Jan 032021
 


Camille Pissarro Rue Saint-Lazare, Paris 1897

 

Assange Extradition Would Be End Of Free Speech In UK (Stella Moris)
Legal Teams Likely Informed Already of Assange Decision (Mercouris)
Pence Embraces Election Challenge By Members Of Congress (JTN)
11 Senators To Reject Congressional Election Certification On Wednesday (JTN)
October Legal Analysis Finds Today’s Scenario Favors Trump Victory (Attkisson)
‘Growing Body Of Evidence’ COVID-19 Leaked From Chinese Lab: US Official (NYP)
Leeds Forms Specialist Team As 100s In City Face ‘Long Covid’ Impact (YEP)
Bill de Blasio Dancing In New York Embodies The Difficult Road Ahead (Turley)
Boris Johnson Would Lose Majority And Seat In Election Tomorrow – Poll (G.)

 

 

Everything today should be about Julian Assange, really, and the ongoing perversity perpetrated against him.

 

 

Assange

 

 

“In effect, foreign countries could simply issue an extradition request saying that UK journalists, or Facebook users for that matter, have violated their censorship laws.”

Assange Extradition Would Be End Of Free Speech In UK (Stella Moris)

A month ago, I would wake up in the middle of the night seized by a recurring nightmare: my little boys, Max, 22 months, and Gabriel, who is three, had been orphaned. I was still here but their father was not. Their father is Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks. Today, that terrible nightmare is all too close to becoming a reality. Julian has been on remand in Belmarsh prison in South-East London for almost two years. He is fighting a political extradition to the United States, where he risks being buried in the deepest, darkest corner of the US prison system for the rest of his life. Julian embarrassed Washington and this is their revenge. The nightmares came to a sudden stop the week before Christmas, when a groundswell of support from all sides of the political spectrum called for President Trump to pardon him.

A leaked audio recording of Julian talking to the US State Department unmasked the trumped-up nature of the charges against him. Leading figures, from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to Nobel Prize winners, such as human-rights campaigner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, have been calling for Julian’s freedom. So far, there has been no pardon. But tomorrow, a British magistrate will decide whether to order Julian’s extradition or throw out the US government’s request. If Julian loses, I believe that it would not only be an unthinkable travesty but that the ruling would also be politically and legally disastrous for the UK. That is because Julian’s case is not about what some people would have you think it is about.

His role in founding the WikiLeaks website is well known and it is fair to say Julian has angered many government and establishment figures around the world. WikiLeaks has published thousands of sensitive classified documents, many from the US military. Yet Julian has been acting in the same way as any other journalist would in attempting to hold the powerful to account. President Obama’s administration realised this, and understood that charging Julian would require them to prosecute international media outlets. After all, newspapers, websites and TV stations had published substantially the same revelations as WikiLeaks. That is why, at the end of his term in office, Obama freed WikiLeaks’s US Army Intelligence source, whistleblower Chelsea Manning, from jail.

With Trump, however, the mood has changed dramatically and under his administration, journalistic practices have been pursued as crimes. WikiLeaks and Julian have been accused of ‘endangering national security’, but US prosecutors admit they have no evidence to support claims that WikiLeaks publications caused physical harm to anyone. Perhaps that explains why their tactics have become increasingly desperate. During Julian’s extradition hearing at the Old Bailey in September, the court heard evidence that CIA contractors were plotting to kill him with poison while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Agents-turned-whistleblowers, who were granted anonymity by the court due to their fear of reprisals, also admitted targeting our then six-month-old baby to steal his DNA.

They told the court that they had installed hidden microphones to spy on Julian’s solicitors’ meetings. The offices of his lawyers were also broken into. It might seem unthinkable that a British court would give its stamp of approval to such rampant, illegal actions by the US. It might seem equally unthinkable that a man who was practising journalism in this country, perfectly legally according to UK law, could be tried in a foreign land and potentially jailed for life. But that is what would happen if the UK decides to extradite Julian. It would rewrite the rules of what it is permissible to publish here. Overnight, it would chill free and open debate about abuses by our own government and by many foreign ones, too.

In effect, foreign countries could simply issue an extradition request saying that UK journalists, or Facebook users for that matter, have violated their censorship laws. Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Journalists have said that as long as Julian remains in prison facing extradition, the UK is not a safe place for journalists and publishers to work. The press freedoms we cherish in Britain are meaningless if they can be criminalised and suppressed by regimes in Russia or Ankara or by prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia.

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It’s just too crazy.

Legal Teams Likely Informed Already of Assange Decision (Mercouris)

In accordance with a British magistrate court’s usual procedure, Julian Assange’s Judgment has almost certainly already been written and sent in draft form to the respective teams of lawyers, probably early on Friday evening. The lawyers therefore already know what the decision is, as well as the British government and at least the Department of Justice in Washington. Under established procedure, Assange’s lawyers are not supposed to tell Assange himself what the decision is so he and his family are probably the only people who are directly involved in his case who don’t yet know its outcome. The purpose in sending the Judgment in draft form to the lawyers in advance of the Court hearing is to give them an opportunity to check it for factual mistakes.

The public will not know the outcome until Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser reads out the Judgment in its finalised form, with any factual mistakes corrected, when Court convenes on Monday at 10 am London time. The Judgment should then be published online by the Court Service directly after she has finished. In addition to the Judgment – and obviously to the decision whether or not to extradite, which will be set out in the Judgment – the public may learn immediately afterward whether either of the two sets of lawyers intend to appeal. Either side has seven days to appeal the judgment. While the intent of allowing both sides to see the Judgment in advance is not to help facilitate an appeal, having the judgement before it is read to the court affords attorneys to a chance to consider whether or not to launch one.

If It’s a Split Decision. One possibility that must be considered is that Baraitser may decide to extradite on one indictment and not on the other, for instance, if she rules against extradition on the Espionage Act charges, but decides in favour of extradition on the conspiracy to commit computer intrusion charge (which carries a maximum five year sentence as opposed to 170 on espionage.) I think what would happen in that case is that the British authorities would accept Baraitser’s decision and would try to reach an agreement with the DoJ whereby, in return for Assange’s extradition, the U.S. would commit itself to try Assange only on the computer intrusion charges, and not on the Espionage Act charges. The British over the course of the negotiations would tell the U.S. that if the U.S. were not willing to give that commitment then the British would not be able to extradite Assange to the U.S.

Of course the British (if Assange were extradited to the U.S. on such a basis) would be in no position to compel the U.S. to abide by such a commitment if the U..S were to go back on it once Assange was on U.S. soil. Since that has to be a very likely possibility, one would think it would be a point which Assange’s lawyers would make in the appeal they would be bound to make to the High Court against Baraitser’s decision. In fact in such a scenario it’s not impossible that both sides would appeal to the High Court: (1) the U.S. against Baraitser’s decision to refuse to extradite on the basis of the Espionage Act; (2) Assange’s lawyers against Baraitser’s decision to extradite on the computer intrusion charges. It would be a fascinating battle and it would be fascinating to see how it would play out.

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Let the dice roll.

Pence Embraces Election Challenge By Members Of Congress (JTN)

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday embraced an effort by Republican lawmakers to object to Joe Biden‘s electors and to present evidence of fraud when Congress meets Wednesday to certify election results. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, issued a statement ahead of an expected contentious congressional session next week and just hours after 11 senators led by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley announced they would contest the results of the November election on the floor of Congress. “Vice President Pence shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election,” Short’s statement on behalf of the Vice President said. “The Vice President welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th,” the statement added.

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A 10-day audit would not hurt anyone.

11 Senators To Reject Congressional Election Certification On Wednesday (JTN)

A dozen U.S. senators have now pledged to dispute the scheduled congressional election certification set to take place on Wednesday, with a group of senators this weekend calling for an audit of the U.S. election out of concerns over voting integrity. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz posted an announcement on his Senate website stating that he and ten other senators “intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until [an] emergency 10-day audit is completed.”


The senators called upon an Electoral Commission to conduct that audit, after which “individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.” “These are matters worthy of the Congress, and entrusted to us to defend,” the senators said in the statement. “We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it.” The senators join Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who earlier this week also pledged to contest the congressional certification of the 2020 election results.

Kanekoa
https://twitter.com/i/status/1344730835115675653

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Read the whole thing.

October Legal Analysis Finds Today’s Scenario Favors Trump Victory (Attkisson)

As thousands of Trump supporters prepare to descend upon the Capitol this coming week amid a presidential election they are contesting, there is a mass of confusion and conflicting information about what happens next. You may have heard that a growing list of Republican members of the House and Senate have pledged to object to the electoral count of some states during Wednesday’s joint session of Congress. Most analysts have said such objections, in practical terms, amount to nothing because while they can trigger debates lasting up to two hours, it would take a majority in both the House and Senate to reject the state results naming Joe Biden the next president of the United States. There are other less discussed and, some insist, less likely scenarios. Some of them are examined in a legal analysis by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty.

Published in October, about two weeks before the presidential election, it plays out multiple scenarios including under circumstances like the ones we face today. It is titled “What Happens if No One Wins? The Constitution provides for election crises—and its provisions favor Trump.” Here are some applicable excerpts from the analysis. “Suppose states send electoral votes that—even if certified by the governor—remain under question, whether because of fraud in the vote, inability to count the ballots accurately under neutral rules, or a dispute between branches of a state government… …Vice President Pence would decide between competing slates of electors…

…If the electoral count remains uncertain enough to deprive either Trump or Biden of a majority in the Electoral College, then the 12th Amendment orders that “the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President… …If today’s House chose the president, voting by state delegations, Trump would win handily.” John Yoo and Robert Delahunty, Oct. 19, 2020. An extended excerpt from the analysis follows: …Suppose states send electoral votes that—even if certified by the governor—remain under question, whether because of fraud in the vote, inability to count the ballots accurately under neutral rules, or a dispute between branches of a state government.

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How’s that WHO team doing in China? Haven’t seen any news on that.

‘Growing Body Of Evidence’ COVID-19 Leaked From Chinese Lab: US Official (NYP)

U.S. National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger is doubling down on the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese government-run lab in Wuhan. Pottinger, a staunch critic of Beijing, allegedly made the claim in a recent Zoom meeting with British officials. “There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus,” Pottinger reportedly said, according to the Daily Mail. The Trump appointee pushed the theory as the European Union made a new investment deal with China last week over protests from Pottinger and hesitance from the incoming Biden administration. Pottinger, one of the first U.S. officials to raise alarms inside White House walls about the origins of the virus back in January 2020, has reportedly suspected since the early days of the outbreak that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.

He ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to search for evidence that it had, the New York Times reported in April. A Chinese virologist who said she did some of the earliest research on COVID-19 has publicly claimed COVID-19 was man-made, and that the Chinese government covered up its dangers. Western medical experts have discredited the theory. The World Health Organization has been investigating the source of the virus since the first case was made public in January 2020. Patient Zero has not been found. Pottinger suggested in the recent call with British officials that the WHO probe is a ruse.

“MPs around the world have a moral role to play in exposing the WHO investigation as a Potemkin exercise,” Pottinger told the parliamentarians, referring to fake villages created in Crimea in the 18th Century to convince the visiting Russian Empress Catherine the Great that the region was in good health. “Even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story,” Pottinger allegedly said, referring to another theory that the virus was transmitted from animals to humans inside a wildlife market in Wuhan where the first cluster of cases emerged.

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Got the pics via Dave Collum.

Leeds Forms Specialist Team As 100s In City Face ‘Long Covid’ Impact (YEP)

A team of experts has been assembled in Leeds – thought to be among the first of its kind in the country – to tackle what many fear will be a major aspect of the pandemic. National data suggests between two to five per cent of Covid-19 patients will go on to develop ‘long Covid’ – suffering symptoms beyond 12 weeks – leading to an estimated 980 people in Leeds from the first wave alone. The city’s specialist ‘Covid After-Care team’ began work in September, just days after being set up, in a fast-moving bid to reach those in need in Leeds – and what they have uncovered so far has been startling. From the first 188 patients referred in, they have found the average age was 48, with more women than men, none had originally been hospitalised and many were previously extremely fit including personal trainers and athletes now struggling for breath at rest.

The findings have overturned initial expectations that those most affected would be those who had suffered more severely initially – such as the ‘at-risk’ older age groups – and that symptoms would be mainly respiratory. Dr Bryan Power, a GP and clinical lead for long term conditions at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, who helped set up the team, said: “It’s not the cohort we expected to see. “They are of a younger age than we expected – including a 17-year-old – and also presenting with a complex range of symptoms. Some patients haven’t been able to work for six months.”

[..] “There is a huge host of symptoms but the main ones we’re seeing are fatigue, shortness of breath – that can be at rest as well as exercise; cognitive problems – people suffering short-term memory problems, concentration, many call it ‘brain fog’. “Pain is another big thing – it can be all-body pain, quite often chest pain or lung pain, headaches. “And tachycardia – the heart can be racing when they’re sat on the sofa or on a walk; autonomic dysfunction, random hot sweats, temperature, dizzy when standing. “And as a consequence of these symptoms we’re finding a lot of anxiety.”

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“New York has had a 50% increase in homicides and almost a 100 percent increase in shootings.”

Bill de Blasio Dancing In New York Embodies The Difficult Road Ahead (Turley)

At midnight at the start of the new year, if you listened hard, you could almost hear the teeth of an entire nation grinding, or at least of those watching coverage from New York as Mayor Bill de Blasio danced in a nearly empty Times Square. Millions watched as he dipped his wife in a romantic flourish to Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.” At least Nero made his own music. The scene drew angry rebukes. Andy Cohen said it made him feel sick. “I did not need to see that at the start of 2021. Do something with this city! Honestly, get it together!” In fairness to de Blasio, it probably seemed harmless. Who would object to a guy dancing with his wife? But sometimes a predictable photo turns into a cursed image. Just ask 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis after he took a spin in an army tank.

The image captured what many considered as his faux commitment to a strong defense. He and his campaign failed to think of how driving around looking like Mickey Mouse on a battle tank would only drive home the criticism of his defense policies. For de Blasio, dancing in a nearly empty Times Square came across not as amorous but as delirious in a city in lockdown with a collapsing economy and soaring crime rates. For many, it reinforced the crisis both parties now face. We have become a nation that seems untethered from all reality. In one of the most liberal cities on earth, de Blasio cannot break 40 percent in popularity. But he, like many others, plays to the extreme wings of his party. As crime raged, he pushed to reduce the police budget by $1 billion and eliminated the plain clothes division. New York has had a 50% increase in homicides and almost a 100 percent increase in shootings.

He also closed public schools despite overwhelming scientific evidence of little risk for coronavirus exposure, notably for elementary students. He finally caved to the pressure from parents and experts, admitting there was little risk in having the schools reopen. He supported the closing of restaurants, sending many to insolvency, despite the fact that they contribute to less than 2 percent of confirmed infections. With New York losing money, de Blasio said the federal government could bail out City Hall and local businesses by simply printing more money, a statement both fiscally and politically delusional. As many highly taxed residents continue to move out of New York, de Blasio voices his “tax the hell out of the wealthy” policy. He recently declared that the purpose of public schools is the redistribution of income.

The eerie image of de Blasio dancing in a dead Times Square captures what could await us in 2021. Even if the pandemic is curtailed with the vaccines, cities like New York have been devastated by the lockdowns. There is no way that the federal government can bail out every business and landlord in one city, let alone the entire country.

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Not much choice. It’s either BoJo or Blair.

Boris Johnson Would Lose Majority And Seat In Election Tomorrow – Poll (G.)

The public are deeply unhappy with the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Brexit negotiations, a damning new poll suggests. The poll predicts that if a general election were held tomorrow neither the Conservatives nor Labour would win an outright majority. Disturbingly for Boris Johnson, the survey says the Conservatives would lose 81 seats, wiping out the 80-seat majority they won in December 2019. It gives the first detailed insight into the public’s perception of Johnson’s handling of the Brexit talks and the pandemic, amid fears that Britain is heading into a third national lockdown. The prime minister is on course to lose his own seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip South, if the insight is accurate.


According to the survey of more than 22,000 people, conducted by the research data company Focaldata, using the multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) method that is said to be more than accurate than conventional polling, the results would leave the Tories with 284 seats and Labour with 282 – an increase of 82. Results in Scotland would see the Scottish National party achieve a near complete sweep, winning 57 of the 59 Scottish seats. The poll also predicts the Liberal Democrats would be reduced to just two seats – in Bath and in Kingston and Surbiton – down from the current 11. One in four voters who supported the Lib Dems in 2019 said they will switch allegiance to Labour. Many of the seats that Labour would gain are in the north of England, Midlands and Wales, part of the “red wall” collapse that swept the Tories to power at the last election, the Sunday Times reported.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 022021
 
 January 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  53 Responses »


Pierre-Auguste Renoir Les Grands Boulevards 1875

 

Israel Zooms Past 1 Million Vaccinations In Sprint To Vanquish Pandemic (ToI)
100s Of Israelis Get Infected With COVID19 After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)
Fauci Says Mandatory COVID19 Vaccines Possible For Travel, School (NYP)
Fauci Says US Will Not Delay Second Doses Of COVID Vaccine (G.)
The Missing Flu Riddle: ‘Influenza Has Been Renamed COVID’ (JTN)
2 Minnesota Lawmakers Demand Nationwide Audit of COVID19 Deaths (ET)
All Primary Schools In London To Remain Closed After U-turn (G.)
Ireland Covid Cases Surge As Health Official Warns Virus Is ‘Absolutely Rampant’ (G.)
Judge Rejects Election Lawsuit Against VP Pence (JTN)
Janet Yellen Made Millions In Wall Street, Corporate Speeches (Pol.)
Paper Dollars in Circulation Globally Spike amid Hot Demand (WS)
Schumer Begins 2021 Promising To Fight – Then Immediately Surrenders (DP)
Forecast 2021 (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

 

 

ISRAEL: 11.5%; UK: 1.39%; US: 0.84%; GLOBAL AVERAGE: 0.13%

Israel Zooms Past 1 Million Vaccinations In Sprint To Vanquish Pandemic (ToI)

Israel has vaccinated 1 million people against COVID-19, more than a tenth of its population, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday, as the country’s inoculation drive cemented its status as the world’s most rapid thus far. Netanyahu was on hand to mark what he said was the millionth Israeli to receive a vaccine, in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Netanyahu called it a moment of “great excitement.” “We are breaking all of the records. We brought millions of vaccines to the State of Israel,” he said. We are ahead of the entire world… with our excellent HMOs.” Arabs make up around 20 percent of Israel’s population and have been relatively slow to embrace the vaccination campaign, prompting Netanyahu to launch a series of visits to Arab localities, his first in years, in what is also seen by many as an attempt to score political points ahead of the March elections.


Netanyahu said that “it’s important for me that the Arab public in Israel will get vaccinated quickly” as “it’s saving lives.” He delivered the same message at a vaccination center in Tira, another Arab town, on Thursday. The Jewish state has so far greatly outpaced other countries, per capita, with 11.55% of the population inoculated, according to statistics from the Our World in Data website operated by Oxford University. Second place is held by Bahrain with 3.45%, followed by the UK with 1.39% (though the latter’s data is a few days old). The US stands at 0.84%. The world average is 0.13%. Israel is currently in its third nationwide lockdown to contain the outbreak. It has reported more than 426,000 cases and at least 3,338 deaths since the pandemic began.

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Not great PR.

100s Of Israelis Get Infected With COVID19 After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)

With the vaccine not providing immediate immunity to the coronavirus, over two hundred Israeli citizens have been diagnosed with the disease days after getting the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs, local media reported. The number of those who got Covid-19 despite being vaccinated was at around 240 people, according to data from Channel 13 News. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which the Israeli health authorities rely on, doesn’t contain the coronavirus and can’t infect the recipient. But time is needed for the genetic code in the drug to train the immune system to recognize and attack the disease.

The course of the US-made vaccine requires two shots. According to the studies, immunity to Covid-19 increases only eight to ten days after the first injection and eventually reaches 50 percent. The second jab is administered 21 days from the first one, while the declared immunity of 95 percent is achieved only a week after that. And, of course, there’s still a five percent chance of getting infected even if the vaccine is at its full potential. Israeli news outlets which reported the figures urged the public to remain vigilant and thoroughly follow all Covid-19 precautions during the month after the first shot of the vaccine is administered.

The Jewish state is currently undertaking a massive vaccination campaign, which already saw over one million people or almost 12 percent of the population getting the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. That’s the largest span per capita in the world, according to Oxford University. The first phase of the program aims to immunize medics and elderly people before expanding on to other categories. Around one in a thousand people have reported mild side effects after the injection, including weakness, dizziness and fever as well as pain, swelling and redness in the spot where the shot was given. Only a few dozen of them required medical attention, the Health Ministry said.

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A passport stating you had a jab that doesn’t protect people around you. Logic?

Fauci Says Mandatory COVID19 Vaccines Possible For Travel, School (NYP)

Dr. Anthony Fauci said it’s possible that COVID-19 vaccines will become mandatory in order to travel to other countries or attend school. “Everything will be on the table for discussion,” Fauci, who will be chief medical adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, told Newsweek. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stressed that it’s “not up to me to make a decision,” but added that “these are all things that will be discussed [under the Biden administration].” “I’m not sure [the COVID-19 vaccine] going to be mandatory from a central government standpoint, like federal government mandates,” Fauci said, though he added that he’s “sure” that some individual institutions will require the shot.


Fauci said vaccine requirements in schools are “possible,” but they would come from mandates at the state or city level. “A citywide school system might require it in some cities but not other cities. And that’s what I mean by things not being done centrally but locally,” Fauci said. In regard to travel, Fauci said the US could potentially issue COVID-19 vaccine passports — similar to the ones planned for Israel that would allow residents to travel abroad without being tested for coronavirus. The coronavirus vaccine might also become required by other countries to go there, Fauci said. “So we, in this country, don’t require [people] to get a yellow fever vaccine when you go someplace. It’s the place to which you are going that requires it,” he said.

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The UK is playing around with what the producer says should be done.

Fauci Says US Will Not Delay Second Doses Of COVID Vaccine (G.)

The American infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said he does not agree with the UK’s approach of delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. On Friday, Dr Fauci told CNN that the United States would not be following in the UK’s footsteps and would follow Pfizer and BioNTech’s guidance to administer the second dose of its vaccine three weeks after the first. Despite an outcry from doctors, the UK’s chief medical officers defended their plans this week to delay the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to patients, meaning people would now wait up to 12 weeks. The change is to prioritise giving more people their first dose.


Dr Fauci told CNN: “We know from the clinical trials that the optimal time is to give it on one day and for [the Moderna jab which is also approved in the US] wait 28 days and for Pfizer 21 days later.” He added that while you can “make the argument” for stretching out the doses, he would not be in favour of doing that. Pfizer and BioNTech also warned that the two doses were crucial to achieving maximum protection against Covid, saying that they did not have evidence that the first dose alone would protect patients after three weeks. In the UK, the new move will apply to people who were expecting to have their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after 4 January. Patients getting the first jab of the newly approved AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine will also have to wait up to 12 weeks.

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The numbers are stark:

“This week one year ago, the positive clinical rate was 22%, where now it stands at 0.1%.”

The Missing Flu Riddle: ‘Influenza Has Been Renamed COVID’ (JTN)

Rates of influenza have remained persistently low through late 2020 and into 2021, cratering from levels a year ago and raising the puzzling specter of sharply reduced influenza transmission rates even as positive tests for COVID-19 have shattered numerous records over the last several weeks. Where have all the flu cases gone? Epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski thinks he can answer the riddle. “Influenza has been renamed COVID in large part,” said the former head of biostatistics, epidemiology and research design at Rockefeller University. “There may be quite a number of influenza cases included in the ‘presumed COVID’ category of people who have COVID symptoms (which Influenza symptoms can be mistaken for), but are not tested for SARS RNA,” Wittkowski told Just the News on Thursday.


Those patients, he argued, “also may have some SARS RNA sitting in their nose while being infected with Influenza, in which case the influenza would be ‘confirmed’ to be COVID.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly influenza surveillance tracker reports that the cumulative positive influenza test rate from late September into the week of Dec. 19 stands at 0.2% as measured by clinical labs. That’s compared to a cumulative 8.7% from a year before. The weekly comparisons are even starker: This week one year ago, the positive clinical rate was 22%, where now it stands at 0.1%. Those low numbers continue trends observed earlier in the year in which flu rates have remained at near-zero levels. The trend is not limited to the U.S. Worldwide, health authorities have all reported sharply decreased influenza levels throughout what is normally peak flu season in the northern hemisphere.

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Of course you must have this.

2 Minnesota Lawmakers Demand Nationwide Audit of COVID19 Deaths (ET)

Two Minnesota legislators who believe their state’s COVID-19 death count is inaccurate are calling for a nationwide audit to find out how many people died from something other than the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus but were added to the pandemic death totals. Republican State Rep. Mary Franson said she has enlisted a team to examine data provided by Minnesota’s health department. Her team allegedly found that COVID-19 was blamed for some deaths clearly not linked to the respiratory disease. “We found clear-cut examples from the Minnesota Department of Health’s own files—public records—of suicide, a drowning, an auto accident where the passenger was ejected from the vehicle, we found dementia … and strokes,” Franson said during an interview with Fox News, adding that she was “so shocked at what I found that I just could not keep silent.”


“The citizens of our country are being led in fear, and that fear is leading them to make irrational decisions based on the governors with their shutdowns,” she added. “So we need this audit. We need the truth.” Franson was joined by Republican State Sen. Scott Jensen, a practicing physician. Jensen has become the subject of two state probes earlier this year for arguing that the federal and state guidelines on reporting COVID-19 deaths could pressure local authorities to misclassify and inflate their numbers, and that doctors and hospitals are motivated to do so for more health care dollars. “If you could hit a threshold of 161 admissions to your hospital with COVID-19 diagnosis between January and June, you received $77,000 of additional money for each one of those admissions” through the CARES Act, Jensen told Fox News. “I don’t think there’s any questions that reverse incentives have been created.”

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Make it up as you go along.

All Primary Schools In London To Remain Closed After U-turn (G.)

All primary schools in London are to remain closed for the start of the new term after the government bowed to protests and legal pressure from the capital’s local authorities. Under the government’s initial plan, secondary schools and colleges were set to be closed to most pupils for the first two weeks of January, while primary schools within 50 local authorities in London and the south of England were also told to keep their doors shut until 18 January. But the list omitted several London areas where Covid-19 transmission rates remain high including the borough of Haringey, whose leaders said they were prepared to defy the government and support any schools that decided to close to protect staff and pupils.


The protests from local authority leaders came to a head with a letter to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, from nine London authorities asking for their primary schools to be closed to all except vulnerable children and those whose parents were key workers. The action provoked an emergency Cabinet Office meeting on New Year’s Day, which signed off on the revision, adding the remaining 10 London education authorities to the government’s “contingency areas”. Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said primaries across the country should close. “What is right for London is right for the rest of the country,” she said. “It is time for the government to protect its citizens, and in particular its children, by shutting all primary schools for two weeks in order for the situation to be properly assessed, schools made much safer and children and their families protected.”

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“The virus is absolutely rampant now in the community. Everybody is at extreme risk of contracting the virus.”

Ireland Covid Cases Surge As Health Official Warns Virus Is ‘Absolutely Rampant’ (G.)

Ireland is bracing for 9,000 more Covid cases to be added to the official tally as the system struggles to handle a surge in positive results, with health officials warning hospitals will not be able to cope if the trend continues. The sharp rise in positive results led to delays in formal reporting, said Professor Philip Nolan from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), though he said it “does not affect case management or contact tracing or our overall monitoring and modelling of the pandemic”. On Thursday, NPHET estimated the number of positive tests still pending registration was 4,000, more than doubling to 9,000 the following day. On Friday, Ireland formally reported a daily record 1,754 confirmed cases, surpassing 1,500 daily cases for the fourth day in a row. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the biggest worry was the rapid rise in hospitalisations.


