates radically increased military spending, NATO expansion, hostility toward Russia, and efforts to overthrow the Russian government. The United States invested $5 billion in shaping Ukrainian politics, including overthrowing a democratically elected president who had refused to join NATO. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Nuland is on video talking about the U.S. investment and on audiotape planning to install Ukraine’s next leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was subsequently installed.

The Maidan protests, at which Nuland handed out cookies to protesters, were violently escalated by neo-Nazis and by snipers who opened fire on police. When Poland, Germany, and France negotiated a deal for the Maidan demands and an early election, neo-Nazis instead attacked the government and took over. The U.S. State Department immediately recognized the coup government, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk was installed as Prime Minister. Nuland has worked with the openly pro-Nazi Svoboda Party in Ukraine. She was long a leading proponent of arming Ukraine. She was also an advocate for removing from office the prosecutor general of Ukraine, whom then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed the president to remove.

Nuland wrote this past year that “The challenge for the United States in 2021 will be to lead the democracies of the world in crafting a more effective approach to Russia—one that builds on their strengths and puts stress on Putin where he is vulnerable, including among his own citizens.” She added: “…Moscow should also see that Washington and its allies are taking concrete steps to shore up their security and raise the cost of Russian confrontation and militarization. That includes maintaining robust defense budgets, continuing to modernize U.S. and allied nuclear weapons systems, and deploying new conventional missiles and missile defenses, . . . establish permanent bases along NATO’s eastern border, and increase the pace and visibility of joint training exercises.”

Read more …

Oh, yes, our moral standards.

Britain Set To Outlaw Chinese Imports With Links To Human Rights Abuse (Sun)

Britain is to square up to China — by outlawing imports with any links to human rights abuse. Dominic Raab will use the Modern Slavery Act to make firms root out items which are made using forced labour. The Foreign Secretary will also toughen up laws around exporting British goods or technology to China that could be used for repression. The plans will be outlined to MPs tomorrow. Britain’s diplomatic ties with Beijing have been strained since claims China tried to cover up the Covid outbreak and following attacks on democracy campaigners in Hong Kong. The Foreign Office has spoken of “deeply troubling” evidence of Uyghur Muslims forced to produce cotton.


There are fears the textile industry is doing too little due diligence on goods from Xinjiang Province where the Uyghurs are forced to live in “re-education camps”. But to the dismay of some MPs and campaigners, it is understood Britain will not sanction Communist officials linked to camps and forced sterilization programmes. Officials from Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea have been banned from entering Britain or using UK banks. But Whitehall insiders said the so-called Magnitsky powers are not expected to be deployed in China — although it is believed ministers have them in their sights.

Read more …

What comes after central banks go nuts.

Vietnam And China Buy Indian Rice For First Time In Decades (ZH)

One month ago, we reported that SocGen’s bearish analyst Albert Edwards, who is traditionally well ahead of the curve, looked at charts of soaring food prices and was starting to “panic.” Edwards’ research report concluded by urging his readers to “keep a very close eye as to whether we see a repeat of the 2010/11 surge in food prices” because “on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Arab Spring, and with poverty having already been made much worse by the pandemic, another food price bubble could well be the straw to break the very angry camel’s back.” And while it’s not quite the spring of 2011 just yet (give it a few months) it’s getting dangerously close.

As Rithesh Jain from the World out of Whack blog writes, citing an article in the Reuters, “Vietnam, the world’s third biggest exporter of rice, has started buying the grain from rival India for the first time in decades after local prices jumped to their highest in nine years amid limited domestic supplies.” “For the first time we are exporting to Vietnam,” B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association, told Reuters on Monday. “Indian prices are very attractive. The huge price difference is making exports possible.” Dwindling supplies and continued Philippine buying have lifted Vietnamese rice export prices to a fresh nine-year high.


Vietnam’s 5% broken rice is offered around $500-$505 per tonne, significantly higher compared to Indian prices of $381-$387. This means that, as we have been warning for the past few months, food inflation is indeed back with a vengeance: The purchases underscore tightening supplies in Asia, which could lift rice prices in 2021 and even force traditional buyers of rice from Thailand and Vietnam to switch to India – the world’s biggest exporter of the grain.

Read more …

Study after study being required. But not for the vaccines.

Does Vitamin D Combat Covid? (G.)

In March, the government’s scientific advisers examined existing evidence and decided there wasn’t enough to act upon. But in April, dozens of doctors wrote to the British Medical Journal describing the correction of vitamin D deficiencies as “a safe, simple step” that “convincingly holds out a potential, significant, feasible Covid-19 mitigation remedy”. In the Newcastle hospitals, patients found to be vitamin D-deficient were given extremely high oral doses of the nutrient, often up to 750 times the daily measure recommended by Public Health England. In July, clinicians wrote to the journal Clinical Endocrinology to share their initial outcomes. Of the first 134 coronavirus patients given vitamin D, 94 had been discharged, 24 were still receiving inpatient care, and 16 had died. The clinicians hadn’t clearly associated vitamin D levels with overall death rates, but only three patients with high levels of the nutrient died, and all of them were frail and in their 90s.

Increasingly, others followed the lead of the Newcastle doctors and began taking the vitamin themselves. During the first months of the pandemic, up to 1,000 NHS staff received free wellness packs – including vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc – from a voluntary initiative called the Frontline Immune Support Team, after informal demand from clinicians. And as sales of vitamin D supplements significantly increased, some doctors informally recommended it to patients. In a letter, the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin advised its members to take the nutrient, though it was not made official policy. “We believe that vitamin D3 deficiency is a major risk factor for severe coronavirus infection, for which there is accumulating evidence,” the letter said.

[..] In 1940, when Churchill’s government feared people were particularly at risk of the musculoskeletal condition rickets, margarine companies were ordered to fortify their products with vitamin D “to safeguard the nutritional status of the nation”. (Back then, the nutrient was universally thought only to impact bone and muscle health, rather than having any effect on immune or metabolic health.) Margarine was fortified with vitamin D until 2013, when the government decided that fortification was unnecessary “gold-plating”. It became industry standard to include the nutrient within other fat spreads, but for six years there has been no legal obligation to do so.

To the former Brexit secretary David Davis, the failure to fortify a wider group of foods seems unacceptable. Like clinicians at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, he couldn’t understand why vitamin D wasn’t being pursued as a viable coronavirus treatment. Davis is a Conservative MP with a molecular science degree. In May, he urged the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to review the evidence and consider a free supplement scheme to reverse vitamin D deficiencies, citing the letter sent to the BMJ. Up to 40% of the population is estimated to be vitamin D-deficient this winter.

[..] it is only a Spanish study, conducted in early September, that came close to incontrovertibly proving low vitamin D levels have a pivotal role in causing increased death rates. There, 50 patients with Covid-19 were given a high dose of vitamin D, while another 26 patients did not receive the nutrient. Half of patients who weren’t given vitamin D had to be placed in intensive care, and two later died. Only one patient who received vitamin D required ICU admission, and they were later released with no further complications.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 102021
 
 January 10, 2021  Posted by at 10:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  51 Responses »


Salvator Rosa Lucrezia as poetry c.1641

 

An Unlikely Nation Is Kicking This Pandemic. Guess Which. Then Why. (TS)
Covid-19 Forces Swedish Hospitals To Delay ‘Necessary Surgery’ (Local)
Rapid Covid Testing Across England Will Help Identify Symptomless Carriers (G.)
Assange Saga – Real Journalism Is Criminally Insane (Escobar)
The American Empire Has Fallen, Though Washington May Not Know It Yet (Malic)
Parler Kicked Off Amazon Servers And Apple Store (JTN)
Elon Musk Blames Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg For Capitol Riot (Ob.)
Big Short’s Michael Burry: Tesla Will Collapse Like The Housing Bubble (BI)
Bee-Killing Pesticide Banned By EU Can Be Used In England (G.)

 

 

What strikes me more than anything today is the amount of negativity everywhere I look, the antagonism and self-righteousness, which culminate in handing Big Tech the power to determine our own personal liberty. Not a Constitution, or even a law, not a judge or a court, but large corporations.

The problem with that is you’re not going to get it back. Be very careful what you wish for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glenn Greenwald, like Julian Assange, has warned against the increasing power of Big Tech for a long time.

Greenwald Tucker

 

 

 

 

India and ivermectin.

An Unlikely Nation Is Kicking This Pandemic. Guess Which. Then Why. (TS)

Ten months into its battle with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, India is on track to become an unexpected warrior in the fight against this global pandemic. Although the densely populated nation has four times the population of the U.S., India has less than half the U.S. COVID deaths. And India isn’t just beating the poorly performing U.S. In all, 98 nations have higher death rates than India. It may be tempting to attribute this startling news to imperfect data from a developing country. But doctors in India, Indian press reports, and even the Wall Street Journal have taken note of a sea change in COVID there. “In September, India was reporting almost 100,000 COVID-19 cases a day, with many predicting it would soon pass the U.S. in overall cases,” the WSJ wrote on Dec. 30. “Instead, its infections dropped and are now at one-fourth that level.”

Dr. Anil K. Chaurasia, a physician in Lucknow, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, watched this trend unfold. Starting about mid-September, “a clear decline in COVID cases and fatalities in India was noticeable,” he told me in a text message. The “steep decline in cases and fatalities is still continuing.” Like a lot of western reporting, the WSJ article held fast to an accepted COVID theme. The Indian miracle was due to masks, it asserted, since they are worn by 88 to 95 percent of a population “bombarded” with public-service reminders. The article cited German research that showed masks work. Fair enough. However, many factors are likely at play in India, including its painful yet supported national shutdown and individual state efforts at contact tracing and testing. But a pivotal role in any illness is surely the availability of treatments to resolve illness before crisis.

Late last March, as the U.S. argued over the merits of Trump-endorsed hydroxychloroquine and studies failed in late-stage patients, India decided to recommend the drug in its national guidelines. HCQ “should be used as early in the disease course as possible…and should be avoided in patients with severe disease,” the directives wisely state. As a precaution, authorities suggested an EKG to monitor for a rare heart arrhythmia that several COVID studies have since shown to be minimal. But a crucial turn for India may have come in August when the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh recommended use of another drug: Ivermectin, which is coming on fast as a leading COVID treatment — without the baggage of at-turns effective but vilified hydroxychloroquine.