“We are now admitting between 50 to 70 people a day to our hospital system. Unfortunately, we expect this to get worse before it gets better. Our health system will not continue to cope with this level of impact.” “We have also seen a significant increase in positive laboratory tests in recent days reflecting a true increase in the incidence of the disease as well as the delay in people coming forward for testing over the Christmas period. As our systems catch up with these effects it places significant pressure on our reporting system.” On New Year’s Eve, Ireland entered a level-five lockdown, with non-essential shops closing, a 5km travel limit, restrictions on household gatherings and schools staying closed. Paul Reid, CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE), told RTÉ Radio 1: “The virus is absolutely rampant now in the community. Everybody is at extreme risk of contracting the virus.”

Read more …

“..the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case and must dismiss the action..”

Judge Rejects Election Lawsuit Against VP Pence (JTN)

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Friday night against Vice President Mike Pence filed by a Texas congressman seeking to reject Joe Biden’s electors when Congress certifies the election next week. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle ruled that Rep. Louie Gohmert lacked standing to bring the legal action that would prevent Pence from confirming Joe Biden’s electoral victory. “Plaintiff Louie Gohmert, the United States Representative for Texas’s First Congressional District, alleges at most an institutional injury to the House of Representatives. Under well-settled Supreme Court authority, that is insufficient to support standing,” the judge ruled.


“The other Plaintiffs, the slate of Republican Presidential Electors for the State of Arizona (the “Nominee-Electors”), allege an injury that is not fairly traceable to the Defendant, the Vice President of the United States, and is unlikely to be redressed by the requested relief. Accordingly, as explained below, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case and must dismiss the action,” he added.

Read more …

… and you ain’t in it..

Janet Yellen Made Millions In Wall Street, Corporate Speeches (Pol.)

In the past two years, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has raked in more than $7.2 million in speaking fees from Wall Street and large corporations including Citi, Goldman Sachs, Google, City National Bank, UBS, Citadel LLC, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Salesforce and more. Yellen’s financial disclosure is one of three filed by the Biden team at the end of 2020 that could become politically problematic with the left wing of the Democratic Party when confirmation hearings begin in January. A Biden transition official said they filed the forms “mid-week” before the Office of Government Ethics posted the forms late Thursday, New Year’s Eve.

Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, brought in nearly $1 million giving nine speeches to Citi alone. She earned more than $800,000 speaking to Citadel, a hedge fund founded by the Republican megadonor Ken Griffin. She also spoke to the law and lobbying firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. In addition to Yellen, Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of State, disclosed the clients he advised through WestExec Advisors, the consulting firm he co-founded with other Obama administration alumni. Those clients included the investment giant Blackstone, Bank of America, Facebook, Uber, McKinsey & Company, the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, the pharmaceutical company Gilead, the investment bank Lazard, Boeing, AT&T, the Royal Bank of Canada, LinkedIn and the venerable Sotheby’s auction house.

The disclosures cracked open WestExec’s closely held client list, which the firm had previously refused to divulge. WestExec has paid Blinken nearly $1.2 million over the past two years, according to the filing, with another estimated $250,000 to $500,000 owed for his work this year.

Read more …

To the mattresses.

Paper Dollars in Circulation Globally Spike amid Hot Demand (WS)

The amount of “currency in circulation” – the paper dollars wadded up in people’s pockets and purses, stuffed under mattresses, or packed into suitcases and safes overseas – jumped again in the week ended December 30 to a new record of $2.09 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, where currency in circulation is a liability, not an asset. This was up by 16%, or by $293 billion, from February before the Pandemic. The amount has doubled since 2011. This amount of currency in circulation is a function of demand – and that demand has been red hot: US Banks have to have enough paper dollars on hand to satisfy demand at ATMs and bank branches.

Foreign banks will also request paper dollars from their correspondent banks in the US, or return unneeded cash to them. When there is demand for paper dollars, banks buy more of them from the Fed. They pay for them usually with Treasury securities they hold or with excess reserves they have on deposit at the Fed. The surge of paper dollars is a sign of hoarding, not of increased payments. In the US, the share of paper dollars for payments has been declining for years, replaced by electronic payment methods, such as credit and debit cards, PayPal, Zelle and similar systems, all kinds of smartphone-based payment systems, the automated clearinghouse (ACH) system, and checks every now and then.


During periods of uncertainty, people load up on cash, as they have done leading up to Y2K, during the Financial Crisis, and now during the Pandemic. But much of the hoarding of US dollars takes place overseas, with demand for those paper dollars then winding its way to the US banking system via the correspondent banks. These paper dollars also lubricate all kinds of corruption, drug trafficking, and other activities – and laundering this cash is a big profitable industry.

Read more …

The stench….

Schumer Begins 2021 Promising To Fight – Then Immediately Surrenders (DP)

Senator Bernie Sanders spent New Year’s morning making one last attempt to halt the defense bill in order to force Republican leader Mitch McConnell allow a vote on $2,000 checks — and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer spent the morning treating everyone like we’re gullible idiots. “I just took to the floor again to demand a vote on $2000 survival checks,” Schumer declared, and he slammed Republican lawmakers for objecting. He promised: “Democrats will not stop fighting.” Then moments later, Schumer and most Senate Democrats surrendered — live on C-Span for everyone to see, they obediently voted for McConnell’s motion to move forward the defense bill for final passage, so that the Senate can close down without any vote on the $2,000 checks. Most Democrats then voted for final passage as well.

Put another way: Schumer tweeted out his promise to fight for starving Americans, while knowing that moments later he would be on live television surrendering to Republicans. Democrats didn’t even muster enough votes on the procedural motions to keep it close enough to force Georgia incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue off the campaign trail to help McConnell — a scenario that could have provided a huge boost to Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who have been campaigning hard for the $2,000 checks.

[..] Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and president-elect Joe Biden played particularly pernicious roles helping McConnell slash the original stimulus bill in half. And Schumer’s behavior today — pretending to be fighting hard, while voting with McConnell — was the icing on the cake. Liberal pundits and billionaire-owned media corporations outed themselves as absurdly-detached elitists — making the fake argument that the $2,000 survival checks might go to some people who don’t really need help, and the baffling claim that Americans will probably just save the checks because they can’t go to restaurants (which are still fully open in most states) or travel on airplanes (yes, people are still flying).

The only players who come off well in any of this are the handful of Democratic senators who had the guts to vote against all of McConnell’s key procedural motions (Sanders, Markey, Merkley, Warren, Wyden and Van Hollen) and rank-and-file House Democrats who were willing to use their power to pass the $2,000 checks (and yeah, Pelosi deserves some credit for quickly delivering the $2,000 checks amendment to the Senate).

Read more …

A long column.

Forecast 2021 (Jim Kunstler)

Life in the USA, and other “advanced” nations will reset, but not in the way that most people blabbering about “the Great Reset” think or say it will. Surely, there are groups, gangs, claques, and covens of people in the world who have some consensual agreement about how things might work, and how they would run them to their benefit, in their hypothetical ideal disposition of things. For instance, the so-called “Davos Crowd.” What are they? A convocation of bankers, market movers, politicians, business moguls, tech entrepreneurs, Hollywood catamites, black ops runners, and PR errand boys who have plenty of financial and political mojo in their own realms, but not enough collectively to carry out the kind of global coup that comprises the standard paranoid Great Reset fantasy.

That they meet-up in an ultra-luxurious setting out of a James Bond movie every year stokes terrific fascination, envy, anger, and paranoia that they are capable of anything beyond a festival of ass-kissing, mutual self-congratulation, and status-jockeying, which are the actual activities at the Davos meet-up. For another thing, in the USA, at least, there are too many pissed-off people with small arms, hardened by years of proffered bad faith and dishonesty from the political/media/higher-ed complex, to just bend over and take it up the back-door from a gang of seditious, would-be aristo-totalitarians with lèse-majesté dreams of nostalgie-de-la-boue Marxist redemption. If you have any doubt about how disruptive angry people with small arms and lots of ammo might be to condescending elites, just review the events in the Middle East the past twenty years and imagine those dynamics transferred to Kansas.

What does the “reset” fantasy supposedly include? A “new world order,” a phantasm of a unified world government, which is preposterous because the macro-trend at this moment of history worldwide is the opposite of consolidation and centralization of power, but rather breakup, downscaling, and re-localization. Why? As you saw in the Econ chapter, because the scale, pitch, and range of all our activities must be reduced to survive in the post-industrial conditions of resource and capital scarcity. And it will happen whether we like it or not and despite anybody’s objections. What else is in the Reset grab-bag? Supposedly a single world currency, also absurd for reasons already stated — unless you are talking about gold and silver, which may eventually become the universally-accepted medium of exchange (and store of value, index of price) if the post-industrial contraction is severe and destructive enough.

But fuggeddabowt “digital currencies,” especially in the USA because too many people are “un-banked,” or otherwise depend on cash-money in the informal “gray” economy of just-getting-by (and there will be a lot more of these types as the middle-class gets pounded further down into the mud), plus a large cohort of digitally-capable people just plain ornery about being herded into an IRS surveillance cul-de-sac — and the whole lot of them will fight like hell to prevent government-sponsored crypto-dollars from replacing what used to be considered money. And, if, in the unlikely event that rebellion fails, it’s back to gold and silver by default — and that might literally mean by default.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 012021
 
 January 1, 2021  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Claude Monet Boulevard des Capucines 1873

 

Pfizer Vaccine First To Receive Emergency Use Authorization From WHO (RT)
New Coronavirus Variant May Have Been In US Since October (G.)
The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb (Atl.)
World Faces COVID19 “Vaccine Apartheid” (IC)
Over 100 Republicans Will Challenge Electoral College Results (SAC)
Pence Asks Judge To End GOP Suit To Expand His Powers (JTN)
‘Keep The Light On,’ Scottish PM Sturgeon Tells EU (RT)
A Festive Message for 2021 (Varoufakis)
The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange (Greenwald)

 

 

 

 

But what does it do? It doesn’t protect you from infection, and it doesn’t protect others around you from your infection.

Pfizer Vaccine First To Receive Emergency Use Authorization From WHO (RT)

The first vaccine against the novel coronavirus approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization is Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA one produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, the WHO has announced. The world health body announced the emergency approval on Thursday, as 2020 came to a close. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) will enable countries to expedite their own regulatory approval of the vaccine, and allow UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to buy it for distribution, the WHO said. “This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to [Covid]-19 vaccines,” Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO’s assistant-Director General for access to medicines and health products, said in a statement. She added that “an even greater global effort” is needed to come up with enough of a supply to meet the needs of “priority populations everywhere,” however. The WHO is “working night and day to evaluate other vaccines that have reached safety and efficacy standards,” said Simão, urging other developers to “come forward for review and assessment.”

Read more …

There are multiple variants.

New Coronavirus Variant May Have Been In US Since October (G.)

A coronavirus variant carrying some of the same mutations as the highly contagious British variant may have been in the US since October and already be widespread, a re-analysis of more than 2m tests suggests. Genome sequencing to confirm whether the variant observed in Americans is the same as the so-called B117 variant currently circulating in the UK is under way. Results are expected within days but the revelations have prompted fresh questions about where the altered virus originated, including a small possibility that it began in the US, not the UK, or elsewhere altogether. The variant has also been found in at least 17 countries, including South Korea, Spain, Australia and Canada.

“It wouldn’t be at all surprising if at least some of the cases were B117,” said Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, who was not involved in the research, but whose team confirmed a Californian case of the B117 variant on Wednesday. “It has probably been here for a while at low levels – but you don’t see it until you look for it.” The existence of a new and highly transmissible Sars CoV-2 variant was announced by the UK’s health secretary on 14 December, after Covid-testing laboratories reported that a growing number of their positive samples were missing a signal from one of the three genes their PCR tests use to confirm the presence of the virus.

Further sequencing revealed that such “S gene dropout” was the result of mutations in the gene encoding the spike protein which the virus uses to gain entry to human cells. The variant is thought to have been circulating in the UK since September. News of the new variant has led to multiple countries restricting travel from the UK – or in the case of the US, requiring travelers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed into the country. However, it has been detected this week in Colorado and California, and the suspicion is it may already be widespread. To investigate, scientists at the California-based DNA testing company Helix examined the prevalence of S gene dropout among 2 million of the Covid tests the company has processed in recent months.

They observed an increase in S gene dropout among positive samples since early October, when 0.25% of positive tests exhibited this pattern. This has since grown, hitting 0.5% on average last week – although in Massachusetts, which has the highest number of such samples, it currently stands at 1.85%, although no cases of the B117 variant have been announced in that state yet. Further analysis revealed mutations in some of the same regions of the S gene which are also present in the B117 variant – although full sequencing of the viral genome is needed to confirm whether this is indeed the same variant, or something else.

Read more …

A lot of assumptions.

The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb (Atl.)

A new variant of the coronavirus is spreading across the globe. It was first identified in the United Kingdom, where it is rapidly spreading, and has been found in multiple countries. Viruses mutate all the time, often with no impact, but this one appears to be more transmissible than other variants—meaning it spreads more easily. Barely one day after officials announced that America’s first case of the variant had been found in the United States, in a Colorado man with no history of travel, an additional case was found in California. There are still many unknowns, but much concern has focused on whether this new variant would throw off vaccine efficacy or cause more severe disease—with some degree of relief after an initial study indicated that it did not do either.

And while we need more data to feel truly reassured, many scientists believe that this variant will not decrease vaccine efficacy much, if at all. Health officials have started emphasizing the lack of evidence for more severe disease. All good and no cause for alarm, right? Wrong. A more transmissible variant of COVID-19 is a potential catastrophe in and of itself. If anything, given the stage in the pandemic we are at, a more transmissible variant is in some ways much more dangerous than a more severe variant. That’s because higher transmissibility subjects us to a more contagious virus spreading with exponential growth, whereas the risk from increased severity would have increased in a linear manner, affecting only those infected.

Increased transmissibility can wreak havoc in a very, very short time—especially when we already have uncontrolled spread in much of the United States. The short-term implications of all this are significant, and worthy of attention, even as we await more clarity from data. In fact, we should act quickly especially as we await more clarity—lack of data and the threat of even faster exponential growth argue for more urgency of action. If and when more reassuring data come in, relaxing restrictions will be easier than undoing the damage done by not having reacted in time.

To understand the difference between exponential and linear risks, consider an example put forth by Adam Kucharski, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who focuses on mathematical analyses of infectious-disease outbreaks. Kucharski compares a 50 percent increase in virus lethality to a 50 percent increase in virus transmissibility. Take a virus reproduction rate of about 1.1 and an infection fatality risk of 0.8 percent and imagine 10,000 active infections—a plausible scenario for many European cities, as Kucharski notes. As things stand, with those numbers, we’d expect 129 deaths in a month. If the fatality rate increased by 50 percent, that would lead to 193 deaths. In contrast, a 50 percent increase in transmissibility would lead to a whopping 978 deaths in just one month—assuming, in both scenarios, a six-day infection-generation time.

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Billions in profits.

World Faces COVID19 “Vaccine Apartheid” (IC)

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla recently heaped praise on “the almost 44,000 people who selflessly raised their hands to participate in our trial.” “Each of you has helped to bring the world one step closer to our shared goal of a potential vaccine to fight this devastating pandemic,” Bourla wrote in an open letter to volunteers who took part in Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine research, which was conducted in Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey as well as the U.S. His letter was published on November 9, the same day Pfizer announced that the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective at preventing the disease, and Bourla laid this considerable accomplishment at the feet of the medical volunteers: “You are the true heroes, and the whole world owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

But Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, and Turkey will have to be satisfied with Pfizer’s gratitude, because (like most countries in the world) they won’t be receiving enough of the vaccine to inoculate their populations, at least not anytime soon. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Germany — along with Canada and the rest of the European Union — have contracted for enough doses of various Covid-19 vaccines to inoculate their populations several times over. While the U.S. is struggling with the logistics of its vaccine rollout — fewer than 3 million people have received the first dose so far — adequate supplies should eventually be available. The U.S. pre-purchased 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for $1.95 billion in the summer (and reportedly passed on the opportunity to secure another 100 million doses).

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a deal to buy another 100 million doses of the vaccine by July 2021, and the government has the option to purchase an additional 400 million doses. The U.S. has also purchased 200 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is also extremely effective against Covid-19. Those doses are due by the second quarter of 2021, and the government may buy up to 300 million more doses. And the U.S. has contracts for additional vaccine doses from Ology, Sanofi, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson, whose candidates are in earlier stages of development.

Pharmaceutical companies and individual executives are already profiting handsomely from their medical breakthroughs. On the same day that he sent his open letter, Bourla, whose net worth is estimated at more than $26 million, sold more than $5 million worth of his shares of Pfizer stock. Pfizer has already made an estimated $975 million from the vaccine this year and is expected to earn another $19 billion in revenue from the vaccine in 2021, according to Morgan Stanley. Pfizer’s profit margin on the vaccine is estimated at between 60 and 80 percent. Moderna is projected to make more than $10 billion from its vaccine next year.

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Of course they will.

Over 100 Republicans Will Challenge Electoral College Results (SAC)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said Wednesday he believes more than 100 members of the GOP could challenge the Electoral College results when Congress certifies the electoral votes on Jan. 6. During an interview with Charlie Sykes on “The Bulwark Podcast,” Kinzinger said he thinks “upwards of 100” GOP lawmakers could challenge the Nov. 3 election results. “I hope I’m wrong,” Kinzinger said. “I’m guessing it could be upwards of 100.” He added, “I’m just over the undermining of democracy and the frankly massive damage that’s being done with this.” Joe Biden is expected to be certified as the 2020 presidential winner, but President Donald Trump has not conceded and is encouraging members of the GOP to challenge the results.


There has been an increasing number of GOP lawmakers who have said they will support Trump’s effort in overturning the election results, including most recently Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.)
“Somebody has to stand up here,” Hawley said in an interview with Fox News Wednesday. “You’ve got 74 million Americans who feel disenfranchised, who feel like their vote doesn’t matter, and this is the one opportunity that I have as a United States senator, this process right here, my one opportunity to stand up and say something and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

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“An 1887 federal law known as the Electoral Count Act has the vice president presiding over the congressional meeting. However the suit led by Gohmert tries to invalidate the law as an unconstitutional constraint on the vice president’s authority..”

Pence Asks Judge To End GOP Suit To Expand His Powers (JTN)

Vice President Mike Pence asked a federal judge Thursday to reject an attempt by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and other congressional Republicans to expand Pence’s official powers to allow him to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. The lawsuit was filed earlier this week and attempts to expand Pence’s role in Congress’ meeting Wednesday to count states’ electoral votes and certify Biden’s victory over Trump, according to The Hill newspaper. Pence argued in a filing Thursday to U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle that he was not the correct defendant to the suit.


“A suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction,” a Justice Department attorney wrote in the filing, The Hill also reported. An 1887 federal law known as the Electoral Count Act has the vice president presiding over the congressional meeting. However the suit led by Gohmert tries to invalidate the law as an unconstitutional constraint on the vice president’s authority to choose among competing claims of victory when state-level election results are disputed. Republicans in several key battleground states have disputed Biden’s win and offered alternate “slates” of pro-Trump electors to be counted, also according to The Hill.

Read more …

WIll the UK fall apart next?

‘Keep The Light On,’ Scottish PM Sturgeon Tells EU (RT)

Within minutes of Brexit taking effect, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted a message to Brussels that Scotland would be rejoining the EU “soon,” responding to recent demand for another independence referendum. “Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on,” Sturgeon said as the clock struck midnight in Brussels and the UK’s exit from the European Union became official on Friday. The United Kingdom’s divorce from the continental bloc after 45 years of membership was the result of a protracted process following the 2016 referendum, which the Tory government expected would fail. Instead, a narrow majority in England and Wales backed Brexit, while Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain – by 62 percent to 38 percent.

Sturgeon came to lead the Scottish National Party (SNP) after the failure of the first Scottish independence referendum, in 2014. Only 45 percent of Scots voted to leave the UK, with 55 percent choosing to remain, in part due to warnings from Brussels that an independent Scotland would not automatically become an EU member and would have to negotiate entry from scratch. That ratio has now been reversed, according to recent polls. Research by Ipsos MORI in October indicated that support for Scottish independence was at 58 percent – an all-time high. Other polls show support for secession at anywhere between 51 and 59 percent.

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“Because things are the way they are, things will not remain the way they are.”

A Festive Message for 2021 (Varoufakis)

I am Yanis Varoufakis with a message for the New Year from DiEM25. 2020 leaves behind much debris – pain, fear, broken lives, smashed dreams. But, we also owe a debt of gratitude to 2020: It has helped expose seven fundamental secrets. We used to think of governments as powerless. But since Covid-19 struck we know better: Governments have stupendous powers that they hitherto chose not to use, deferring to the exorbitant power of Big Business. Yes, the money-trey does exist after all. Except, of course, that is only harvested by the powerful on behalf of the oligarchy: Money created by the rich for the rich. Solvency is a political decision because power-politics, not markets, decide who is bankrupt and who is not.

Wealth has nothing to do with hard work or entrepreneurship. America’s billionaires made 931 billion dollars from the pandemic. They got richer in their sleep. Yes, 2020 was a vintage year for capitalists, but capitalism died! Liberated from any remaining competition, colossal platform companies like Amazon own everything. So, yes, during 2020, Capitalism morphed into an insidious Technofeudalism. Our Europe, its civilisation and power notwithstanding, continued to sell its soul in 2020. One word suffices: Moria, the refuges prison camp in Lesbos – a mirror reflecting Europe’s cruelty and lost soul.


Yes, it has been a difficult year. We lost too many people to the pandemic. We saw exploitation flourish, driving so many into the embrace of destitution. Civil liberties took a major hit. But, despite it all, 2020 let us in on a brilliant, hope-inspiring seventh secret: Everything could be different. If this pandemic proved anything, it is that Bertolt Brecht was right when he once said: Because things are the way they are, things will not remain the way they are. I can think of no greater source of hope than this. We must thank 2020 for it. Now, it is up to us to make 2021 a year of radical change in the interests of the many. Everywhere! Happy New Year and Carpe DiEM25!

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Assange may be in prison for many more years. Monday’s a big day. But after that, appeals are sure to follow.

The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange (Greenwald)

Persecution is not typically doled out to those who recite mainstream pieties, or refrain from posing meaningful threats to those who wield institutional power, or obediently stay within the lines of permissible speech and activism imposed by the ruling class. Those who render themselves acquiescent and harmless that way will — in every society, including the most repressive — usually be free of reprisals. They will not be censored or jailed. They will be permitted to live their lives largely unmolested by authorities, while many will be well-rewarded for this servitude. Such individuals will see themselves as free because, in a sense, they are: they are free to submit, conform and acquiesce. And if they do so, they will not even realize, or at least not care, and may even regard as justifiable, that those who refuse this Orwellian bargain they have embraced (“freedom” in exchange for submission) are crushed with unlimited force.


Those who do not seek to meaningfully dissent or subvert power will usually deny — because they do not perceive — that such dissent and subversion are, in fact, rigorously prohibited. They will continue to believe blissfully that the society in which they live guarantees core civic freedoms — of speech, of press, of assembly, of due process — because they have rendered their own speech and activism, if it exists at all, so innocuous that nobody with the capacity to do so would bother to try to curtail it. The observation apocryphally attributed to socialist activist Rosa Luxemburg, imprisoned for her opposition to German involvement in World War I and then summarily executed by the state, expresses it best: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 242020
 
 December 24, 2020  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Paul Cézanne Forest 1902-04

 

Asymptomatic Transmission Of COVID19 (BMJ)
Makers of Successful COVID19 Vaccines Wrestle With Placebo Recipients (Science)
France Reopens To UK, As EU Tackles New Coronastrain (EUO)
Trump Pardons Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner, 23 Others (JTN)
Why Trump Should Pardon Assange
The Legacy Of President Donald Trump (Taibbi)
Biden Threats Make Russia Discourse More Reckless, Dangerous (Greenwald)
DNC Was “Directly Involved” In Iowa Caucus App Development (IC)
Powerful Mobile Phone Surveillance Tool Operates In Obscurity (IC)
Where In The World Is Kamala Harris? (DP)
The Lancet Publishes German Doctors’ Report On Treatment Of Navalny (RT)
2020 Year in Review – Part 1 (Dave Collum)

 

 

 

 

How overrated is asymptomatic transmission, and why do we focus on it so much?

Asymptomatic Transmission Of COVID19 (BMJ)

The UK’s £100bn “Operation Moonshot” to roll out mass testing for covid-19 to cities and universities around the country raises two key questions. How infectious are people who test positive but have no symptoms? And, what is their contribution to transmission of live virus? Unusually in disease management, a positive test result is the sole criterion for a covid-19 case. Normally, a test is a support for clinical diagnosis, not a substitute. This lack of clinical oversight means we know very little about the proportions of people with positive results who are truly asymptomatic throughout the course of their infection and the proportions who are paucisymptomatic (subclinical), presymptomatic (go on to develop symptoms later), or post-infection (with viral RNA fragments still detectable from an earlier infection).

Earlier estimates that 80% of infections are asymptomatic were too high and have since been revised down to between 17% and 20% of people with infections. Studies estimating this proportion are limited by heterogeneity in case definitions, incomplete symptom assessment, and inadequate retrospective and prospective follow-up of symptoms, however. Around 49% of people initially defined as asymptomatic go on to develop symptoms. It’s also unclear to what extent people with no symptoms transmit SARS-CoV-2. The only test for live virus is viral culture. PCR and lateral flow tests do not distinguish live virus. No test of infection or infectiousness is currently available for routine use. As things stand, a person who tests positive with any kind of test may or may not have an active infection with live virus, and may or may not be infectious.

The relations between viral load, viral shedding, infection, infectiousness, and duration of infectiousness are not well understood. In a recent systematic review, no study was able to culture live virus from symptomatic participants after the ninth day of illness, despite persistently high viral loads in quantitative PCR diagnostic tests. However, cycle threshold (Ct) values from PCR tests are not direct measures of viral load and are subject to error. While viral load seems to be similar in people with and without symptoms, the presence of RNA does not necessarily represent transmissible live virus. The duration of viral RNA shedding (interval between first and last positive PCR result for any sample) is shorter in people who remain asymptomatic, so they are probably less infectious than people who develop symptoms.

Viral culture studies suggest that people with SARS-CoV-2 can become infectious one to two days before the onset of symptoms and continue to be infectious up to seven days thereafter; viable virus is relatively short lived. Symptomatic and presymptomatic transmission have a greater role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 than truly asymptomatic transmission. The transmission rates to contacts within a specific group (secondary attack rate) may be 3-25 times lower for people who are asymptomatic than for those with symptoms. A city-wide prevalence study of almost 10 million people in Wuhan found no evidence of asymptomatic transmission. Coughing, which is a prominent symptom of covid-19, may result in far more viral particles being shed than talking and breathing, so people with symptomatic infections are more contagious, irrespective of close contact. On the other hand, asymptomatic and presymptomatic people may have more contacts than symptomatic people (who are isolating), underlining the importance of hand washing and social distancing measures for everyone.

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They have a control group to see if the vaccine is successful, but before the trial is even done, they already declare it successful. By now, we’d almost want it to fail spectacularly.

Makers of Successful COVID19 Vaccines Wrestle With Placebo Recipients (Science)

Now that regulators around the world have begun to issue emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for COVID-19 vaccines—the United States authorized a candidate vaccine from the biotech Moderna on Friday—a theoretical debate that has simmered for months has become a pressing reality: Should ongoing vaccine efficacy studies inform their tens of thousands of volunteers whether they were injected with a placebo or the vaccine, and also offer an already authorized vaccine to those who got the placebo? Vaccinemakers must now quickly decide how to handle this issue, called unblinding. And if they do choose to unblind, they will also need to get regulatory approval. Adding to the pressure: The choice arrives as many trial participants in the United States who are now eligible for an authorized COVID-19 vaccine are dropping out of studies in order to make sure they get immunized.

At the heart of the dilemma is a balancing act. On the one hand, unblinding a vaccine efficacy trial compromises the ability to gather robust scientific data on important issues, such as how long a vaccine protects a person against COVID-19. On the other, withholding a working vaccine from a trial participant who could get it elsewhere is ethically dicey. Last week, those issues came to the fore at a meeting of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory committee, which was considering Moderna’s EUA request. Lindsey Baden, a principal investigator on Moderna’s vaccine efficacy trial, and Steven Goodman, an epidemiologist from Stanford University, presented two different schemes for handling the delicate matter. Both schemes differ from a third plan put forth by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, which are already distributing a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

Pfizer, which is still running trials of its vaccine, has already asked FDA for permission to unblind its study, and give volunteers who received a placebo the option of receiving its two-dose vaccine. But the offer would come with a catch. Given the limited supply of vaccine, national or local authorities have said they will first provide it to groups most at risk of becoming seriously ill or of transmitting the virus, such as front-line health care workers or the people living in nursing homes. The Pfizer plan would follow that plan by first unblinding only volunteers in one of the top-priority groups specified by authorities in their location and vaccinating those in the placebo group. (AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, which jointly developed a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that has confusing efficacy results and does not yet have an EUA, reportedly want to offer a similar unblinding scheme.)

A different approach is advocated by Baden, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He prefers an “open label” strategy, in which the Moderna trial is unblinded and the company offers everyone in the placebo group the vaccine regardless of eligibility in their location. Goodman, meanwhile, favors a “blinded crossover” option. In that approach, all trial volunteers would receive an additional pair of shots, with placebo recipients getting the vaccine and the vaccinated getting placebos. But the volunteers wouldn’t be told which arm they were in for some period of time.

Read more …

Too much panic.

France Reopens To UK, As EU Tackles New Coronastrain (EUO)

France has resumed transport links with the UK, on condition travellers get a negative test result, as the EU tries to contain a new type of Covid-19. Flights, Eurostar trains, and ferries would restart services on Wednesday (23 December) morning, French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri said after talks with his British counterpart late on Tuesday. “French nationals, people living in France, and those with a legitimate reason [to travel from the UK to France] will have to be carrying a negative test [result],” to be let through, he added, however. The deal “will see the French border reopen to those travelling for urgent reasons, provided they have a certified negative Covid test,” British transport minister Grant Shapps said.

France said travellers would need to show a negative test result less than 72 hours before departure. The UK said lorry drivers, thousands of whom were stuck near the British port of Dover, could get results within 30 minutes of taking a test, to help get them moving. France had sealed off the UK after the discovery of a mutated coronavirus strain that was apparently up to 70 percent more contagious in Britain on Sunday. Isolated cases of the new strain have already cropped up in Belgium, Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands, prompting Sweden to also close its border with Denmark on Monday. Virologists said there was no need to panic, as the new strain was not more lethal or vaccine-resistant. But more than 50 countries worldwide, including the vast majority of EU states, also cut transport links to the UK in the past 48 hours.

And for its part, the European Commission, on Tuesday, indicated they had overreacted. “While it is important to take swift temporary precautionary action to limit the further spread of the new strain of the virus and all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged, essential travel and transit of passengers should be facilitated,” it said in a non-binding recommendation. “Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply-chain disruptions,” it added, amid concern on shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables in UK shops. “Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes [for Christmas],” EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders also said.

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Every president pardons people they maybe should not have. Calm down.

Trump Pardons Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner, 23 Others (JTN)

President Trump pardoned 26 people on Wednesday, including Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Charles Kushner, the father of the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The move comes one day after the president pardoned 15 other people, among them, George Papadopoulos and former Rep. Duncan Hunter. “Due to prosecutorial misconduct by Special Counsel Mueller’s team, Mr. Stone was treated very unfairly,” according to a statement from the press secretary about the latest executive grants. “He was subjected to a pre-dawn raid of his home, which the media conveniently captured on camera. Mr. Stone also faced potential political bias at his jury trial. Pardoning him will help to right the injustices he faced at the hands of the Mueller investigation.” Stone’s pardon from the president comes after Trump had commuted his sentence earlier this year.

“Today, President Trump has issued a full and complete pardon to Paul Manafort, stemming from convictions prosecuted in the course of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, which was premised on the Russian collusion hoax,” the statement said. “Mr. Manafort has already spent two years in prison, including a stretch of time in solitary confinement – treatment worse than what many of the most violent criminals receive. As a result of blatant prosecutorial overreach, Mr. Manafort has endured years of unfair treatment and is one of the most prominent victims of what has been revealed to be perhaps the greatest witch hunt in American history. As Mr. Manafort’s trial judge observed, prior to the Special Counsel investigation, Mr. Manafort had led an ‘otherwise blameless life.’ Since May, Mr. Manafort has been released to home confinement as a result of COVID-19 concerns.”

Charles Kushner, the father of Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Kushner, also received a pardon from the president. “Since completing his sentence in 2006, Mr. Kushner has been devoted to important philanthropic organizations and causes, such as Saint Barnabas Medical Center and United Cerebral Palsy,” the statement said. “This record of reform and charity overshadows Mr. Kushner’s conviction and 2 year sentence for preparing false tax returns, witness retaliation, and making false statements to the FEC.”

Read more …

Nifty little site that allows you to contact 1000 people close to Trump.

Why Trump Should Pardon Assange

This website will show you 50 of the top 1,000 people who have influenced what Trump sees on Twitter in recent weeks. Should be random every time you refresh. Please use this tool to nicely request that people tweet support for pardoning Julian Assange.

This website makes it possible to contact people in President Trump’s political network and encourage them to support a pardon for Julian Assange. Here is how you can help convince Trump to pardon Assange:

1. Click “Tweet” or “Message”
Next to the person you want to contact. This will open a draft tweet on Twitter.

2. Write Message
Politely explain that Trump should pardon Assange. If you need inspiration, see Why Pardon Assange? for examples of what others are saying.

3. Send Message
Send the tweet or direct message that you crafted.

Read more …

“..like a social disease persisting beyond the usual course of medication, most of upscale America thought the Trump Show was a hoot.”

The Legacy Of President Donald Trump (Taibbi)

Reports say Donald Trump has lost it. Unable to face the reality that he will no longer be president soon, stung by public repudiations from the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell, Vladimir Putin, Bill Barr, and other erstwhile pals, he is said to be canceling appearances left and right, retreating to a lonely schedule of golf and manic conspiracy theorizing on Twitter. He posted 550 times in just a few weeks of November, with three-fourths of that content, the New York Times for some reason calculated, made up of rants about a stolen election. Unlike past presidents, who with the exception of Dick Nixon were all feted on the way out no matter what crooked or blood-soaked record they left behind, Trump is being ridden out on a rail.

He exits politics as he entered it, as a human punchline, a ball of catnip to the commentariat, which gets to snicker now about his thinning schedule and “tiny desk” (the updated version of all those jokes about short fingers that drove him so crazy once). There is delight as “former close associates, longtime Trump observers, and mental health experts” whisper into the op-ed pages the cold final judgment that, as Politico put it, “Trump is a loser.” Which is fine — victori sunt spoila and all that — but it’s already safe to say the Trump years will be remembered as a brutal black comedy that made winners and losers alike look very, very bad. It was supposed to be a historic, norms-smashing catastrophe, but the reality is that almost nothing actually happened during the Trump years, except for a very long, exhausting story.

The major in-between change was a total loss of our collective grip on reality, beginning with the fact that most of the country thinks we just went to hell and back a thousand times, instead of making just one noisy trip in a circle, arriving just where we might have four years ago, if Joe Biden had run instead of Hillary Clinton. The tiniest conceivable step, but oh so much grief and self-deception to get there! They’ll deny it, but huge portions of the snickering chatterati rooted for Trump at first. When he jumped in the 2016 race, cultural icons laughed, big-money Democrats cheered, and rubbernecking cosmopolitan media audiences clicked and tuned in by the millions. Except for the more favored Republican primary opponents who learned early on to look on Trump with genuine alarm, like a social disease persisting beyond the usual course of medication, most of upscale America thought the Trump Show was a hoot.

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There’s only one thing that prevents the US from attacking Russia: their weapons are far more sophisticated.

Biden Threats Make Russia Discourse More Reckless, Dangerous (Greenwald)

To justify Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss to Donald Trump, leading Democrats and their key media allies for years competed with one another to depict what they called “Russia’s interference in our elections” in the most apocalyptic terms possible. They fanatically rejected the view of the Russian Federation repeatedly expressed by President Obama — that it is a weak regional power with an economy smaller than Italy’s capable of only threatening its neighbors but not the U.S. — and instead cast Moscow as a grave, even existential, threat to U.S. democracy, with its actions tantamount to the worst security breaches in U.S. history.

This post-2016 mania culminated with prominent liberal politicians and journalists (as well as John McCain) declaring Russia’s activities surrounding the 2016 to be an “act of war” which, many of them insisted, was comparable to Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attack — the two most traumatic attacks in modern U.S. history which both spawned years of savage and destructive war, among other things. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) repeatedly demanded that Russia’s 2016 “interference” be treated as “an act of war.” Hillary Clinton described Russian hacking as “a cyber 9/11.” And here is Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on MSNBC in early February, 2018, pronouncing Russia “a hostile foreign power” whose 2016 meddling was the “equivalent” of Pearl Harbor, “very much on par” with the “seriousness” of the 1941 attack in Hawaii that helped prompt four years of U.S. involvement in a world war.

With the Democrats, under Joe Biden, just weeks away from assuming control of the White House and the U.S. military and foreign policy that goes along with it, the discourse from them and their media allies about Russia is becoming even more unhinged and dangerous. Moscow’s alleged responsibility for the recently revealed, multi-pronged hack of U.S. Government agencies and various corporate servers is asserted — despite not a shred of evidence, literally, having yet been presented — as not merely proven fact, but as so obviously true that it is off-limits from doubt or questioning.

Any questioning of this claim will be instantly vilified by the Democrats’ extremely militaristic media spokespeople as virtual treason. “Now the president is not just silent on Russia and the hack. He is deliberately running defense for the Kremlin by contradicting his own Secretary of State on Russian responsibility,” pronounced CNN’s national security reporter Jim Sciutto, who last week depicted Trump’s attempted troop withdrawal from Syria and Germany as “ceding territory” and furnishing “gifts” to Putin. More alarmingly, both the rhetoric to describe the hack and the retaliation being threatened are rapidly spiraling out of control.

Democrats (along with some Republicans long obsessed with The Russian Threat, such as Mitt Romney) are casting the latest alleged hack by Moscow in the most melodramatic terms possible, ensuring that Biden will enter the White House with tensions sky-high with Russia and facing heavy pressure to retaliate aggressively. Biden’s top national security advisers and now Biden himself have, with no evidence shown to the public, repeatedly threatened aggressive retaliation against the country with the world’s second-largest nuclear stockpile.

Read more …

Cut all machines and apps out of the election. It’s the only way.

DNC Was “Directly Involved” In Iowa Caucus App Development (IC)

The Democratic National Committee refused to cooperate with investigators and was “directly involved in the development process” of the infamous Shadow app ahead of the 2020 Iowa caucuses. That’s the conclusion of the former U.S. attorney leading the investigation into what went wrong during the first-in-the-nation caucuses, as relayed to the Iowa State Democratic Party in a closed-session meeting last week, according to a transcript of the meeting obtained by The Intercept. “The DNC was directly involved in the development process,” Nicholas Klinefeldt, a former federal attorney appointed by President Barack Obama, told the Iowa Democratic Party state steering committee in the December 12 meeting about the findings of an investigation he led alongside former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell.


Klinefeldt’s revelation about the committee’s involvement counters the DNC’s claim it made immediately after the Iowa caucuses. Back then, the DNC claimed it had “absolutely no involvement” in the development or coding of the Shadow app, which was supposed to record and report caucus results. When Third District state party member Kim Callahan asked investigators to expand on the DNC’s involvement, they failed to elaborate, simply confirming that the DNC wouldn’t cooperate with its investigation. Without the DNC’s cooperation in the probe, investigators were hamstrung. “There seemed to be a great deal of culpability by the DNC,” Jim Bunton, a Third District Iowa state party member, said to Klinefeldt in the meeting. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of cooperation from the DNC from what you’re saying. … How can we hope to have a better outcome next time around? Because the actor we can’t control is the DNC.”

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Sign of the times.

Powerful Mobile Phone Surveillance Tool Operates In Obscurity (IC)

Until now, the Bartonville, Texas, company Hawk Analytics and its product CellHawk have largely escaped public scrutiny. CellHawk has been in wide use by law enforcement; the software is helping police departments, the FBI, and private investigators around the United States convert information collected by cellular providers into maps of people’s locations, movements, and relationships. Police records obtained by The Intercept reveal a troublingly powerful surveillance tool operated in obscurity, with scant oversight. CellHawk’s maker says it can process a year’s worth of cellphone records in 20 minutes, automating a process that used to require painstaking work by investigators, including hand-drawn paper plots.

The web-based product can ingest call detail records, or CDRs, which track cellular contact between devices on behalf of mobile service providers, showing who is talking to whom. It can also handle cellular location records, created when phones connect to various towers as their owners move around. Such data can include “tower dumps,” which list all the phones that connected to a given tower — a form of dragnet surveillance. The FBI obtained over 150,000 phone numbers from a single tower dump undertaken in 2010 to try and collect evidence against a bank robbery suspect, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU.

Police use CellHawk to process datasets they routinely receive from cell carriers like AT&T and Verizon, typically in vast spreadsheets and often without a warrant. This is in sharp contrast to a better known phone surveillance technology, the stingray: a mobile device that spies on cellular devices by impersonating carriers’ towers, tricking phones into connecting, and then intercepting their communications. Unlike the stingray, CellHawk does not require such subterfuge or for police to position a device near people of interest. Instead, it helps them exploit information already collected by private telecommunications providers and other third parties.

CellHawk’s surveillance capabilities go beyond analyzing metadata from cellphone towers. Hawk Analytics claims it can churn out incredibly revealing intelligence from large datasets like ride-hailing records and GPS — information commonly generated by the average American. According to the company’s website, CellHawk uses GPS records in its “unique animation analysis tool,” which, according to company promotional materials, plots a target’s calls and locations over time. “Watch data come to life as it moves around town or the entire county,” the site states.

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They’re for it if it enhances their careers.

Where In The World Is Kamala Harris? (DP)

After Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar humiliated herself by throwing cold water on the idea during an MSNBC appearance, Democratic lawmakers from across the country seem to have finally woken up and realized that there’s an economic emergency unfolding and that “let them eat Federal Reserve lending facilities” is not a compelling message. But one unique and much-needed voice is bizarrely muted: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Before we get to the California lawmaker, it’s worth noting that her boss, president-elect Joe Biden, seems to have completely checked out of the current debate, after helping create a debacle. He reportedly convinced congressional Democrats to get steamrolled by Mitch McConnell and agree to provide just $600 in direct aid — which Georgia Democratic senate candidate Jon Ossoff rightly called “a joke.”


Biden has vaguely promised to push more aid in 2021, but he is not weighing in forcefully on the budget showdown that is unfolding right now. An austerian to the core, Biden took a dump in the middle of the process, and is now running away from the mess he helped create. Harris’s absence is more notable and perplexing considering that she is in a position to play a direct role in the legislative standoff. She isn’t just the vice president-elect and she isn’t just any old member of the U.S. Senate that could ultimately decide the fate of the stimulus bill. Harris also happens to be the lead author of legislation to provide $2,000 a month to individuals during the pandemic. This wasn’t some small initiative — this was Harris’s big headline-grabbing idea she was making her namepushing during the veepstakes. This was supposed to be a proof point illustrating her progressive credentials and her appreciation of the magnitude of the crisis America now faces.

Kamala May 8 2020

So where is Harris now? It’s hard to know what’s happening behind the scenes, but at least in public, she’s been quiet on the issue. Indeed, while she has made some generic comments about Congress needing to pass some form of stimulus, she has not been an aggressive leader on the question of direct aid in the current legislative package. Take a look at her social media feeds and peruse Google News for her mentions — there doesn’t seem to be much of anything from her in the middle of the central budget controversy of the entire crisis. Why? Perhaps she is just following Biden’s lead. Or maybe she believes some ridiculous 17-dimensional-chess theory that staying out of the fray will help secure a good outcome, in the same way Democrats always come up with rationales to live to never fight another day. Or maybe there’s a more innocent explanation — maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to it but is about to weigh in.

Pelosi 1994 M4A

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Do we have to keep on talking about this guy?

The Lancet Publishes German Doctors’ Report On Treatment Of Navalny (RT)

Leading medical journal The Lancet has published a case report detailing Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny’s treatment in Germany following his alleged poisoning with the lethal Novichok nerve agent. Wednesday’s article concludes that the actions of Russian doctors in Omsk, the Siberian city where he was first treated after falling ill on a flight to Moscow, were “presumably decisive,” noting that Navalny “had a very favorable outcome.” The Lancet also credits the protest leader’s good physical condition as another reason for his excellent recovery. Navalny, who is described by the journal as “a 44-year-old man who was previously healthy,” is said to have suddenly begun to sweat, before vomiting, collapsing, and eventually losing consciousness on the plane which was traveling from Tomsk.

According to a report, written primarily by doctors based at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where Navalny spent more than a month being treated, the activist arrived with a wide range of symptoms, including a slow heart rate, hypersalivation, hypothermia, and heavy sweating, amongst others. After tests in a laboratory, he was found to have severe cholinesterase inhibition. This diagnosis was released to the public on August 24, four days after he fell ill and two days after arriving in Germany. The Russian clinic where he was first treated contradicted this finding, saying they found no cholinesterase inhibitors in his blood.

The report writes in great detail about the changes in Navalny’s condition, noting that “on day 12, the patient started to breathe spontaneously” and “could subsequently be weaned from mechanical ventilation completely by day 24.” He was released on day 33. On day 55, during his last follow-up appointment, doctors found a “near-complete recovery.” The Lancet also details that Novichok, the poison said to have been given to Navalny, is an organophosphorus compound – most commonly associated with pest control. “Organophosphorus nerve agents exert the same mechanism of action as do organophosphorus pesticides,” the article says, noting that South East Asia sees more than 100,000 annual deaths due to this type of poisoning.

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Oh no, not him again.

2020 Year in Review – Part 1 (Dave Collum)

Imagine, if you will, a man wakes up from a year-long induced coma—a long hauler of a higher order—to a world gone mad. During his slumber, the President of the United States was impeached for colluding with the Russians using a dossier prepared by his political opponents, themselves colluding with the FBI, intelligence agencies, and the Russians. A pandemic that may have emanated from a Chinese virology laboratory swept the globe killing millions and is still on the loose. A controlled demolition of the global economy forced hundreds of millions into unemployment in a matter of weeks. Metropolitan hotels plummeted to 10% occupancy. The 10% of the global economy corresponding to hospitality and tourism had been smashed on the shoals and was foundering.


The Federal Reserve has been buying junk corporate bonds in total desperation. A social movement of monumental proportions swept the US and the world, triggering months of rioting and looting while mayors, frozen in the headlights, were unable to fathom an appropriate response. The rise of neo-Marxism on college campuses and beyond had become palpable. The most contentious election in US history pitted the undeniably polarizing and irascible Donald Trump against the DNC A-Team including a 76-year-old showing early signs of dementia paired with a sassy neo-Marxist grifter with an undetectable moral compass. Many have lost faith in the fairness of the election as challenges hit the courts. Peering through the virus-induced brain fog the man sees CNBC playing on the TV with the scrolling Chiron stating, “S&P up 12% year to date. Nasdaq soars 36%.” The man has entered The Twilight Zone.

Read more …

 

 

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“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
– Werner Heisenberg

 

 

 

 

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Dec 232020
 


Edward Hopper Automat 1927

 

Trump Kicks COVID Bill Back To Congress; Demands $2,000 Stimulus (ZH)
Force The Vote On Direct Aid (DP)
Biden’s Austerity Zealotry Helped Cut The Stimulus Bill In Half (DP)
COVID19 Catch-22: Regime-Change Policies Come With US Pandemic Relief (GZ)
White House Memo Details How ‘Pence Card’ Can Save Trump Presidency (NF)
Growing Number Of GOP Lawmakers Back Electoral College Challenge (Hill)
Trump Pardons George Papadopoulos (DC)
WHO: New UK COVID19 Strain No Deadlier, Only Slightly More Infectious (RT)
America Is Now Ruled By People Older Than Soviet Union ‘Gerontocracy’ (RT)
Stalemate (Paul Edwards)
China Has Infiltrated America (Rickards)
Financial Warfare Is Real (Rickards)
UN Expert Melzer Asks US President Donald Trump To Pardon Julian Assange (UN)

 

 

Trump kicks the relief bill back to Congress and says he wants $2,000 checks. Everyone scrambles to react. Bernie campaigner David Sirota writes: “The question now: Will Pelosi, Schumer and Biden do everything in their power to call Trump’s bluff..?”. But what bluff? Saying the same thing as the squad is a bluff? And they can “call the bluff” only by agreeing with the man they’ve demonized for 4 years?

Trump has been talking about bigger checks for a long time. Was this a bluff that whole time? Amy Klobuchar tries her own private angle, and calls raising the stimulus to $2,000 per person “an attack on every American”. What? Is that also a bluff? At the end of the day, Trump and the Squad both want the same thing. All the rest are stuck in the middle.

And AOC tries to save the day, and her face, by saying the Squad had the proposals for $2,000 checks already written up.

Okay, explain where they went. How hard did you fight Pelosi etc. in order to get the exact same thing Trump wants?

Who’s calling whose bluff around here?

 

 

“Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”

Trump Kicks COVID Bill Back To Congress; Demands $2,000 Stimulus (ZH)

President Trump appeared to threaten to veto the COVID-19 stimulus package that Congress passed almost 24 hours earlier, telling lawmakers to boost checks for Americans to $2,000 as well as “get rid of wasteful and unnecessary items” in the spending bill. Trump said “throughout the summer, Democrats cruelly blocked COVID relief legislation in an effort to advance their extreme left wing agenda and influence the election…” “it’s taken forever” to get a package and the bill passed “is much different than anticipated.” “It really is a disgrace,” he added. Then reeled off a list of disgusting ‘pork’ that has been piled into this record-breaking 5,593 page bill.


As Axios notes, many of the items Trump listed, such as foreign aid, which were not related to COVID-19 are not part of the coronavirus relief package. These form part of the government funding bill, which was passed alongside the coronavirus relief package. Then he took a shot at Biden and the election. “Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”

Trump relief speech

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“Luckily for Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — and for millions of people who need help — Trump is giving them one last chance to do the right thing..”

Force The Vote On Direct Aid (DP)

Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto emergency stimulus legislation unless lawmakers increased direct payments to millions of families facing the prospect of eviction, loss of health insurance, unemployment and starvation. Lawmakers had settled on meager one-time $600 checks but the president demanded $2,000 payments — a proposal that was championed months ago by congressional progressives but that was ignored by both parties’ legislative leaders. The declaration from the GOP president follows his other recent statements in support of bigger checks. The entire situation shows that Joe Biden and Democratic congressional leaders either could have driven a much tougher bargain in their negotiations over new COVID-19 relief legislation with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — or they actually deliberately prioritized austerity and didn’t want a bigger spending package in the first place.

Luckily for Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — and for millions of people who need help — Trump is giving them one last chance to do the right thing and back a bolder version of the $1,200 direct payment proposal that Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have been pushing from the beginning of this most recent round of negotiations. In fact, seven months ago Sanders joined Sens. Kamala Harris, Ed Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand in introducing a bill to provide monthly $2,000 checks to individuals until the pandemic is over. (That’s not surprising, given that Sanders and the Congressional Progressive Caucus he led were the original authors of the first stimulus check of the modern era, way back in 2001.) The question now: Will Pelosi, Schumer and Biden do everything in their power to call Trump’s bluff and force a vote to increase the $600 checks to $2,000?

Pelosi clearly feels the heat — she is suddenly pretending she’s always been ready to take Trump up on his offer to support $2,000 survival checks, even though prior to about an hour ago, she had never tried to triangulate Trump against McConnell on the issue. Earlier this month, she supported a deal that did not include checks at all, and just yesterday she insisted that $600 checks were “significant.” Indeed, the $2,000 is a new ask for Democratic leaders — progressive lawmakers had been pushing it for months, but Pelosi’s much-touted HEROES Act only asked for $1,200 one-time, means-tested checks. Regardless, the Democratic House Speaker is now finally saying she wants a vote to amend the stimulus bill to increase the small $600 checks to $2,000 — and such an amendment has already been written by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.

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“That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.”

Biden’s Austerity Zealotry Helped Cut The Stimulus Bill In Half (DP)

If there is any consistent throughline in Joe Biden’s long career, it is his commitment to the ideology of austerity. He has obsessively pushed for Social Security cuts for decades, and he is stocking his administration with deficit hawks — including today’s announcement that notorious Social Security cutterBruce Reed will be White House deputy chief of staff. Biden has even threatened to veto Medicare for All legislation on the grounds that it costs too much (even though Congress says it would actually save a lot of money). Now, in the whittling down of the stimulus legislation, we see the first concrete example of how Biden’s ideology can change policy in the here and now — and in deeply destructive ways.

As pain and suffering is crescendoing across the country, Biden refrained from aggressively pushing the bipartisan initiative for $1,200 survival checks. Indeed, at a time when there was a legitimate chance to flip some Republicans — including Donald Trump! — against McConnell and push for a more robust stimulus, he demurred. However, the New York Times reminds us today that Biden was “not an idle bystander in the negotiations.” On the contrary, the paper of record tells us that the president-elect played a decisive role in making sure the legislation was cut in half. Here is the key excerpt:

“With Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate far apart on how much they were willing to accept in new pandemic spending, Mr. Biden on Dec. 2 threw his support behind the $900 billion plan being pushed by the centrist group. The total was less than half of the $2 trillion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, had been insisting on. Mr. Biden’s move was not without risks. If it had failed to affect the discussions, the president-elect risked looking powerless to move Congress before he had taken the oath of office. But members of both parties said his intervention was constructive and gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands.”

Read that again, just so it sinks in: Biden endorsing an initiative to slash the stimulus bill in half “gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands” for a much more robust rescue package at a time when America faces rising food insecurity and poverty. His enthusiastic lauding of the final bill underscores the role he played. “In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for action and compromise,” Biden said in a statement. “I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. This is a model for the challenging work ahead for our nation.” That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.

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But it’s 2 different bills, says everyone. Yeah, big difference that makes.

COVID19 Catch-22: Regime-Change Policies Come With US Pandemic Relief (GZ)

The longest piece of legislation in United States history, containing both a coronavirus relief package and the annual omnibus spending package, quickly passed through Congress on December 22, with little opposition. While technically separate bills, the omnibus and stimulus were debated and passed together, at the same time.The massive piece of legislation — a staggering 5,593 pages in length — lays bare the priorities of the US government, prioritizing regime change in foreign nations and the imperatives of empire over the basic needs of Americans. In just a few hours, it passed through the House of Representatives by 359-53, and through the Senate by 92-6.