This was no small move. Were it a country, U.P.’s more than 230 million citizens would rank it fifth worldwide. As India’s largest state, its embrace of ivermectin may have changed the treatment landscape across India. “This authentication of ivermectin revived the faith of people,” Dr. Chaurasia told me, “and net result was a massive inclination to take these drugs” — both ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. By the end of 2020, Uttar Pradesh — which distributed free ivermectin for home care — had the second-lowest fatality rate in India at 0.26 per 100,000 residents in December. Only the state of Bihar, with 128 million residents, was lower, and it, too, recommends ivermectin.

But Uttar Pradesh did more than treat 300,000 mild cases at home through 2020; it also opted to use ivermectin to prevent infection. It seems a young health officer’s COVID response teams had taken the drug and remained well – something prophylaxis studies support. U.P. then had contacts of COVID patients take it, with similar success. “Recognizing the sense of urgency,” Amit Mohan Prasad, a U.P. health official, wrote in a Dec. 30 article, “we decided to go ahead.”

Read more …

Spare a thought for the doctors making these decisions.

Covid-19 Forces Swedish Hospitals To Delay ‘Necessary Surgery’ (Local)

Hospitals across Sweden are now postponing urgent operations to make room for coronavirus patients, a survey by Sweden’s state broadcaster SR has found. Every one of the country’s 21 regional healthcare authorities reported being in a “strained” or “very strained” situation, with the regions of Jönköping and Uppsala telling SR that they were having to postpone urgent operations on cancer or heart patients. “It may actually be cancer surgery that has to wait for a bit right now,” Uppsala’s health and medical care director, Mikael Köhler, told the broadcaster. “We need to do everything we can to prevent harm that could have been avoided, and, in the long run, deaths. We really shouldn’t end up in that kind of situation, but we are starting to get close to it.”


Jönköping, like Uppsala, said that it was delaying urgent cancer surgery and heart operations, with the region’s medical director Mats Bojestig telling SR that it plans to trigger the crisis clause agreed with unions which will allow it to increase health personnel’s working hours. “This feels absolutely necessary if we’re going to be able to carry out more operations than before, because otherwise we think local residents are going to harmed,” he said. Uppsala has already triggered the crisis clause. In Skåne, urgent operations have had to be moved between hospitals, delaying procedures.

Read more …

We should have had this discussion at least 9 months ago. Choose between various rapid tests, and get it going.

Rapid Covid Testing Across England Will Help Identify Symptomless Carriers (G.)

Rapid testing to find symptomless carriers of Covid-19 is to be launched in England this week. The aim of the programme is to identify some of the tens of thousands of infected people who are unwittingly spreading the virus across the country. The dramatic escalation of the programme – which uses detectors known as lateral flow devices – comes as Covid death rates have continued to soar and hospitals have reported alarming numbers of patients needing intensive care. On Saturday it was revealed a further 1,035 Covid deaths had occurred in the UK, bringing the nation’s total to 80,868. In addition, the daily number of those testing positive increased by 59,937.

Under the new, expanded testing scheme, local authorities will be encouraged to identify more positive cases of Covid and ensure those who are infected isolate. The use of lateral flow devices, which can confirm if a person is infected in under 30 minutes, will allow quick detection of infected individuals at test centres. Lateral-flow devices are accurate at pinpointing infected individuals but have been criticised for generating large numbers of false negatives. Nevertheless, many experts have welcomed the expansion of the testing programme, which 131 local authorities have already agreed to implement. Professor Adam Finn, of Bristol University, described the expanded programme as a vitally important measure. “Added to the measures already in place, this provides an important new tool to help to reduce the rapid rise in cases that is paralysing in our country,” he added.

Professor Lawrence Young of Warwick Medical School agreed. “This is good news. Testing individuals during the current lockdown will help to restrict the spread of infection as long as we ensure folk who test positive appropriately isolate and their contacts are traced and also isolate.” Other scientists were more cautious. “Here, In Liverpool, a trial using lateral flow tests had a good uptake: 25% of the population were tested and 900 cases identified,” said Tom Wingfield, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. “However, an interim report later showed this testing missed 60% of cases and provided no clear evidence the strategy led to a reduction of cases.

Read more …

“The real power in the Assange case is Lady Emma Arbuthnot, forced out of a visible role because of very compromising, direct ties she and her husband Lord Arbuthnot maintain with British intelligence and military..”

Assange Saga – Real Journalism Is Criminally Insane (Escobar)

The invaluable Craig Murray, from inside Westminster Magistrates Court No. 1 in London, meticulously presented the full contours of the insanity this Wednesday. Read it in conjunction with the positively terrifying judgment delivered on Monday in the United States government case against Julian Assange. The defining issue, for all those who practice real journalism all across the world, is that the judgment affirms, conclusively, that any journalist can be prosecuted under the US Espionage Act. Since a 1961 amendment, the Espionage Act carries universal jurisdiction. The great John Pilger memorably describes “judge” Vanessa Baraitser as “that Gothic woman”. She is in fact an obscure public servant, not a jurist. Her judgment walks and talks like it was written by a mediocre rookie hack. Or, better yet, entirely lifted from the US Department of Justice indictment.

Julian Assange was – at the last minute – discharged on theoretically humanitarian grounds. So the case had, in effect, ended. Not really. Two days later, he was sent back to Belmarsh, a squalid maximum security prison rife with Covid-19. So the case is ongoing. WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnnson correctly noted, “It is unjust and unfair and illogical when you consider her ruling of two days ago about Julian’s health in large part because he is in Belmarsh prison (…) To send him back there doesn’t make any sense.” It does when one considers the real role of Baraitser – at a loss to juggle between the imperatives of the imperial agenda and the necessity of saving the face of British justice.

Baraitser is a mere, lowly foot soldier punching way above her weight. The real power in the Assange case is Lady Emma Arbuthnot, forced out of a visible role because of very compromising, direct ties she and her husband Lord Arbuthnot maintain with British intelligence and military, first revealed by – who else – WikiLeaks. It was Arbuthnot who picked up obscure Baraitser – who dutifully follows her road map. In court, as Murray has detailed in a series of searing reports, Baraitser essentially covers her incompetence with glaring vindictiveness. Baraitser discharged Julian Assange, according to her own reasoning, because she was not convinced the appalling American gulag would prevent him from committing suicide.

But the key issue is that before reaching this conclusion, she agreed and reinforced virtually every point of the US indictment. So at this point, on Monday, the “Gothic woman” was performing a contortion to save the US from the profound global embarrassment of prosecuting a de facto journalist and publisher for revealing imperial war crimes, not United States government secrets. Two days later, the full picture became crystal clear. There was nothing “humanitarian” about that judgment. Political dissent was equaled with mental illness. Julian Assange was branded as criminally insane. Once again, practicing journalism was criminalized.

Read more …

“..exploding the myths that maintained US hegemony, both at home and abroad.”

The American Empire Has Fallen, Though Washington May Not Know It Yet (Malic)

[..] here’s Ishan Tharoor, a columnist for the notoriously pro-establishment Washington Post, declaring on Thursday that for “many abroad,” the vision of the US as a shining city on a hill with global moral influence and authority “has already died a thousand deaths.” For some of these people, Tharoor argued, this narrative was “always an illusion to obscure the Washington-engineered coups and client military regimes.” Indeed. Democrats and their neocon allies have spent the past four years blaming Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, lamenting that he was acting unilaterally, antagonizing “allies” and creating a “leadership vacuum” in the world. Those are the talking points of the incoming administration as well.

Except they’ve clearly forgotten the events of January 2020, when Trump ordered the drone assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. There were no protests from US “allies” – or should we say vassals? Instead, they fell in line with amazing alacrity. Trump actually embraced the American Empire, he simply dispensed with the polite fictions it had used to dress up as something else over the years. Ironically, it was the mobilization of the entire US political establishment to get rid of Trump – starting with ‘Russiagate’ and the impeachment circus over the phone call to Ukraine, with nationwide riots about “racial justice” and the politically weaponized coronavirus lockdowns along the way – that did the lion’s share of exploding the myths that maintained US hegemony, both at home and abroad.

Remember the ‘Deep State’ that was supposedly a Trumpian conspiracy theory? Yet its existence was confirmed in the impeachment hearings, a former CIA director openly praised it, and the eventual revelations of a FBI plot to frame General Flynn removed any vestiges of doubt. The mainstream media’s war on Trump, later joined by social media platforms – censorship of the legitimate and accurate Hunter Biden laptop story just before the election being just the most egregious example – also played out for the world to see. In the end, they banned Trump from every social media platform while he was still in office, even as he said he would leave peacefully.

Read more …

Parler was at no. 1 in the AppStore.

Parler Kicked Off Amazon Servers And Apple Store (JTN)

Parler’s chief executive said Saturday night that the social media app was suspended from Apple’s store and will be thrown off Amazon’s servers in a standoff over censoring content. CEO John Matze said Parler would not bend to Apple’s demands for increased surveillance and moderation of content and was exploring “many options.” He said the decision by Amazon could result in a weeklong interruption of it service. “Sunday (tomorrow) at midnight Amazon will be shutting off all of our servers in an attempt to completely remove free speech off the internet. There is the possibility Parler will be unavailable on the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch,” he said.

“This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace. We were too successful too fast. You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out,” Matze added. The dual announcements came a day after Google kicked Parler out of its App Store. “Apple will be banning Parler until we give up free speech, institute broad and invasive policies like Twitter and Facebook and we become a surveillance platform by pursuing guilt of those who use Parler before innocence,” Matze said in a statement posted on the platform. “They claim it is due to violence on the platform. The community disagrees as we hit number 1 on their store today.”

Matze accused Apple of a double standard by allowing Twitter to have its users post offensive content while shutting down Parler. ”The same day ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ a disgusting violent suggestion, was trending nationally on Twitter. Displaying the horrible double standard Apple and their big tech pack apply to the community,” he said. “Apple, a software monopoly, provides no alternatives to installing apps on your phone other then their store. We do not own our phones, Apple simply rents them to us.

Read more …

“The shocking rampage on Wednesday was the culmination of years of political and ideological polarization fueled by social media platforms, primarily Facebook.”

Elon Musk Blames Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg For Capitol Riot (Ob.)

In times of social crises in America, big tech billionaires are often amongst the first to speak up—though how they do so varies. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, unlike many of his peers, didn’t directly speak about the riot that erupted in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday afternoon. But the second-richest man in the world did make it clear that he was watching the news and indeed had a strong opinion about the surreal events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol. Late Wednesday night, after police had cleared protestors from the Capital ground to allow Congress to resume vote counting and certifying election results, Musk tweeted a meme showing bricks lining up like dominoes.


The smallest front brick was labeled “a website to rate women on campus”—a reference to the early version of Facebook—and the largest tile in the back was superimposed with a tweet by The New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich that read: “The Capitol seems to be under the control of a man in a viking hat.” His message was clear: The shocking rampage on Wednesday was the culmination of years of political and ideological polarization fueled by social media platforms, primarily Facebook. “This is called the domino effect,” Musk tweeted alongside the meme. It’s not the first time the Tesla CEO openly expressed his dislike for Facebook. In February, he called Facebook “lame” in a tweet and urged people to delete their accounts. Three months later, he tweeted “Facebook sucks” after the company’s artificial intelligence lead criticized his lack of knowledge about A.I.

Read more …

“Tesla’s stock price jumped 8% that day alone, adding $60 billion to its market capitalization – equivalent to “1 GM, 2 Hersheys, 3 Etsys, 4 Dominos, 10 Vornados..”

Big Short’s Michael Burry: Tesla Will Collapse Like The Housing Bubble (BI)

Michael Burry, the investor whose billion-dollar bet against the US housing market was immortalized in Michael Lewis’ book “The Big Short,” predicted that Tesla stock would suffer a similar downfall. “Well, my last Big Short got bigger and bigger and BIGGER too,” Burry tweeted on Thursday. Tesla’s stock price jumped 8% that day alone, adding $60 billion to its market capitalization – equivalent to “1 GM, 2 Hersheys, 3 Etsys, 4 Dominos, 10 Vornados,” he continued. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” the Scion Asset Management founder and boss added. Burry disclosed in December that he was shorting Tesla, and he called for CEO Elon Musk to capitalize on his electric-vehicle company’s “current ridiculous price” by issuing shares.


“Sell that #TeslaSouffle,” he added. Tesla stock skyrocketed about 740% in 2020 and has climbed 16% already this year, granting the automaker a bigger market cap than Facebook and making Musk the richest man in the world. [..] Burry was almost universally dismissed when he predicted that the housing bubble would burst and began snapping up credit-default swaps on subprime-mortgage bonds in May 2005. He weathered immense pressure from investors to return their money. A wave of mortgage defaults eventually tanked the housing market in 2007, and Burry personally raked in $100 million and made $750 million in profits for his investors.

Read more …

Tears and fears.

Bee-Killing Pesticide Banned By EU Can Be Used In England (G.)

A pesticide believed to kill bees has been authorised for use in England despite an EU-wide ban two years ago and an explicit government pledge to keep the restrictions. Following lobbying from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Sugar, a product containing the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam was sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beet seeds this year because of the threat posed by a virus. Conservationists have described the decision as regressive and called for safeguards to prevent the pollution of rivers with rainwater containing the chemical at a time when British insects are in serious decline.

The decision by 11 countries to allow emergency use of the product comes amid a growing awareness of the harmful role played by refined sugar in the development of long-term health problems. Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of the invertebrate conservation group Buglife, said it was an “environmentally regressive” decision that would destroy wildflowers and add to an “onslaught” on insects. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” he said. “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment.”

Michael Sly, the chairman of the NFU sugar board, said he was relieved the application had been granted and that the sector was working to find long-term solutions to virus yellows disease. “Any treatment will be used in a limited and controlled way on sugar beet, a non-flowering crop, and only when the scientific threshold has been independently judged to have been met,” he said. “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorisation is desperately needed to fight this disease. It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.”

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 092021
 
 January 9, 2021  Posted by at 4:32 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  30 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Blue Trees (Your Turn Will Come, My Beauty!) 1888

 

 

You would think that if there’s one group of people who’d recognize a coup if they saw one, it would be the American people. Because their intelligence services have been involved in almost all coups in the world for many decades; let’s say since WWII, to keep it simple.

Just in the most recent past, they staged and conducted coups in Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela and many other places (think Bolivia). Libya was the only real “successful” one, thanks to Gaddafi being sodomized with a bayonet, leading to Hillary’s giddy We Came, We Saw, He Died, the by far ugliest face of the US by a mile. That and the open-air slave markets that resulted from sodomizing to death the man who led Africa’s wealthiest country and gave his people benefits that Americans can only dream of.

And now Hillary’s crew are about to be handed the reins again. Or as Michael Tracey put it”: The new corporate authoritarian liberal-left monoculture is going to be absolutely ruthless – and in 12 days it is merging with the state. This [is] only the beginning. Duck for cover.

The screwed-up coups in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela etc. would appear to signal that the CIA is not very adept (anymore?!) at organizing coups, or maybe they just chronically overestimate their skills at it. Whichever way it may be, they have done more damage to America and its standing in the world than Donald Trump could ever have dreamt of doing.

So you would think Americans would recognize a coup, but instead they’re the last group of people on the planet who would. Because their media doesn’t present them as coups. They’re labeled as spreading democracy, freedom etc., as standing up against the bad guys, and liberating innocent people -even if many of them die in the process. People dying is a feature of these coups, not a bug. People get shot, bombed, disappeared, in a word: killed.

 

Anyway, it’s way more and better than ironic that all these very deadly CIA-led operations are not labeled coups, but then the clowns and actors spectacle that took place in Washington DC this week, is. Which is possible only because they never told people what a coup actually is. Only then can you make them believe that some wanker in a furry viking helmet outfit is trying to overthrow the government. At the initiative of the democratically elected president, no less.

Are these people extremists and terrorists or are they clowns and actors? I would lean towards the latter option. A coup requires a plan, a playbook, most often elites who think they have a shot at taking over a country, which in turn requires support from at least part of an army. The best these folks could think of was sitting in Pelosi’s office and take selfies.

 

 

That doesn’t make the march on the Capitol a good thing, far from it, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t like the way the president they elected in 2016 has been treated by the MSM, his political opponents, and US intelligence. And after the theater that has been Russiagate, the Mueller debacle and the Zelensky call-based impeachment, maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising.

The main problem for Trump lately would appear to have been his legal representation. I’ve said all along: let the dice roll where they may, there are many questions surrounding the election and they have the right to go looking for answers to these questions.

But if you look at what the status is today of what the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Lin Wood have come up with, you think they might as well have been working for the other side. Still, we’ve at least seen the dice roll, and they came up they way they did. The process was allowed to proceed, and this is the outcome. This has misled Trump as well as his followers. They thought there was something substantial -and tanglible- there, because that’s what they were told all along.

This doesn’t mean the US should continue using voting machines, however. There are many countries that hold elections, and there are very few that either use those machines and/or see their elections contested. There’s a reason for that combination. These things can be manipulated, and they will be if they’re used. Get rid of them or this chapter will be repeated endlessly.

 

Then again, it all plays out well for anyone but Trump. And perhaps a few GOP’ers who stood by him. You could say, Trump entered the swamp and drowned in it, it swallowed him whole. Which is not to say that he’s such a perfect character, hell no, but he was the one and only chance to get rid of the power cabal that is DC. Which is a much bigger danger than he could ever be.

Where career politicians like Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and Joe Biden can reside for decades, and be handed ever more handsome amounts of money by the lobbyists who write their laws, which benefit the corporations they work for. Trump was the chance to do at least something about this. They ate him alive.

Now the story is that Trump is/was the main danger, and that he was attempting a coup against his own government. To finish off the job, after being hunted down by the MSM for 4+ years, social media, for whom unceremoniously dumping Trump, after he was their main attraction for years -at least for clickbait-, was just a business decision dressed in some vague set of moral principles, are now simply deleting him.

And people cheer that. They don’t understand that from now on, as US president you serve at the behest, grace and kindness of the CIA, New York Times and WaPo, but even more that of @jack and Zuckerberg, and not that of the American people. As the noise about an attempted coup allows Team Biden to slip in Sally Yates, Susan Rice and Victoria Nuland and their whole gang of neocon warmongers.

The entire media focus on Trump served to hide what those people were doing behind the scenes all along. And now it’s time to duck for cover. They’re going to try and impeach him again, and then prosecute him, and erase everything he’s done, cheered on by the same media who never told you what a coup actually is. Because they are a big club, and he’s not in it, and neither are you.

And if you think you can vent an opinion on social media in the future that doesn’t coincide with that of the big club, perhaps you haven’t been paying attention.

 

 

 

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Jan 092021
 
 January 9, 2021  Posted by at 10:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Rembrandt Old man with a beard 1630

 

Big Tech Has Proven It’s More Powerful Than Any Government (Buyniski)
Friday Night Massacre: Twitter Purges Trump, Parler Faces Bans (JTN)
Twitter Bans Trump, Citing Risk Of Violent Incitement (AP)
Trump Campaign Banned From Emailing Supporters (GP)
Wednesday’s Other Story (Taibbi)
Railing Against Trump Coup, Biden Appoints Ukraine Coup-Plotter Nuland (MPN)
Rasmussen: Trump’s Approval Rating Rises After DC Protests (NM)
The Capitol Riot Wasn’t A Coup. It Wasn’t Even Close (McMaken)
How Media Flipped Script On Violent Protests After Capitol Riot (JTN)
Trump Sneaks Back On Twitter By Disguising Self As China PR Rep (BBee)

 

 

That was fast. And furious. What a little coordination can do.

 

 

 

 


William Copley Model for American Flag 1961

 

 

“No explanations have been forthcoming as to why the Capitol was largely unguarded during the protests, even though Trump had for weeks been calling on his followers to stage “wild” demonstrations on that day. Nor was it clear why Mayor Muriel Bowser waited so long before sending in police and the military to rein in the chaos. The stage seemed to have been deliberately set for disaster..”