While the US public was forced to grovel for months for a $600 direct payment, the same piece of legislation pumps billions of dollars into “democracy programs” — US government code for regime-change operations via civil society NGOs — and foreign military assistance. The measly $600 survival checks pale in comparison to the massive foreign spending on regime change and titanic allocations to prop up US-friendly authoritarian militaries. On so-called “Democracy Programs” alone, the legislation appropriates $2.417 billion, and $6.175 billion on the “Foreign Military Financing Program.” Another $112.9 million is appropriated for “International Military Education and Training.”

$6 billion more is allocated toward the domestic procurement of US Air Force missiles and US Navy weapons of war. This is in addition to the $740 billion defense bill passed earlier in December. By contrast, the stimulus package comes at a value of $900 billion, with the largest portion devoted to business bailouts. The Federal News Network reports that the $1.4 trillion omnibus includes $671.5 billion allocated to “base defense spending,” with another $77 billion going to “overseas contingency operations.”

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“Pence has the sole power determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors.”

White House Memo Details How ‘Pence Card’ Can Save Trump Presidency (NF)

Sources in the Trump administration confirmed to National File that President Donald Trump’s most vocal advocates within the White House have determined that both U.S. Code and the Constitution contain language that requires Vice President Mike Pence to reject unlawful Electoral College certificates, but Pence must act by no later than Wednesday, December 23. The drafters of this White House memo believe that the federal check to the states’ elections resides with Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate. Additionally, Pence has the sole power determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors. However, Pence is legally required to do this on the fourth Wednesday in December, which this year falls on December 23.

National File’s sources in the White House indicated that the memo was requested by those in the President’s circle who are most keen to see the 2020 election, and the ensuing fallout, administered in as transparent of a manner as possible. They also indicate that the push to find a path to verify the 2020 election’s integrity is not coming solely from the White House, but also comes from across numerous agencies in the administration. FROM THE MEMO: Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution requires that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Therefore, the papers (or “slates”) the states attempted to submit to the President of the Senate and Archivist of the United States are not legal, permissible certificates of votes and lists by Electors as recited in Title 3, U.S.C., sections 9 and 11. Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin violated the U.S. Constitution’s Art. 2, S.1, Cl.2 and 14th Amendment, Section 1, Equal Protection Clause in administering their elections, therefore rendering their slates impermissible.

On Dec. 14, the States consummated a fraudulent and Constitutionally deficient certification of their electors as required by 3 USC 7. State and federal authorities have discovered Overwhelming evidence of election fraud and irregularities since Nov. 4, likely rising to the level of criminal election fraud and public corruption. Civil courts dismissed these claims procedurally, rather than on substance.

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And the Hill doesn’t like it.

Growing Number Of GOP Lawmakers Back Electoral College Challenge (Hill)

A growing number of House Republicans say they will challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. The latest Republican to say he will do so is Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), who will be a part of the House when it convenes in early January. He implored other Republicans to also challenge the results in a video message. “I have a message for all other Republicans across the country,” Cawthorn said. “If you are not on the record calling for fair, free and just elections now and in the future, I will come to your district and I will fund a primary opponent against you.” Not doing this to help my career in Washington, in fact this will most likely harm it. But no one should go to Washington as a career. Go there to serve the people. And on behalf of the people I am contesting this election based on constitutional violations by key states. — Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) December 21, 2020


There is no evidence the results of the last election showing President-elect Joe Biden defeating President Trump by more than 70 electoral votes and more than 7 million votes overall was unfair, and efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse the outcome have gone nowhere in the courts. The effort in the House is also doomed to failure, as it will not be possible for supporters to secure a majority vote given Democratic control of the lower chamber, and the fact that a number of Republicans also object to the effort first launched by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). But Trump has encouraged the effort, and a number of House Republicans, likely with an eye on getting attention from the most powerful Republican in the country, have said they will join Brooks.

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“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.”

Trump Pardons George Papadopoulos (DC)

President Donald Trump granted a full pardon on Tuesday to George Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide at the center of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election. “Mr. Papadopoulos was charged with a process-related crime, one count of making false statements, in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the White House said in a statement about the pardon. “Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.” Trump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch national convicted in the Mueller probe. Last month, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to false statements charges on Dec. 1, 2017.

Papadopoulos was the first Trump associate to plead guilty in the Mueller probe. He served 12 days in prison on charges that he made false statements to the FBI in January 2017 regarding his interactions with a Maltese professor who claimed to have learned that the Russian government had Hillary Clinton’s emails. The FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, on July 31, 2016, based on an Australian diplomat’s tip regarding a meeting he had on May 10, 2016 with Papadopoulos. Alexander Downer, the diplomat, claimed that Papadopoulos told him that Russia might help the Trump campaign by releasing material close to the election.

Investigators initially thought that Papadopoulos took part in a collusion scheme with Russia or knew of Trump associates who might have been. But the FBI probe, and the Mueller investigation that followed, ultimately turned up no evidence of a conspiracy between Trump associates and the Russian government. Papadopoulos has denied telling anyone on the Trump campaign about his conversations with the Maltese diplomat, Joseph Mifsud. “Notably, Mueller stated in his report that he found no evidence of collusion in connection with Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election. Nonetheless, the Special Counsel’s team still charged Mr. Papadopoulos with this process-related crime,” the White House said in its pardon statement.

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The borders already re-opened.

WHO: New UK COVID19 Strain No Deadlier, Only Slightly More Infectious (RT)

The World Health Organization has come forward to calm things down amid the anxiety over a new potentially ‘highly infectious’ Covid-19 strain found in the UK, saying it is not that different from other coronavirus strains. “There is zero evidence that the new coronavirus variant increases severity of the disease,” the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program Chief Mike Ryan told at a press conference on Monday, citing data received from British scientists. The risks faced by the people that catch this particular strain of the virus are pretty much the same as odds faced by other people suffering from Covid-19. According to the WHO, it is neither more aggressive, nor any deadlier than the other strains.= It does seem to be spreading somewhat easier, the health watchdog admitted. Still, its contagiousness appears to be nothing out of the ordinary and it is still much less infectious than diseases such as mumps.


The new strain would also hardly affect the efficacy of drugs and vaccines developed against Covid-19, the WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said. “So far, even though we have seen a number of changes, a number of mutations, none has made a significant impact on … the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or the vaccines under development,” she said. WHO officials also described a flurry of travel bans to and from the UK imposed by some two dozen of nations across the world as a move taken out of abundance of caution. “We have to find a balance. It’s very important to have transparency, it’s very important to tell the public the way it is, but it’s also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution,” Ryan said, while still calling this decision “prudent.”

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”.. prompting then-US president Ronald Reagan to say “How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?” Yet Reagan was 74 at the time, older than all three.”

America Is Now Ruled By People Older Than Soviet Union ‘Gerontocracy’ (RT)

Joe Biden, set to be the oldest-ever US president, is actually on the younger side of people currently running the American political establishment, who show no sign of wanting to ever step aside for another generation. It is often overlooked that Donald Trump currently holds the distinction of being the oldest-ever US president, being 70 at the time of his inauguration. Biden will take that trophy as well if he’s inaugurated in January 2021, having turned 78 last month. Even so, he is actually younger than the current leaders of the House and the Senate! Though all major power brokers in Washington are older than the “gerontocracy” that ruled the Soviet Union in the 1970s and the 1980s, you won’t hear the US mainstream media make the comparison, as it wouldn’t fit their Narrative.

Sure, there has been some carefully calibrated talk about the “cognitive decline” of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is 87. But Feinstein is from an overwhelmingly Democrat state and she can be easily replaced at the same time as Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate who still hasn’t resigned her Senate seat. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is 80, and has raised eyebrows herself with the whole “Good Morning. Sunday Morning” glitch-in-the-Matrix behavior during a TV appearance in September. Way back in 2018, Pelosi insisted that any talk about wanting someone younger in the leadership position was “sexist,” and went on to ruthlessly crush any opposition to her getting the gavel – and the power that went with it – inside the party. In the same interview, Pelosi blanked out on the name of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), calling him “whatshisname.”

Born several months ahead of Biden in 1942, McConnell is 78 himself. He had a bout with polio when very young, and though successfully treated, he’s had difficulty climbing stairs all his life. While he hasn’t shown any signs of cognitive decline, his political choices as of late have certainly caused some Republicans to wonder if he’s truly the legislative genius his supporters make him out to be. [..] the young activist House members who came in with 2018’s “Blue Wave,” such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), are being kept in check by the old guard. Just last week, AOC was denied a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, thwarting her plans to push for her “Green New Deal” proposal. Compare this state of US politics with the notorious “gerontocracy” of the Soviet Union. Three aging Soviet leaders died in quick succession between 1982 and 1985, prompting then-US president Ronald Reagan to say “How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?” Yet Reagan was 74 at the time, older than all three.

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“On top of that, there is now—I won’t call it news—official yammer that those pesky Russkies are at it again…”

Stalemate (Paul Edwards)

In chess, stalemate describes the endgame situation in which one party has no possible legal moves. It is the point at which we are arrived in our Presidential fiasco. There has been great angst and gnashing of teeth over it, and ebullient, if tentative, rejoicing on the part of giddy enthusiasts for whom Trump’s electoral defeat represents the Jubilee, the Dawn of Glory, and re-establishment of righteousness on earth. This view, deluded and infantile as it is, is nevertheless sincere and widely held. Stalemate, though, is not victory, in chess or otherwise. In a stalemate the game ends in a draw. That said, it seems likely Trump will depart—in spite of the hysteria peddled by so many in media and cyber-flackery—without anything faintly resembling the Reichstag Fire, or even a Proud Boys version of the shootout at the OK Corral. He’ll go with a whimper, not a bang.

So the crisis ends in victory? Or has it indeed been a sort of draw? We’ve been assured from authoritative quarters, in the most decisive terms, that, in his mulish, petulant refusal to take no for an answer to his grandiose ambitions, Trump has done irreparable damage to the Great Institution of our Electoral Democracy; that his dogged denial of his loss, and utter rejection of the protocols of cordial transition have sorely undermined, and perhaps even fatally shaken, our collective faith in the purity and justice of our Constitutional process and its benign functioning. On top of that, there is now—I won’t call it news—official yammer that those pesky Russkies are at it again. Yes, by golly, they’ve diabolically infiltrated our Official Secrets Crypt, no doubt goaded into it by that fiend, Putin, who, according to what we’ve been schooled for four years to believe, ought to have been spending all his energies backing Trump, but somehow overlooked that.

It appears that after doing so much to elect him in ‘16, they didn’t bother this time and let him lose. Just no fathoming their deviltry. Anyhow, our noble protectors and defenders, those fab Security Services—FBI, NSA, CIA and the other sixteen or twenty-three sister spook units who’ve done so much to keep us from harm—all have their knickers in a twist, one hand clutching their pearls and the other making a bold fist at the Kremlin, over Vlad & Co. attacking the dead meat of our sanctified secrets catacombs. What a dogpile! What a gang-bang! Trump and the Russians, allied again, bringing all their satanic powers to bear on the frail, vulnerable vessel of our fate, the very motor and mainspring of Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean: our hallowed electoral system. Come on, somebody has to call bullshit on this nonsense.

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Two pieces from Jim Rickards at Daily Reckoning.

China Has Infiltrated America (Rickards)

Spying is as old as civilization. As long as there have been leaders with secrets and armies on the march, opponents have wanted to know what they’re thinking and where they’re going. Hence the need for spies. And it comes as no surprise that the Chinese are as good as anyone when it comes to spying and that their main target is the United States. What may come as a surprise is the scope of their success and the enormous number of operatives, influencers, sleepers and other varieties of spies who have already infiltrated critical U.S. institutions. Of course, a lot of spying today involves surveillance of phone calls, digital message traffic, online financial transactions, facial recognition software, satellite surveillance and other electronic tradecraft.

But the old fashioned methods of the human spy penetrating organizations, gaining trust and stealing secrets have never gone away. In fact, that type of human intelligence (HUMINT) seems to be having a renaissance. Members of the Chinese Communist Party who pledge to “fight for communism throughout my life … and… be loyal to the party” are hard at work inside companies like Boeing, Pfizer and Qualcomm, political strongholds like the U.S. State Department, and on Capitol Hill. Other spies operate clandestinely, including a woman named Fang Fang, a young attractive Chinese spy who worked her way into an intimate relationship with Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who routinely receives classified briefings.

This is a classic intelligence technique known as a Honey Trap. Swalwell fell for it. Somehow Fang got a heads up and fled back to China before she could be turned into a double-agent or simply arrested by the FBI. No word yet on who gave her the heads-up, but Swalwell is suspected. The Chinese intelligence services have also penetrated academia using so-called Confucius Institutes (cultural exchange facilities that are really nests of spies) and lavish research grants. Too often, Americans are ensnared in Chinese spying efforts either because they are naive or just greedy for the money the Chinese spread around. U.S. targets simply turn a blind eye to the damage to America. Until things change, America’s technological and strategic edge will be blunted by Chinese theft of secrets and compromise of elite decision-makers.

Let’s hope this changes, but don’t hold your breath. Will the U.S. intelligence community get a grip on the Chinese threat? There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the U.S. The Intelligence Community, particularly the CIA, seem to have woken up to the fact that the world has changed. The bad news is that it still seems to be riddled with the same hidebound bureaucrats, the same ‘go along to get along’ guys I saw during my years at the Agency. A big problem is the “culture of secrecy.” Forty years ago, secrets were valuable, and open-source information was not particularly useful beyond just keeping up with the news. Information used to be a scarce resource. But that world has changed. Today, information flow is like a fire hose; there’s almost more than you can process. The scarce resource today is not information; it’s analytic ability.

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War simulations. Better than board games.

Financial Warfare Is Real (Rickards)

In my 2011 book, Currency Wars, I gave a detailed description of the first-ever financial war game sponsored by the Department of Defense. This financial war game took place in 2009 at the top-secret Applied Physics Laboratory located about twenty miles north of Washington, D.C., in the Maryland countryside. Unlike typical war games, the “rules of engagement” for this financial exercise did not permit the use of any kinetic weapons such as bombs, missiles or drones. The only weapons allowed were financial instruments including stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities and derivatives. The game was played out over two days in the main War Room of the laboratory using six teams divided into the U.S., China, Russia, Europe, East Asia, and Banks & Hedge Funds.

The contestants included about 40 players on the six teams and another 60 participants including: uniformed military, civilian defense officials, observers from the Treasury, Federal Reserve, CIA and other government agencies, think tanks, universities, and financial industry professionals. In that original financial war game, a scenario involving Russia, China, gold and the destruction of the U.S. dollar was played out against a backdrop of geopolitical events, including the collapse of North Korea and a threatened Chinese invasion of Taiwan. In May 2015, the Pentagon sponsored a new financial warfare session, which I was also invited to attend. This time the financial war took place inside a secure meeting facility at the Pentagon itself.

This new financial war game exercise was smaller and more focused than the one in 2009. We had about 20 participants. Our group included representatives from the diplomatic corps, military, think tanks, universities, CIA and the National Security Council. I was one of three individuals from the investment management community. Our scenario this time was not global but was instead limited to a confrontation between China and the U.S. involving disputed jurisdiction in the South China Sea. Six nations have claims in the South China Sea – China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. These claims overlap to a great extent, setting the stage for disputes and possible war.

The South China Sea is rich in oil, natural gas reserves, fishing rights and other natural resources. The surrounding nations dispute with certain island groups – the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands – and are also using reefs, sunken vessels and landfill to create artificial islands, which they are populating with bases and military garrisons. The U.S. has treaty obligations to the Philippines and Taiwan, which could result in the U.S. becoming engaged militarily in the event of a dispute with China. This volatile mix of disputed claims, natural resources and complex treaty networks has the ingredients needed to escalate into a Third World War. All it would take to start a war is some spark, such as a collision at sea or an attack based on mistaken identity or misunderstood intentions. The occurrence of such a war is likely inevitable.

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Stating the obvious.

UN Expert Melzer Asks US President Donald Trump To Pardon Julian Assange (UN)

“Mr. President, Today, I respectfully request that you pardon Mr. Julian Assange. Mr. Assange has been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty for the past ten years. This is a high price to pay for the courage to publish true information about government misconduct throughout the world. I visited Mr. Assange in Belmarsh High Security Prison in London, with two independent medical doctors, and I can attest to the fact that his health has seriously deteriorated, to the point where his life is now in danger. Critically, Mr. Assange suffers from a documented respiratory condition which renders him extremely vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic that has recently broken out in the prison where he is being held.

I ask you to pardon Mr. Assange, because he is not, and has never been, an enemy of the American people. His organization, WikiLeaks, fights secrecy and corruption throughout the world and, therefore, acts in the public interest both of the American people and of humanity as a whole. I ask because Mr. Assange has never published false information. The cause for any reputational harm that may have resulted from his publications is not to be found in any misconduct on his part, but in the very misconduct which he exposed. I ask because Mr. Assange has not hacked or stolen any of the information he published. He has obtained it from authentic documents and sources in the same way as any other serious and independent investigative journalists conduct their work. While we may personally agree or disagree with their publications, they clearly cannot be regarded as crimes.

I ask because prosecuting Mr. Assange for publishing true information about serious official misconduct, whether in America or elsewhere, would amount to “shooting the messenger” rather than correcting the problem he exposed. This would be incompatible with the core values of justice, rule of law and press freedom, as reflected in the American Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by the United States. I ask because you have vowed, Mr. President, to pursue an agenda of fighting government corruption and misconduct; and because allowing the prosecution of Mr. Assange to continue would mean that, under your legacy, telling the truth about such corruption and misconduct has become a crime.

In pardoning Mr Assange, Mr. President, you would send a clear message of justice, truth and humanity to the American people and to the world. You would rehabilitate a courageous man who has suffered injustice, persecution and humiliation for more than a decade, simply for telling the truth.

Read more …

 

 

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Alexandros Maragos Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn over #Athens

 

 

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Dec 222020
 
 December 22, 2020  Posted by at 10:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Banks of the Seine with Pont de Clichy in the Spring 1887

 

Lockdowns Do Not Control the Coronavirus (AIER)
Yuletide Visitations (Kunstler)
Chris Krebs Takes Blame For Massive Hack: ‘It Happened On My Watch’ (NYP)
Krebs’ CISA Was Flagged Repeatedly For Poor Performance (JTN)
Dominion Voting Website Scrubbed Of Reference To SolarWinds (JTN)
House Passes 5593 Page Stimulus Bill Without Anyone Having Read It (ZH)
Pelosi Calls $600 COVID19 Payments To Americans ‘Significant’ (JTN)
A Slap in the Face: Anger at Pelosi, Democrats Over $600 Stimulus Check (MPN)
COVID19 Relief Bill Doubles Health Care Budget – For Congress (IC)
Barack Obama Has Nothing to Say About Central America (Goodfriend)
A Pandemic of ‘Russian Hacking’ (McGovern/Lauria)
If Assange’s Fate Were Up To a Jury, He, Too, Might Have Walked Free (Glass)

 

 

 

 

Tulsi
https://twitter.com/i/status/1341027010353750016

 

 

A very long list of research. We can’t afford not to ask questions.

Lockdowns Do Not Control the Coronavirus (AIER)

The use of universal lockdowns in the event of the appearance of a new pathogen has no precedent. It has been a science experiment in real time, with most of the human population used as lab rats. The costs are legion. The question is whether lockdowns worked to control the virus in a way that is scientifically verifiable. Based on the following studies, the answer is no and for a variety of reasons: bad data, no correlations, no causal demonstration, anomalous exceptions, and so on. There is no relationship between lockdowns (or whatever else people want to call them to mask their true nature) and virus control.

Perhaps this is a shocking revelation, given that universal social and economic controls are becoming the new orthodoxy. In a saner world, the burden of proof really should belong to the lockdowners, since it is they who overthrew 100 years of public-health wisdom and replaced it with an untested, top-down imposition on freedom and human rights. They never accepted that burden. They took it as axiomatic that a virus could be intimidated and frightened by credentials, edicts, speeches, and masked gendarmes. The pro-lockdown evidence is shockingly thin, and based largely on comparing real-world outcomes against dire computer-generated forecasts derived from empirically untested models, and then merely positing that stringencies and “nonpharmaceutical interventions” account for the difference between the fictionalized vs. the real outcome.

The anti-lockdown studies, on the other hand, are evidence-based, robust, and thorough, grappling with the data we have (with all its flaws) and looking at the results in light of controls on the population. Much of the following list has been put together by data engineer Ivor Cummins, who has waged a year-long educational effort to upend intellectual support for lockdowns. AIER has added its own and the summaries. The upshot is that the virus is going to do as viruses do, same as always in the history of infectious disease. We have extremely limited control over them, and that which we do have is bound up with time and place. Fear, panic, and coercion are not ideal strategies for managing viruses. Intelligence and medical therapeutics fare much better.

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“She acts like someone who knows something, and knows that the something she knows is not altogether a good something. Notice the giggling has ceased.”

Yuletide Visitations (Kunstler)

It says something, does it not, that the corporeal Joe Biden is missing-in-action? You’d think he’d be bustling around like crazy out there, trying to, at least, give some impression of being at-large-and-in-charge, preparing to launch a score of battles against the enemies of peace and prosperity lately afflicting this sore-beset nation, yo-yo-ing back and forth between Jake Tapper and Rachel Maddow to reassure their cringing viewers of Wokedom come, wolfing down plates of field peas, ham hocks, and cornbread to display his allyship with the downtrodden masses of this-and-that color, gender, flavor, and texture, comforting the homeless on the pitiless streets of the ailing cities, volunteering to get stuck with vaccine needles of every pharma company on the S & P, with side orders of hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin, and famotidine, huddling with the nabobs of Wall Street to halt the sinking dollar, visiting the troops with plane-loads of turkey dinners — you know… rallying the worried people of this anxious land in their time of trouble….

And what of Kamala Harris? Did she steal off to some Caribbean beach to mull over her options? It appears that she’s still holds that seat in the US Senate, let’s face it, a very cushy sinecure that “fixes” its exalted members for life, and in more ways than one, if you know what I mean. Of all the thoughts racing through Ms. Harris’s skull these dark days, I suspect the dimmest of them concerns the actual possibility she may actually end up as president. She acts like someone who knows something, and knows that the something she knows is not altogether a good something. Notice the giggling has ceased.

And so, we pass through a weekend of predictable news that Congress has authorized another gazillion dollars to bail out stock markets and banks, under the guise of helping ordinary Americans hopelessly crushed by lockdowns and government-induced small business failures, and we hurtle toward what’s likely to be the bluest Christmas in memory with the republic in the balance. The president… that would be Mr. Trump… is portrayed in the nervous mainstream news media as flailing wildly around the West Wing, confabbing with Krakens, battling with his “closest advisors,” all importuning him to concede the election. D’ya think so? Maybe, but I’m not so sure.

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Not long ago, Krebs said the 2020 elections were the safest and most secure in history. Where are the questions to him?

Chris Krebs Takes Blame For Massive Hack: ‘It Happened On My Watch’ (NYP)

The former head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security accepted the blame for the hack that infiltrated the computer systems of a number of federal agencies, including the Pentagon, and scores of companies in the private sector. In a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was asked by host Jake Tapper who was at fault for the breach. “So, the way I look at it is, yes, it happened on my watch at CISA. And we missed it. A bunch of other folks missed it,” he responded. Krebs, who was fired by President Trump last month for contradicting him over whether there was fraud during the 2020 election, said he didn’t become aware of the hack that was launched in March until it became public last week.


“This came out in the public after I was terminated,” he said. But Trump has not blamed Krebs for the attack. During the interview, Krebs said he trusts the “intelligence community” that Russia was behind the hack, a stand contrary to the president, who has claimed it was China. “Everything I have heard, whether it’s from private-sector cybersecurity threat intelligence experts, things I have heard out of Congress and the intelligence community, it’s Russia,” Krebs said. “I mean, they’re exceptionally good at this, particularly the foreign intelligence service, the SVR. They’re good. They’re quiet. They’re deliberate. They’re patient and they’re careful,” he continued.

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If anything, Trump fired him far too late.

Krebs’ CISA Was Flagged Repeatedly For Poor Performance (JTN)

In the weeks just before President Trump fired its leader, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) was repeatedly flagged by the Homeland Security Department’s watchdog for poor performance, including inadequate physical security planning for election sites, poor intelligence sharing with its private and public partners and weak information security for its own systems, internal reports show. The repeated Inspector General’s warnings in September and October about CISA — under then-Director Chris Krebs’ leadership — provide a stark contrast to Democrats’ and the news media’s portrayal of Krebs as a skilled leader whose firing jeopardized national security.


The internal memos, reviewed by Just the News, also provide some fodder to understand how the U.S. government could have failed to detect for nine months one of the largest cyberattacks in history, which was finally revealed earlier this month. CISA is primarily responsible for quarterbacking cybersecurity at civilian federal agencies. “Risks to the Nation’s systems and networks continue to increase as security threats evolve and become more sophisticated. As such, the cyber threat information DHS provides to Federal agencies and private sector entities must be actionable to help better manage this growing threat,” the inspector general warned in one report earlier this fall. “Until CISA improves the quality of its information sharing, AIS participants remain restricted in their ability to safeguard their systems and the data they process from attack, loss, or compromise.”

Read more …

A special counsel seems called for. Sidney Powell has reportedly visited the White House almost every day lately.

Dominion Voting Website Scrubbed Of Reference To SolarWinds (JTN)

Dominion Voting Systems recently scrubbed a reference on its web site to a company at the center of a major cybersecurity breach allegedly carried out by Russian hackers. The Austin, Texas-based software company SolarWinds has been the subject of explosive controversy, due to revelations that a hacker or group of hackers, possibly originating from Russia, used vulnerabilities in its software to breach “U.S. government agencies, critical infrastructure entities, and private sector organizations” starting in at least March 2020, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said Thursday.

The breach occurred in part via SolarWinds’s Orion platform, which CISA described as “an enterprise network management software suite that includes performance and application monitoring and network configuration management along with several different types of analyzing tools.” SolarWinds said on its website that the hack “could potentially allow an attacker to compromise the server on which the Orion products run.” The company “currently believes the actual number of customers that may have had an installation of the Orion products that contained this vulnerability to be fewer than 18,000,” SolarWinds said in SEC filings on Monday.

Multiple government agencies including the Treasury, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security may have been affected by the breach, according to reports. Dominion Voting Systems, the company that for the last six weeks has been at the center of controversy and allegations surrounding the 2020 election, had a reference on its Web site until sometime last week indicating it used SolarWinds to manage its DVS file share system, according to archival web captures. Dominion’s Web site suggested it utilized SolarWinds’s Serv-U FTP file transfer platform to manage that system. Yet some time between Dec. 14 and Dec. 18, the company scrubbed the reference to SolarWinds from the current FTP login page.

Read more …

When will we all realize that this is all Washington is capable of anymore? That it has nothing to do with which party you vote for?

House Passes 5593 Page Stimulus Bill Without Anyone Having Read It (ZH)

In the immortal words of Nancy Pelosi: “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” Because, as Utah Senator Mike Lee so rambunctiously pointed out tonight, the bill is so huge that Lee said it will take three hours just to print out. And they’ll still have to vote on the bill tonight. It’s unreal. Lee noted that “this is by far the longest bill I’ve ever seen,” and added that members won’t be allowed to amend the bill in any way: “Here’s the really sad thing: we’re being told that there will be no opportunity to amend or improve it. As a result, nearly every member of Congress – House and Senate, Democrat or Republican – will have been excluded from the process of developing this bill, which will cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars.