Big Tech Has Proven It’s More Powerful Than Any Government (Buyniski)

Big Tech’s moves to muscle President Donald Trump off social media have been heralded by some as victory. But a corporate-run state with politicians serving as mere figureheads amounts to the very fascism they claim to oppose. The smug, palpable air of ‘mission accomplished’ emanating from Facebook, Twitter and Google in the weeks after the media called November’s election for Democrat Joe Biden has been hard to ignore. Thanks to an iron grip on the political narrative and the heavy-handed suppression of any influential dissenting voices, these insanely wealthy companies and their partners in the media establishment have managed to successfully upend what was left of the US’ democratic process.

In short, they have reason to celebrate, having pulled off the first successful national-level coup-by-media in US history. And better yet — for them at least — having helped the ‘right’ guy win, they won’t have to answer to any bogus charges of Russian collusion this time around. Indeed, no less than the Department of Homeland Security came forward to declare the vote the most secure in US history — a baffling claim at best, given the same officials have spent months insisting foreign infiltration supposedly had democracy hanging by a thread. The epic pearl-clutching that followed Wednesday’s march on the Capitol is almost guaranteed to result in further restrictions on online speech — and as many observers noted, that’s just how Big Tech and Big Brother want it.

No explanations have been forthcoming as to why the Capitol was largely unguarded during the protests, even though Trump had for weeks been calling on his followers to stage “wild” demonstrations on that day. Nor was it clear why Mayor Muriel Bowser waited so long before sending in police and the military to rein in the chaos. The stage seemed to have been deliberately set for disaster, just the sort of spectacle a clever Big Business-Big Tech axis needs to terrify the masses into believing a full-on insurrection is afoot. The only real surprise in Wednesday’s events is that more people weren’t killed — but that’s where the media came in, wielding luridly detailed descriptions and photographing the most bizarrely-attired figures in the group.

Ultimately, the narrative diverges from reality just enough to make its point, fingering social media as the culprit, and duping the average American into supporting further incursions on their First Amendment freedoms. The moral of the story becomes “Stop thinking, before someone gets hurt.”

Read more …

They’re pretty thorough, and they’re doing it together.

Friday Night Massacre: Twitter Purges Trump, Parler Faces Bans (JTN)

Tech companies on Friday night made significant moves against conservative presences on their respective servers, with Twitter purging major high-profile conservative accounts including President Donald Trump, who received a permanent ban.. Apple, meanwhile, threatened to blacklist Parler in its app store over the company’s content moderation policies, while Google outright banned the app from its own software-sharing system. Twitter on Friday officially banned Trump from its platform, citing his two recent tweets stating his intent to skip Joe Biden’s inauguration and offering praise to his his millions of supporters, which the company said constituted violations of its “glorification of violence” policy.


“[O]ur determination,” the company wrote, “is that the two Tweets … are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.” Twitter on Friday also banned the accounts of Trump attorney Sidney Powell and former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, arguing that the two had spread false information related to the QAnon conspiracy theory and had thus violated the company’s content rules. The alternative social media app Parler, meanwhile — which has billed itself as a free-speech alternative to Twitter’s content moderation policies and which has attracted a growing number of conservative users in recent months — faced major pressure from tech giants Apple and Google to rewrite its content rules.

Read more …

Arbitrary rules. No matter what side you’re on, that’s what they are.

Twitter Bans Trump, Citing Risk Of Violent Incitement (AP)

Twitter banned President Donald Trump’s account Friday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviors. But in a detailed explanation posted on its blog Friday, the company said recent Trump tweets amounted to glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The social platform has been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following the Wednesday violence.

On Thursday, Facebook suspended Trump’s account through Jan. 20 and possibly indefinitely. Twitter merely suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol. Trump’s Twitter persona has long functioned as a mix of policy announcements, often out of the blue; complaints about the media; disparagement of women, minorities and his perceived enemies; and praise for his supporters, replete with exclamation marks, all-caps, and one-word declarations such as “Sad!” He has fired numerous officials on Twitter and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, are a torrent of misinformation. [..]

The official account for the President of the United States, @POTUS, remains live. In fact, Trump, who issued a statement Friday evening that denounced Twitter as an enemy of free speech and floated the idea that he might build his own “platform,” also posted it on the @POTUS account, where it was quickly deleted. Twitter says using another account to evade a suspension is against its rules, and that while it won’t ban government accounts like @POTUS or @WhiteHouse, it will “take action to limit their use.”

Read more …

Yes, thorough.

Trump Campaign Banned From Emailing Supporters (GP)

The Trump campaign is now blocked from emailing their millions of supporters after being suspended by their email service provider. The suspension comes shortly after President Donald Trump and his campaign were permanently banned from Twitter. The email service, Campaign Monitor, confirmed the suspension of the account to Financial Times’ Dave Lee. The Nationalist Review reports “the move effectively cuts off communication between his team and his core supporters. What is not clear however, is what other services have banned his team. The Trump campaign sends out a massive amount of emails—33 in January so far. But, it has been 48 hours since the campaign has reached out to its supporters via email, prompting most journalists to speculate that other providers have shut off access as well.”


In a statement, Campaign Monitor claimed that the campaign probably has other methods of sending emails to supporters. “The self-service account associated with the Donald Trump Campaign has been suspended as of today, January 7th, 2021. Typically, political campaigns use multiple email service providers to send campaign, fundraising and other emails,” Campaign Monitor said in a statement about the ban. “Based on the low volume of emails that had been sent from the Campaign Monitor account, this is likely a very small portion of total email activity from the campaign.”

Read more …

Julian Assange saw today’s developments coming years ago.

Wednesday’s Other Story (Taibbi)

The rise of Wikileaks introduced an uncontrollable variable into our drift toward authoritarianism. The WMD episode had shown again that our press, the supposed first line of defense against abuses, could not be relied upon. For every expose like Abu Ghraib, there were a hundred stories that either went uncovered or advanced official deceptions. Wikileaks anticipated a future in which the press would not only be pliant accomplices to power in this way, but where information itself would be tightly controlled by governments using far-reaching and probably extralegal new technological concepts, deploying misleading excuses for clampdowns.

One of the first Wikileaks document dumps involved the Thai government’s blacklist of Internet sites, which was billed as a way to stop child pornography but had in fact been used to remove as many as 1200 sites critical of the Thai royal family, among other things. “The Thai system was used to censor Australia reportage about the imprisoned Australian writer Harry Nicolaides,” Assange noted, in 2009. Wikileaks also released the Camp Manual for Guantanamo Bay, which among other things revealed that children as young as 15 were being held, along with 900+ other files about a place essentially closed off to even theoretical press review. Another early dump involved the Minton report, about toxic dumping in the Ivory Coast by the firm Trafigura, which in yet another preview of a future of information control had obtained a court order to prevent The Guardian from printing.

In the 2010 Collateral Murder video, an Apache helicopter crew falsely claims to have encountered a firefight and lights up a Baghdad street, killing a dozen people, including two Reuters employees. Somehow even more disturbing than the killing is the dialogue captured between pilots and base. They’re laughing in parts, saying things like, “Just fuckin’ once you get on ‘em, just open ‘em up,” “All right, hahaha, I hit em,” and “Hey, you shoot, I’ll talk.” For all the talk about the madness of Donald Trump — and I wrote one of those pieces — this was something more dangerous, i.e. institutional insanity.

We were factory-producing sociopathic murder, by air, in a process that would become more depersonalized. As early as 2011 we learned the Pentagon was working on a software-based system for identifying and eliminating targets by drone, in an effort to remove the potentially complicating variable of human conscience. The implications of this are the stuff of sci-fi movies: outsourcing feeling, judgment, and responsibility to machines, which incidentally would eventually use similar software to determine how much about these questions could be disclosed to human audiences.

Read more …

Cookies.

Railing Against Trump Coup, Biden Appoints Ukraine Coup-Plotter Nuland (MPN)

Describing it as “one of the darkest days in American history,” President-elect Joe Biden denounced Wednesday’s spectacular assault on the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. as a coup attempt fomented by Donald Trump. “I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming, but that isn’t true. We could see it coming,” the 78-year-old Delawarean said. The last four years we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done. He unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy from the outset, and yesterday was but a culmination … of that attack.” “This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It’s chaos,” he added, calling the events an “unprecedented assault” on the very fabric of U.S. democracy.

Yet, almost at the same time as the future president was denouncing Trump’s coup attempt, he was appointing Victoria Nuland — the driving force behind the 2014 insurrection that overthrew the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych — as his new Under Secretary for Political Affairs. The United States and NATO had been making overtures to Ukraine for some time before the coup, hoping that the country would become the latest post-Soviet state to fall into their fold as they continued to expand eastwards. Yanukovych, however, was in favor of steering Ukraine in a more Russia-friendly direction. The decision spurred demonstrations across the country from pro-E.U. forces. The Obama administration immediately sensed an opportunity, sending Nuland across the world to lead and support the movement, the senior diplomat rallying protestors, and was even photographed handing out cookies in the streets.

While in the West, the revolt was presented as being led by tech-savvy, forward-thinking students. In reality, most of the muscle was supplied by neo-Nazi militias who helped force through Yanukovych’s downfall and continue to hold an oversized role in Ukrainian politics and society. In December, the United States and Ukraine were the only two nations to vote against a United Nations measure (passed 130-2), “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.” This was done as they felt the resolution could be used to target the Ukrainian government and the U.S.’ continued funding of it. Leaked phone calls show that Nuland and American Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt had long conversations about who should make up the post-coup government.

Read more …

Not for long.

Rasmussen: Trump’s Approval Rating Rises After DC Protests (NM)

The Rasmussen poll, one of the most accurate polls of the 2020 election, finds President Trump’s approval is actually rising after Wednesday‘s protests. As Democrats move to impeachment and some establishment Republicans call for the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, the poll finds 48% approve of the President’s job performance. A source close to the polling firm tells Newsmax that the rolling survey saw Trump’s approval soar to 51% on Thursday night. Trump’s approval has been up overall, jumping from 45% just before Christmas. “Americans are disgusted that cities burned for months and Washington and the media did nothing,” our source says, “But they still like Trump.”

Read more …

How many coups have there been in the past decades that did not involve the CIA?

The Capitol Riot Wasn’t A Coup. It Wasn’t Even Close (McMaken)

On Wednesday, a mob apparently composed of Trump supporters forced its way past US Capitol security guards and briefly moved unrestrained through much of the capitol building. They displayed virtually no organization and no clear goals. Five people reportedly died during the events – one apparently unarmed female protester died of a gunshot wound, three other protesters “suffered medical emergencies” that resulted in their deaths (one crushed, one heart attack, and one stroke); and a police officer died from a blood clot on his brain reportedly triggered while physically engaging with protesters. Yet, the media response has been to act as if the event constituted a coup d’etat. This was “A Very American Coup” according to a headline at The New Republic.

“This is a Coup” insists a writer at Foreign Policy. The Atlantic presented photos purported to be “Scenes From an American Coup.” But this wasn’t a coup, and what happened on Wednesday is conceptually very different from a coup. Coups nearly always are acts committed by elites against the sitting executive power using the tools of the elites. This isn’t at all what happened on Wednesday. A gang of disorganized, powerless mechanics, janitors, and insurance agents running through the capitol isn’t a coup. And if it was a coup attempt, it was so far from anything that might hope to succeed as a coup that it should not be taken seriously as such. So how do we know a coup when we see one?

In their article “Global instances of coups from 1950 to 2010: A new dataset,” authors Jonathan M. Powell and Clayton L. Thyne provide a definition: “A coup attempt includes illegal and overt attempts by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting executive.” There are two key components of this definition. The first is that it is illegal. Powell and Thyne note this “illegal” qualifier is important to include “because it differentiates coups from political pressure, which is common whenever people have freedom to organize.” In other words, protests, or threats of protest don’t count as coups. Neither do legal efforts such as a vote of no confidence or an impeachment. But an even more critical aspect of Powell’s and Thyne’s definition is that it requires the involvement of elites.

This can be seen in any stereotypical example of a coup d’etat. This generally involves a renegade military detachment, military officers, and others from within the state apparatus who can employ knowledge, skills, influence, coercive tools gained through membership in the regime’s elite circles. The attempted coup in Japan in 1937, for example, was carried out by more than 1,500 officers and men of the Japanese imperial army. They nonetheless failed, likely because they miscalculated the amount of support they enjoyed among other officers. More recently, in the 2009 Honduran coup, the bulk of the Honduran Army turned on the president Manuel Zelaya and sent him into exile. That was a successful coup. More famously, Chile’s 1973 coup was successfully led by Agusto Pinochet, the commander-in-chief of the Army, and this enabled him to shell the Chilean executive palace with military hardware.

Read more …

Semantics rule.

How Media Flipped Script On Violent Protests After Capitol Riot (JTN)

The Associated Press, meanwhile, appeared in its coverage of the riot to depart from a new stylistic approach it adopted last year. Informing readers that it would be “us[ing] care” in describing civil unrest, the news organization in September wrote on Twitter: “A riot is a wild or violent disturbance of the peace involving a group of people. The term riot suggests uncontrolled chaos and pandemonium.” The AP argued that “focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s.”


Suggesting an alternative, the AP wrote: “Unrest is a vaguer, milder and less emotional term for a condition of angry discontent and protest verging on revolt.” The news wire appeared to utilize that standard in its coverage of last summer’s violent demonstrations, when in the late spring it described violent looting, arson, flag-burning and clashes with police as “unrest.” It similarly described as “unrest” sustained chaos in Minneapolis that involved the burning of a police station and multiple other buildings, some of which firefighters were unable to access due to ongoing violence. Yet the Associated Press in multiple stories this week described the Capitol crisis as a “riot,” making it unclear just how the news service applies the standards it appears to have developed in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

Read more …

“Should his ploy fail, Trump says he will next try disguising himself as an Antifa leader.”

Trump Sneaks Back On Twitter By Disguising Self As China PR Rep (BBee)

Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter today, being a crazy fringe extremist who also happens to be the president of the United States. But the ever-clever Trump, always known as the smartest man in the room, has managed to get back on the social network by disguising himself as one Chongald Xrump, PR specialist for the Chinese Communist Party. Trump is reportedly attempting to build a following by tweeting about how good Uighur concentration camps are and how nice the Chinese government is, since those things are not banned under Twitter’s terms of service.

Once he has enough followers, he’ll remove his Asian rice hat and false Fu Manchu mustache and begin tweeting about the rigged election once again. “Hello good sirs, I am here today to tell you how great our concentration camps are! Very clean and humane!” he wrote. The tweet was not flagged for inciting violence or being, you know, the tweet of a communist country that has killed tens of millions of its own citizens. In fact, people who replied and questioned the legitimacy of his tweet were suspended for hate speech. Should his ploy fail, Trump says he will next try disguising himself as an Antifa leader.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 082021
 
 January 8, 2021  Posted by at 9:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  56 Responses »


Joan Miro The tilled field 1924

 

Only In Your Imagination Was That An Attempted “Coup” (Tracey)
Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Greenwald)
Enough With The Outrage (PL)
Facebook, Twitter Finally Do Slightly More Than Nothing About Trump (IC)
US Capitol Police Say Reports Of Officer Death Not Accurate (R.)
Donald Trump’s Ruinous Legacy (Tracey)
The US and UK May Not Will Assange’s Death, But … (Cook)
Biden’s One-Two Stimulus Punch (Axios)
There Are So Many Covid Patients, Younger This Time (Anon)
Very Risky To Delay 2nd Dose Of COVID19 Vaccine – Former FDA Director (Hill)
British Scientists Develop World’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Smart Patch (Unilad)
Americans Need Federal Commission To Look Into The 2020 Election (Turley)

 

 

 

 

All I saw was a bunch of clowns.

Only In Your Imagination Was That An Attempted “Coup” (Tracey)

We are being told that a “coup attempt” no longer needs to be understood as constituting an “attempt” to seize control of the government — as had generally been the common understanding of the term before the events of yesterday, which have caused the entire political and media establishment to go completely haywire Is it unusual for a mob to breach the Capitol Building — ransacking offices, taking goofy selfies, and disrupting the proceedings of Congress for a few hours? Yes, that’s unusual. But the idea that this was a real attempt at a “coup” — meaning an attempt to seize by force the reins of the most powerful state in world history — is so preposterous that you really have to be a special kind of deluded in order to believe it.

Or if not deluded, you have to believe that using such terminology serves some other political purpose. Such as, perhaps, imposing even more stringent censorship on social media, where the “coup” is reported to have been organized. Or inflicting punishment on the man who is accused of “inciting” the coup, which you’ve spent four years desperately craving to do anyway. He’s already been effectively banned from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — a rubicon-crossing event in the suppression of political speech which, of course, is being cheered by all the usual suspects who otherwise claim to be stalwart defenders of enlightened liberal values. At no point yesterday was the American government at risk of being “overthrown,” as members of Congress have laughably suggested.

Per usual, our guardians of consensus can’t bring themselves to describe what unfolded with any degree of dispassion or calm. Instead we’re told by the incoming Senate Majority Leader, for example, that January 6, 2021 will now “live in infamy” right alongside December 7, 1941. Elected officials issued emotional notices that they were “okay,” like they had just narrowly avoided being crushed in an earthquake, or escaped the World Trade Center on 9/11. This is made all the more odd because the only person upon whom lethal force was committed appears to have been a Trump-supporting woman who was shot point-blank in the throat by a Capitol Hill police officer. She’s now dead. Congress was temporarily inconvenienced.

Journalists and pundits, glorying in their natural state — which is to peddle as much free-flowing hysteria as possible — eagerly invoke all the same rhetoric that they’d abhor in other circumstances on civil libertarian grounds. “Domestic terrorism,” “insurrection,” and other such terms now being promoted by the corporate media will nicely advance the upcoming project of “making sure something like this never happens again.” Use your imagination as to what kind of remedial measures that will entail. Trump’s promotion of election fraud fantasies has been a disaster not just for him, but for his “movement” — such as it exists — and it’s obvious that a large segment of the population actively wants to be deceived about such matters.

But the notion that Trump has “incited” a violent insurrection is laughable. His speech Monday afternoon that preceded the march to the Capitol was another standard-fare Trump grievance fest, except without the humor that used to make them kind of entertaining. Trump didn’t command that his followers physically breach the Capitol Building. In fact, after previously saying he would join the march, he seems to just have gone home to tweet and watch TV. So, basically his normal routine on a typical day, minus a trip to the golf course.

Read more …

“..striking at cherished national symbols — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol — ensures rage and terror far beyond body counts or other concrete harms.”

It’s about cliockbait, Glenn. Not reason.

Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Greenwald)

The U.S. Capitol remains a potent and cherished symbol even for Americans who are deeply cynical about the ruling class and political system. Its nobility is something continually engrained deep into our collective psyche since childhood, and that meaning endures even when our rational faculties reject it. It is therefore not hard to understand why watching a marauding band of hooligans invade and deface both the House and the Senate, without any identifiable objective other than venting grievances, reflexively engenders a patriotic disgust across the political spectrum. It is unhinged to the point of being obscene to compare yesterday’s incursion to the 9/11 attack or (as Sen. Chuck Schumer did last night) to Pearl Harbor. By every metric, the magnitude and destructiveness of those two events are in an entirely different universe.

But that does not mean there are no applicable lessons to be drawn from those prior attacks. One is that striking at cherished national symbols — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol — ensures rage and terror far beyond body counts or other concrete harms. That is one major reason that yesterday’s event received far more attention and commentary, and will likely produce far greater consequences, than much deadlier incidents, such as the still-motive-unknown 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 59 or the 2016 Orlando shooting that left 49 dead at the Pulse nightclub. Unlike even horrific indiscriminate shooting sprees, an attack on a symbol of national power will be perceived as an attack on the state or even the society itself.

There are other, more important historical lessons to draw not only from the 9/11 attack but subsequent terrorism on U.S. soil. One is the importance of resisting the coercive framework that demands everyone choose one of two extremes: that the incident is either (a) insignificant or even justifiable, or (b) is an earth-shattering, radically transformative event that demands radical, transformative state responses. This reductive, binary framework is anti-intellectual and dangerous. One can condemn a particular act while resisting the attempt to inflate the dangers it poses. One can acknowledge the very real existence of a threat while also warning of the harms, often far greater, from proposed solutions.

Read more …

“They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.”