“This process, by which members of Congress are asked to defer blindly to legislation negotiated entirely in secret by four of their colleagues, must come to an end. It won’t come to an end until no longer works for those empowered by it. That can happen, but only when most members of both houses and both political parties stop voting for bills they haven’t read—and, by design, cannot read until after it’s too late.”

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They come up with these things together, and then blame each other for the failures.

“Pelosi, it’s worth noting, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with a net worth estimated at more than $100 million (she makes $223,000 a year in salary)”

Pelosi Calls $600 COVID19 Payments To Americans ‘Significant’ (JTN)

A $900 billion compromise bill heading toward passage on Capitol Hill includes a $600 check for Americans struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, an amount that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls “significant.” Under the last stimulus bill passed by Congress in March, more than 150 million Americans received $1,200 payments as the government returned nearly $270 billion to Americans. In a short statement on the House floor on Monday, Pelosi took the opportunity to bash President Trump as she discussed the new relief checks. “I would like them bigger, but they are significant, and they will be going out soon,” Pelosi said.


“The president may insist on having his name on the check. But make no mistake, those checks are from the American people. The American people’s name should be on that check, no individual.” Pelosi, it’s worth noting, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with a net worth estimated at more than $100 million (she makes $223,000 a year in salary). And for the record, when Trump signed into law tax cuts that prompted numerous businesses to give $1,000-$2,5000 bonuses to millions of workers, Pelosi called that amount “crumbs.”

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“Congress just decided you get $600. Add that to the $1,200 from March, and it totals $6.69 a day since the country shut down in March. Both parties don’t care if we live or die or sleep in a box on a sidewalk in January..”

A Slap in the Face: Anger at Pelosi, Democrats Over $600 Stimulus Check (MPN)

Lawmakers in Washington agreed to a new $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package yesterday. The bill, like the previous CARES Act, appears to include huge new tax breaks for corporations and the very wealthy. However, of most note to average Americans is the means-tested check of up to $600 plus $600 per child that Republicans and Democrats decided on. Although far less than the $1,200 checks mailed out to Americans in the spring, Democratic lawmakers are presenting the deal as a triumph. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York described it as “a strong, strong shot in the arm to get things going.” Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi agreed, although she blamed the GOP for holding the agreement up. “What took so long is because we could not get our Republican colleagues to crush the virus…Why would they not want to invest in the science?” she said at a press conference on Sunday.

The bill also includes a $300 boost to federal unemployment benefits (half of what it was six months ago) and a pause on evictions for an unspecified length of time. Despite senior Democrats’ spin, it appeared that the primary public reaction to the deal was one of anger, judging by comments on social media. “Congress just decided you get $600. Add that to the $1,200 from March, and it totals $6.69 a day since the country shut down in March. Both parties don’t care if we live or die or sleep in a box on a sidewalk in January,” said Professor Anthony Zenkus of the Columbia School of Social Work. “This country sucks,” and “Congress is laughing at the $600. They don’t give a shit about you,” were also popular refrains. Others described the $600 as “a slap in the face” rather than a shot in the arm.

David Sirota, a former speechwriter and senior advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders, described the bill as a “victory for an austerity ideology that somehow still reigns supreme in Washington,” and “not even the bare minimum that should be considered acceptable during an economic meltdown that has been punctuated by mass starvation and intensifying poverty.” There was also considerable anger aimed at Speaker Pelosi herself. “You are corrupt and despicable,” wrote Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah, “You denied people relief before the election as a political ploy and you still lost seats. Now you give people who are losing jobs and homes $600. The ice cream in your freezer is worth more than that!”

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Pork for Christmas.

COVID19 Relief Bill Doubles Health Care Budget – For Congress (IC)

In a flurry of last-minute legislating over coronavirus relief, congressional leaders abandoned hazard pay for essential workers and emergency funding for local governments that may be on the brink of municipal bankruptcy. But lawmakers did find funding to dramatically increase the budget for the exclusive government-run health clinic that serves Congress. The Office of Attending Physician, which provides medical services to lawmakers, received a special boost of $5 million, more than doubling its annual budget, which is currently around $4.27 million. The increase in funding to the OAP, if passed, is the third budget hike Congress has provided to its own health clinic over the last year. The 2019 omnibus provided an increase in funding to the OAP, along with the CARES Act, which passed this past March.

The OAP, described as “some of the country’s best and most efficient government-run health care,” employs several physicians and nurses to provide on-call treatment to legislators on Capitol Hill. The new funding is justified by new services required for confronting the pandemic, though the office also provides lawmakers with the services of a chiropractor, on-site physical therapy, radiology, routine examinations, and a pharmacist. The office, led by Dr. Brian Monahan, has been in the news in recent days for administering the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer to congressional leaders. The office has treated lawmakers who have been infected by the virus and provided guidance for reopening Congress after the initial surge of infections earlier this year.

The significant increase in funding for congressional health services comes as some provisions for working-class Americans were sharply curtailed or eliminated entirely. Earlier versions of the second round of stimulus legislation included $200 billion to pay front-line essential workers an additional $13 per hour. The special funding would have provided a special boost to nurses and other front-line medical workers. That provision did not make it to the final bill released on Monday. The proposed $1,200 stimulus checks were also reduced to $600. The coronavirus relief legislation also contains dozens of provisions that benefit business owners and investors, including tax benefits for owners of racehorses, the full expansion of the “three-martini lunch” tax deduction for business meals, and the so-called double dip tax deduction for recipients of Paycheck Protection Program stimulus money to use tax-free grants from the federal government to reduce taxable income.

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“..an extraordinarily self-indulgent exercise that oscillates between false modesty, petty recrimination, sputtering justification, and auto-hagiography.”

Barack Obama Has Nothing to Say About Central America (Goodfriend)

Barack Obama’s seven-hundred-page memoir — nine hundred including photos and notes — is an extraordinarily self-indulgent exercise that oscillates between false modesty, petty recrimination, sputtering justification, and auto-hagiography. Many have noted how Obama takes the opportunity to rewrite history, asserting new explanations for controversial actions. But the book is also notable for its omissions. Despite the painful absence of an editor’s hand to curb the president’s excesses, significant events, even entire regions, have been deleted from Obama’s account of his rise to power and first term in office.

In 1981, Reagan’s UN Ambassador called Central America “the most important place in the world for the United States.” The site of US bloody counterrevolutionary interventions during the Cold War, a laboratory of neoliberal restructuring in the 1990s and 2000s, and the source of increasingly criminalized and stigmatized mass migration to the United States, Central America and Central Americans have occupied an outsized role in US policy and political discourse over the last fifty years. Yet Central America is among the casualties of Obama’s book, assigned to oblivion together with other unsavory notables like Hugo Chávez or Bernie Sanders.

On June 1, 2009, Obama’s secretary of state Hillary Clinton traveled to El Salvador to attend the inauguration of President Mauricio Funes, a progressive journalist who made history as the first leftist president ever to govern the country, elected on the ticket of the party of the former Marxist-Leninist insurgency that fought the US-backed military dictatorship to a draw in 1992. Just weeks later, Clinton’s State Department rushed to legitimize a military coup against Manuel Zelaya, the democratically-elected, increasingly left-leaning president of Honduras next door. The coup shocked the hemisphere and was the first brazen attack in a cascade of reaction against the progressive and left governments that had been elected throughout Latin America over the course of the previous decade.

In her 2014 memoir, Clinton dedicated two pages to the affair, writing that in the coup’s aftermath, “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future.” That line, together with the entire account of the coup, was quietly eliminated from the paperback edition. Obama learned Clinton’s lesson and then some. Honduras receives no mention in his book, save a single reference with respect to Tim Kaine’s mission work. Indeed, Central America as a whole is mentioned precisely once, in a passing comment on migration. Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and Belize do not appear at all.

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Bipartisan: failed stimulus and Russiagate.

A Pandemic of ‘Russian Hacking’ (McGovern/Lauria)

The hyperbolic, evidence-free media reports on the “fresh outbreak” of the Russian-hacking disease seems an obvious attempt by intelligence to handcuff President-elect Joe Biden into a strong anti-Russian posture as he prepares to enter the White House. Biden might well need to be inoculated against the Russophobe fever. There are obvious Biden intentions worrying the intelligence agencies, such as renewing the Iran nuclear deal and restarting talks on strategic arms limitation with Russia. Both carry the inherent “risk” of thawing the new Cold War. Instead, New Cold Warriors are bent on preventing any such rapprochement with strong support from the intelligence community’s mouthpiece media. U.S. hardliners are clearly still on the rise.

Interestingly, this latest hack story came out a day before the Electoral College formally elected Biden, and after the intelligence community, despite numerous previous warnings, said nothing about Russia interfering in the election. One wonders whether that would have been the assessment had Trump won. Instead Russia decided to hack the U.S. government. Except there is (typically) no hard evidence pinning it on Moscow. The official story is Russia hacked into U.S. “government networks, including in the Treasury and Commerce Departments,” as David Sanger of The New York Times reported. But plenty of things are uncertain. First, Sanger wrote last Sunday that “hackers have had free rein for much of the year, though it is not clear how many email and other systems they chose to enter.”

The motive of the hack is uncertain, as well what damage may have been done. “The motive for the attack on the agency and the Treasury Department remains elusive, two people familiar with the matter said,” Sanger reported. “One government official said it was too soon to tell how damaging the attacks were and how much material was lost.” On Friday, five days after the story first broke, in an article misleadingly headlined, “Suspected Russian hack is much worse than first feared,” NBC News admitted: “At this stage, it’s not clear what the hackers have done beyond accessing top-secret government networks and monitoring data.” Who conducted the hack is also not certain.

NBC reported that the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency “has not said who it thinks is the ‘advanced persistent threat actor’ behind the ‘significant and ongoing’ campaign, but many experts are pointing to Russia.” At first Sanger was certain in his piece that Russia was behind the attack. He refers to FireEye, “a computer security firm that first raised the alarm about the Russian campaign after its own systems were pierced.” But later in the same piece, Sanger loses his certainty: “If the Russia connection is confirmed,” he writes. In the absence of firm evidence that damage has been done, this may well be an intrusion into other governments’ networks routinely carried out by intelligence agencies around the world, including, if not chiefly, by the United States. It is what spies do.

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A delightful angle.

If Assange’s Fate Were Up To a Jury, He, Too, Might Have Walked Free (Glass)

When the magistrate presiding last September at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing, Vanessa Baraitser, confined the defendant to a bullet-proof glass cage at the back of the court, she had precedent on her side. All who entered her courtroom at London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, had to pass a plaque memorializing a case against another defender of free speech and thought. The finely wrought marble plaque reads:

Near this Site
William Penn and William Mead
were tried in 1670
for preaching to an unlawful assembly
in Grace Church Street
This tablet Commemorates
The courage and endurance of the Jury, Thos. Vere, Edward Bushell
and ten others who refused to give a verdict
against them and were fined for their final
Verdict of Not Guilty…

William Penn, then a 26-year old Quaker firebrand, stood accused of preaching doctrines anathema to the established Church of England during an unlawful assembly. When the judges asked how he pleaded, Penn demanded to know which law he had broken. Sir John Howell, the recorder of London, told him he was charged under common law. Penn asked, “Where is that common law?” The exchange continued:

HOWELl: You must not think that I am able to run up so many years, and over so many adjudged cases, which we call common law, to answer your curiosity.

PENN: This answer, I am sure, is very short of my question, for if it is common, it should not be so very hard to produce.

HOWELL: The question is, whether you are guilty of the indictment.

PENN: The question is not, whether I am guilty of this indictment, but whether this Indictment is legal.

The recorder called him “an impertinent fellow” and banished him to the bale-dock for the rest of the trial. Like Assange’s glass box, the bale-dock was a locked cubicle separated from the rest of the court. Its underfloor location prevented Penn from witnessing the proceedings—and the jurors from seeing him.

Just as Assange admitted publishing American government documents that exposed war crimes, Penn did not deny preaching to his fellow Quakers. If ever a jury deserved the accolade “12 good men and true,” Penn’s did. Foreman Edward Bushell and the other 11 jurors retired to consider their verdict. When they returned, they declared Penn not guilty. The furious Recorder ordered that “you shall be locked up without meat, drink, fire, and tobacco…. We will have a verdict by the help of God or you will starve for it.” For two days, they starved. When they still refused to recant, the court fined them 40 marks, a large sum for the time, and sent them to prison. The jurors appealed, the chief justice ordered their release, and the principle of jury independence was enshrined in English law. Penn went free and 12 years later established the colony of Pennsylvania on the principles of religious tolerance and free thought.

Cut to New York, 1735. Another free thinker, printer John Peter Zenger, was tried for seditious libel over allegations leveled in the New York Weekly Journal at Royal Governor William Cosby. Cosby, in common with the US Justice Department’s vendetta against Assange, sought to prosecute Zenger at any cost. He had copies of the Journal burned. Although two grand juries refused to indict Zenger, Cosby threw him into prison anyway and brought him to trial. Zenger was fortunate in his choice of lawyer, Pennsylvanian Andrew Hamilton. Hamilton’s strategy was to present evidence of Cosby’s corruption—proving that Zenger had published the truth. The prosecutor answered that “being true is an aggravation of the crime.” As in the Assange case, truth appeared not to be a defense so much as evidence of guilt. Hamilton appealed to the jurors rather than the bench. As former US senator Charles Goodell wrote in his 1973 Political Prisoners in America, “Hamilton asked the twelve to do what the judges refused to do, and what they ruled the jury had no right to do, to consider Cosby’s record as a justification for Zenger’s crime.” The Bushell-Penn precedent gave the jury the right to overrule the judges, and they did. Zenger’s newspaper resumed its vilification of Cosby, who died in disgrace two years later.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 202020
 


Edward Hopper Sunday 1926

 

Sarah Palin Calls for Julian Assange to Be Pardoned (GP)
FDA Investigating Multiple Allergic Reactions To Pfizer Vaccine (Hill)
Netherlands Bans Air Travel From UK Till 2021 Over New Covid19 Strain (RT)
Desperate Families Flee London Ahead Of Tier 4 Misery (DM)
Trump Lashes Out At Media For Blaming Russia For Hacking: It ‘May Be China’ (RT)
US Agencies’ Trust In Untested Software Opened The Door To Hackers (Pol.)
Trump Floated Naming Sidney Powell As Special Counsel For Election Fraud (Hill)
Pro-Trump Group to Challenge 364K Voter Registrations in Georgia (NW)
Georgia: Election Software Updates Not Covered By Open Records Requests (JTN)
Analyst Says Redacted Dominion Report ‘Shows Very Clearly’ Problems (JTN)
2020: The Year we Let Ourselves be Infantilised and Dehumanised (Slane)

 

 

While the World is on a vaccine frenzy, the Indian Government is distributing a home Covid Kit with Zinc, Doxycycline and Ivermectin. The cost: $2.65 per person.

 

 

Not sure if this would help his case.

Sarah Palin Calls for Julian Assange to Be Pardoned (GP)

The legendary Sarah Palin has made a touching video calling for Julian Assange to be pardoned. Palin has been an unlikely supporter of the organization, as WikiLeaks published Palin’s own hacked emails during the 2008 election while she was a presidential candidate. “Hey this is Sarah Palin up in Alaska and I am the first one to admit when I make a mistake,” Palin begins in the video. “I made a mistake some years ago, not supporting Julian Assange — thinking that he was a bad guy, that he leaked material that perhaps he shouldn’t — and I’ve learned a lot since then.” “I think Julian did the right thing, and Julian did us all a favor in America… did the world a favor… by fighting for what he believed was right — and ultimately he’s been proven to be right. He deserves a pardon. He deserves all of us to understand more about what he has done in the name of real journalism, and that’s getting to the bottom of issues that the public really needs to hear about and benefit from.”


Palin says that “some years ago I publicly spoke out against Julian and I made a mistake.” “I know that it’s coming down to the wire on whether he’s going to be pardoned or not. I want more Americans to speak out on his behalf, and to understand what it is that he has done — and what has been done to him,” Palin says. “He was working on the people’s behalf to allow information to get to us so that we could make up our minds about different issues, about different people. He did the right thing. I support him, and I hope that more and more people, especially as it comes down to the wire, will speak up in support of pardoning Julian. God bless him.” Though Palin’s emails did not contain anything scandalous, the Washington Post and other news organizations called for volunteers to help their reporters dig through them and treated the publication far differently than they did when DNC emails leaked in 2016.

Sarah Palin

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Makes me wonder if nothing at all happened during Pfizer’s trials.

FDA Investigating Multiple Allergic Reactions To Pfizer Vaccine (Hill)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating allergic reactions to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine that were reported in multiple states after it began to be administered this week. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told reporters late Friday that the reactions had been reported in more than one state besides Alaska and that the FDA is probing five reactions. “We are working hand in hand with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we’ve actually been working closely with our United Kingdom colleagues, who of course reported the allergic reaction. I think we’ll be looking at all the data we can from each of these reactions to sort out exactly what happened, and we’ll also be looking to try to understand which component of the vaccine might be helping to produce them,” Marks said.

“I think we have at this point the right … mitigation strategy with the availability of treatment for a severe allergic reaction being at the ready, and we’ll continue to monitor it very closely,” he added. Marks said the FDA was not certain what caused the reactions but indicated a chemical called polyethylene glycol, which is present in the vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as by Moderna “could be the culprit.” He added that the reaction some people have experienced could be more common than once thought. “We’ll obviously be monitoring very closely what’s going on. We’re working very closely with the CDC on these, and there have been meetings between the CDC and FDA pretty much every day this week making sure we’re keeping very close track of what’s going on,” he said. The reports of allergic reactions in Alaska follow two similar cases reported last week in Britain, the first nation to approve Pfizer’s vaccine.

The FDA’s current guidance says that most Americans with allergies should be cleared to take the vaccine but that people who’ve had severe reactions to other vaccines should not get vaccinated. It also said Friday that people with a history of severe allergic reactions to any components of the Moderna shot should avoid getting that vaccine. “FDA takes very seriously the safety of the medical products that we authorize and approve, and certainly in a vaccine setting, it’s one of the reasons Dr. Marks and his team, in collaboration with the CDC, has set up a very robust surveillance system for assessing safety. One of the things that FDA does very well and uniquely is really getting to the bottom of events like allergic reactions so we can completely understand the circumstances and better inform the public and also our regulatory decisions,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

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Very little is known about “the much-feared new strain”, including its severity.

Netherlands Bans Air Travel From UK Till 2021 Over New Covid19 Strain (RT)

The Dutch government has imposed a ban on commercial flights from the UK to the Netherlands after it reported a first case of the new, fast-spreading Covid-19 strain. The ban will be in effect until at least January. The travel restrictions will apply to all passenger flights from the UK bound to the Netherlands starting 6:00am Sunday local time, the government said in a statement issued several hours before the ban was due to come into force. It described the sweeping ban on air travel for the whole Christmas period as a “precautionary measure” needed to “limit” potential further exposure of the population to the new strain of the virus, which was first detected in the UK and is allegedly highly contagious.

Citing data by a local health agency, which recommended the ban, the Dutch government revealed that the strain, believed to be the same that prompted UK PM Boris Johnson’s latest lockdown, was detected in the Netherlands “at the beginning of December” as part of a case study. In light of the situation in the UK, the government said it would “further investigate” the case to determine “how the infection came about” on Dutch soil, and whether there are more cases triggered by the mutant strain. While suspending only passenger flights for the time being, Amsterdam did not rule out that the ban will be expanded to cover other means of transportation as well.

The Dutch government has also hinted that more restrictions on UK travellers may be imposed at the European Union level to stem the spread of the desease, stating that it “will look into the possibilities of further restricting import of the virus from the UK” with other members of the bloc “in the coming days.” The move comes shortly after Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for those living in London, the Southeast, and the city of Peterborough, placing those areas under so-called Tier 4 restrictions. Those affected by the plan have been barred from “mixing with anyone outside their own household at Christmas,” with Johnson saying the much-feared new strain is to blame for the no-go rule. There’s currently no evidence it’s more lethal or more vaccine-resistant than the earlier variant of the virus, however.

UK #SARSCoV2
https://twitter.com/AliNouriPhD/status/1340505791841841152

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“..first evacuation of London since 1939..”

Someday someone will make a movie out of this.

Desperate Families Flee London Ahead Of Tier 4 Misery (DM)

Families were last night fleeing areas of England that have been plunged into the tightest restrictions in what one leading expert described as a ‘mini exodus’. Edmund King, president of the AA, said that within 90 minutes of Boris Johnson’s bombshell announcement, there were reports of people jumping into cars and taxis and even hiring vehicles to escape London before draconian new rules were imposed at midnight. ‘There are certainly elements of an exodus of some people from tier 4,’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘I have heard of people actually hiring cars to get out of London to get to Liverpool because a lot of the trains are either restricted or booked. ‘We have even heard of taxi drivers taking people longer distances – people calling minicab offices and saying, “I need to get to Nottingham”.

‘It is almost like a wall is coming down around London and the South East and some people are scrambling to get away to save their Christmas before midnight.’ Last night footage emerged of a large crowd queuing on a packed platform at London’s St Pancras Station to board the last train to Leeds before restrictions were introduced at midnight. An announcement warned passengers that it would not be possible to maintain social distancing on the train. Branding it the ‘last train out of Saigon’ – a reference to the evacuation of US personnel during the Vietnam War – journalist Harriet Clugston wrote: ‘Every person on this train including myself has made what is probably a very silly and irresponsible decision to travel albeit within the law. ‘But that’s what people were always going to do to be together at Christmas.’

Travel into and out of the new tier 4 zone, which includes London and large swathes of the South East of England, has been banned in a desperate bid to contain a mutant strain of the coronavirus. International travel for the 16.4 million people who live in tier 4 is also prohibited unless it is for work purposes, while Mr Johnson urged families in the rest of the country to ‘carefully consider’ whether they needed to go abroad. The Prime Minister’s announcement shattered the plans of millions of families who were set to embark on the traditional Christmas getaway in the coming days to see friends and family. Last year around 17 million people hit Britain’s roads between December 22 and 28, but Mr King believes that number will now plummet to around two million.

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“..evidence-free..”

Trump Lashes Out At Media For Blaming Russia For Hacking: It ‘May Be China’ (RT)

President Donald Trump has broken with the media and his own Secretary of State, brushing aside allegations that Russia was behind a massive computer hack. Trump instead claimed that the real culprit could be Beijing. “The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality,” Trump tweeted on Saturday, adding that “everything is well under control.” “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).” As well as hitting out at the “Lamestream” media for blaming Russia, Trump also suggested that there may have “been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election.”


The president has often cited a series of unexplained computer“glitches” as proof that someone interfered to deny him victory in five key swing states. The “Cyber Hack” referred to by Trump, however, is a hacking operation that targeted the SolarWinds Orion Platform, a network monitoring tool used by nearly every Fortune 500 corporation and multiple US government agencies, among them the State Department, NASA, and the Pentagon. The hack was revealed earlier this month, and pinned on Russia evidence-free by none other than the Washington Post, quoting its usual anonymous sources.

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What was that connection between SolarWinds and Dominion again?

US Agencies’ Trust In Untested Software Opened The Door To Hackers (Pol.)

The massive months-long hack of agencies across the US government succeeded, in part, because no one was looking in the right place. The federal government conducts only cursory security inspections of the software it buys from private companies for a wide range of activities, from managing databases to operating internal chat applications. That created the blind spot that suspected Russian hackers exploited to breach the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies. After embedding code in widely used network management software made by a Texas company called SolarWinds, all they had to do was wait for the agencies to download routine software updates from the trusted supplier.

As investigators race to assess the damage from the hacks, experts and lawmakers are calling for increased scrutiny of the third-party code that government agencies allow on their networks and demanding a fix for a long-known weakness. “The government desperately needs to set minimum security requirements for software and services, and refuse to buy anything that doesn’t meet those standards,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “It is incredibly self-defeating for federal agencies to spend billions on security and then give government contracts to companies with insecure products.” Over the past week, agencies rushed to scrub the malicious code from their networks while senior officials huddled in emergency meetings – all amid reports of more victims in the federal government, state governments and private industry.

As the extent of the attack became clearer, cyber experts warned that cleaning up the mess could take months or years. SolarWinds, whose 330,000 customers include key federal agencies, major telecommunications firms, every branch of the military and four-fifths of the Fortune 500, is one of the most extreme examples of the dysfunction that made this hack possible, but it is far from the only poorly guarded vendor with hooks into the most important computer networks in the world. The US government relies on private vendors of all sizes to supply its agencies with software. Some have expert security teams, such as Amazon, which provides cloud hosting services, and SAP, whose software helps agencies process large quantities of data. But others, both large and small, have less rigorous security testing procedures and are more vulnerable to this kind of compromise, cyber analysts say.

On Thursday, federal investigators said SolarWinds’ Orion software was not the only way the hackers had invaded their targets, warning of “additional initial access vectors and tactics, techniques, and procedures … that have not yet been discovered.”

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And now Michael Flynn is also back.

Trump Floated Naming Sidney Powell As Special Counsel For Election Fraud (Hill)

President Trump on Friday discussed the idea of naming Sidney Powell, an attorney once associated with his campaign, to the position of special counsel for an investigation into alleged voter fraud and the 2020 election, The New York Times, Politico and the Wall Street Journal reported. The former Trump campaign lawyer made headlines earlier in the year when she took part in an effort to reverse election results in the state of Georgia. However, those challenges were tossed by various courts. She, along with the president and his allies, have repeatedly claimed that the election has been tainted by widespread election fraud. However, there has been no substantial evidence to support this claim.

Following the 2020 election, several election officials stated that the race was one of the most secure in U.S. history. According to two sources briefed on the discussion, most of his advisers opposed the idea of the appointment including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, according to the Times. Powell herself was in attendance at the meeting, as well as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to a senior administration official, Politico reported. The meeting reportedly devolved into yelling and screaming, according to the senior official, and the lawyers were accusing each other of not putting in enough effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Both Flynn and Powell reportedly claimed the administration was not working hard enough to reverse Trump’s loss. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cipollone and Meadows also opposed the idea of the appointment. The senior official also told Politico that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien participated in the meeting via phone. It’s unclear if Trump will continue to push for Powell’s appointment.

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16 days to the runoff battle. With voting machines.

Pro-Trump Group to Challenge 364K Voter Registrations in Georgia (NW)

Conservative political group True the Vote announced plans on Friday to preemptively file more than 360,000 electoral challenges in Georgia before the state’s special elections are expected to occur in January. Georgia’s run-off elections have garnered nationwide attention. If the Democrats who are running for office—Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock—obtain victory over Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, then Democrats would be equally represented in the U.S. Senate. However, Democrats would have a distinct advantage over Republicans in the case of a tie, as Democrat Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the one voting to break the deadlock.

Some observers, including President Donald Trump, have baselessly alleged that Georgia’s processes during the November election were unfairly manipulated by Democrats. According to True the Vote founder and President Catherine Engelbrecht, the challenges could help validate the results of the January election by ensuring “the sanctity of every legal vote.” “Filing the challenges preemptively, before absentee ballots are opened, will help ensure only legal, eligible votes are counted in Georgia’s January 5 runoff elections,” Engelbrecht said in a Friday statement.

Georgia law allows individuals to challenge the validity of any voter in a Georgia county if there is probable cause that the person being challenged does not meet the requirements for voting legally. True the Vote plans on filing 364,541 elector challenges across all 159 Georgia counties. “It is our hope that this historic challenge marks the beginning of the great awakening of American voters to serve our democracy by getting involved in the process,” Engelbrecht said.

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Transparency is overrated.