Enough With The Outrage (PL)

Like pretty much all conservatives, I have consistently criticized riots and other forms of political violence for many years. That includes yesterday’s Washington, D.C. riot. You can’t say the same about liberals, however. Until yesterday, one might have thought that liberals consider rioting and other forms of political violence to be as American as apple pie. You could write a book in support of that proposition, but for now let’s cite just a few examples. Do you remember when President Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017? Leftist Democrats rioted in Washington that day. That riot was arguably worse, more violent and more destructive, than what happened in D.C. yesterday. The liberal rioters destroyed stores, set vehicles on fire and battled with the police. Six police officers were wounded.

I don’t recall a single Democratic office-holder denouncing the Democrats’ Inauguration Day riot, and the Associated Press came perilously close to praising the rioters. Over the ensuing four years, Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioted countless times, bringing devastation to cities like Portland, Seattle, Kenosha and Minneapolis. Did any Democrats denounce these riots? Not that I remember. Many Democrats endorsed them, or seemed to do so. Kamala Harris, for example, said about the riots in June: “They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop. This is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.”

This was after 12 people had been killed in Democrat-sanctioned rioting, and billions of dollars in destruction committed. Have any Democrats denounced Black Lives Matter for its role in the riots? Not one. Has any Democrat denounced Antifa? Not that I know of, and some, like Keith Ellison, have specifically endorsed Antifa’s political violence. Democratic Party journalists have joined the party’s politicians in excusing riots. The New York Times, for example, published an admiring profile of Antifa. The Washington Post, likewise, has carried water for Antifa. The litany could go on for a long time. Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol was outrageous, but let’s not forget that last time out-of-control demonstrators interrupted business at the Capitol, shouted down senators and pounded on the doors of the Supreme Court, it was Democrats objecting to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

And speaking of assaults on capitols, did any Democrats object when leftists occupied the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison for four months, destroying property, impeding public business and violently assaulting conservatives? Not a peep.

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Are we going to celebrate corporate power in politics now? Are we inviting censorship in through the front door?

Facebook, Twitter Finally Do Slightly More Than Nothing About Trump (IC)

The advertising industry is generally acknowledged as one of the most risk-averse and craven industries on the planet, with decision-making guided largely by attempting to be as inoffensive as possible to as many people as possible, taking a position on an issue only in the weakest, safest, most carefully hedged terms available. Though companies like Facebook and Twitter hold the unfathomable power to control the distribution of information to billions of people around the world and like to think of themselves as helping bring humankind to some next level of consciousness, they are still very much in the advertising business.

As advertising companies, cowardice runs deep in the souls of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, companies that have spent the past four years looking the other way, equivocating, and contorting themselves into pretzels in an attempt to justify Trump’s unfettered access to the most powerful information distribution system in world history. Despite perennial speculation in the press as to what might psychologically or ideologically explain Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey’s total unwillingness to meaningfully act, there is just one factor: money. Twitter and Facebook are only worth anything as businesses if they can boast to advertisers of their access to an enormous swath of the American market, across political and ideological lines, and fear of a right-wing backlash has been enough to keep Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board and Trump’s voter suppression dispatches on Twitter’s servers.

According to a Facebook moderator who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity for fear of employer retaliation, watching the company drag its feet, yesterday in particular, has been excruciating. According to internal communications reviewed by The Intercept, the Capitol break-in is now considered, for purposes of Facebook’s willy-nilly application of the rules, “a violating event,” and any “praise,” “support,” or even friendly “representation” is banned on the basis of the company’s “Dangerous Organizations” policies, which this moderator explained is typically applied to posts celebrating terrorist attacks, drug cartel murders, and Aryan street gangs.

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Not sure what is going on with this.

US Capitol Police Say Reports Of Officer Death Not Accurate (R.)

U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement on Thursday that media reports that an officer had died after the storming of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump were inaccurate. The agency said that several officers were injured and some hospitalized after the unrest Wednesday, but that no officers had died as a result. Four people had died after Trump’s supporters swarmed the building on Wednesday in a failed attempt to disrupt efforts to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

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“..he can rest easy knowing that he successfully used Trump as a vehicle to achieve the generations-long dream of the conservative donor class — a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court..”

Donald Trump’s Ruinous Legacy (Tracey)

The stultification of Republican electoral strategy stems fundamentally from the fact that there has been no substantial intra-party public debate about the reasons for Trump’s loss. Even now, more than two months later, to merely state that Trump lost provokes profound rage among a large segment of the party’s voters. You can be mercilessly attacked online and threatened with career-ending repudiation for doing so; Purdue and Loeffler couldn’t deviate from this line, for fear of alienating fraud-believing Trump supporters in Georgia. But Republican turnout dipped anyway, most probably because conservative media had been completely inundated with accusations that the Republican-led state government of Georgia was complicit in a conspiracy to oust Trump. It turns out “fraud-pilling” one’s own voters might not be the most reliable path to victory.

The manic Trump-induced obsession with purported fraud thereby delayed any thoroughgoing public discussion of how Congressional Republicans over-performed in November, across many metrics, even as Trump went down to defeat. So instead of capitalising on those gains, Republicans jettisoned them. As for McConnell, it was one of the more astounding moves in recent political history to sacrifice his own Senate majority, which most of his professional life has been structured around preserving at all costs, because he was dead-set against sending out the $2,000 cheques. A figure which in the grand scheme of things, as Trump would say, is “peanuts”.

But even with the majority vanquished, McConnell will maintain a fair amount of power as minority leader. As of 20 January the Senate will stand as split 50-50 with future Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. The possibility of a few Democratic defections here and there means McConnell will have plenty of opportunities to exert legislative influence. And he can rest easy knowing that he successfully used Trump as a vehicle to achieve the generations-long dream of the conservative donor class — a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, as well as some corporate tax cuts.

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Where is the next appeal? And when?

The US and UK May Not Will Assange’s Death, But … (Cook)

[..] while denying the extradition claim, she supported all the arguments advanced by the US accruing to itself the right to prosecute Assange – and any other journalist – for the crime of doing journalism. She ignored the facts, the expert testimony presented in court and the legal arguments – all of which favoured Assange – and backed instead what amounted to a purely political case made by the US. She disregarded warnings from Assange’s legal team that acceptance of the political rationale for extradition amounted to an all-out attack on fundamental journalistic freedoms. She established a terrifying legal precedent for the US to seize foreign journalists and prosecute them for “espionage” if they expose Washington’s crimes. Her ruling will inevitably have a profoundly chilling effect on any publication trying to dig out the truth about the US national-security state, with terrifying consequences for us all.

But while she enthusiastically backed the political case for Assange’s extradition and trial, Baraitser at the same time got the Wikileaks founder off the hook by accepting the humanitarian concerns raised by medical and prison experts. They had counselled that extradition to the US could be expected to lead to Assange spending the rest of his life in a barbaric US super-max prison, exacerbating mental health problems and the risk of suicide. Her ruling, while deeply disturbing in its political and legal implications, did at least suggest that Baraitser was ready to take a compassionate approach in regard to Assange’s health, even if not his journalistic exposure of western war crimes. He should have walked free there and then, had the US not immediately said it would appeal her decision.

Given Assange’s discharge by Baraitser, his team hoped that bail – his release from a high-security prison while the lengthy appeals process unfolds – would prove a formality. They hurried to make such an application after the extradition ruling on Monday, assuming that the legal logic of her decision dictated his release. Baraitser demurred, suggesting that they prepare their case and make it to her more fully on Wednesday. It now seems clear the judge manipulated Assange’s defence team. Apparently like Assange’s lawyers, former British ambassador Craig Murray, who has attended and reported on the hearings in detail, was lulled by Baraitser into assuming that she wanted a cast-iron case from the defence to justify a decision to release Assange on bail.

There were good reasons for their confidence. Any move to prevent his release would look perverse given that she had decided Assange should not be extradited or stand trial in the US. They were deceived. Baraitser denied bail, effectively signalling that she thinks her ruling might be wrong and overturned in a higher court. That is extraordinary. It suggests that she has no confidence in her own judgment of the facts of the case. As Murray has noted: “There was little or no precedent for the High Court overturning any ruling against extradition on Section 91 health grounds.”

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$4 trillion. Green.

Biden’s One-Two Stimulus Punch (Axios)

Joe Biden is considering asking Congress to help suffering Americans in two steps: give them the balance of their coveted $2,000 coronavirus payments, followed by a $3 trillion tax and infrastructure package. Biden is confident he can get multiple packages through Congress after Democrats won both Georgia Senate elections. The president-elect’s team also wants to get cash in Americans’ hands as quickly as possible, according to people familiar with the matter. In July Biden rolled out his Build Back Better plan, which includes billions of dollars for caregivers, incentives for manufacturers and some $4 trillion for green jobs and infrastructure spending.

He proposed paying for this plan with a series of tax increases on the wealthy, including taxing capital gains as regular income and increasing the marginal tax rate for top earners to almost 40%. Democrats are concerned that if they miss early opportunities to combat COVID and reverse its broader effect on the economy, the twin problems could cripple the rest of Biden’s presidency. The first bite would come in the form of $1,400 payments that would be added to the $600 in cash Congress approved last month. Also included in this quick-hit package would be money for state and local aid, as well as funding for vaccine distribution. Biden’s push for a tax and infrastructure plan, which is part of his “Build Back Better” program, will slide to later in the spring and be considered under budget reconciliation rules.

They allow the Senate to pass measures with a simple majority, instead of a more challenging filibuster-proof 60 votes. Biden is essentially dusting off his pre-election plans, back when many of his economic and political advisers assumed that if he won the presidency, he would carry the Senate along with him. Those ambitions were thrown into doubt when Republicans ran strong in the Senate on Election Day and Democrats’ only hope for regaining the majority was if they won the two uphill runoff elections held Tuesday. Biden’s blitz for a quick spending measure could allow him to build goodwill with Senate Republicans for a bigger package in the spring, especially if it includes liability protection the GOP wants for businesses fearing coronavirus lawsuits.

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Britain is brutal. How much of the healthcare system has been budgeted away in the past 20 years?

There Are So Many Covid Patients, Younger This Time (Anon)

Truly, I never imagined it would be this bad. Once again Covid has spread out along the hospital, the disease greedily taking over ward after ward. Surgical, paediatric, obstetric, orthopaedic; this virus does not discriminate between specialities. Outbreaks bloom even in our “clean” areas and the disease is even more ferociously infectious. Although our local tests do not differentiate strains, I presume this is the new variant. The patients are younger this time around too, and there are so many of them. They are sick. We are full. There can be no debate: this is much, much worse than the first surge. We start the morning with 10 new patients to be concerned about. These are just the worst of them; we cannot worry about those who, though less unwell, would have had us scared in days gone by.

They are scattered on general wards around the hospital, being given as much oxygen as possible through a standard mask. Most are lying prone on their fronts, breathing rapid, shallow breaths, too breathless to talk, blood oxygen saturations alarmingly low. The eldest is in his 70s but most are much younger. All urgently need respiratory support. This is ideally given non-invasively using a Cpap mask or very high oxygen flows through the nose. Like most hospitals we have set up a new respiratory-led breathing support unit for this purpose, but it filled up with patients weeks ago. Our intensive care unit, able to deliver these therapies as well as invasive ventilation for the very sickest, is also full despite being stretched and pushed way beyond its previous capacity.

Our neighbouring hospitals are under the same pressures, or worse; even if patients were well enough to transfer out safely there is no space to receive them. We divide and conquer. Some of us rush through the morning ward rounds on the breathing support and intensive care units, desperately hoping to find patients that have improved enough to step down on to a normal ward or could be swapped between the two units according to their needs. Some of us go to assess the new referrals. We make sure that everything possible has been done to avoid the need for more support but our colleagues have already been thorough. They need to come to us, and soon. We initiate difficult conversations with some patients who were frailer before catching Covid and would therefore have less chance of benefit from additional breathing therapy.

We no longer have the luxury of “giving it a go”; we have to ensure that we select only those with the best chance of survival. Getting it wrong may occupy a precious high dependency bed for many days, often ending in a difficult and symptomatic death while preventing other patients from receiving the correct therapy. Conversely, identifying those who will not survive will allow us to ensure better symptom control and a kinder end to life. These conversations, often barely intelligible through our PPE, are draining, fraught, brutal. We must justify to patients and their families, and often our colleagues too, why we cannot offer these therapies to everyone.

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All on red. Casino.

Very Risky To Delay 2nd Dose Of COVID19 Vaccine – Former FDA Director (Hill)

Questions surrounding the deployment and quantity of available COVID-19 vaccine doses linger as inoculations continue, with vaccine reticence and concerns about dose availability dominating the conversation. For the current approved vaccines, two separate shots are required, and some European countries have opted to delay the administration of the second dose in a bid to cultivate broader immunity. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require two shots administered intramuscularly roughly three weeks apart, which the U.S. is currently undertaking. As for whether or not the U.S. should follow the lead of countries like the U.K. and Denmark, Norman Baylor, former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called the plan “very risky” on CNBC.

“I understand some of the rationale to do this, but again, it’s not really data driven,” Baylor said. “It’s a very risky venture because if it fails, you’re in worse shape.” Baylor, who previously headed the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, further elaborated that there isn’t enough data to fully illustrate the immunity benefits just one dose with a prolonged second dose will bring. While more people would receive a vaccination by increasing the time between when the administration of both doses, immunity may be different from what promising clinical trials suggest. “The concern though is that space, that time, and how vulnerable you are, because…we don’t have all the data in that will indicate what the duration of protection is,” Baylor said. “If it fails, you’re in worse shape.”

The need to vaccinate more people comes as a more contagious COVID-19 strain makes its rounds through countries including the U.K. and the U.S. The U.K. in particular has seen record new daily confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 403,914 new cases recorded over the past week, per national data. This represents a 42.6 percent increase.

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In 3 years time.

British Scientists Develop World’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Smart Patch (Unilad)

Scientists from Swansea University in Wales are striving to develop the first coronavirus vaccine ‘smart patch’. The patch will use microneedles to both administer the coronavirus vaccine and monitor its efficacy for the patient by tracking the body’s immune response. The research team plans to develop a prototype by the end of March, in the hope it can be put forward for clinical trials and ultimately released to the public, as part of the effort to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Scientists at Swansea’s IMPACT research centre hope to carry out human clinical studies in partnership with Imperial College London with the aim of making the device commercially available within three years.


Using polycarbonate or silicon millimetre-long microneedles, the smart patch can penetrate the skin to administer a vaccine. It can be held in place with a strap or tape for up to 24 hours, during which time it simultaneously measures a patient’s inflammatory response to the vaccination by monitoring biomarkers in the skin. Once the vaccine has been administered, the device is scanned to produce a data reading that can provide an understanding about the efficacy of the vaccine and the body’s response to it.

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What are the odds?

Americans Need Federal Commission To Look Into The 2020 Election (Turley)

First, and most important, this was an unprecedented election in the reliance of mail-in voting and the use of new voting systems and procedures. We need to review how that worked down to the smallest precincts and hamlets. Second, possibly tens of millions of voters believe that this election was rigged and stolen. I am not one of them. However, the integrity of our elections depends on the faith of the electorate. Roughly 40% of that electorate have lingering doubts about whether their votes actually matter. Most of the cases challenging the election were not decided on the merits. Indeed, it seems they haven’t even been allowed for discovery. Instead, they were largely dismissed on jurisdictional or standing groups or under the “laches” doctrine that they were brought too late.

Those allegations need to be conclusively proven or disproven in the interests of the country. Third, there were problems. There was not proof of systemic fraud or irregularities, but there were problems of uncounted votes, loss of key custodial information and key differences in the rules governing voting and tabulations. We have spent billions to achieve greater security and reliability after prior election controversies. Indeed, we had a prior election commission that failed to achieve those fundamental goals. A real commission will take a couple years to fully address these allegations. It will be meaningless if it’s stacked by the same reliable political cutouts used historically in federal commissions. It should be formed on a commitment of absolute transparency with public hearings and public archiving of underlying material before the issuance of any final report. That way, the public at large can analyze and contribute to the review of this evidence.

[..] The main challenge, however, remains the same: Whether Congress can appoint a real federal commission without rigging the result by appointing partisan members. In 1877, to quote from a speech of Ohio Sen. Allen Granberry Thurman, “It was perfectly clear that any bill that gave the least advantage, ay, the weight of the dust in the balance, to either party, could not become the law of the land.” Nothing has changed. The stakes are too high to allow even a dust particle to tip the difference on the ultimate findings. The dust-free option requires a dependent, not independent, commission. Otherwise, the public will be the loser.

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“Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another.”
– G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

 

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Jan 072021
 


Georgia O’Keeffe Manhattan 1932

 

Both Tortuous and Torturous (Craig Murray)
Judge Keeps Assange In Prison, Despite Ruling Against Extradition (Gosztola)
Trump Pledges ‘Orderly’ Transition After Riot And Biden Win Certification (CNN)
US Gets The Kind Of ‘Democracy’ It Championed Overseas (Malic)
GOP-Led Senate Rejects PA Election Results Challenge (JTN)
Georgia Dems Relied Heavily on Massive Corporate War Chest (MPN)
Everything He Says Or Does Turns Instantly Into A Crime (Turley)
China Says ‘Preparatory Work’ Needed For WHO Visit To Trace Corona Origin (RT)

 

 

Well, that was fun. It was also entirely predictable. There are far too many questions surrounding the US election, even if Trump’s legal teams botched the job of presenting them. You would expect people to swear never to use another voting machine, but nobody does it. The principle is simple: if these machines can be manipulated, they will be. Ditch them.

Of course last night’s events are presented as insurrection, a coup, treason. But come on. 3 people died of medical emergencies, and the one person who was shot was a female Air Force veteran protesting for Trump. No politician was hurt.

There are quite a few pictures of the anti-Kavanaugh crew protesting inside the Capitol in 2018, and none of them are described as depicting a coup. Calm down. And learn: if this is how you are going to run elections, you should not be surprised if these are the reactions you get. Count yourself lucky that they weren’t much worse.

 

 

 

 

Craig Murray’s optimism was hammered. Time for a higher court.

Both Tortuous and Torturous (Craig Murray)

All of Julian’s team were optimistic before this hearing and it seems perverse that, a judgement against extradition having been made, Julian should continue to be held in high security prison pending the US government appeal. He has already been in jail for over 14 months just in the extradition matter, after the expiry of his unprecedentedly harsh sentence for bail-jumping. In effect, having already served that sentence, Julian is now being punished again for the same offence, spending years in extreme prison conditions purely because he once jumped bail, for which he already served the full sentence. The logic of holding Julian now is simply not there, given the current legal position is that he is not being extradited. Furthermore this continuing raising and lowering of his spirits, and never-ending incarceration with no fixed limit, is destroying his fragile health.

Baraitser has played cat and mouse this week. Julian is living his life in conditions both torturous and tortuous. It is ironic to hear Baraitser declare in condemnatory tones, without equivocation, that Julian only entered the Embassy to escape extradition to the USA. This is of course perfectly true. But I remember the many years when the Establishment line, from the government and repeated in several hundred Guardian columns, was that this truth was a fiction. They claimed there was never any intention to extradite to the USA, and actually he was avoiding extradition to Sweden, on allegations that never had any basis and which disappeared like mist when the time actually came. I suppose we should be grateful for at least this much truth in proceedings.

Today’s judgement makes plain that whatever is happening with Monday’s judgement, it is not genuinely motivated by concern for Julian’s health. Yanis Varoufakis yesterday stated that the ultimate aim is still to kill Julian through the penal system. Nothing that happened today would contradict him. The extraordinary figure of only 3 Covid infections in Belmarsh is very hard to believe and contradicts all previous information. Plainly Covid is less of a risk than anywhere else in London, and perhaps we should all break in to improve our isolation and safety. The only explanation that occurs to me is that the vast majority of prisoners are denied access to testing and are therefore not confirmed cases. or that the prison has chosen to give testing results for a single day and chosen to misrepresent the meaning of the statistic.

In fact the point is not central to the bail application, but as a possible example of yet further malfeasance by the Belmarsh medical team, it is particularly intriguing. The decision not to grant bail can be appealed to the High Court. I expect that will happen (there has been no chance yet to consult Julian’s wishes), and happen in about a fortnight.

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“Assange has not seen his family in person since March 2020..”