Georgia: Election Software Updates Not Covered By Open Records Requests (JTN)

A recently revealed memo shows a top-ranking Georgia election official informing county election workers that they are not required to provide journalists and citizens with records of software updates applied to voting machines in the state. Chris Harvey, the state elections division director, said in the Nov. 17 memo that “multiple counties have reported receiving Open Records Requests asking for data information” including, in part, “copies of any software patches performed on Dominion voting machines in the state of Georgia prior to the November 3, 2020 General Election.”


“Under the Open Records Act,” Harvey writes in the memo, “providing copies of software, software updates, or thumb drives containing software or software updates is not subject to open records requests.” Information “that could harm the security of the election equipment” is forbidden from being shared, he added. The letter was first reported on this week by the activist group VoterGA. Georgia, like numerous other states, has been the focus of intense media scrutiny following the results of the 2020 election, in which numerous irregularities and allegations have surfaced regarding the integrity of the election results.

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“It shows very clearly that races were flipped.”

Analyst Says Redacted Dominion Report ‘Shows Very Clearly’ Problems (JTN)

An analyst whose company oversaw the audit of Dominion Voting Systems machines in Antrim County, Michigan is claiming that the redacted version of the forensic analysis of those machines obscured the allegedly conclusive revelations that the audit revealed. Russell Ramsland Jr., a member of Allied Security Operations Group, said on Newsmax on Friday that the final report “show[ed] exactly what we did and exactly the findings.” Yet redactions in the report have covered up those conclusions, he argued. The analysis, which allegedly determined a ballot error rate of 68%, was ordered released earlier this week by a Michigan judge.


“The original report had log evidence that we published in the report to show exactly what we did and exactly the findings,” Ramsland told host Greg Kelly. “Now, those did ultimately get redacted. And so now, the complaint is ‘well, but there’s no real proof,’ and Dominion says ‘no, these things can’t be done’.” “But at that point, Dominion’s argument is no longer with us,” he continued. “Dominion’s argument is with their own user’s manual and their own logs. Because the logs, had they been able to be published, show very clearly that the RCV [ranked-choice voting] algorithm was enacted. It shows very clearly that the error messages were massive. It shows very clearly that races were flipped.”

Read more …

We’ll see a lot of these pieces between now and New Year’s Day.

2020: The Year we Let Ourselves be Infantilised and Dehumanised (Slane)

I recently wrote a satirical speech by our Prime Minister, in which I imagined him coming up with all sorts of absurd rules for the Christmas season. It was really hard. Not because I was unable to come up with hundreds of such rules, were I minded to do so, but because the whole point of satire is to raise the absurdities up a step or two, in order to highlight the ridiculousness of what is happening. But how do you do this when the real-life absurdities have already been turned up to 11 on the amplifier? I kid you not when I tell you that my original list included a rule against playing certain board games over Christmas — which I rejected — only to see a few days later SAGE coming out and advising against the playing of board games.

We have now had nearly nine months of being treated like utter imbeciles. A once great country with a once free people has been reduced to the level of being governed by pathetic, childish slogans. And for some reason we have allowed ourselves to be infantilised. I am utterly baffled as to how people can have sat through some of these slogans being introduced without responding with howls of laughter. “Stay Alert. Control the Virus. Save Lives.” What on earth is this actually supposed to mean? Stay Alert? For what? Are we supposed to be on our guard for a virus that is approximately 120 nanometres, or around 1,000th the width of a human hair? Are we to carry an electron microscope around with us wherever we go, just in case?

One of my favourite signs is an electronic one I sometimes see on my occasional drives into the office. On one day, it says, “Stay Alert. Control the Virus.” On another, it says, “Stay Alert. Watch out for Cyclists.” It should be noted that cyclists are considerably bigger than 120nm and even often wearing the kind of hi-vis jackets that coronaviruses refuse to wear. Control the Virus? Say what? You mean they actually think we’re stupid enough to think they’re clever enough to devise schemes that can actually control those little invisible 120 nm virus particles that are in the air and on surfaces. Apparently so.

Save Lives? I am yet to hear a convincing argument as to how I and my family, not having any symptoms and thus not being infected by the virus, can possibly stop the spread of said virus that we don’t have by staying at home or wearing a piece of cloth over or respiratory passages, such that we save lives. More recently, it has been decided that the slogans were maybe a bit too high-brow and needed to be simplified further, this time into monosyllables: “Hands. Face. Space.” Although I tend to avoid watching Comrade Johnson and Co as they spout this nonsense at their regular stand-ups, on the occasions when I have had that misfortune, it has felt eerily like suddenly being thrust into the world’s largest Kindergarten with teacher talking down to his little charges as if they were really, really stupid.

But the infantilising of an entire population is by no means the worst thing they have done to us. Worse by far has been the dehumanising of millions of people, which has been done via a number of enormously destructive methods. Chief of them is the idea that we must all avoid each other. I cannot even begin to think how destructive this has become. In a normal society, if you or I have symptoms of a particularly nasty seasonal respiratory illness, which is what Covid-19 is, we would avoid one another. Obviously. But the idea of perfectly healthy people avoiding other perfectly healthy people must qualify as one of the most absurd concepts ever dreamt up.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 182020
 


Egon Schiele Meadow, Church and Houses 1912

 

Twitter To Remove Tweets That Spread Lies About COVID Vaccines (G.)
“Who Wants To Be A Guinea Pig?”: Health Workers Balk At Vaccine (ZH)
How Virtual Learning Has Traumatized Their Children (DC)
WHO -Finally- Admits PCR Tests Create False Positives (OffG)
Joe Biden Calls His Son Hunter ‘The Smartest Man I Know’ (DC)
They Won’t Take “No” For An Answer (Ward)
Georgia Announces Signature Matching Review For Election Ballots (JTN)
Where Bill Barr Failed the President (ET)
Trump Takes Bipartisan Criticism For Silence On Massive Cyber Attack (F.)
Google Secretly Gave Facebook Perks, Data In Ad Deal: US States (R.)
Pentagon Training Equates Whistleblower Chelsea Manning With Terrorists (IC)
Q3 Share Buybacks Plunged 42% YoY, Big Banks Are Gone (WS)
Facebook To Require Masks In All Profile Pictures (BBee)

 

 

 

 

Awfully close to thought police. “Spreading lies about vaccines” here means “questioning vaccines”.

Twitter To Remove Tweets That Spread Lies About COVID Vaccines (G.)

Twitter will remove tweets that spread harmful misinformation, starting with the Covid-19 vaccine, the company has announced – and from 2021 it will begin to label tweets that push conspiracy theories. The move sees the company follow Facebook and YouTube in tightening up policies around the coronavirus vaccination as the rollout of the jab begins across the world. “Starting next week, we will prioritise the removal of the most harmful misleading information,” the US company said in a blogpost. “And during the coming weeks, we will begin to label tweets that contain potentially misleading information about the vaccines.”

Examples of posts that may be removed include false claims “that suggest immunisations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations”, and claims “that Covid-19 is not real or not serious, and therefore that vaccinations are unnecessary”. Tweets that do not reach the level of potential harm will not be removed, but may receive a label linking through to authoritative public health information, the company said. Examples of that sort of claim include unsubstantiated rumours, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information about vaccines. The labelling will have a similar visual appearance to the company’s notorious labels about the US election, regularly placed on tweets from Donald Trump in which he falsely claimed victory in the US election.

Twitter said it would enforce the policy “using a combination of technology and human review”. Confusingly, the company has no way for users to report Covid misinformation, or misinformation about vaccines, despite the content being banned on the site. Instead, Twitter says users who think a particular tweet breaks the company’s rules on the topic should report it for any other offence – such as “threatening harm” – and use the text box to add that it is banned misinformation. The move comes two weeks after Facebook tightened its own policy about Covid vaccines. The larger social network will remove claims that rise to the level of imminent physical harm, as well as claims that have been debunked by public health experts, even if they do not reach that level. Chinese network TikTok has also strengthened its policies on vaccine misinformation, announcing on Tuesday that it has policies in place that prohibit misinformation “that could cause harm to an individual’s health or broader public safety”.

Tucker Don’t question the Coronavirus vaccine.

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“until I see that it’s actually safe for myself or my kids to take, I’m not going to take it.”

“Who Wants To Be A Guinea Pig?”: Health Workers Balk At Vaccine (ZH)

As tens of thousands of doses of the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine make their way across the country, some health workers – first on the list to receive the two-stage jab – are leery of the emerging treatment which mainstream pundits warned would take a ‘miracle’ to produce before the end of the year. And while public concerns over the vaccine have eased compared to polling conducted before the November election, a not-insignificant number of health workers are unwilling to take the shot. Perhaps they’re concerned about taking the fastest vaccine developed in Western history, developed to treat a mysterious new virus which primarily kills the elderly (though can have lasting effects on people of all ages save for children).

As Bloomberg notes, the initial vaccines have few serious side effects (aside from a handful of serious allergic reactions), though nobody knows what long-term effects it has, if any. For example, nobody can possibly know what it does to a gestating fetus for nine months, or whether it affects fertility – yet, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women take the vaccine. “At one Chicago hospital where the city’s first COVID-19 vaccine was administered on Tuesday, 40% of the staff said in a survey earlier this month that they would not take it. Sherrie Burch, 56, a ward clerk at Loretto, is baffled by how quickly the Covid-19 vaccine was developed, given how long medical developments typically take. And that makes her nervous.

“It just happened too fast for me,” Burch said, adding that her children, grandchildren and 76-year-old mother aren’t planning to get it either. “It’s the fear of the unknown.” Burch wants more details about the vaccine’s research and longer-term side effects. She plans to wait at least a couple of months to see how co-workers respond to the shot. Until then, she’ll keep masking, distancing and hand washing. Some nurses, respiratory therapists and technicians at Loretto also are opting out, said Nikhila Juvvadi, the hospital’s chief clinical officer who was the first person to administer the vaccine in Chicago. At a staff town-hall meeting on Wednesday, she explained the science of how the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine works.” -Bloomberg

In Maine, 40% of staff and 30% of residents at the state’s larger nursing homes won’t take the jab, according to an “informal discussion” conducted by the Maine Health Care Association. “Without official polling, it’s hard to know how accurate a picture this paints, and we fully expect these percentages to increase with greater education and awareness,” said the organization’s director of communications, Nadine Grosso. “Ultimately, we know that vaccination is key to safely reopening our long term care facilities.” And if these are all the people who will admit to refusing the vaccine, how many lied and said they will?

Still, some remain unpersuaded. Jonathan Damato, 41, a New York City paramedic for 21 years, is not an anti-vaxxer. He gets an annual flu shot, and he trusts the life-saving potential of vaccines against measles, mumps, polio. His station does about 50 or 60 Covid ambulance runs a week — people presenting high fevers and shortness of breath. “I know the virus is real,” said Damato, who has a 4-year-old son with health issues. But “until I see that it’s actually safe for myself or my kids to take, I’m not going to take it.” -Bloomberg In short, nobody wants to be a guinea pig.

Tucker Don’t question the Coronavirus vaccine. Part 2

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More reports coming out on this theme. Good. Don’t know that missed education is the big thing here, though. Missed social life might be bigger.

How Virtual Learning Has Traumatized Their Children (DC)

Data accumulated globally has shown that infections did not surge when schools reopened, and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said as much in late November when he called on schools to reopen. While many private schools have reopened completely or partially, some of the nation’s largest school districts are still closed. In Washington, D.C., the city’s teachers union rejected an agreement with the public school system to reopen campuses in November. In Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Topeka, San Diego and multiple other cities, districts put off their plans to reopen in mid-November and gave no set date for reopening.

Eileen, a Latin teacher at a Christian Classical school in Maryland, has been able to teach in her regular classroom since Sept. 3, when her school reopened with health and sanitation protocols implemented to prevent COVID-19 spread. Eileen’s 15-year-old daughter, who is a sophomore at a public school, has been learning virtually for 14 weeks. She goes to school with her mother once a week just to “be part of normal life,” Eileen tells the Caller. In an essay Eileen’s daughter wrote about her virtual learning experience, she describes the despondency and defeat students and teachers feel. In some classes, students mute their audio feature to hide the fact that they’re playing video games instead of paying attention.

Teachers have difficulty holding students accountable, making flouting the rules easier. Eileen’s daughter, an aspiring writer and accomplished student, also faces her own waning motivation. “Every minute I sit at my desk I am being erased. It started with one of my dimensions. Then my voice was replaced by the chat, my face with a logo, and my life with progress checks,” Eileen’s daughter writes. “Virtual school is not real school. They are not giving us an education. They are teaching us how to not get caught using google translate. They are teaching us which websites will do your algebra homework for you. And if the Board of Education doesn’t take my education seriously, then why should I?”

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“We have a vaccine now. We don’t need false positives anymore. Notionally, the system has produced its miracle cure.”

“all the PCR tests being done will be done “under the new WHO guidelines”, and running only 25-30 cycles instead of 35+. Lo and behold, the number of “positive cases” will plummet..”

WHO -Finally- Admits PCR Tests Create False Positives (OffG)

The World Health Organization released a guidance memo on December 14th, warning that high cycle thresholds on PCR tests will result in false positives. While this information is accurate, it has also been available for months, so we must ask: why are they reporting it now? Is it to make it appear the vaccine works? The “gold standard” Sars-Cov-2 tests are based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR works by taking nucleotides – tiny fragments of DNA or RNA – and replicating them until they become something large enough to identify. The replication is done in cycles, with each cycle doubling the amount of genetic material. The number of cycles it takes to produce something identifiable is known as the “cycle threshold” or “CT value”. The higher the CT value, the less likely you are to be detecting anything significant.

This new WHO memo states that using a high CT value to test for the presence of Sars-Cov-2 will result in false-positive results. To quote their own words [our emphasis]: “Users of RT-PCR reagents should read the IFU carefully to determine if manual adjustment of the PCR positivity threshold is necessary to account for any background noise which may lead to a specimen with a high cycle threshold (Ct) value result being interpreted as a positive result.” They go on to explain [again, our emphasis]: “The design principle of RT-PCR means that for patients with high levels of circulating virus (viral load), relatively few cycles will be needed to detect virus and so the Ct value will be low. Conversely, when specimens return a high Ct value, it means that many cycles were required to detect virus. In some circumstances, the distinction between background noise and actual presence of the target virus is difficult to ascertain.”

Of course, none of this is news to anyone who has been paying attention. That PCR tests were easily manipulated and potentially highly inaccurate has been one of the oft-repeated battle cries of those of us opposing the “pandemic” narrative, and the policies it’s being used to sell. Many articles have been written about it, by many experts in the field, medical journalists and other researchers. It’s been commonly available knowledge, for months now, that any test using a CT value over 35 is potentially meaningless. Dr Kary Mullis, who won the Nobel Prize for inventing the PCR process, was clear that it wasn’t meant as a diagnostic tool, saying: “..with PCR, if you do it well, you can find almost anything in anybody.” And, commenting on cycle thresholds, once said: “If you have to go more than 40 cycles to amplify a single-copy gene, there is something seriously wrong with your PCR.”

The MIQE guidelines for PCR use state: Cq values higher than 40 are suspect because of the implied low efficiency and generally should not be reported,” This has all been public knowledge since the beginning of the lockdown. The Australian government’s own website admitted the tests were flawed, and a court in Portugal ruled they were not fit for purpose. Even Dr Anthony Fauci has publicly admitted that a cycle threshold over 35 is going to be detecting “dead nucleotides”, not a living virus. Despite all this, it is known that many labs around the world have been using PCR tests with CT values over 35, even into the low 40s. So why has the WHO finally decided to say this is wrong? What reason could they have for finally choosing to recognise this simple reality?

The answer to that is potentially shockingly cynical: We have a vaccine now. We don’t need false positives anymore. Notionally, the system has produced its miracle cure. So, after everyone has been vaccinated, all the PCR tests being done will be done “under the new WHO guidelines”, and running only 25-30 cycles instead of 35+. Lo and behold, the number of “positive cases” will plummet, and we’ll have confirmation that our miracle vaccine works.

Read more …

“Joe Biden defends his son — who is under federal investigation, was kicked out of the Navy for cocaine, and was sued by a stripper for paternity — as “the smartest man I know.”

“It’s used to get to me. I think it’s kind of foul play, but, look, it is what it is. And he’s a grown man. He is the smartest man I know. I mean, in a pure intellectual capacity.”

And boy, whatever happened to Stephen Colbert?

Joe Biden Calls His Son Hunter ‘The Smartest Man I Know’ (DC)

President-elect Joe Biden says he is “not concerned” about a federal investigation into his son, Hunter, and accused his opponents of weaponizing the probe for political points. Biden said that Hunter, who has been involved in a string of high-profile personal and business controversies in recent years, as “the smartest man I know.” Hunter Biden announced last Wednesday that he is under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware over his “tax affairs.” A source familiar with the investigation told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the investigation began in 2018, before Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign.


The Associated Press reported that prosecutors subpoenaed Biden for his records with more than two dozen businesses, including companies in China and Ukraine. (RELATED: Joe Biden Says He Is ‘Confident’ His Son Did Nothing Wrong) Biden, who was interviewed by CBS’s Stephen Colbert, accused his political opponents of “foul play” by seizing on the investigation. “We have great confidence in our son. I am not concerned about any accusations made against him. It’s used to get to me,” Biden said in the interview, which he conducted with his wife Jill Biden at his side. “I think it’s kind of foul play,” said Biden, adding, “look, it is what it is.” “He’s a grown man. He is the smartest man I know. I mean, in a pure intellectual capacity. And as long as he’s good, we’re good.”

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“The US Shadow State and its creatures are of the Soviet school of information: top-down tell, and censor the ‘show’ part.”

They Won’t Take “No” For An Answer (Ward)

There are many issues facing us today both personally and globally. But they all boil down to one thing: those who have captured power through either electoral desperation or corporacratic subterfuge simply will not take no for an answer. We must look beyond the issue to the principle, and learn to say no in a forcefully peaceful and organised manner. It does seem eternally odd, does it not, that the US judicial system seems happy to throw out Republican affidavits giving evidence of electoral fraud, but at the same time the US has a media set that suffixes every report on what President Trump says about it with “although he has no evidence to support his claims”….and the world anglosphere falls lamely into line.

It is truly Pythonic, with just a dash of Catch22: “We’re not going to review these affidavits because they’re worthless,” said the Ostriches, “so will you stop saying you were cheated, because you haven’t got any evidence – we know this, because we don’t need to look at it”. My view is simple: it is entirely possible that Trump is lying his fat head off. But the common sense rejoinder to that pov is: 1) Why press ahead so vigorously with a case if (privately) you know it to be BS? And 2) If you the State know it to be BS, why not investigate every affidavit thoroughly and enumerate their lack of worth instance by instance? In short, we have a plaintiff behaving like a guy who’s done his homework, and the State dismissing everything out of hand for fear of finding magic bullets flying backwards, and Presidential Heads exploding in the wrong direction.

Show not tell: it’s an old adage, but still universally applicable. The ‘Tell’ approach: “Laugh at me because believe me, I’m funny….boy, am I funny”. The ‘Show’ approach: Tell a very funny joke with timing and élan. The US Shadow State and its creatures are of the Soviet school of information: top-down tell, and censor the ‘show’ part. When it doesn’t convince, smear the doubters as ill-educated, delusional and deviant.

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“After the third and final recount, Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes, or 0.2%.”

Georgia Announces Signature Matching Review For Election Ballots (JTN)

After three recounts, Georgia certified the 2020 presidential election. But on Thursday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced a statewide move to match signatures to their absentee ballots in all 159 counties in the state. The announcement comes just weeks before two Georgia Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5 will determine which party controls the Senate. Raffensperger announced that the signature matching will be done in partnership with the University of Georgia. The study will review a random sample of signatures for mail-in ballots that were cast in the presidential election. “We are confident that elections in Georgia are secure, reliable and effective,” Raffensperger said.


“Despite endless lawsuits and wild allegations from Washington, D.C., pundits, we have seen no actual evidence of widespread voter fraud, though we are investigating all credible reports. Nonetheless, we look forward to working with the University of Georgia on this signature match review to further instill confidence in Georgia’s voting systems,” he also said. Earlier this week, Georgia officials announced an audit of signatures for mail-in ballots in Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta. The Trump campaign claimed that Cobb County did not properly conduct signature match in June,” said Jordan Fuchs, Georgia’s deputy secretary of state. “After the countywide audit, we will look at the entire state. We will look at the entire election to make sure signature match was executed properly.” After the third and final recount, Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes, or 0.2%.

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The Durham probe comes to mind. Where is it?

Where Bill Barr Failed the President (ET)

Barr’s most significant achievement during his tenure was perhaps his role in the final stages of the Mueller investigation, leading to his joint conclusion with Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein that evidence compiled by Robert Mueller failed to establish that the president had obstructed justice. But a series of curious missteps then followed. The investigation being conducted by U.S. Attorney John Huber disappeared entirely, although a portion of that investigation may have been folded into U.S. Attorney John Durham’s still ongoing investigation. Durham was appointed as special counsel by Barr, but reports indicate that Durham’s investigative scope has been narrowed, and the investigation’s long-promised results remain delayed.

Trump found himself impeached by the House in December 2019, despite evidence within the DOJ that might have prevented the politically driven result. Indeed, it now appears that Trump may have been impeached for making inquiries into the very crimes for which Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, is now formally under investigation. Said differently, Trump may have effectively been impeached for being right about Biden. To date, only one person has been formally charged from the multi-year probe into the FBI’s handling of their investigation of the Trump campaign. Although two FISA warrants on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were deemed as invalid—and thus illegal—there have been no prosecutions or convictions of high-level individuals involved in the surveillance conducted on members of the Trump campaign.

Barr remained concerned, perhaps rightly, about exhibiting any overt signs of interference in the 2020 presidential election. Unfortunately, while he studiously avoided disclosing any evidence regarding the Hunter Biden investigation, so did the mainstream media. The impact of the general public’s lack of knowledge on this matter may have been material to the election outcome. Barr also made what might generously be termed a material strategic error by speaking with The Associated Press in the weeks following the election. Barr’s comments that the DOJ had yet to uncover fraud on a level sufficient to affect the outcome of the election reverberated throughout the nation and caused material damage to the case being made by the president’s lawyers. Why Barr would choose to speak to the media, let alone the AP, at this critical juncture in post-election events remains unknown.

Barr, no political novice, has more than enough political acumen to comprehend the manner in which his comments would be interpreted and relayed to a nation in post-election turmoil. That he apparently held the belief there was no material evidence of election fraud strikes many who have been wading through court evidence for weeks as curious. Durham’s efforts may yet produce tangible results, but nearly four years of investigation has surely been long enough to bring forth something material. With each passing month, the lack of tangible results has allowed for unspoken discrediting of the president’s claims. And with the possibility of a politically motivated Biden administration, concerns over potential interference in Durham’s results—special counsel status notwithstanding—are valid.

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In case you didn’t notice: the neocons won. So Russiagate is alive and kicking.

Trump Takes Bipartisan Criticism For Silence On Massive Cyber Attack (F.)

President Donald Trump is taking heat from members of Congress in both parties in recent days for his continued silence on a massive cybersecurity breach linked to Russia, even as the president’s own officials say the U.S. is highly vulnerable to further attacks. Through a weakness in software from SolarWinds Orion, an IT firm that services numerous U.S. government agencies, hackers – that U.S. officials say are tied to Russia – were reportedly able to infiltrate the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, the Treasury Department, the National Institutes of Health and various other departments. Democrats have been vocal about the breach and critical of the president’s actions, with Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) noting the president fired Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) head Chris Krebs for debunking his election fraud conspiracy theories just one month before the attack occurred.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) called Trump’s silence “unacceptable,” adding, “For 4 years, Congress has been urging him to take Russian threats seriously,” while Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) suggested the silence is because Trump has “cozied up to” Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of Trump’s most prolific Republican detractors, compared the breach to “Russian bombers… repeatedly flying over our entire country,” and slammed the “inexcusable silence and inaction from the White House.” Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) was critical of Trump’s silence as well, alleging a “leadership vacuum” in the administration and telling Forbes that Trump’s reticence to weigh in is because doing so “could highlight his firings” of cybersecurity, defense and intelligence officials in recent weeks.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and outgoing Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) both took aim at Trump for his threat to veto a defense bill that includes cyber protections and would create a National Cyber Security Director, with Hurd adding, “We need to find the inaugural director ASAP because he/she is going to have a full plate on day one.” “No statement, no tweet, nothing from [Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)] on Russia hack of Federal agencies,” tweeted Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell (D-Fla.), echoing Democrats who have alleged not just Trump, but many Republicans in Congress have shied away from weighing in on the hack. “As Chair of Senate Intelligence his silence=complicity,” she added. “CISA has determined that this threat poses a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations,” the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

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Is this even illegal?

Google Secretly Gave Facebook Perks, Data In Ad Deal: US States (R.)

Facebook Inc and Alphabet’s Google, the two biggest players in online advertising, used a series of deals to consolidate their market power illegally, Texas and nine other states alleged in a lawsuit against Google on Wednesday. Google and Facebook compete heavily in internet ad sales, together capturing over half of the market globally. The two players agreed in a publicized deal in 2018 to start giving Facebook’s advertiser clients the option to place ads within Google’s network of publishing partners, the complaint alleged. Executives at the highest level of the companies signed off on the deal, according to the complaint. For example, a sneaker blog that uses software from Google to sell ads could end up generating revenue from a footwear retailer that bought ads on Facebook.

Google reached similar partnerships with other advertising companies as part of an effort to maintain market share that was internally codenamed Project Jedi, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. But what Google did not announce publicly is that it gave Facebook preferential treatment, the complaint alleged. Facebook agreed to back down from supporting competing software, which publishers had developed to dent Google’s market power, the complaint said. “Facebook decided to dangle the threat of competition in Google’s face and then cut a deal to manipulate the auction,” it said, citing internal communications. In exchange, the states said, Facebook received various benefits, including access to Google data and policy exceptions that enabled its clients to unfairly get more ads placed than clients of other Google partners could.

[..] The complaint also alleged that Google and Facebook engaged in fixing prices of ads and have continued to cooperate, though the section was heavily redacted and left it unclear just how and when the companies allegedly used their “market allocation agreement.” However, it said that “given the scope and extensive nature of cooperation between the two companies, Google and Facebook were highly aware that their agreement could trigger antitrust violations. The two companies discussed, negotiated, and memorialized how they would cooperate with one another.”

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The Pentagon needs enemies.

Pentagon Training Equates Whistleblower Chelsea Manning With Terrorists (IC)

In the decade since her historic transfer of secret military and diplomatic materials to WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning has consistently and across party lines been condemned as a traitor. Less common, and absent entirely from the government’s efforts to imprison her, are allegations that her leak was an act of terrorism. But anti-terrorism training materials obtained by The Intercept show that the Pentagon is teaching defense workers exactly that. Both civilian contractors and enlisted personnel are commonly required to complete JS-US007, a Pentagon course designed to “increase your awareness of terrorism and to improve your ability to apply personal protective measures,” according to Joint Knowledge Online, a Department of Defense education portal. JS-US007 covers a variety of grimly serious topics, from detecting roadside bombs to surviving active shooter scenarios and skyjackings.

The training also covers so-called insider threat attacks, acts of terroristic violence in which members of a group strike the group itself, like the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting in which Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 13 individuals on the base, wounding 30 more. The Department of Homeland Security defines insider threat terrorism as “an unlawful use of force and violence by employees or others closely associated with organizations, against those organizations to promote a political or social objective.” Other definitions may differ on technicalities, but like other acts of terrorism, the unifying theme is the violence of the acts.

But unclassified JS-US007 materials obtained by The Intercept show that the Pentagon’s anti-terrorism trainees are learning a far broader definition of terrorism, one that includes the entirely nonviolent acts of Manning. On a slide listing “Examples of attacks by individuals thought to be loyal to the US,” Manning’s “2010 leaking of over 500,000 documents concerning operations in Iraq and Afghanistan” is listed first, followed by three examples of murder: the “2009 active shooter attack at Fort Hood,” the “2003 active shooter attack at Camp Pennsylvania,” and the “2001 anthrax attacks against Government facilities” that closely followed the attacks of September 11. Another slide in the presentation lists Manning’s alleged “anti-American statements” as a “pre-attack indicator.”

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“..down 54% from peak share-buyback mania in Q4 2018..”

Q3 Share Buybacks Plunged 42% YoY, Big Banks Are Gone (WS)

The big four banks are out. And other companies are out. But Big Tech is in, as big as ever, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, after pooh-poohing share buybacks for years, is now the second largest share buyback queen. In the third quarter 2020, companies in the S&P 500 Index bought back $101.8 billion of their own shares, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices this morning. While this still sounds like a lot of share buybacks, it’s down 42% from Q3 last year, and down 54% from peak share-buyback mania in Q4 2018 following the corporate tax cuts:

Since the beginning of 2012, the S&P 500 companies have bought back nearly $5 trillion of their own shares. How much is $5 trillion? It’s nearly one-quarter of US 12-month GDP in current dollars. It’s about equal to the amount by which the US government debt has exploded over the past 12 months. These $5 trillion could have been invested in expansion projects in the US, and in labor, and in training, or God forbid, in reducing the debt that Corporate America has loaded up on in a historic manner.

[..] Corporate debt levels have been showing up in the Fed’s Financial Stability Reports. The corporate “debt overhang,” as the Fed calls it, frazzled Fed researchers in 2019 and it is now again cropping up in Fed research papers, including by the New York Fed a few days ago. “We find that the economic costs of corporate debt booms rise when inefficient debt restructuring and liquidation impede the resolution of corporate financial distress and make it more likely that corporate zombies creep along,” summarize the researchers at the New York Fed. It was another research paper duly ignored by Fed Chair Powell.


Last year, the four big banks – Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup – occupied the #2, #3, #4, and #7 spots on the Top 20 list of our share buyback queens. Now they’re gone from the list, having been told by regulators to stop share buybacks to preserve capital to absorb the coming losses from the Crisis. Big Tech and, ironically, Warren Buffett dominate the list. Apple retains its top spot with $17.6 billion in share buybacks in Q3, bringing the 12-month total to $76 billion.

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I don’t normally include 4-month old articles in Debt Rattles, but this could just as well be from today.

Facebook To Require Masks In All Profile Pictures (BBee)

Facebook confirmed today that to prevent the spread of coronavirus and promote a safe space to virtue-signal, masks will be required on all profile pictures going forward. If you log in to Facebook you will be prompted to change your profile picture to one where you are wearing a mask. If you don’t have a mask, Facebook offers digital mask filters to give the appearance that you’re wearing one. Those who refuse the mask will be asked to delete their accounts.


“This is an issue of public safety,” said Mark Zuckerberg. “We were seeing people just commenting on things and posting memes and stuff while their face was clearly visible. The CDC currently says that masks are good, and therefore, you must wear a mask.” An assistant then whispered in Zuckerberg’s ear. “Oh, uh, this just in: the CDC now says that masks are bad. So we’ll take this all back.” But, before he could reverse the mask order, the CDC issued another update saying that masks were good again. “Anyway, yes, a mask for everyone. It’s a small thing to do to make everyone feel safe.”

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UK MPs ask for a meeting with Assange.

 

 

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Dec 172020
 


Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait with Straw Hat Aug-Sep 1887

 

Assange Spoke to US State Dept to Stop Publication of Unredacted Cables (Sp.)
Julian Assange Has Formally Requested a Pardon From President Donald Trump (GP)
Pfizer To Assess Report About ‘Serious Allergic Reaction’ To Vaccine (RT)
First Glitches Emerge In COVID-Vax Rollout (ZH)
An App Could Catch 98.5% Of All COVID19 Infections. Why Isn’t It Available? (G.)
Grand County Coroner Raises Concern On Deaths Among COVID Cases (CBSDenver)
A Record 61% Of Restaurants, 35% Of Small Businesses Can’t Pay December Rent (ZH)
Where Americans Splurged & Where They Cut Back (WS)
Congress to Pass $17 Billion Bailout of Airline Shareholders & Bondholders
Cuomo v. Cuomo (Turley)
AOC: Nancy Pelosi Needs To Go (IC)
Amistad To Sue Zuckerberg For Using ‘Dark Money’ To Fund ‘Massive’ Fraud (RT)
Enter Trump: America’s First Shadow President (Tracey)
Unicef To Feed Hungry Children In UK For First Time In 70-Year History (G.)

 

 

 

 

The recording is new, but what it says is not. We’ve known for years that Assange was trying to prevent material from coming out. The key would appear to be that Guardian “journalists” David Leigh and Luke Harding wanted to write Assange’s biography, and he declined. They then published the encryption key in a book, out of spite, to damage him. The wrong guy is in Belmarsh today.

Let’s hope James O’Keeffe gets this through to Trump.

“So the material, there is an encrypted version of the materials on the internet somewhere that we do not control. One doesn’t actually need to convey the material itself, one only needs to convey the location of the material and its encryption key”, the WikiLeaks co-founder explains to Johnson.

Assange Spoke to US State Dept to Stop Publication of Unredacted Cables (Sp.)

Julian Assange has been accused of endangering US interests and assets by “recklessly” publishing unredacted US State Department diplomatic cables. The charges are denied by both by WikiLeaks and the many journalists who note that Assange ‘meticulously’ redacted documents and sought to minimise possible harm while exposing illegal actions. Audio recordings of a 2011 conversation between Julian Assange and Hillary Clinton’s State Department, published by Project Veritas, provide new insight into the extent with which the WikiLeaks publisher sought to minimise harm from the potential release of unredacted US diplomatic cables, by actors working against the express wishes of the transparency organisation.

“So the situation is that, we have intelligence that the State Department database archive of 250,000 diplomatic cables, including the classified cables, is being spread around. […] To the degree that we believe that within the next few days, it will become public and we’re not sure what the timing could be, imminently or within the next few days to a week. And, there may be some possibility to stop it”, Assange is heard explaining to Cliff Johnson, an attorney with the US State Department. “Who would be releasing these cables?” Johnson asks, “Is this WikiLeaks?”. “No,” Assange explains, adding, “We would not be releasing them. This is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a previous employee that we suspended last August”.

The problem was that Domscheit-Berg was apparently sharing the link of the full unredacted diplomatic cables, which had been copied from the WikiLeaks website, and which could be found online. Ordinarily, the file with the full unredacted cables would have been useless as it was encrypted and would likely require years of highly-sophisticated computing to break the password through what is known in tech circles as the “brute force” method. However, the password to the encrypted file was entrusted by Assange to Guardian journalist David Leigh, who, by his own account, kept pressing the Australian born-journalist for access to the entirety of the 250,000 documents. Leigh and fellow Guardian journalist Luke Harding would in February 2011 reveal the password to the world by publishing the key as the title of one of the chapters in their book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.

“[D]oes that mean that [Daniel Domschit-Berg] now [has] the ability…, without your control or authorisation, to make this as available as they want?” Johnson asks. “That’s correct”, Assange replies, adding “and there there’s no attempted redaction programme and no attempted harm minimisation.” “In case there are any individuals who haven’t been warned, they should be warned”, Assange stresses. Assange also explains the possibility of tracking down the encrypted files from the internet, potentially before people start using the encryption key revealed by Leigh and Harding. However, he explains that doing so is beyond the capability of WikiLeaks but that he was prepared to assist the State Department by urging other people to provide all the locations of the encrypted files. “[W]e have been calling the State Department and the embassy for over a day, trying to explain the urgency, and they have not called back other than this call”, Assange explains.

“Well, I appreciate what you’ve told us Mr Assange”, Johnson replies.

Assange

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Praying.

Julian Assange Has Formally Requested a Pardon From President Donald Trump (GP)

People from across the political spectrum have called on President Trump to pardon the WikiLeaks founder, citing the importance of the freedom to publish. Assange’s fiancé Stella Morris, the mother of his two young children, has previously called for a pardon — but a formal request was not filed with the White House until this week. Assange is imprisoned in the United Kingdom pending a decision about his extradition to the United States where he faces charges under the Espionage Act for his publication of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. If convicted he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years for the “crime” of publishing material that the US government did not want the population to know. In 2018, President Trump’s attorneys quietly made a case in defense of WikiLeaks throughout legal filings responding to a lawsuit filed by Democrat Party donors who alleged that the campaign and former advisor Roger Stone conspired with Russians to publish the leaked Democratic National Committee emails.

Their assessment was correct. Buried within hundreds of pages of case filings, in a motion filed in October 2018, Trump lawyer Michael A. Carvin argued that under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), “a website that provides a forum where ‘third parties can post information’ is not liable for the third party’s posted information.” “That is so even when even when the website performs ‘editorial functions’ ‘such as deciding whether to publish,’” the filing contends. “Since WikiLeaks provided a forum for a third party (the unnamed ‘Russian actors’) to publish content developed by that third party (the hacked emails), it cannot be held liable for the publication.” This defense holds true for the war log releases that Assange has been charged for publishing.

“In addition, the First Amendment generally denies the government power to punish truthful speech,” Carvin wrote. He added that privacy cannot justify these violations of core First Amendment norms. The filing then refers to the 1989 case of Florida Star v. B.J.F., in which it was determined that “punishing truthful publication in the name of privacy” is an “extraordinary measure.” The formal pardon request comes on the heels of a viral claim from a Trump ally that the president would be pardoning the publisher. While he ended up retracting his statement, claiming he had faulty sources, it was clear that it was a move that people from both sides of the political spectrum support. The tweet gained over 75,000 “likes” on Twitter in about an hour, before being retracted.

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And also: “anaphylactic shock suffered by multiple healthcare workers in the UK..” [..] The UK also reported a “possible allergic reaction” in a third recipient..

Pfizer To Assess Report About ‘Serious Allergic Reaction’ To Vaccine (RT)

A healthcare worker in Alaska has reportedly been hospitalized with a serious allergic reaction after taking Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. They had no reported history of drug allergies, unlike others who’ve suffered such reactions. The afflicted individual remains in the hospital on Wednesday after suffering a powerful reaction Tuesday, three sources who had seen official reports of the victim’s health told the New York Times. The workplace or residence of the health worker have not been disclosed, nor have any more details about their health status been released, and it’s not clear if they had other, non-medical allergies, one of the sources explained.

Pfizer is “working with local health authorities” to assess the details of the report about a “potential serious allergic reaction,” the company told RT in a statement on Wednesday, pledging to “closely monitor all reports suggestive of serious allergic reactions following vaccination” and “update labeling language if needed.” They also added that “there were no safety signals of concern identified in our clinical trials, including no signal of serious allergic reactions associated with the vaccine.” The reaction was reportedly similar to the anaphylactic shock suffered by multiple healthcare workers in the UK, where the Pfizer-BioNTech jab was approved earlier this month. One of the stricken British women had a history of egg allergies, though the manufacturer has insisted there are no egg-related ingredients in its formula, and the other was said to be allergic to certain medications.

The UK also reported a “possible allergic reaction” in a third recipient, though the incident was not described in detail. UK health authorities have warned people with any history of “anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine, or food” away from getting the Covid-19 shot, and suggested that facilities set up to administer the vaccine be equipped with “resuscitation equipment” – guidance echoed in Pfizer’s own prescribing information. While the company did not report any allergic reactions among clinical trial participants, individuals with medical allergies and anyone who had ever suffered a “severe adverse reaction associated with a vaccine” were specifically excluded from the trials, and doctors were advised to watch for such reactions so the allergic could be routed out of the studies.

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“..roughly 900,000 fewer doses would be delivered next week than were shipped this week.”

We could roll out Vitamin D, HCQ and Ivermectin. We know much more about those than about the vaccine. But we now contend that they need to be studied more, not the vaccine.

First Glitches Emerge In COVID-Vax Rollout (ZH)

A healthcare worker in Alaska was hospitalized on Tuesday with a ‘serious allergic reaction’ after receiving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to the New York Times. The person, who had no known drug allergies, was still in the hospital on Wednesday morning under observation, according to the report. It is unknown whether they suffer from any other types of allergies. The Alaska resident’s reaction was reportedly similar to anaphylactic reactions two heal workers in Britain experience after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week – both of whom have recovered. Of note, they both had a history of severe allergies. One, a 49-year-old woman, is allergic to eggs (which Pfizer says are not in their vaccine). The other, a 40-year-old woman is allergic to several different medications. Both routinely carry EpiPenn-like devices in case of reactions.

“After the workers in Britain fell ill, authorities there initially warned against giving the vaccines to anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions. They later clarified their concerns, changing the wording from “severe allergic reactions” to specify that the vaccine should not be given to anyone who has ever had an anaphylactic reaction to a food, medicine or vaccine. That type of reaction to a vaccine is “very rare,” they said.” -NYT. No serious adverse effects were reported during Pfizer’s US trial involving over 40,000 participants, aside from aches, fevers and other ‘minor’ side effects. As Bloomberg notes, the first hiccups in the distribution of Pfizer’s vaccine are just beginning – including a holdup on the delivery of 3,900 shots to two states, and the announcement that roughly 900,000 fewer doses would be delivered next week than were shipped this week.

“Four delivery trays of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine were pulled back from delivery to California and Alabama this week and sent back to the company because they were colder than anticipated, according to Gustave Perna, the army general who serves as Operation Warp Speed’s chief operations officer. Each of the trays can likely be used to vaccinate 975 people. Pfizer has said its formula needs to be stored at 70 degrees below zero Celsius, the equivalent of negative 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. These trays were found to be much colder, according to Perna.” -Bloomberg. “We were taking no chances,” said Perna during a Wednesday news briefing.

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Not sure how this would work, but let’s hear it from you.

An App Could Catch 98.5% Of All COVID19 Infections. Why Isn’t It Available? (G.)

In late September, researchers at MIT announced that they had developed an algorithm that can accurately detect Covid-19 infections over the phone. When participants in their study produced a forced cough, MIT said their AI algorithm successfully detected 98.5% of Covid-19 infections with patients who have a cough and 100% of asymptomatic cases. If released in the form of an app, the technology could mean instant Covid-19 testing anytime, any place. As they wrote in their peer-reviewed article: “AI techniques can produce a free, non-invasive, real-time, anytime, instantly distributable, large-scale Covid-19 asymptomatic screening tool to augment current approaches in containing the spread of Covid-19. Practical use cases could be for daily screening of students, workers and public as schools, jobs and transport reopen, or for pool testing to quickly alert of outbreaks in groups.”


The impact of this technology would be huge. Currently, test results can take a week to be processed. Testing delays and shortages are due to things like strains on the supply chain providing swabs and chemicals, as well as the pressures on lab technicians processing high volumes of tests. And the test only tells you if you were positive at the time, not whether you are positive now, which can lead to a false sense of security. A smartphone-based, instant Covid-19 test would be a game changer and would save countless lives. The developers say they intend to make the technology available as an app, pending regulatory approval, but there is no clear timeline for when it might be released to the public.

People treated like infants

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“..two of their five deaths related to COVID-19 were people who died of gunshot wounds..”

Grand County Coroner Raises Concern On Deaths Among COVID Cases (CBSDenver)

The Grand County coroner is calling attention to the way the state health department is classifying some deaths. The coroner, Brenda Bock, says two of their five deaths related to COVID-19 were people who died of gunshot wounds. Bock says because they tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 30 days, they were classified as “deaths among cases.” “It’s absurd that they would even put that on there,” she said. “Would you want to go to a county that has really high death numbers? Would you want to go visit that county because they are contagious. You know I might get it, and I could die if all of a sudden one county has a high death count. We don’t have it, and we don’t need those numbers inflated.”


The state health department says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires them to report people who’ve died with COVID-19 in their systems because it’s crucial for public health surveillance.Colorado provides death data related to COVID-19 in two ways: Deaths due to COVID-19: This is based on CDC coding of death certificates where COVID-19 is listed as the cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death. Deaths among COVID-19 cases: This reflects people who died with COVID-19, but COVID-19 may not have been the cause of death listed on the death certificate. CDPHE explains that they are required to report deaths among COVID-19 cases to the CDC.

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When we wake up, the world will have changed beyond recognition.

A Record 61% Of Restaurants, 35% Of Small Businesses Can’t Pay December Rent (ZH)

According to the latest Alignable Rent Poll, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses everywhere to pay their rent in full and on time, given the latest COVID resurgences. The need for more federal funding is also becoming more pronounced for many of these businesses, according to the poll. These findings are based on the most recent Alignable Rent Poll conducted among 9,204 small business owners from 11/21-11/23/2020. Several B2C industries are devastated – 61% of restaurants can’t pay their rent this month. That’s up 19% from 42% in November. 35% of U.S. small businesses couldn’t pay their rent this month, up 3% from 32% in November. Beauty salons (46%) and travel/hospitality businesses (43%) round out the Top 3 most-affected businesses, but many others are in trouble.


Looking at demographics, minority-owned businesses are suffering the most, as 49% of them reported that they could not afford their rent in December. That figure is 5% higher than it was in November. Women-owned businesses are also struggling (38% of those have not paid their rent, up 3% from 35% last month). Overall, 35% of small business owners reported that they couldn’t make rent this month (up 3% from 32% in November). For minority-owned businesses, the struggle is even more pronounced: nearly half (49%) report being unable to cover their rent in December. That figure jumped 5% from 44% in November. For women-owned businesses, 35% couldn’t make rent in November and now that percentage is up to 38% in December.

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Only large chains will survive.

Where Americans Splurged & Where They Cut Back (WS)

Retail sales in November fell 1.1% from October, the second month in a row of declines, and they even fell with restaurants and bars removed from the total. Sales at nonstore retailers, the placeholder for ecommerce, eked out a new record. This is the second month now of what I called a month ago Stimulus Fatigue. But wait… the Pandemic-induced switch from services – such as airline tickets, concert tickets, hotel bookings, and haircuts – to goods – such as food & beer at home, bicycles, and consumer electronics – is still on. In November, retail sales of $547 billion (seasonally adjusted) were still up 4.1% from November last year, according to the Census Bureau this morning. And for the 11-month period, they were essentially flat ($5.70 trillion), despite the collapse in March and April:

The metric of “retail sales” measures the sale of “goods” at various establishments and online. It doesn’t measure the sale of “services,” such as airline tickets, insurance, or healthcare services. During the Pandemic, consumers splurged on durable goods and food at home like never before, as free money flooded over them from the government, and as they cut back on other spending, such as plane tickets, payments on mortgages and student loans in forbearance, and on rent, protected by the eviction bans. A refinancing boom, triggered by record low mortgage interest rates, allowed consumers to extract cash from their homes and lower their mortgage payments. Part of this money from the government, and money not spent, and money extracted from the home was spent on goods, and part of it was used to pay down credit cards, whose balances have plunged 10.3% from a year ago.


[..] The once iconic retail institution of department stores – in their heyday, many of them were locally owned – has been obviated by events including the internet. For Americans, department stores have outlived their usefulness. For mall landlords, they’ve turned into a nightmare. The #1 and # 2 mall landlords – Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property – have ganged up to buy J.C. Penney out of bankruptcy, apparently to control the decline of their malls.Since the peak in December 2000, department store sales have collapsed by 55%, despite two decades of inflation and population growth, and the Pandemic has merely accelerated the process:

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Propping up zombies. Favorite pastime.

Congress to Pass $17 Billion Bailout of Airline Shareholders & Bondholders (WS)

Airlines in the US will get another $17 billion taxpayer-funded bailout if the $748 billion “bipartisan” stimulus proposal that the four most senior Congressional leaders are discussing this afternoon makes it into law. There is a commitment now to pass something. Many items that either party wanted but that the other refused to yield on have been trimmed out of this proposal, including the $1,200 stimulus checks. But their airline bailout is in it. Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much of anything these days, but they both love to bail out airline shareholders and bondholders. And that’s what this is – dressed up as payroll protection and airline support program.

The Democratic-backed $2.2 trillion stimulus package that the House passed at the end of September but that was not taken up by the Senate included $25 billion to bail out airline shareholders and bondholders. The airline industry has been lobbying with all its might to get this money. So now, it looks like they will have to make do with $17 billion. This new bailout comes on top of the original stimulus bill, which was passed in March and which came with $25 billion in so-called payroll support for the airlines, an additional $25 billion in loans for passenger airlines, and over $10 billion in grants and loans for cargo airlines and aviation contractors. The payroll protection provisions expired on September 30, under the assumption that by then the airlines would be operating more or less back at normal.

[..] The number of passengers going through TSA checkpoints to enter the secured areas at US airports through December 14 has dropped sharply since late November. The chart shows the number of TSA checkpoint screenings in 2020 (red) and 2019 (green) per day (thin lines) and the seven-day moving averages (bold lines):

Airline shareholders feel the money. And taxpayers feel the pain. This rally comes as revenues at the largest airlines have collapsed by 60% to 70%, and as debt has piled up in previously unthinkable amounts, and as airlines continue to report huge losses and – despite massive capacity cuts and layoffs – dizzying “daily cash burn” figures. Taxpayer money props up those shares and is a basic transfer of wealth from the American public to airline shareholders and to airline bondholders. This is the same industry where the top four airlines — Delta, United, American, and Southwest — willfully blew, wasted, burned, and annihilated $45 billion on share buybacks since 2012 to enrich their shareholders, including their own executives:

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Another story that must be buried.

Cuomo v. Cuomo (Turley)

There remains a blackout on the sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo by most major media outlets. Putting aside the striking lack of interest in comparison to the allegations raised against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the controversy from that confirmation fight could raise difficult questions for Cuomo who not only insisted that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford must be believed but demanded that Kavanaugh take a polygraph examination. It is not clear if Cuomo will now follow his own standard and take a polygraph examination arranged by others. During the Kavanaugh hearing, various Democratic leaders publicly insisted that “women must be believed” when raising sexual harassment allegations and declared Kavanaugh guilty before either he or Ford actually testified.

Senator Maxie Hirono publicly stated that Kavanaugh was not even entitled to any presumption of innocence. Indeed, Hirono insisted that men needed to “just shut up” and accept the allegations. The view that “women must be believed” changed the minute that Joe Biden was accused of sexual assault and then refused to allow the review of his papers held under seal at the University of Delaware. Suddenly, figures like Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer insisted that they believed Biden without any review such papers or even speaking with the alleged victim (a former Biden staffer). Ethics experts like Richard Painter attacked those who suggested that the accuser might be telling the truth as endangering the election. Others like Rep. Iihan Omar, Linda Hirschman, and Lisa Bloom found an even more startling resolution: they stated that Biden was clearly a rapist, but they would still vote for him.

The allegations raised by former Biden aide Lindsey Boylan are notably easier to confirm. She stated “Yes, [Cuomo] sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched. I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years.” These are not allegations that are decades old with few, if any, witnesses. Boylan worked for the governor’s administration from 2015 to 2018 and says that there were many witnesses. Notably, the Kavanaugh hearing was in 2018.

[..] The strongest case against Cuomo may be Cuomo. In the Kavanaugh hearing, Cuomo declared Kavanaugh clearly guilty. He publicly declared “The confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a sad day for this country, and it will haunt us for as long as he is on the court. Today 50 senators put partisan politics over the sanctity of the highest court in the nation. In November, the American people get to respond and make their voices heard. In New York, we will not waver and will not back down. To Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all survivors of sexual assault, we believe you and we will fight for you. The sham FBI investigation and the bigger sham, this confirmation process, have energized us to fight even harder for our shared vision for a better future for all.”

Joe Biden voting machines 2007
https://twitter.com/i/status/1338923147215638528

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That will be appreciated.

AOC: Nancy Pelosi Needs To Go (IC)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez believes the Democratic Party needs new leadership, telling The Intercept in an interview that it’s time for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to go. But the left, she said, currently has no plan on how to fill the subsequent leadership vacuum. “If you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse,” she told Jeremy Scahill during an interview aired Wednesday on Intercepted this week. Pelosi cruised to reelection in a virtual caucus vote last month and will face a full House floor vote for the speakership in January. She’s expected to remain speaker but has almost no room for error, after a disastrous performance in the general election cost the caucus at least a dozen seats.

With a single-digit majority, she can only afford to lose a handful of Democratic votes on the House floor or else she’ll be short of the required 218, which would then throw the contest back to the caucus. The rest of Pelosi’s octogenarian leadership team, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn, has held these top positions for over a decade and won their slots without any opposition. On the Senate side, Schumer won reelection unanimously. Ocasio-Cortez argued that there are no viable alternatives for House or Senate leadership at the moment because the caucus’s current leaders spent a number of years concentrating power without any “real grooming of a next generation of leadership.”

“A lot of this is not just about these two personalities, but also about the structural shifts that these two personalities have led in their time in leadership,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The structural shifts of power in the House, both in process and rule, to concentrate power in party leadership of both parties, frankly, but in Democratic Party leadership to such a degree that an individual member has far less power than they did 30, 40, 50 years ago.” This dynamic is what pushes the “really talented members of Congress that do come along” to leave or run for statewide office instead. But Pelosi has also indicated that this upcoming term could be her last, “and the left isn’t really making a plan for that either,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “So I do think that it’s something that we really need to think about.”

Tulsi Gabbard Patriot Act

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“..Zuckerberg’s money “purchased machines – Dominion and otherwise – and Zuckerberg’s funding was contributed to Secretaries of State.”

Amistad To Sue Zuckerberg For Using ‘Dark Money’ To Fund ‘Massive’ Fraud (RT)

Mark Zuckerberg poured cash into an “ecosystem” that caused widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential contest, election integrity watchdog the Amistad Project has alleged. The group will file suit against the Facebook CEO. The lawsuit, based on a report authored by the organization, will claim that Zuckerberg used $500 million of “dark money” to unlawfully tip the scales in battleground states that Democrat Joe Biden won by narrow margins, said Mark Serrano, a Trump 2020 campaign adviser who runs a communications firm that handles media relations for the Amistad Project. The lawsuit is expected to be filed by today in the District Court for the District of Columbia and will cover alleged election irregularities that took place in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia.

According to Serrano, the legal complaint takes aim at “the ecosystem” that caused “fraud on a massive level to take place” during the 2020 contest. He accused Zuckerberg of using his vast financial resources and influence to undermine the presidential election in the months leading up to, and continuing after, November 3. “A billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, was allowed in the counting room because he funded it, and the American people were kicked out.” The lawsuit announcement coincided with the release of a report by the Amistad Project which outlines how Zuckerberg allegedly used private funding to “improperly” influence the election outcome. Amistad Project director Phill Kline said during a press conference on Wednesday that Zuckerberg funneled huge amounts of money into charities and nonprofits that lobbied officials and carried out other partisan activities that impacted the 2020 results.

“He paid for election judges, purchased drop boxes, contrary to state laws,” Kline said, adding that Zuckerberg’s money “purchased machines – Dominion and otherwise – and Zuckerberg’s funding was contributed to Secretaries of State.” This injection of hundreds of millions of dollars into the election by Zuckerberg and others “violated state election laws and resulted in an unequal distribution of funding that deprived voters of both due process and equal protection,” according to a press release issued by the Amistad Project.

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“How could a country with a mystically-endowed “exceptional” nature — the “shining city on a hill,” Ronald Reagan once proclaimed — be said to retain its “exceptional” status if its elections are, as Trump vigorously maintains, structurally and systematically fraudulent?”