Judge Keeps Assange In Prison, Despite Ruling Against Extradition (Gosztola)

A British district judge denied bail for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a hearing in which the prosecution argued he had helped NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “flee justice” and would abscond if released from the Belmarsh high-security prison. “As far as Mr. Assange is concerned, this case has not been won,” Judge Vanessa Baraitser declared. She said the United States government “must be allowed to challenge [her] decision.” Baraitser referred to the lengthy history of the case and how he “jumped bail” and entered the Ecuador Embassy to obtain asylum in 2012. She went on to highlight the “huge support networks” he still has “should he again choose to go to ground,” and Baraitser agreed with the prosecution that WikiLeaks’ assistance of Snowden made Assange a flight risk.

Assange has been confined at Belmarsh since he was arrested and expelled from the Ecuador embassy in April 2019. All along, Judge Vanessa Baraitser agreed with prosecutors that he was a flight risk. “Mr. Assange’s past conduct shows the lengths he is prepared to go to avoid extradition proceedings. If I released him today, he would not return to face these extradition proceedings,” Baraitser declared during a hearing in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was initially intensifying worldwide. In her ruling on bail, despite evidence of a recent outbreak at Belmarsh, the judge maintained that the facility was properly caring for prisoners and Assange would be safe.

Edward Fitzgerald, an attorney for Assange, argued the extradition decision changed any motive Assange would have to flee London before the case was resolved. In fact, the extradition decision came with an order of discharge for Assange. “The logical outcome of the ruling would be he regains liberty at least conditionally,” Fitzgerald stated. Fitzgerald questioned whether the Justice Department is even serious about an appeal, given recent reporting on the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Although Fitzgerald indicated Assange would be willing to wear a GPS tracking device while under house arrest, the judge gave no reasoning why this would not be enough to prevent him from absconding before the date of his appeal. Assange has not seen his family in person since March 2020, and Belmarsh has suspended social visits. It is widely recognized that physical contact would alleviate the mental distress that factored into the judge’s decision against extradition.

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“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th..”

Trump Pledges ‘Orderly’ Transition After Riot And Biden Win Certification (CNN)

President Donald Trump publicly acknowledged that he would leave office on January 20 for the first time Thursday, pledging an orderly transfer of power after Congress affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said in the statement, repeating false claims he has made throughout the last two months. “I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”


Trump, who has refused to concede the election, had on Wednesday egged on supporters who would later storm the US Capitol in an attempt to stop lawmakers from counting the electoral votes. The riot left four people dead — one woman was shot and three others had medical emergencies, according to police — and left some in Trump’s Cabinet holding preliminary talks about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, according to a well-placed GOP source. After a speech filled with lies and misrepresentations that incensed the crowd, Trump returned to the White House to watch a violent crescendo to his constant spreading of misinformation about the electoral process. The mob broke into the Capitol, stormed both the House and Senate floor and Trump supporters could be seen lounging in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. A woman was shot and killed in the chaos. Police have yet to release more details about her death.

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“Ah, but this election wasn’t stolen, they’d say – it was pure as driven snow, “most secure ever,” all the experts who told us for four years the previous one was “hacked by Russia” tell us so!”

US Gets The Kind Of ‘Democracy’ It Championed Overseas (Malic)

A crowd of protesters stormed Congress protesting a presidential election they claimed had been fraudulent. When this happened in Serbia in 2000, the US called it democracy. When it happened in Washington, DC – not so much. Scenes from the US Capitol on Wednesday, as protesters backing President Donald Trump disrupted the joint session of Congress meeting to certify the election of Democrat Joe Biden, looked very much like Belgrade in October 2000. The sight was later repeated in Ukraine – twice, in 2004 and 2014 – Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, and several Central Asian former Soviet republics. On every occasion, the US backed the “people power,” because American NGOs and embassies were supporting what became known as “color revolutions.”

Same thing happened in 2011 with the “Arab Spring” that started in Tunisia and then burned its way across North Africa to the Persian Gulf. In some places it “succeeded,” overthrowing decades-old governments. In others it failed, setting off wars in Libya and Syria and blood on the streets of Bahrain. Again, the US cheered this on as democracy – except for Bahrain, which hosts a major naval base. More recently, the US denounced as illegitimate the presidential elections in Belarus, Bolivia and Venezuela. While Minsk and Caracas managed to resist – and got sanctioned for it – the “democrats” in La Paz were successful for a while, but ended up losing the vote last year.

Way back in 2004, the Guardian wrote approvingly about how the US has created a “slick” operation of “engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience,” developing since Belgrade a “template for winning other people’s elections.” Now the same mainstream media that slavishly followed the State Department line in denouncing elections elsewhere as “rigged” and color revolutions as spontaneous democracy are clutching their pearls when Americans who believe their election was stolen take to the streets and storm their Capitol. Ah, but this election wasn’t stolen, they’d say – it was pure as driven snow, “most secure ever,” all the experts who told us for four years the previous one was “hacked by Russia” tell us so! And Joe Biden won the most votes in history while hardly leaving his basement.

Whether you believe this official narrative about the US election or not doesn’t really matter, however. Partisan myopia simply won’t let people understand the magnitude of what is on display here: utter moral bankruptcy of the entire US political and media establishment.

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Obviously.

GOP-Led Senate Rejects PA Election Results Challenge (JTN)

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress resoundingly rejected an objection to the election results in Arizona. The votes came after protesters breached security and swarmed the U.S. Capitol building earlier on Wednesday. The Senate rejected the objection by a 93-6 vote while the House vote was 303-121, with greater than half of the GOP House conference seeking to reject the state’s electoral slate. Congress reconvened in a joint session to certify the election results in other states. Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks objected to the Nebraska results but did not have a signature from a U.S. senator.


Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry objected to certifying Pennsylvania and had Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s signature. Republican lawmakers like Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson have argued that the state government circumvented the legislature to make last minute changes to election law. The House and Senate then entered into separate sessions to debate the objection. The Senate rejected the challenge to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes with a 92-7 vote.

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The amounts are amazing. Are you sure you want your elections to be for sale?

Georgia Dems Relied Heavily on Massive Corporate War Chest (MPN)

In order to beat GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia Senate elections, Democrats had to spend big, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. The two Georgia Senate elections — called today for the Democrats — were easily the most costly in history, amounting to nearly $830 million in total ($468 million for the race between Democrat Joey Ossoff and Republican David Perdue and more than $361 million for the special election between Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler.

The Democrats’ massive war chest came in no small part from hefty contributions from corporate America. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, tech companies rallied around the Democratic challengers, plying the two campaigns with millions of dollars. Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent organization, was the largest single source of funds, their PACs, shareholders, or employees donating almost $1 million to Ossoff’s campaign alone with other big tech companies cracking his top ten, all with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations from the like of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and AT&T. The rest of the top ten were made up by universities.

The Republican candidates also relied on large corporations for much of their funding. Perdue’s biggest donors included Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, while Loeffler was generously supported by oil and chemical giant Koch Industries as well as a number of financial institutions like Ryan LLC and Blackstone Group. However, Democrats decisively outraised their opponents, giving them a critical edge. Ossoff outraised Perdue by $138 million to $89 million while Warnock received $124 million to Loeffler’s $92 million. With over 98% of the votes counted, Warnock has been declared the winner, with 50.6% of the vote. Ossoff, meanwhile, is all but assured of winning as well, and has already declared victory.

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Trump’s Midas touch.

Everything He Says Or Does Turns Instantly Into A Crime (Turley)

For many legal analysts, President Trump remains a type of criminal Midas figure: everything he says or does turns instantly into a crime. This pattern is continuing to the very end of the Trump administration. Within minutes of the leaking of a Saturday call between Trump and Georgia election officials, the same experts were declaring yet another clear crime. The loudest was Andrew Weissmann, whose desire to find a crime to use against Trump appears to be moving from the obsessional to the delusional. Since his departure as the top deputy to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Weissmann (now an MSNBC analyst) seems intent on proving his critics correct about his profound bias against President Trump.

Weissmann recently called for prosecutors to use grand juries to pursue Trump and others in an unrelenting campaign based on unfounded legal theories. Now he is claiming that the president’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is clear evidence of a criminal act. While I clearly come to these questions from the counter perspective of a criminal defense attorney, the claim is legally absurd. When the tape was released, many of us immediately criticized the statement of the president that “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” However, experts immediately declared this yet another clear criminal act and some people even called for a type of twilight impeachment in the last couple weeks of the Trump administration. Weissmann declared that the tape showed “criminal intent” as well as “proof of his motive and his pattern of similar activity.”

The problem is that Weissmann again left the criminal code and controlling case law behind in his blind pursuit of Trump. As with the obstruction allegations investigated by Mueller and the Ukrainian call that was the basis for Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives, this comes down to a question of intent. While most experts are notably vague on the specific criminal provision, one possibility would be election fraud under 52 U.S. 20511. However, such an interpretation comes to a full stop at intent — a required showing of “knowingly and willfully” acting to subvert voting. The call Trump participated in was a settlement discussion over election challenges with a variety of lawyers present, not some backroom at the Bada Bing club. The entire stated purpose of the challenges was to count what the Trump campaign alleged were uncounted votes that far surpassed the 11,780 deficit.

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We only had one year!

China Says ‘Preparatory Work’ Needed For WHO Visit To Trace Corona Origin (RT)

Beijing has said its health authorities are not yet in a position to receive a delegation from the WHO, after the world health body’s boss said he was “very disappointed” China hasn’t granted entry to Covid experts. Speaking on Wednesday during a regular press briefing, Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said the authorities were still preparing themselves for the visit by the ten World Health Organization (WHO) experts. The WHO disease team was scheduled to visit Wuhan in early January to trace the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they have not had their visas issued. “China still overcomes difficulties, accelerates internal preparatory work, and tries its best to create good conditions for international expert groups to come to China to carry out traceability cooperation,” Hua told reporters.

“In order to ensure the smooth progress of the international expert group’s work in China, it is necessary to perform necessary procedures and make relevant specific arrangements.” The spokeswoman claimed that China has always adopted an open, transparent and responsible attitude to promoting international traceability research, and had previously invited a WHO team to visit the country. Hua added that Chinese experts have frequently shared honest evidence with global bodies and they remain in regular communication with the WHO. The comments come as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” that Beijing had still not authorized the entry of his team of experts.

“Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China. I am very disappointed with this news,” Ghebreyesus said during a virtual news briefing on Tuesday. It was reported that two members of the ten-man team had already commenced their journeys to China on Tuesday before being informed that their visas had not yet been granted.

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