Enter Trump: America’s First Shadow President (Tracey)

The Electoral College formally convened this week, and with it expired the last faint hope of Donald Trump retaining the presidency. While the outcome had never been in real doubt, Trump and innumerable Republican boosters had for six weeks kept up the mirage of frantic irresolution, with Trump issuing a daily barrage of ALL-CAPS tweets claiming that despite what you might have heard, he’d actually won. In any event, all states have now ratified their results without serious incident, and the hucksterish post-election litigation efforts undertaken by Trump’s various sundry representatives have predictably gone nowhere. Yesterday, Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell even declared Biden the “president-elect” and now the Democrat is faithfully filling his forthcoming administration with a cast of characters drawn directly from the pits of the Washington, DC Democratic Party professional class — the same people whom he openly campaigned on rehabilitating and restoring to power.

The election is well and truly over, whatever toothless protestations may continue to arise. What’s far from over, however, is the political influence of Trump. No one can say with total certainty what he’ll do when he eventually leaves office; no one can even say exactly on what terms he’s going to leave. But in just over a month now, we may face a scenario that would be a first in modern US history: an aggrieved former president making a competing claim to the presidency and refusing in perpetuity to acknowledge the reality of his defeat. In other words, a “shadow” president. Trump’s lack of compunction about doing something like this would seem to solidify his position as the most thoroughgoing “post-exceptionalist” president since at least World War II.

That is, he is entirely unmoved by the kind of bipartisan “American exceptionalism” dogma that had previously bound together the elite US political class, across partisan lines. It’s the dogma which holds that, in short, the US possesses a singular uniqueness that sets it apart in all of world history. Often blended together with notions of Christian providence, it ascribes the very foundations of the US Constitutional order with a kind of divine import. But over the last four years, Trump has thrown these old assumptions into doubt. For one thing, the Constitution certainly makes no provision for a “shadow” president. How could a country with a mystically-endowed “exceptional” nature — the “shining city on a hill,” Ronald Reagan once proclaimed — be said to retain its “exceptional” status if its elections are, as Trump vigorously maintains, structurally and systematically fraudulent?

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The failure of all failures. Why do we let it happen? Because there’s no money to be made feeding children. We never escaped the Middle Ages, or the Industrial Revolution. We’ve been standing still for centuries.

Unicef To Feed Hungry Children In UK For First Time In 70-Year History (G.)

Unicef has launched a domestic emergency response in the UK for the first time in its more than 70-year history to help feed children hit by the Covid-19 crisis. The UN agency, which is responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide, said the coronavirus pandemic was the most urgent crisis affecting children since the second world war. A YouGov poll in May commissioned by the charity Food Foundation found 2.4 million children (17%) were living in food insecure households. By October, an extra 900,000 children had been registered for free school meals. Unicef has pledged a grant of £25,000 to the community project School Food Matters, which will use the money to supply 18,000 nutritious breakfasts to 25 schools over the two-week Christmas holidays and February half-term, feeding vulnerable children and families in Southwark, south London, who have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The food delivery firm Abel & Cole will also provide 1.2 tonnes of fruit and veg worth £4,500 to include in the boxes. The founder and chief executive of School Food Matters, Stephanie Slater, said: “We’re so grateful to Unicef for providing this timely funding. The response to our summer breakfast boxes programme has shown us that families are really struggling and many were facing the grim reality of a two-week winter break without access to free school meals and the indignity of having to rely on food banks to feed their children. “By providing our breakfast boxes, families know that their children will have a great start to the day with a healthy nutritious breakfast.

“Our breakfast boxes programme has also shown us that the threshold for free school meal eligibility is too low to capture all the families in need of support. That’s why we’re getting behind the national food strategy call for an extension to free school meal eligibility. “We cannot continue to rely on civil society to fill the hunger gap as too many children will miss out on the nutrition they need to thrive.”

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Dec 152020
 


William Merritt Chase Back Of A Nude 1888

 

Biden Lashes Out At Trump In Post-Electoral College Speech (ZH)
Republican Electors In Five Disputed States Cast Votes For Trump (JTN)
Offstage Noises (Jim Kunstler)
Barr Steps Down As AG, Decries ‘Frenzied And Baseless’ Russia Allegations (JTN)
The Case For Pardoning Edward Snowden By President Trump (Greenwald)
Left and Right Unite in Calls for Snowden Pardon (MPN)
Trump’s Last Chance to Snub the Deep State (SCF)
Democrats Make Wreck of Covid-19 Relief Negotiations (Taibbi)
Stimulus Bill Bails Out Defense Contractors, Denies Families Payments (DP)
Fauci: Masks, Social Distancing Likely Needed Until ‘Early Next Winter’ (JTN)
The Covid-19 Data is a ‘Travesty’ (OffG)
Venezuela’s Guaido-Led Opposition Holds Alternative Vote, Burns Ballots (RT)
Sunday Times Claims Navalny Was Poisoned Twice (Robinson)

 

 

Hats off to Jimmy Dore.

 

 

Me, I fear for the future of the country.

Biden Lashes Out At Trump In Post-Electoral College Speech (ZH)

Joe Biden lashed out at President Trump Monday night, saying in a 14-minute speech following his win in the electoral college that Trump’s ongoing challenges to the 2020 election are “an unprecedented assault on our democracy,” and that claims of widespread fraud are “baseless” – despite the fact that the Supreme Court elected not to review the merits of various cases. “Every single avenue was made available for President Trump to contest the results. He took full advantage of each and every one of those avenues.


“President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take,” Biden added – also slamming the 17 GOP Attorneys General and 126 GOP Congressmembers who challenged the results of the election as well. Biden implied Trump has both abused – and won’t let go of power, saying “In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them,” adding “The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.”

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“It’s our duty to the people of Michigan and to the U.S. Constitution to send another slate of electors if the election is in controversy or dispute, and clearly it is..”

Republican Electors In Five Disputed States Cast Votes For Trump (JTN)

Republican electors in four states said Monday that they would cast their procedural votes for President Trump from the Nov. 3 elections, and Michigan sent two separate slates of electors to Capitol Hill, 16 electors for Trump and 16 electors for Democrat Joe Biden. “It’s our duty to the people of Michigan and to the U.S. Constitution to send another slate of electors if the election is in controversy or dispute, and clearly it is,” said Meshawn Maddock, Republican at-large national elector. Michigan state Rep. Daire Rendon said: “What it comes down to is this: have the secretary of state, director of elections, and election officials proved to you that the election had accuracy and integrity? They have not. And because of this, the election is in dispute.”

Under the Constitution, state legislatures have plenary power over their respective elections. Because there is an ongoing dispute over the Michigan 2020 general election, members of the Michigan legislature have called on Washington, D.C., to not count Michigan electors until further action from the Michigan legislature, according to a press release about the Michigan effort. Congress will count electoral votes Jan. 6. The Trump campaign embraced the alternate slate of electors’ actions, saying it preserved legal options before the Jan. 6 deadline. “We applaud the Republican electors in those states for showing up and casting the votes,” the campaign’s senior legal counsel Jenna Ellis told Just the News.

The Republican electors in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona all said they voted for Trump. It comes as their states formally appointed Democratic electors who voted for Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, according to the Epoch Times. The Pennsylvania GOP said in a news release that electors met at the state capital to “cast a conditional vote” for Trump and Pence “at the request of the Trump campaign.” Democratic electors voted in the Pennsylvania Electoral College for Biden and Harris.

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“If Dominion vote tabulation machines all over America are not allowed to be hooked up to the Internet, how can they be a network? And why would they need a server?”

Offstage Noises (Jim Kunstler)

President Trump’s 2018 Executive Order 13848 requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), John Ratcliffe, to report forty-five days after the election on foreign election interference. That’s this Friday. What might Mr. Ratcliffe know? Well, supposedly everything. Except both the CIA and the FBI must be considered undependable now, with RussiaGate prankster Gina Haspel in charge of the CIA, and Christopher Wray slow-walking every requested declassified FBI document for years. So, Mr. Ratcliffe must be receiving more dependable intelligence from others, most likely Defense Intelligence. Many readers may have heard about a supposed raid on the CIA cyber-warfare station in Frankfurt, Germany, and the seizure there of the Dominion computer servers by US Army special ops personnel.

Forty-five days was probably enough time for Defense Intelligence to run forensic analysis on those servers, if, in fact, they existed and the raid actually happened. Standing by on that. We just don’t know. But if so, then Mr. Ratcliffe must have some results by now. What nobody has asked is: in the first place, what on earth would the Dominion servers be doing in Frankfurt, outside the USA, in possession of the CIA? Is the CIA monitoring the vote tabulation… or assisting in it? This raises another question no one has addressed: Servers serve computer networks, which operate via the Internet. If Dominion vote tabulation machines all over America are not allowed to be hooked up to the Internet, how can they be a network? And why would they need a server? If I’m missing something there, please discuss in the comments section.

Which raises another question: Is there not sufficient evidence to see that the use of computers has completely screwed up our election process? Is this not a classic Joseph Tainter style quandary of overinvestments in complexity producing diminishing returns — which, when enough of them pile up, gets you to the collapse of civilizations? Are we going to allow further screw-ups by letting the State of Georgia conduct their January 5 senate run-off election on the same Dominion machines that they used on November 3? Apparently, that’s exactly what Georgia intends to do.

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Did Bill Barr just make room for Trump to pardon Assange and Snowden?

Barr Steps Down As AG, Decries ‘Frenzied And Baseless’ Russia Allegations (JTN)

William Barr has decided to step down as attorney general before Christmas, ending a tumultuous tenure that saw his department clear President Trump of Russia collusion and crack down on violent gangs, Chinese spies and religious liberty violations. Trump announced the departure Monday evening on Twitter shortly after meeting with Barr, ending a tense week in which the president and his allies criticized the attorney general for both failing to reveal the existence of a Hunter Biden probe before the election and taking little public action to punish those who perpetrated the false Russian collusion narrative, “Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” Trump tweeted. “As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.”

“Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person, will become Acting Attorney General. Highly respected Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of Deputy Attorney General. Thank you to all!” the president added. In his letter, Barr revealed his last day will be Dec. 23 and that the purpose of his meeting with the president Monday was to brief the president about his department’s efforts to investigate voter fraud. Barr also went out of his way in the letter to decry the “frenzied and baseless” narrative of Russia collusion that hampered the first two-plus years of the Trump presidency.

“Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance. Your 2016 victory speech in which you reached out to your opponents and called for working together for the benefit of the American people was immediately met by a partisan onslaught against you in which no tactic no matter how abusive and deceitful was out of bounds,” Barr wrote. “The nadir of this campaign was the effort to cripple, if not oust your administration, with frenzied and baseless accusations of collusion with Russia,” he added.

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Calls for pardons are getting loud.

The Case For Pardoning Edward Snowden By President Trump (Greenwald)

A U.S. appellate court in September unanimously ruled that the NSA’s program of mass domestic surveillance was illegal, as well as likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The court, and the broader public, knew about this illegal mass surveillance program created by the NSA only because Edward Snowden, while working inside that agency, discovered its existence and concluded in 2012 that the American public has the right know about what was being secretly done to them and their privacy by their own government. Upon making the decision to blow the whistle on this security state illegality, Snowden delivered the documents relating to that program and other then-unknown systems of mass online surveillance not by dumping them indiscriminately on the internet or selling them or passing them to foreign governments, but by providing them to journalists (including myself) with The Guardian, The Washington Post and other news outlets.

The documents Snowden provided were accompanied by requests to report them responsibly. He thus relinquished the power entirely to make decisions about which documents would and would not be published, leaving those decisions exclusively to news outlets. That meant that Snowden himself never made a single document publicly available; every document that was reported was the result of decisions by newsrooms around the world that their publication would be in the public interest and would not endanger innocent people. That method of whistleblowing chosen by Snowden — patterned after the one Daniel Ellsberg used in 1971 to make the public aware of years of lying to the American public by the U.S. Government about the Vietnam War, when he gave the top-secret Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and asked them to report it in the public interest — enabled journalists to inform the American citizenry about illegal and unconstitutional spying by the U.S. Government in the most responsible manner possible.

Indeed, the very first program we reported — on June 6, 2013 — was the mass domestic spying program which the appellate court just ruled was illegal and likely a violation of the constitutional rights of all Americans. That first article we published revealed a top secret court order under which “the National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers,” and required major telecommunications carriers “on an ‘ongoing, daily basis’ to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”

The months of reporting that followed, all singularly enabled by Snowden’s courageous whistleblowing, triggered so much vital public debate about privacy and mass surveillance, and fostered so many legal and technological privacy reforms around the world, that the reporting earned virtually every award journalism has to give, including the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. For those who have not seen it, the 2014 documentary by Laura Poitras about the work Snowden did with journalists, Citizenfour, which received the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary, shows much of the Snowden story in real time and can be viewed on YouTube; the feature film “Snowden,” available on Netflix and other platforms, separately explores the trajectory which Snowden traversed from enlisted U.S. Army soldier, CIA contractor and NSA expert to one of this generation’s most consequential whistleblowers.

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“I support pardons for Snowden, Assange and especially Chelsea Manning. All exposed the criminality of the Bush-Obama/Biden period.”

Left and Right Unite in Calls for Snowden Pardon (MPN)

Amid mounting speculation that President Trump is about to announce a list of presidential pardons, calls for — and against — NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s name to be included are growing louder. In November, as is customary, Donald Trump pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving. Now, in the lame duck session of his presidency, he appears to be making a customary list of people to pardon as well. Influential and well-connected publication Axios reported, in a scandalized tone, that he is planning to hand out pardons “like Christmas gifts” to “every person who ever talked to [him].” In August, the president was asked about Snowden specifically, responding by saying that, “I’m going to take a very good look at it. I’ve seen people that are very conservative and very liberal and they agree on the same issue…I’m going to take a look at that very strongly.”


Now, a host of figures are calling in unison for Trump to follow through on the proposal. “President Trump is listening to the many of us who are urging him to pardon Snowden. It’s the right thing to do,” Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz said yesterday. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul agreed, slamming former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in the process. “Clapper brazenly lied to Congress denying that the Deep State was spying on all Americans. Snowden simply revealed Clapper’s lies and exposed unconstitutional spying. He deserves a pardon from Donald Trump,” he wrote. Those calls were joined by a number of voices on the left, including former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka, who said, “I support pardons for Snowden, Assange and especially Chelsea Manning. All exposed the criminality of the Bush-Obama/Biden period.” The American Civil Liberties Union, who have previously described Snowden as a “patriot,” concurred, stating, “Edward Snowden blew the whistle on illegal government activity kept secret for years. Our democracy is better off because of him.”

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“Wasn’t Trump supposed to be the anti-Deep State candidate? Now’s his chance to prove it.”

Trump’s Last Chance to Snub the Deep State (SCF)

The Trump administration calls the International Criminal Court a kangaroo court. He refuses to allow any U.S. soldier to be brought before the court for purported war crimes in Afghanistan. None of the court investigators or judges will receive visas to enter U.S. territory. Any property or bank accounts they have in the U.S. will be confiscated. If any court is a disingenuous kangaroo court it is the extradition trial against Julian Assange, in London. The first magistrate who sat in judgment of possible extradition to the U.S. for alleged violations of its Espionage Act, is a subject in Wikileaks’ revelations. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, and her husband, James Arbuthnot, who was a defense minister for procurement, have “earned” money from two companies exposed by Wikileaks.

During the August-September extradition hearings, Arbuthnot “stepped down” to be supervisor of the new magistrate, Vanessa Baraitser. During three weeks of hearings, Baraitser looked at her laptop to read decisions she had written before defense lawyers had made their arguments, or witnesses had testified. I am not the only one hoping that Donald Trump will do the right thing with Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden too. The last president, one Trump hates, first put Assange’s key whistleblower in prison, in isolation, under torture. Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years. Obama leaving office with a gesture of “goodwill”, commuted Chelsea’s sentence once she served seven years. She was later jailed for another year for not snitching on Julian.

Tulsi Gabbard, the only Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 who wasn’t a war hawk, is asking Trump for goodwill. She tweeted tagging Trump, “Since you’re giving pardons to people, please consider pardoning those who, at great personal sacrifice, exposed the deception and criminality of those in the deep state,” and named Assange and Snowden for him to drop charges. The proposal for Trump to pardon Assange was also endorsed at this recent webinar which included speakers Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Law Professor Marjorie Cohn, Consortium News editor-in-chief Joe Lauria. If Trump did the honorable thing of halting the persecution of Julian Assange, it would be a blow for freedom and a middle finger to the Deep State including Obama and Clinton. Wasn’t Trump supposed to be the anti-Deep State candidate? Now’s his chance to prove it.

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“They totally caved..”

Democrats Make Wreck of Covid-19 Relief Negotiations (Taibbi)

A senior Democratic congressional aide is irate tonight. “The Democrats,” the aide seethed, “have just done the worst negotiating in modern history.” At issue: a pair of new Covid-19 relief bills, just submitted by a bipartisan group of Senators. Republican Senator Susan Collins gushed that a“Christmas Miracle” allowed the two parties came together on the twin bills, which the press describes as totaling $748 billion and $160 billion, respectively. “Bipartisanship and compromise is [sic] alive and well in Washington,” clucked West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. It sure is. With the election over, the Democratic leadership in the space of a few weeks somehow negotiated against themselves, working with Republicans to push the total amount of a Covid-19 relief deal further and further downward, to the point where previous plans offered by the likes of Mitch McConnell and Steve Mnuchin now look like LBJ’s Great Society.

Democrats ultimately settled for less than a third of what they had set as a baseline for state and local aid, accepted a package without any $1,200 direct payments, and signed off on a plan that, after offsets, includes less than $350 billion in new money, well below a slew of pre-election proposals rejected by Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as being too low. “They totally caved,” the aide says. Back in May, the Democrat-led House passed the HEROES Act, a $3.4 trillion relief package that was pitched as the bill Democrats really wanted. It contained $413 billion new dollars for $1,200 direct payments to citizens, as well as $437 billion in additional unemployment benefits, and a whopping $1.13 trillion for state and local governments.

Trump said the bill was “dead on arrival,” McConnell blasted it as a “$3 trillion left-wing wish list,” and the anti-spending group Taxpayers for Common Sense seethed that Democrats unrealistically put “everything they could think of” in the bill. Still, Democrats insisted this was the right amount, at the right time, a moral necessity. “The House has passed a major bill dealing with COVID,” Schumer said in May, blasting his Senate Republican colleagues for a “pause” in negotiations. “We have done nothing.”

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Meanwhile, what a mess.

Stimulus Bill Bails Out Defense Contractors, Denies Families Payments (DP)

Earlier this year, Republican senators slammed the idea of spending money to pay Americans not to work during the pandemic. Only a few months later, a group of GOP senators has signed onto stimulus legislation that would authorize the government to pay idle defense contractors to not work, even as those contractors’ rack up big profits during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the same bill excludes bipartisan provisions authorizing direct payments to millions of Americans struggling to survive. The stimulus legislation released by Republican and Democratic senators this afternoon includes an extension of a program to replace the wages of certain government contractors who miss work due to COVID-19.

The program, Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allows federal agencies to reimburse contractors who are unable to work in person due to the pandemic, and whose jobs do not allow telework, for up to 40 hours per week of lost wages. In effect, the program uses government money to reimburse defense contractors for giving paid leave to their employees. The provision was added to the last page of the 525-page bill after defense contractors sent a letter to congressional lawmakers lobbying for the language. The same bill does not authorize direct payments to millions of Americans — nor does it reimburse small businesses for providing paid leave benefits to their workers.

While the bill would fund $300-a-week in new federal unemployment benefits, that’s half as much as Congress distributed under the CARES Act — and millions of people will still see their unemployment benefits lapse on December 26, as it will likely take weeks to reprogram state unemployment systems. “This is about need and not greed,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., one of the Democratic sponsors of the bill who has called new direct payments to families “a bad idea.” Nearly 12 million U.S. renters will be behind $5,850 in rent by January, according to the Washington Post. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have been pushing lawmakers to include language in stimulus legislation giving $1,200 stimulus checks to millions of families. That was not included in the same stimulus that includes the subsidy program for defense contractors.

In July, Senate Republicans introduced a stimulus package which included $11 billion in appropriations to reimburse defense contractors for payments made under Section 3610, following lobbying from the defense industry. “Section 3610 provides authority for agencies to cover from existing funds certain contractor costs and keep key personnel and skilled workers in a ready state,” lobbying groups and executives from representing defense contractors and other government contractors wrote on December 11.

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How is it possible that in so many countries that failed so miserably in their pandemic fights, all the same faces hold on to all their same jobs?

Fauci: Masks, Social Distancing Likely Needed Until ‘Early Next Winter’ (JTN)

As the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine gets underway, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the American public should anticipate likely needing to wear masks and socially distancing through next winter. Fauci was asked Monday when he thinks society will be able to get back to pre-coronavirus normality. “I think we will know when we see the level of infection in the country at a dramatically lower level than it is right now that we can start gradually tiptoeing towards normality,” Fauci said during a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategy and International Studies. “I don’t believe we’re going to be able to throw the masks away and forget about physical separation and congregate settings for a while, probably likely until we get into the late fall and early next winter, but I think we can do it. The numbers will guide us.”


Fauci also said that having a vaccine distributed before the end of the year was “unimaginable” at the beginning of the pandemic. He referred to Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership implemented under the Trump administration, as a “success story,” given that a “group of vaccines” for COVID-19 have been produced. “I think Operation Warp Speed, putting hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, into facilitating the technical aspects of the trial, the clinical trial, the pre-purchasing of hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine is unprecedented,” he said. “So it’s really quite a success story, I must say.”

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We should have this down by now. We don’t.

The Covid-19 Data is a ‘Travesty’ (OffG)

If we turn our attention back to the Covid death data, just because someone has tested positive for Covid-19 and died sometime after (even if we put aside for a second that some tests are known to give false positives), that does not mean that Covid-19 caused that person to die. Yet, the main figure certain countries around the world are using to express Covid-19 deaths is simply recorded, or coded, as essentially any death involving a positive Covid-19 test within 28 days of death. Because correlation does not equal causation, simply recording Covid-19 deaths as any deaths involving a positive Covid-19 test within a given period of time is an extremely poor way to measure how many people have died. For instance, in the UK, the main figure being used for Covid-19 deaths is coded, as stated on the official Coronavirus website, as the…

number of deaths of people who had had a positive test result for COVID-19 and died within 28 days of the first positive test. This completely ignores the problem of causality, and thus, produces a much larger death toll than there actually is. For instance, if someone has had an underlying heart condition for 10 years, and has a heart complication and dies, their death was most likely mainly caused by the heart condition that has plagued them for a decade. However, if that person had tested positive for Covid-19 for the first time within 28 days of them dying, that person could be included as a Covid-19 death in the UK, if all is required to be categorized as a Covid-19 death is simply a positive test result.

For those who understand that the way you code deaths dramatically changes the number of deaths you get, the UK authorities kindly illustrate this for us. There is a second number recorded by UK authorities which codes deaths as… people whose death certificate mentioned COVID-19 as one of the causes. By coding deaths this way, there are thousands more Covid-19 deaths compared to when deaths are coded as… people who had had a positive test result for COVID-19 and died within 28 days of the first positive test. Despite the UK authorities having two ways to code Covid-19 deaths however, none of them are particularly accurate in my opinion. This is because the positive test figure does not deal with the issue of causality, and the death certificate figure only mentions Covid as needing to be “one of the causes” of death, rather than “the primary cause,” in addition to the death certificate figure not explicitly demanding the need for a positive Covid-19 test result.

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Right on cue, Guaido and Navalny are back in the western news, two people who play no role whatsoever in their own home countries. What’s the mechanism behind this?

Venezuela’s Guaido-Led Opposition Holds Alternative Vote, Burns Ballots (RT)

Venezuelan opposition led by US-backed ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido has held “popular consultations” to demonstrate rejection of the nation’s government after boycotting parliamentary vote but ended up burning ballots instead. The so-called “popular consultations” organized by the supporters of the self-styled “interim president” started online on Monday and concluded with an in-person participation on Saturday. The move was held after an official election held earlier this month handed control over the Venezuelan National Assembly to President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist PSUV party. As it was during the 2018 presidential elections that handed victory to Maduro himself, most of the opposition boycotted the official vote.

After losing what was considered its last institutional stronghold, Guaido’s supporters decided to demonstrate the scale of the alleged popular rejection of the Venezuelan government they continue to call illegitimate. Although the turnout for the official election was not particularly high, Guaido’s initiative has hardly faired any better since, according to the organizers’ own estimates cited by Reuters, just under 6.5 million out of roughly 17.5 million eligible voters took part in the “consultation,” including some 845,000 people living abroad. The outcome of the “consultation” did not seem to affect the political situation in the Latin American nation hit by strict US sanctions targeting its oil sector and exacerbating a prolonged economic crisis.

Maduro himself brushed off the opposition’s initiative by saying that “no internet consultation has constitutional status” or any “legal value.” In 11 out of 24 Venezuela’s states, the law enforcement sought to disrupt the in-person participation in the “consultation” by removing the informal voting sites, the organizers complained. Still, they themselves ended up destroying all the traces of the “consultation”, at least at some of the improvised polling stations. A video published on the social media shows a pile of ballots and voting records burning on the floor at one of such sites in the northern Miranda state. The organizers claimed they did so to protect the identities of the participants.

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“..the murder of Grigory Rasputin in December 1916 proves “Russia’s penchant for poisoning”

Sunday Times Claims Navalny Was Poisoned Twice (Robinson)

This weekend’s article in the Sunday Times is probably meant to undermine the doubters. In reality, it’s likely to have the opposite result. For its claims are so outrageous that many thinking people will react with laughter, and then perhaps start questioning the poisoning story as a whole. According to the Sunday Times, Navalny wasn’t poisoned by a nerve agent smeared on his water bottle, as has previously been asserted, but rather was attacked by means of his underpants. Moreover, he wasn’t poisoned once, but twice, and despite Novichok’s reputation for extreme deadliness, both attempts failed.

When examined, though, these claims don’t amount to much. The Sunday Times story is nearly 4,000 words long, but 95 percent of it is irrelevant filler, including the comical assertion that the murder of Grigory Rasputin in December 1916 proves “Russia’s penchant for poisoning” (because, of course, nobody other than Russians ever poisoned anyone). The allegations regarding the attack on Navalny take up a mere 100 words of the 4,000-word total. As well as being brief, they are to say the least unproven. The Sunday Times says: “Vladimir Uglev, a retired Russian chemist who developed nerve agents, believes Navalny’s poisoners would have been instructed to place novichok on the elastic waistband of his pants, where it would come into contact with his skin. … A German laboratory later found traces of a nerve agent on the surface of one of the water bottles. Uglev, the retired chemist, believes that this is because Navalny touched it having got novichok on his fingers after putting on his underpants.”

In other words, the underpants story is just what a single Russian scientist, unconnected to the case, happens to think. Nothing more. Does Uglev provide any evidence to prove his assertion? No. He just “believes” it. Yet, this is sufficient for the Sunday Times to treat the story as essentially true, leading off its article with the claim that, “Navalny was exposed to a nerve agent – not, as initially believed, when he drank a cup of tea in the departure lounge but when he got dressed that morning.” This is not exactly good reporting. If the underwear story smells a little off, so too does the claim that Russian secret agents tried to murder Navalny not once, but twice.

As evidence, the Sunday Times says that, “German security sources have told their associates in the UK that the attackers struck again as Navalny lay in an induced coma before being put on a medical flight to Germany. ‘This was with a view to him being dead by the time he arrived in Berlin,’ one source said.” To put it another way, an anonymous person (probably a member of the British intelligence or security services) told a journalist that some other anonymous person believes that this is so. In other words, it’s not just hearsay, but anonymous hearsay. One can believe it if one wishes. But there’s no particular reason why one should.

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